Arizona, Where We've Been

Saguaro National Park, Biosphere 2, & the Titan Missile Museum

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Tucson, AZ

We spent two wonderful weeks in Tucson, visiting with family, friends, and seeing the sites. On top of that, we went trick-or-treating for Halloween, celebrated my daughter’s birthday with an escape room (they made it out!), and had an early Thanksgiving meal with family. It was a busy, but fun two weeks!

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park is split into two sections on either side of Tucson.  The Tucson Mountain District is located on the west side and the Rincon Mountain District on the east side. Each section is unique and worth a visit. 

The west side seems to get more clouds and therefore, better sunsets. This being cactus country, you do have to watch where you step if you walk on or off trail here. I found out the meaning of the name jumping cholla after a walk through these parts. Fortunately my shoe took the worst of it! 

The pictures below are of Safford Peak (a.k.a. Sombrero Mountain) and another cactus in the same area, located in the west section of Saguaro National Park. 

The east side doesn’t have the great mountain backdrop, but it does have a lot of Saguaro cacti interspersed with other varieties of plant and animal life. There is an 8 mile one-way loop that circles the park with hiking trails at different stops along the way. Hiking off-trail was a slow undertaking, trying to avoid all the spikes from the shrubs and cacti and I still wound up with stickers attached to me.

While driving close to sunset, I saw several coyotes running in and out of the bushes. They seem to only come out at night fortunately. Come to think of it, I wonder how they avoid getting poked by all the cacti spines and stickers… hmm.

This east area is filled with Saguaro cacti dotting the hillsides. Back in the 1930’s there was a winter freeze that killed many of the cacti growing here. If the temperature falls below freezing for over 20 hours, the cacti are likely to die. Nearly two-thirds of all the cacti were killed off at this time. It takes a long time for a Saguaro to grow, it will be a while before they grow back to their full number.

Biosphere 2

Biosphere 2 was an experiment undertaken in the 1990’s that sought to test if humans could reproduce the living conditions of earth in a sealed system. If possible, it would allow for future expeditions to Mars or the moon to set up a colony. 

Ten people accepted the challenge and were sealed inside the mini ecosystem for an initial trial period of two years. They grew, harvested, and cooked their own food, did science experiments, and carried out life as normally as possible. 

After 1.5 years of living in the biosphere, their oxygen level became dangerously low at only 14% and the airlock had to be opened early. As the world’s media followed the Biosphere 2 experiment, the scientists made the unfortunate decision to not be forthcoming with this information. Consequently, a backlash against those in charge of the experiment ensued and the experiment was discredited.

A second experiment was again tried a few years later after upgrades were installed, but was also ended without success.

Today, Biosphere 2 is owned by the University of Arizona and is used to conduct many environmental experiments that could otherwise not be possible. 

Even though the initial experiments ended in failure, the information the scientists found  out about our own biosphere, the Earth, turned out to be invaluable. 

The biosphere contains several different habitats with unique plants contained in each (A rain forest, desert savannah, ocean). Food plants like papayas, lemons, limes, and coffee grow throughout the biosphere. 

Titan Missile Museum

A relic of the Cold War era, the Titan Missile Museum stands as a remembrance of a time when we were in a stand-off war with the now defunct Soviet Union. Each side kept building more and more missile silos to out pace the other. At one point there were enough nuclear warheads on Earth to destroy every living thing several times over.

The Titan Missile Museum was the only one of the Titan missiles to be preserved. The tour guide led us into an underground bunker with 4 foot thick concrete walls and a 6,000lb door to seal in the handful of survivors should a nuclear strike occur. This bunker was manned by four Air Force personnel whose only job was to launch the nuclear missile should America be attacked.

This room was the missile launch control center. Once the order was received from the President, the launch codes could be obtained, verified, and with the simultaneous turn of two keys, the countdown to launch would have been initiated. The bunker is shielded from the vibration of the launching rocket in the underground silo by a series of large springs. These huge springs kept the bunker free from vibration damage and allowed the four survivors to live in the bunker, recirculating the air, for up to three weeks. After which they would emerge to a world that would be devoid of any and all life.

The map below shows the location of the now destroyed Titan Missiles around the Tucson area.

Here’s a fun fact for the Trekkies out there: The Titan Missile Museum was used to film the location of Zefram Cochrane’s warp ship in the movie Star Trek: First Contact. The warp ship blasted out of the silo and reached space where it initiated warp drive. That caught the attention of the Vulcans and led to first contact with alien life.


Davis-Monthan FamCamp

Davis-Monthan has a first come, first serve FamCamp. If the campground is full, visitors will be put into the overflow lot until a space becomes available. We visited in November and didn’t have any trouble securing a site. Sites are limited to 21 days.

We enjoyed our stay. The spaces were long and the temperature was decent for November. However, the base sound system was right next to our campsite and we were greeted with reville every morning at 7am, the National Anthem at 5pm, and Taps at 10pm… every single day (except weekends).

Starlink was decent at 65 down and 5 up. Verizon and AT&T both had 5 bars.