Before leaving on our five year sailing circumnavigation on Tahina, I wanted to have one last big backpacking trip with some of my friends. So, I invited Fred and Andy, who also live in North Carolina, and we flew out to Arizona to meet a third friend of mine, Jim, who lives in Tucson. Jim works at the University of Arizona where we both got our degrees – many years ago!
Once in Tucson, I took my friends on a tour of the UofA campus and we picked up Jim at his office in the Lunar Planetary Labs. Then we drove out to Kitt Peak National Observatory and spent the day touring the many telescopes on this impressive mountaintop. Jim gave us a private tour of the mountain – since he’s been working up there for many years. We got to see and talk to some astronomers at work on the McMath Solar observatory who were conducting experiments while we were there.
The next day, I took Fred and Andy on an early morning hike in the Saguaro National Forest. They were awed by the beauty of the desert and the huge saguaro cacti (which happen to bloom flowers on their tops in mid-spring). We later went to the awesome Desert Museum – which I highly recommend to anyone visiting the Tucson area. Here you see and learn about the flora and fauna of the desert. They have some awesome exhibits at the museum. Later in the day we ended up at Gates Pass in the Tucson Mountains to view the sunset. Andy got up close and personal, unintentionally, with a rattlesnake after sunset. But, they went their separate ways without harming one another (look for the picture).
Later in the week, we drove south to Green Valley and then headed southeast up Madera Canyon. Our objective was to put on backpacks and spend three days ascending Mt. Wrightson which is next to Mt. Hopkins (home to another set of observatories), camp out at night and see the stars, and see (and photo) as many sights as possible. We all made it to the top, and took a lot of pictures along the way.
You can see a travelogue of the entire trip in Google Earth by downloading this file . The file includes GPS tracks of the various routes we took, a special colorized GPS track of our ascent of Mt Wrightson which indicates altitude change, and thumbnails to some photos we took – which are geotagged to the location where the shots were taken. NOTE: read the instructions in the loaded file and make sure you turn on the Historical Imagery mode in Google Earth 5 to see the best views.
A better slideshow of the photos can be seen here (warning, there’s a lot of photos, but this is just some of the best of the many hundreds photos the four of us took during the trip):
View full screen slideshow
Footnote: I spent many hours gathering and processing the photos, tracks, and Google Earth content for this trip. I tried various experiments with the Google Earth file to best highlight the content. An attempt to use the new GE 5 Tours function ultimately did not turn out the way I wanted it, so I had to put that idea to rest. Right before I intended to publish this last weekend, Google released new imagery for Arizona that looks horrible! So, I added the instructions about the historical imagery mode so you could see better satellite imagery for the areas we visited.