Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Justin's Diamond J RV Park, 9/26/2019 to 1/26/2020

Rating: 3.5 on a scale of 5

Location:  We had stayed at an RV park near this one several years ago. We decided to stay here for most of the winter because miles of desert hiking trails are accessible directly from the park. Also. it is a great home base for visiting places like:

  • 07 miles      Old Tucson Studios
  • 09 miles      Gates Pass
  • 10 miles.     Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
  • 15 miles      Central Tucson
  • 18 miles      Saguaro Natl Park (West)
  • 44 miles      Kitt Peak Natl Observatory    44 mi

 Lot:  We rented a premium lot that backed up to the desert (MV 12). It was along the rear perimeter of the park with plenty of room. We could walk right onto a trail from our site. And a huge saguaro was visible from our bedroom windows. Woodpeckers and other birds were frequently seen from here. And one night, we even had a herd of javelinas on our site!

Amenities:   The office here is only open a few hours a day (which is fine for us). Group meals and other functions are held at the clubhouse.

The lending library of books and DVDs has a great selection! 

A small, but nice, coin-operated laundry is in the same building but open more hours. 

There is also a miniature golf course that was near our lot. However, there is no grass (real or fake) and so it is a little rough going! Nonetheless, we had fun playing a couple of times.  

We were able to receive mail, packages, and Amazon deliveries here, but everything is left in the open. Having said that, we no issues with getting our mail. 

Cost:   Our premium lot was $709/month (which included electricity).

Management:   The owners here are nice enough. When we arrived, no one was at the office and there was no information left for us. I tried to reach the office but without any luck. We ended up just selecting a site and then meeting up with the manager the next day, It was not the site they had selected for us, but they did not make us move (which was great). I had made the reservations well in advance. 

General Comments:  We loved our lot here and enjoyed the “remote” location of the park. But, I do wish it had some more amenities. We would stay here again as many of the RV parks are closer to suburban and urban areas. 


Exporing Oracle State Park, 1/08/2020

Located in the northern foothills of the Catalina Mountains is Oracle State Park (about 50 miles from Tucson). Once a 4,000 acres ranch, the Kannally family willed the property to the Defenders of Wildlife with the stipulation that it be used as a wildlife refuge. The property was later deeded to the Arizona State Parks Board. 


In 1903, brothers Neil and Lee Kannally purchased a 160-acre ranch. Three more family members (2 sisters and a brother) joined them and the ranch grew to 50,000 acres. The Kannally Ranch House is a Mediterranean Revival style building that was completed in 1932. Today it is used for environmental educational programs for the public and has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Holiday decorations could be seen in some of the rooms inside

The ranch house featured a large kitchen and pantry. A live-in cook had rooms on the lower level. 

There are no bedrooms in the house as the Kannally siblings had their own separate cottages where they slept. The ranch house was used by all and was where they gathered for daily for meals and leisure time.


Beautiful wood ceilings were featured in the main living area. Also, Oracle State Park is an International Dark Sky park. A telescope is available for visitors during educational programs

There are 15 miles of hiking trails here (also mountain biking and equestrian ones). Dogs are not permitted on some trails, so we decided to check out the Nature Loop Trail (NT on map below).

We began the nature trail hike with our doggie, Sadie. Interpretive signs provide information about the flora and fauna found here. 

The trail winds through oak-grasslands where grey fox, whitetail deer, Harris hawk, western diamondback rattlesnakes, gila monsters, and more. Alas, we did not see ANY of these during our hike although we did spend some time at the wildlife viewing area enjoying the solitude and natural beauty. 

Yucca plants dominated the landscape along portions of the trail.

The bedrock in the park and surrounding foothills is known as Oracle Granite and is one of the oldest exposed bedrock in the southwest. Piles of granite boulders are prominent features here. Wanting to see more of them, we hiked the Granite Overlook Trail Loop (GO on the map above).

And, yes, there were granite boulders everywhere!

This is an entire field of more boulders.

Sadie had a blast on this trail as we did not encounter any other people on the day we visited. 

We enjoyed learning the history of the area and exploring the countryside. The trails are well marked, but not all are dog friendly. For additional information about Oracle State Park, go to


Gates Pass...Sunset and Moonrise, 1/06/2020

Gates Pass is a favorite location to view the sunset in Tucson. We have been here several times, but it is always worth another visit. The beautiful orange hues of the mountains emerge as the sun sets. 

If you look closely at the previous photo, you will see this structure (built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s) where some have gathered to watch the sunset

And the sun begins to set to the west.  And I believe our girl, Sadie, was as mesmerized by the beauty of the moment as we were. 

The orange hues intensify until the sun goes down.

The view to the east from our perch in the mountain pass was yet another color palette...loved the pink and blue!

Once the sun goes down, it can get pretty chilly here in the winter months. Bring a jacket!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Visiting Reid Park Zoo, 1/05/2020

I have a love/hate relationship with all zoos. I really do love seeing and learning about these unusual, and often endangered, animals, but I hate that they are imprisoned. The conservation efforts by this and most other zoos is really important, I believe, to our planet. 


Reid Park Zoo was founded in 1967 by Gene Reid, the parks and recreation director of Tucson at the time. Friends, Liz and Mike, accompanied us on this visit. Our first stop was at the giraffes habitat. Liz had fun feeding Denver. Check out that long black tongue she has! You can purchase romaine lettuce to feed them. 

The median lifespan for giraffes is 19 years, and Denver is an amazing 32 years old! She is the 2nd oldest giraffe in the giraffe Species Survival Plan (an international zoo and conservation organization). 

The Chilean flamingoes here feed on shrimp, mollusks, and brine flies. They stand on one leg to conserve warmth in their bodies.  But studies also show that it appears to just be a comfortable resting position for them. Their bright colors are always beautiful.

These Aldabra tortoises are the second largest land tortoise and are indigenous to the Aldabra islands off the coast of Africa. 

The two grizzly bears at the zoo had begun to rely on humans for food for survival. They were captured and relocated to the zoo to save them from being euthanized. When they hibernate, their heart rate goes from 70 bpm to 10 bpm! The trainers leave treats in the habitat to keep the bears curious and active. 

African elephants are the largest land animals on earth. They eat grasses, fruits, leaves and flowers…on average 350 pounds per day

The southern white rhino has a large hump on their neck and shoulders. It is a huge muscle that supports the massive weight of the head and horn.

Grevy’s zebra is one of three zebra species and the type they have here. It has the thinnest black stripes, but is the largest of the three. 

Meerkats are members of the mongoose family. They live in communal habitats with about 15 tunnel entrances in groups of 40 or so. At least one meerkat is always on guard to warn others of danger.

The king of the jungle…the zoo has three African lions, this handsome male and two females. 

This Andean bear is the only bear species found in South America. They are indigenous to the slopes of the Andes Mountain and have been seen at elevations as high as 14,000’. 

The giant anteaters have such an interesting appearance! With tongues up to 24” long, they use their long claws to expose ants and termites. The sticky saliva on their tongues enable them to slurp up the insects. They walk on their knuckles to keep their claws sharp. With terrible eyesight, they use their sense of smell to find their way. The Reid Park Zoo has had giant anteaters for more than 50 years due to their successful breeding program. 

The capybara is the largest member of the rodent family (and can weigh 77 to 150 pounds). They can hold their breath for up to 5 minutes and will hide in the water to avoid predators. 

And a carousel for the kids!

There are many more animals to see here. We had visited several years ago when we were last in Tucson, but enjoyed it just as much this time. We have been to many zoos during our travels, and even though this one is not that large, it has nice habitats, great veterinary care, and animal enrichment programs

Admission was $8.50/seniors ($10.50/adults). For additional information about Reid Park Zoo, including hours of operation, zoo map, etc., go to