Vail, Arizona – December 2021 – Views From The New Neighborhood

Our move to Arizona has found us living in a town called Vail, at the far east end of Tucson. It predates the same named town in Colorado by about 100 years, but for most of it’s time was a small, dusty railroad stop. The Colorado town has nothing on the Arizona one, the mountains here have more vertical gain above the town – just without so much snow (thankfully).

In the last 30 years it has grown tremendously but still has that ‘outpost’ feel, being at the edge of town, next to the mountains and desert. This posting has random views of some sights around Vail and beyond.

While Route 66 is the most famous east-west route in the pre interstate days, in reality more people actually took U.S. 80 west to California. This route made it’s way across Southern Arizona, including a portion between Benson and Vail, on it’s way to Tucson.

U.S. 80 crosses Cienega Creek on a 1921 bridge, next to where two Southern Pacific railroad routes also traverse the creek. A cienega is a wetland unique to the Southwestern U.S., resulting in a landscape unlike the surrounding area because of the constant availability of water, with large trees lining the banks.

Just to the east is the ghost town of Pantano, another railroad stop in the late 1800s, early 1900s. Today only the water tower remains.

About 30 miles south of Vail is the town of Sonoita. As you cross the Empire Mountains the landscape changes yet again, with large fields of tall grasses, instead of the Sonoran Desert look of Vail.

A local propane dealer has a cool collection of decorated tanks.

While Saguaro National Park East has a Tucson address, it is in the Vail area. It was a good day to take the dog for a walk, and take a closer look at the cacti.

The Vail area, and all of Southern Arizona, have spectacular sunsets.

Note the full moon peeking through the clouds.

Madera Canyon, Arizona – December 2021 – Nature At It’s Finest

Madera Canyon is less than an hour south of Tucson, but a world away from an ecological perspective. While the base of the canyon is around 3500′ elevation, you can easily and quickly drive to over 5000′, and if you are energetic (I was not), you can hike to the top of 9456′ high Mt Wrightson.

We chose to hike around the lower areas of the canyon, which were beautiful, offer views from desert to fall tree colors.

Tucson – November 2021 – El Tour de Tucson

The Saturday before Thanksgiving is traditionally the El Tour de Tucson, a bike racing festival with numerous races for different skills. The longest, for the professional and advanced riders, is over 100 miles long and came as far east as the town of Vail, Arizona. This posting celebrates the riders, as well as the beautiful views of the area.

Many riders ‘posed’ as they rode past.

The first of many flashing the universal sign of Shaka (Hawaiian for Hang Loose/Right On)

Over the dry river and through the hills to Grandma’s house for an early Thanksgiving.

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.

Tucson – August 2021 – Saguaro National Park

The Saguaro Cactus is present throughout much of central and southern Arizona. The Saguaro National Park has two areas around Tucson, one west of town, and one east – we visited the eastern one.

Saguaro cactus can live to 150 years old – the older they are the more arms they have, although they can grow old without growing arms.

In addition to the Saguaros there are numerous other natural Sonoran Desert plants, all of which were at their peak color because of recent monsoon rains – probably the greenest desert you will ever see.