Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Day Trip Past The Center Of The Universe!

With today's Veteran's Day holiday, Melinda and I put off any more cleaning and organizing around the house and decided to do a road trip. She has made so many trips to the area, it is getting hard to take her someplace new, so I took her on a loop towards the SW from Tucson, south of Three Points past the Baboquivari Mountains, east past Arivaca, then back north to Tucson. This is a really nice trip, only about 125 miles long through some really nice, scenic countryside.

We paused at the convenience store in Three Points and got some sandwiches and snacks for lunch. We also stopped at a few of my favorite observing sites, as well as some spots the astronomy club had considered acquiring over the last couple decades. Before we lost sight of it, we paused to shoot a picture of Kitt Peak National Observatory. Usually seen from Tucson, this viewpoint from the SSE shows the Solar Telescope Complex near the large 4-meter, considerably different that the view from the NE.

Baboquivari is one of the more unique mountains in the Southwest. Geologically, my understanding is that it is the remnant lava plug from an ancient eroded volcano. Culturally, it is considered the center of the universe by the local Native Americans, the Tohono O'odham, and the home of their creator I'itoi. Back a couple decades ago when I was working on Kitt Peak, 15 miles to the north, it was a constant siren call to visit, and back in those studlier days, I made it to the summit 3 or 4 times, and hiked on it's flanks a half dozen times more. While not particularly tall (a little under 8,000 feet) it's unique profile makes quite the landmark from nearly 100 miles distance. No wonder the O'odham consider it the center of their world.

I thought we would explore up the access road some - a 4 wheel drive is not necessarily needed for the first half dozen miles, and Melinda's Jeep had never been off-road, so it was time to show it a little off-pavement touring. I told her that we would turn around before the road got narrow enough that the tree branches would scratch the paint, but by the time we got to the second gate, I could tell Melinda was ready to turn 'round, even if the Jeep wasn't. So we stopped for our lunch as a Pinacate Beetle made Melinda nervous...

The trip back to civilization was uneventful. There wasn't much open in Arivaca, though we stopped at one point to shoot another observatory - the Multiple Mirror Telescope on Mount Hopkins silhouetted against the higher peak of Mount Wrightson. At Arivaca Junction near the I-19 return to Tucson, we considered an early dinner stop at the Cow Palace or the Longhorn Grill (across the street from each other), but decided to push on for home and save the local cuisine for another time. It was a fun trip though, it had been too long for me since visiting that area!

1 comment:

Tuguldur said...

nice pix and a great report.

That baboquivary thing is called a volcanic neck in geologic terms. And correct it is an eroded remainder of the volcano. Looks pretty awesome!