Golfing, Hiking, and Caves

The Next day was pretty relaxing.  I opted to stay put as Gary, Maureen & Derek went golfing.  Guess I missed some excitement, but I had some of my own relaxing on the patio, watching the golfers go by and doing laundry.  Yes, ones cloths tend to get dirty when travelling!  There was a major plus  to me not going golfing, well for the homes that line the course they went to anyways.   There  was only one swinging golfer pounding balls into trailers, and yards instead of two!

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That evening we played  marbles, which I guess is another “senior” game that gets played around Mission Royal. Its not the kind of game you get on your hands and knees for, its played with a board, cards, and of course marbles!   Its fun, and I actually had the opportunity to win a game!  Not going to say how many games it took to win, and the instructions were much easier than Pickle Ball!  I didn’t cheat or anything!  Plans were then made for the next day, a trip out to Kartchner Caverns.

We got to the Caverns early enough the next day to go for a  hike.  Happily, clear skies and  very “warm”  We did the Foothills Loop Trail, which was  just about 5 km and actually took us over the hill that houses Kartchner Caverns!  To the unknowing eye, its only another hill in the desert!

The caverns, were  discovered in  1974 by cavers Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts who came across a sink hole, that appeared to have a large crack. A closer inspection revealed a  warm breeze coming from the crack, so started their exploration. There is approximately 4 km of passages in the cave, and is truly an experience to enter into this world.  I cannot imagine what these two cavers endured, although as cavers, I’m sure it was a thrill to them not knowing what was around the next rock pile, steep descent, boggy terrain with only a small flashlight to light their way. These caverns were opened to the public in 1999.   Even though it was hot outside, the moment you entered  the door into the cave you became aware of the heat and humidity.   It maintains a temperature of 22 C.  and 99% humidity year round, a little muggy to say the least.  Approximately 1500 bats do migrate to the cave during the spring, and make the Big Room their summer home. Thousands of years ago they did roost in other areas of the cave, but they no longer do. On April 15th  each year all doors are closed to the Big Room, and lights unplugged to ensure lights don’t come on during the summer months.  No one enters this area of the caverns until the bats have left for the winter;  middle of October.  At that time they open the room to the public again.  Our luck, timing was a little off and we were in the right place at the wrong time so were not able to witness the bats.  Also unfortunate was that  photos were not permitted in the caverns, however if you’re interested, I will leave you with a web page with some magnificent photos and videos of the cavern.     http://azstateparks.com/Parks/KACA/gallery.html

During our trip home someone got a craving for a DQ Blizzard, and NO it was not me!  However, we all reaped the benefits of the whining! Thanks Maureen!    The sun was setting behind Picacho Peak as we drove past.  As Derek & Maureen have already done the climb, Gary and I will attempt tomorrow!

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Got up bright and early the next morning and headed South on I10 toward Picacho Peak. Hoping to get up and back down before it got too hot – again!  Filled our packs with water, sunscreen, fruit and water and down the road we went.  You can see the Picacho Peak miles before you get to it. (could see it more clearly without the remnants of all the bugs!_

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In fact, on clear days you can see the peak from Tucson, over 45 miles away. It was used as a navigational landmark for hundreds of years.   The Battle of Picacho Pass is one of several American civil war sites to occur in Arizona and marks the second most western battles of the  Civil War. A re-enactment of the battle is done every year in March, and it just so happened, it was occurring that Saturday.  Knowing the hike would take  several hours, we didn’t hang around and wait for the battle to start, we had our own battle, to climb the Peak!  The total distance up and back is just over 8.5 km. and as you can imagine, its a workout. The reward, a beautiful  360 degree view from the top!  Thanks for the use of your gloves Maureen, I used them!

I have to admit I didn’t think about spiders and such until after we were up at the top and a fellow explained to his son that it was “that bush, right there, that’s where a tarantula crawled out of”. Then we noticed these strange flying wasp like bugs.  Gary spent some time getting the perfect photos.IMG_0798

One kid said it was a  Tarantula Hawk Wasp.  Never heard of one, but hey, if there are tarantulas there, why wouldn’t there be a big old wasp to eat them!   When I got home I googled it!  Sure enough that is exactly what it is. Its difficult to see in the photo, however it is approximately 2 inches long.   It has a sting which is the second most painful of any insect (the Bullet ant being the most painful). Though the intense pain only lasts about three minutes, they say the best thing to do is lay down and scream because you could hurt yourself if you stay standing! The sting is described as being “electric”.    I can not believe Gary was so close to those nasty flying things!  I was a little more careful with my hand placements on the way down!

 

 

 

 

 

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