April 7-12We pulled into the Crazy Horse RV Park in eastern Tucson early in the afternoon. This is another of those basic gravel pit parks. The spaces are narrow with only some skimpy oleanders serving as dividers between spaces. Fortunately there are not many campers in the area we were put, so we felt like we had some space. The parks only advantage is proximity to what we want to do while here.
It’s going to get really hot in the next couple of days so our plans are evolving as we go, depending on the days’ forecast. Our hiking will be early morning only, but since we were here now, and it was hot, we decided to go into Tucson proper to the Center for Creative Photography on the University of Arizona campus. There were 3 interesting exhibits to view and we spent a couple of hours enjoying the exhibits and air conditioning of the galleries. Saguaro West – Rincon Mountain District
In the morning, we were up and out just after dawn. The 7 mile drive into the park went quickly and were driving the 8 mile loop road by 7:30. The plan was to walk several of the shorter hikes leaving from various points along the loop road. This worked quite well. We made a loop out of 3 of the intersecting trail and I was quite pleased that not so many people were on the trails yet. This district section of the park seemed quite lush compared to the west section. There were at least some wildflowers and cactus blooming, and the palaverde trees were just spectacular with there green bark and bright yellow blossoms.The saguaro’s were budding already. Usually they don’t bloom until late May or June, so this seemed early. Too early for us however. We probably won’t see them in bloom this trip. The ocotillo were particularly fun to photograph. Here, they were in a transitional stage – going from yellow to green before they drop all their leaves and play dead. They remind me of those party favors you blow through to uncurl and go, “bleeeeet!” Backlit and translucent, I loved the way they caught the light.
This nest looks like a cactus wrens work, but it’s in a palaverde tree. Go figure. We stopped at a few other viewpoints and did a few more short walks, but by 11:00 it was already into the high 80’s. We headed back to camp.But before arriving there, we stopped outside a storage area for the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Driving by earlier in the morning, we were pretty shocked at how many giant aircraft were mothballed. Must have been hundreds between this field and another nearby. In the evening, we met up with a friend of Mary’s for dinner. While at home, Mary volunteered for a time at the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park, assisting in the archiving information of past exhibits going back to the 1930’s. Jane, who directed her, moved to Tucson after she retired and it was a nice opportunity to catch-up.
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
Monday April 9We didn’t have to arise at the crack of dawn for this days’ hike in Sabino Canyon. Strangely, it does not open until 9 A.M. We didn’t have to pay the $20 entrance fee, but our National Parks Senior Passes didn’t apply to the tram ticket needed to motor up and down the canyon. Ten bucks each – a wash! The plan was to take the tram up to it’s furthest point in the canyon, then walk back down the road. around 4 miles. On a hot day, we had the option of walking it all or jumping on the tram if too hot. We arrived at the canyon just in time to catch the first tram of the day at 9:30. It was warm already, but a nice cool breeze followed us up the canyon. There was narration along the way pointing some of the landmarks and talking about the construction of the 9 bridges spanning the stream running through the canyon. When we got to the final stop of the tram, 4 miles in, we took a look at the trail that rose up maybe 600’, then ran back down the canyon to the starting point. It didn’t look to tough and we still had a cool breezed. We decided to give it a go. We could abort about a mile by taking a spur trail if it got difficult.The first half-mile were switchbacks up the Phoneline Trail we would take to return. The trail gave us a much better view of the canyon and surrounding terrain. We found many more wildflowers along the trail than were evident below and there were pockets of shade to rest in. It was getting hotter though, and the shady spots were pretty much gone. We are always prepared with plenty of water and sunblock, hats and the like, but because we changed our minds about hiking this trail instead of the road, we didn’t have our hiking pokes. The trail itself was pretty good. Pretty rocky, but only gradual up’s and down’s once we were walking the high trail.The hillsides were all quite lush with desert plants. Backlit saguaro and ocotillo kept me amused, while the broad landscapes looking out the other way inspired. About the last 2 miles, it got really hot. We’d lost our breeze and the shade had vanished some time earlier. We were feeling pretty baked by the time we reached the final cut-off to a tram stop. Still another .9 miles to go, and we just missed a tram pick-up when we got to the road. That just meant a 30 minute wait in the shade until the nest one. We were back at the visitor center by 1:30 and were quite happy to ride home with the air conditioner blasting.
Mt. Lemon and Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Globe
After yesterdays too hot hike, we were of the mind of not doing a heck of a lot today. The heat is going to spike to the upper 90’s this afternoon. We’d left the 28 mile Mt. Lemon scenic drive till now for this very day and reason. It rises into the mountain 6000’ and will be much cooler up there. But honestly, I was not into making photographs the entire day. The air around Tucson was kind of thick and really clogged the views. I was along for the ride.
The drive up the mountain was a really quite nice. Going from a saguaro forest to aspens at the top, we watched the terrain and plant-life change as we rose. We stopped often to check the views. We spent a pleasant time at the top enjoying the quiet and especially the cool.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Globe
Thursday, April 12After getting baked out of Tucson, we headed north and up a bit to Globe, AZ. It is a little cooler here for the next couple of days, with a much larger cool-down coming. The Gila County RV Park, the only RV park in Globe was not good. Another gravel pit, but right next to busy highway 60. There is another portion of the park down below on the other side of the highway, but this portion had a laundry and really fast 5G wifi. We had a lot of uploading and updating to do.We’re here sort of as an interim place to hang while we wait for some reservations at Deadhorse State Park, further north. We decided to stop here to visit the arboretum tomorrow morning while it’s cool. High winds and severe dust are forecast for the afternoon. We need to be back before that happens. Boyce Arboretum contains exhibits from a number of different desert types. We walked the desert exhibits of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, Australian and South American deserts. Within these exhibits, we also found a nice cactus and succulent garden, and a eucalyptus forest. Quite a few species of birds were seen including a Hooded Oriole (below) and the one above (perhaps a fly-catching Phainopepla)
A walk through a couple of hot houses (hotter houses) revealed some other lesser seen succulents. There was even a section of Boojum trees, which must be one of the odder trees of the world. This was not a place that I would go out of my way to visit, but since we had the time, it was an enjoyable way to spend a warm morning. By late morning it was getting beyond warm again. We sat for a while on a bench in the deepest part of the gardens next to a small reservoir listening to the breeze as it rustled grasses along the shore. Those breezes were gaining in strength now, so we decided to come back to camp before it really started to blow.On the way, we stopped by the side of the road next to more tailing piles. Unbeknownst to me, Globe and Miami (another small town adjacent to Globe) are also mining towns. Looking on Google Earth, I could see this was in fact another huge pit mine and the mountains of tailings belonged to it. It seems everywhere one goes in southern Arizona, a copper pit is waiting. It is the Copper State after all. Back in Globe, we watched as the wind increased all afternoon. By 2 P.M. the sky had turned a yellowy smudge of 40 mph wind gusts. Dust was thick in the air and thousands of feet in the air. This may not have been one of those epic dust storms, but I would not have wanted to be driving or walking through any of that mess. The winds calmed some after sunset and the promise of cooler temps the wind represents will be welcomed for the next couple of days.
Tonto National Monument
Saturday April 14
We still had a couple of days to kill until we could check into Deadhorse, so we motored a little further north to Roosevelt Dam – the largest lake in Arizona – just a quarter mile from the Tonto National Monument. Roosevelt Lake and Dam is a Forest Service area and there are a number of large campgrounds along the edges of the lake.
There are lovely mesquite and palaverde trees for shade and covered picnic tables at every site. No power, but water and a dump station are available. This is a big boating and fishing hang-out for most folks. But lots of birds are about – many gathering nesting materials. Right now, even on a weekend, there aren’t a huge number of people here. We set up camp and will see the monument in the morning.The Tonto ruins are best viewed early during the morning hours. They are high up in a natural alcove that faces east. After noon, they are in deep shadow and difficult to photograph. A half-mile paved path winds up 300’ along the hillside beneath the ruins and leads to the alcove that holds the structures. Along the path on both sides, a heavy growth of all the desert plants we’ve been seeings on this trip serve as nice foregrounds for the long views. While it is a 300’ rise in a half-mile, the paved path makes it very easy, and there are benches and shady spots for those who need them. Once up in the ruin, we could walk around in several of the rooms. A ranger was posted inside to answer questions and keep people from climbing the walls.At something like 300 year, this place is not as old as some we’ve visited in the southwest. It has been a monument since the 30’s, but like so many sites, it was never funded to provide protection from vandalism. So we see graffiti on the walls and rebuilt walls. There was still quite a bit of the original structure to view, but much had been “restored”. Some of the original walls with mud plaster and 400 year old tree branch roofs were still in place. We’ve seen dozens of Indian ruins over the years all over the southwest. While this doesn’t rank with the very best, it was another interesting example of the “Ancient Ones” lifestyle. Of course, it was a different scene when they were here. Roosevelt Lake did not exist then. The residents used the valley for crop planting. Many old irrigation ditches were discovered in the process of exploring the area. We were done here by 11 and returned to camp. Tomorrow we move north to Deadhorse Ranch State Park for a few days. What will we see there?