The Creosote Council, a group representing the industries that protect railroad ties and other wood products from decay, credits the odor to naphthalene, an organic compound that gives off intense aromas even at low concentrations.

Tucsonans recognize it as the fresh scent that follows — even precedes — the monsoon storms that typically start arriving in July. The remedy, in these parched days before the rains come, is to snap off a sprig, rub its waxy leaves between your fingers, inhale deeply and imagine the sound of thunder.

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Try seeing the mission at sunset, when it’s cast in a pinkish hue. Among them: six months of peerless weather and more prickly pear pods than you can shake a rain stick at.

Take some pictures or paint a watercolor: As familiar as the White Dove of the Desert may seem, it can still surprise. Rather than letting the pods go to waste, reader Christine Newman suggests making prickly pear jam.

Reasons to visit the Arizona State Museum and its grounds, from the inside out: The museum has a huge collection of Southwest Indian pottery and basketry, an extensive assortment of Navajo rugs and items from the Seri and Western Apache, and hundreds of Mexican folk masks and costumes. Some picking, boiling, mashing and straining is involved.

At the moment, retablos and ex-votos from the collection of Gloria Fraser Giffords are on display, as well as the Dinétah paintings of Jeremy Singer and photographs by Edward S. An elegant formal reading room is on the second floor.1013 E. The dark-red and purple pods of late summer are best. Star readers point to The Loop, a multiuse trail system ringing the metropolitan area, as a major addition to Tucson’s crowded catalog of must-do experiences.

He suggests heading out for Blackett’s Ridge two hours before sunset on an evening the moon will be full.

From the signed beginning of the Phoneline Trail, the steep three-mile hike to Blackett’s Ridge is rewarded by jaw-dropping views of Sabino and Bear canyons.

Marvel at its intricately gilded altarpiece and chapels.

Attend a choral concert in the weeks before Christmas.

One of them, Star sports columnist Greg Hansen, likes The Views (825-3110), which has a resort feel but won’t break the bank.