Tucson – October 2021 – From Mexico to Canada in 27 Miles (and 7,000 Vertical Feet) – Mt Lemmon, Arizona

Tucson is located at the base of Mt Lemmon, a 9300′ high mountain. The Catalina Highway goes all the way up the mountain, providing a biological and ecological perspective in the 27 mile drive, and 7,000 vertical feet in elevation gain that is the same as driving from Mexico to Canada.

The road starts in far northeastern Tucson

It doesn’t take long to gain enough elevation for a panoramic view of the city, while passing hillsides of Saguaro cactus.

For many years the road was known as one of the most dangerous in the area, but years of improvements have made it very safe, with numerous overlooks.

The appropriately named Thimble Peak is on the right of this view.

The stop at Windy Point has a large area for hiking around – a good point about 1/2 way up the mountain for an extended break.

There are numerous hoodoos in the lower elevations.

Once you go above 8000′ elevation the terrain changes, with forests of evergreens and aspen trees, with their fall colors.

The small tourist town of Summerhaven has long been a respite from the desert heat.

Mt Lemmon Ski Valley is known as the southernmost ski resort in the country. While Tucson is in the desert, with about 11 inches of precipitation a year, rarely as snow, Mt Lemmon has almost 200″ of snow a year at the summit.

A couple of miles further on up the mountain is the summit. A recent wildfire has left some of the hills burnt, but as always the vegetation returns.

The view of Tucson from 7000′ above the valley floor is amazing. This is one of the countries best drives.

The drive back down took us from 52 degrees at the summit to 85 degrees in the valley floor, as we returned back to the Sonoran Desert.

Central Arizona – September 2021 – Wanderings

A 3 day weekend of wanderings resulted in a number of topics for a posting, and a few random shots that weren’t enough for a single posting.

Jerome, Arizona – What was once a medium sized town for a large copper mine, the town went nearly extinct, but has returned to life as a tourist attractions as … a ghost town full of people.

Another mountain town is Superior – east of Phoenix.

Roosevelt Lake is located near the Tonto National Monument. The reservoir supplies water to Phoenix.

Central Arizona – September 2021 – Historic Native Dwellings

The long weekend provided a great opportunity to explore the many historic dwellings that are scattered around Central Ariona.

We started at Montezuma’s Castle. The Europeans who first visited the remnants in the mid 1800s were mistakenly convinced that Montezuma had lived there, hence the name. This however is inaccurate – it is believed that Hopi, Yavapi and Hohokam lived here.

Nearby is Montezuma’s Well. Much like the Castle, it was the home to numerous local cultures. This natural limestone sinkhole produces 1.5 million gallons of water a day from an underground spring.

Tuzigoot Is a 3 story pueblo ruin at the summit of a ridge near Clarkdale, Arizona. It is very large, with 110 rooms, as a home for Sinagua people.

The final stop of the weekend was at Tonto National Monument. Home to Salado culture more than 800 years ago, it sets high up on a hill above what is now Roosevelt Lake.

Usery Mountain Park, Arizona – September 2021 – Sunset Interrupted

An internet search of best sunsets in Phoenix suggested Usery State Park – just east of Mesa. We headed off for the short drive out, but in the end sunset was not to be as storm clouds moved in. While disappointed about the sunset, the clouds provided a great backdrop not often seen in Phoenix.

The drive back into town also provided some great shots

Before you knew it we were back in Mesa.

White Sands National Park – August 2021 – Amazing Setting

From 1934 until 2020 White Sands was designated a National Monument, but in December 2020 it was upgraded to a National Park.

While being one of the country’s great natural wonders it has for years been used for military activities (White Sands Bombing Range) as well as Hollywood backdrops. Hopefully with National Park status it will remain a natural treasure forever.

We arrived late afternoon after a day of thunderstorms in the area, resulting in a great sky for the backdrop, as well as a mudslide that added 50 additional miles to our trip to Las Cruces.

Signs of Change Across America – August 2021

After an entire lifetime of living in the east, life has dealt us a curveball, resulting in us relocating from Ohio to Arizona. We took the opportunity to take a bit extra time during the 2000 mile move to stop and see a few sights along the way. Some of the more extended stops will have their own posting.

Let’s start by leaving Columbus

Time to head west.

First state – Kentucky

Our first stretch break was south of Louisville at Bernheim Arboretum. In addition to the natural scenery there were many sculptures.

After a very long drive across much of Kentucky, we reached the Tennessee border in the far northwestern corner of the state.

It was on to Memphis for the night. We saw enough sights in our brief visit to Memphis to warrant it’s own posting.

The next day started with a drive across the Mississippi River into Arkansas

After extended stops in Little Rock and Hot Springs (postings follow this one), we found ourselves near the small town of Murfreesboro at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. This park is known for being an open diamond ‘mine’ where you pay $10 and are welcome to go dig around for diamonds.

The park has a sign detailing recent and records finds – each day someone find small diamonds, and every once in a while a big find is made.

We did not strike it rich so we continued west, passing Texarkana, which as the name suggests is on the Texas/Arkansas border.

Our last brief stop of the day was in Sulphur Springs, Texas. Their very nice courthouse square has a public restroom with one way mirrors, so you can ‘take care of business’ while watching the world go by 🙂

A couple more hours lead to a great sunset while arriving in Dallas.

The next morning started out across West Texas, passing the town of Cisco (must be where they got the name of the company)

Our first extended stop of the day was in Abilene (posting to follow).

Texans are very proud of their home.

The drive across Texas continued, passing wind turbines then oil derricks.

After 575 mile we were through Texas (or so we though…), arriving in Hobbs, New Mexico.

Eastern New Mexico was still oil country but it quickly transitioned to the mountains. The peak of our trip was in Cloudcroft, New Mexico.

After dropping more than 4000 feet we arrived in Alamogordo, home to White Sands National Park (individual posting later).

The plan was to drive the 70 miles to Las Cruces for the night but there was a landslide, resulting in a detour adding an addition 50 miles, resulting us ending up back in Texas (briefly) again.

Eventually we made it to Las Cruces, and the next morning started on the literal home stretch.

After 2000 miles we have reached our new home state! With this move we have a fantastic opportunity for new sights and experiences, so stay tuned….