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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Gardens and a Zoo

~Tuesday, December 1, 2020~

Day 170

It is so nice to be sitting here with my delicious cup of joe, enjoying a fire, while updating all of you, tuned into my first holiday music of 2020. The first song…..Feliz Navidad! And I got the go ahead for decorating too! Yeah! It has been quite the year and one which many of us would choose to forget. I second that idea, with the exception of this amazing journey we started back in June. I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else. There’s been a lot of learning and some curve balls thrown our way (to be expected), but more than anything, lots of joy and discovery. While you’re making some New Year’s plans, we hope you find some way to get out and discover too…...small or big, just do it!l

Spent much of the day taking care of some online Christmas shopping and some other loose ends until early afternoon. Unfortunately, Sadie could not join us on our trip to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson.

The tour takes about 3 to 3-½ hours which encompasses touring botanical gardens, aquariums, a zoo and a 2-mile walking path through 21 acres of desert landscape. Many of the animal exhibits were temporarily closed but what we DID see were Mexican gray wolves, coyotes, javalenas (they look like pigs, but are not pigs), and a beaver. When it came to the numerous varieties of cacti, our favorites were cowboy prickly pear (similar to a prickly pear….but with an orange hue), boojum (a bizarre tall, cone-like plant that resembles a tapered candle on top when it’s in bloom stage), the Saguaro 🌵🌞(THE symbol of the Southwest), and the Wooly Jacket Prickly Pear.

We didn’t know this park has just a sliver of the 1000’s of species of cacti.

There are 4 desert areas in Northern America…...The Great Basin, Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahuan. The Sonoran (where we are currently) has a significant amount of rain and warmer climate compared to the others, which lends itself to the slow growing Saguaro successfully growing here. We would consider this area to be lush in comparison to what we’re about to see in Joshua Tree. The Mojave just doesn’t have the rainfall. The Joshua Tree to the Mojave is what the Saguaro are to the Sonoran Desert. The Saguaro has an average lifespan of 200 years but grows at a rate of 1 to 1.5 inches in its first 8 years of life. The fruit called Bahidaj, is harvested in early summer, from the high tips of the Saguaro, with the aid of a harvesting stick called qu’aid. Tohono families harvest in early morning and again in the evening, returning to the ramada in midday to rest and process the fruit. Ramadas are shady porch-like structures that bring comfort on those routine, hot, long days of summer. For the Tohono O’Odham, they call it “Watto”. The Yaqui call it “Heka” and the Apache call it “Dat-oh”. After the fruit is processed, it is made into syrup called “sitol” by straining and cooking the juice. The products made from this are jams, pastes, and if fermented, a delicious summer drink.

It’s too bad a few of the exhibits were closed by 4:00 (no one mentioned this at the ticket counter). Otherwise, we would have made our route a little differently from the beginning. And with the park closing at 5:00, we rushed a little bit at the end of our tour. But all in all, a definite must see when visiting Tucson!

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