Visitors from the North

This past weekend we had our first house guests.  Our son and daughter-in-law were in Phoenix for a big conference and stopped down to see us in Tucson.

The last couple months in the new house have been a whirlwind of moving in, unpacking and getting the house turned into our home.  Seems like we have not even had a chance to enjoy our new surroundings.  So in the midst of all this , a welcome, fun break from the chaos appears in the form of family.

We spent a weekend visiting old haunts of our prior times here.  Like any good visit to Tucson, our schedule revolved around eating, hiking, sunshine, and enjoying the green and blooming Sonoran Desert.   Upon their arrival late in the afternoon, they decided they wanted some good Mexican food.  We thought it odd that after they had already spent a few days in Phoenix, they would be so anxious for Mexican food.  But then again, they were at a convention for four days, guess convention food has not changed much from when we used to attend them all the time. So off to our favorite, El Charro’s,

One of the great things about Tucson and being in the Sonoran Desert is the wide diversity of ecosystems, climates, plant and animal life.  Spring is especially brilliant with the yellow flowers of the palo verde trees, the green leaves on the mesquite trees and creosote and the darlings of the desert; the beautiful blooms on all the cactus

On our first full day, we took advantage of avoiding the spring winds forecast here in the valley and headed up to Mt. Lemmon.  The Catalina highway runs from Tucson connecting to the Sky Island Scenic Byway, up to the peaks of Mt. Lemmon.  It is a 28 mile paved road traversing multiple ecological life zones.  The desert vegetation at the beginning is very similar to around our house. But once you start climbing, the hillsides are crammed with saguaros. It’s likely that some of them have been on these hills for 150 years or longer. But before you’ve had time to really ponder that, the saguaros give way to scrub bushes as the road heads uphill.  In the spring, the saguaros are in brilliant bloom.  We were fortunate to see quite a few, a true gift to us from the desert.

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The start of the sending Sky Island Scenic Byway

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Our first scenic pull-out with saguaros

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Arizona’s state flower – The Saguaro Cactus Blossom

There are tons of  pullouts and vista points along the route and we made use of many of them.  A spectacular view of Tucson is at  Windy Point, about 18 miles into the drive.

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The View From Windy Point

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The four of us, all holding on to keep from blowing away.

Just beyond Windy Point, near a sign marking an elevation of 7,000 feet, the ponderosa pines start.   Those tall trees become the dominant vegetation the rest of the trip.

Near the end of the route, the road branches.  One branch took us up to Mt. Lemmon Sky Valley.  Just an hours drive from home is a recreational ski area complete with lifts, a lodge and sledding slopes.  While there was not any snow this late in the season, it is always a great viewpoint.

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The view from Summit Road

The other branch leads to Summerhaven, a small community of summer cabins to escape the summer heat.  But for us, the targeted destination was actually The Cookie Cabin.  They are famous for giant homemade cookies with multiple scoops of ice cream.  And of course, we had to partake.

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Our massive cookie and ice cream at the Cookie Cabin

Nothing works ups an appetite like a long drive up a windy mountain road, so dinner at Bear Canyon Pizza for some of their monster slices.

Day two was a special day, our son’s birthday,  The first time we had been together since he was 18.  As it was his “day”, he picked the activities.  Top of the list, a hike in Sabino Canyon.  This is one of our favorite places in Tucson.  The canyon is flanked by sharp rising mountains, deep canyons, and the unique plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert .   Before we could get on the trail, we needed a good breakfast at Le Buzz Caffe to get us started.

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Getting started on our 7.2 mile track

We have hiked Sabino Canyon more times than we can count, and each time we see something we haven’t seen on our previous trips.  This time it was a gila monster

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In all our hiking over the years, this is only the second gila monster we have seen in the wild.

Sabino Creek runs the length of the canyon and provides a constant source of water.  It is dependent on the snow run off from the mountains, and the summer monsoons.  As we had a drier than normal winter, the creek was lower than usual.

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The view from the top is outstanding and one of my personal favorites.

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There is so much elevation change in the canyon, and the towering peaks on the sides provide unique pockets of vegetation.  You will not find many saguaros once you get into the canyon, unless you look up.  However, at the entrance where it is flat and open, there was a plethora of large, giant saguaro with an overwhelming number of blooms.  They were blooming earlier this year than usual, and we got a lucky opportunity to see the tips of the saguaros smothered in blooms.

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As I mentioned, our son was selecting the activities for his birthday and he has a very soft spot for Eegees, a local Tucson chain famous for its frozen fruit drinks.  Then for dinner,  back for more Mexican food, this time to Pop & Mom’s Cantina, New Mexico style, famous for their hatch green Chilies.  We love their Green Chile Pork Stew.

As with any #workperks trip, they never seem to last long enough.  Saturday saw us driving up to Phoenix and dropping them off for the flight back to Kansas City and their arriving home to 35 degrees and sleet!

As I mentioned in the beginning, our trip revolved around eating, hiking, sunshine, and enjoying the green and blooming of the Sonoran Desert.  Final tally:

  • Six different restaurants
  • A hike in a canyon, checking off another kind of hike for Helen
  • A mountain scenic drive
  • Relaxing morning coffees on the back patio

Cannot wait till the next set of visitors to drop in.

2 thoughts on “Visitors from the North

  1. As I sit here in Northern New Hampshire looking at the distant melting snow-capped mountain peaks, it is a pleasure reading your blog and sort of re-living our Tucson adventure locations in your blog!
    Thanks for sharing!

    Like

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