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Sonora Desert Museum is an authentic experience

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“This was as the desert should be, this was the desert of the picture books, with the land unrolled to the farthest distant horizon hills, with saguaro standing sentinel in their strange chessboard pattern, towering supinely above the fans of ocotillo and brushy mesquite, writes Dorothy B. Hughes.

I could not imagine the desert beyond what I saw in photos and on TV. In person, the desert has warm breezes and songs from birds that hide until you have gazed for a few minutes in the direction of the song. You hear rustlings that may be a small animal or a snake. And scents once only bottled in perfumes and soaps.

There is beauty in the desert and also danger from more than poisonous fangs. Some cacti can wound. But all desert creatures and plants are, in the end, a symbol of all that awes the human spirit. From raptors in free flight to the cactus that blooms after fifty years just before it dies, we are reminded of our humanity and our need to take joy in the moment and just the right measure of caution.

Tucson Arizona’s Sonora Desert Museum brings the desert to seekers of this beauty without a long hike and camping gear. Its 21 acres and two miles of accessible walking paths host 230 animal species and 1,200 types of plants all native to the habitat. Abundant benches give visitors the opportunity to just be in the desert and fill their senses with desert beauty

Docents are happy to guide you to the attractions you most want to see and suggest exhibits and displays you may not have thought of. Raptors -- birds of prey -- in free flight was an unexpected experience of being in the wild so close to Tucson.

When most people think of Arizona, they think "Grand Canyon." When I remember Arizona, my first thought is the brush of a peregrine falcon's wing before it perched on a saguaro cactus well into its second century and looked at me like I was a sorry excuse for lunch.

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