The first three days we visited the historic mission, a very interesting and beautiful cave and the historic town of Tombstone. We also visited nearby Saguaro National Park and did a short hike. I'll get to everything else we did in the next post!
The oldest European building in Arizona is the San Xavier mission on the Tohono O'odham Indian reservation. Built in 1797 on the site of the original mission church (built in 1692), this church is still an active Catholic church today. It has been beautifully restored inside and out.
Leaving the mission, we headed to Kartchner Caverns State Park, about an hour east of Tucson. This park protects a cavern system discovered in the 70's by two amateur spelunkers and kept secret for decades. After much negotiation between the land owners and the state, it came under the Arizona park system. Many more years were spent developing the cave for visitors and protecting the intact cave ecosystem inside. Touring the cave, one must pass through about five airlocks, carry nothing with you and touch nothing. This is a wet cave and the formations are still dripping and forming. No cameras are allowed inside, but here is a shot from Wikipedia:
|"Kartchner Big Room" by Mike Lewis - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kartchner_Big_Room.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Kartchner_Big_Room.jpg|
After this grueling day, we were in recovery mode the next day, but we did manage to visit and hike a bit in Saguaro National Park, just a few miles from our campground. They have a site with nearly 1000 petroglyphs from the Hohokam people who had a thriving culture in the Sonoran desert from 750 to 1450. These petroglyphs are believed to be about 800 years old.
|This picnic structure was built by the CCC in the 30's like so much of our National Park infrastructure.|