Crested Saguaros and Airplanes on the Trail

Tucson, AZ

Fuel prices continue to fall around the country, with Tucson having some of the lowest.  We spotted this station along E. Irvington Road.

$1.39 a gallon ! ! !

During our stays in Tucson we have hiked many trails in nearby Tucson Mountain Park.  Today we completed a nice hike on the Flight Path Loop in the Robles Pass section of the park.  This area is between Ajo Highway and E. Irvington and is the newest section of the park.  We parked at the end of Irvington Place Road where we entered the park on the Camaro Loop Trail.  After a short hike north on that trail we turned on to the Boulder Belt Trail, which ends at the Flight Path Loop.

This park is filled with beautiful Saguaros and the nimble hiker is constantly on the lookout for the elusive Crested Saguaro.  It is estimated that only one in ten thousand Saguaros develops the “crest” so the chances of finding one are slim.  But the sharp eyes of the nimble hiker spotted one along the Boulder Belt Trail.

OK, we found our crested saguaro for the day right?  But a mile further up the trail, as we made our way along the Flight Path Loop, the sharp eyes of the nimble hiker spotted another one right next to the trail!

Well, we defied the odds with the second one.  But as we hiked around the north side of the loop, the nimble hiker spotted a third crested saguaro!

A “hat trick” in the world of crested saguaro spotting for sure!  Three within two miles!

The Flight Path Loop is appropriately named due to its location right under the landing path for Tucson International Airport.  So we spent some time sitting along the trail enjoying a snack while watching the planes fly overhead.

Three crested saguaro, numerous airplanes, and five more miles to add to our hiking log…another great day!

 

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Enjoying Friends, Hikes, and Bikes in Tucson

Tucson, AZ

We have found that we really enjoy staying in the Tucson area, as there is much to do and see.  If you like to hike, this area is teeming with great trails.  Steve and MonaLiza (The Lowes RV Adventures) are also staying in the same park (Lazydays KOA) and recently joined us on one of those trails, a hike to the top of Wasson Peak, in the nearby Tucson Mountains.

This was our third time hiking up this trail, but we enjoy it and were anxious to share it with Steve and MonaLisa.

One hiker has an eye out for birds, the other is looking for crested saguaros

Looking west along the trail

Looking back at the trail from near the top

Enjoying the view from the peak

Our tour guide points out locations in Tucson

We took the King’s Canyon Trail and Sweetwater Trail up the mountain, then hiked the Norris Trail, Esperanza Trail,  and Gould Mine Trail back down.

Heading down the Norris Trail

Along the Esperanza Trail Steve’s sharp eyes spotted a nice crested saguaro on a hillside above us.

After completing the hike we drove into Tucson and met Dave and Sue for a great meal at El Charro, one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in the area.

L-R Dave, Steve, MonaLisa, John, Pam, Sue

 

One evening while Dave and Sue were staying in the KOA we invited their dog, Lewis, over for an evening of chasing a ball around our motorhome.  Since he couldn’t find our site by himself we invited Dave and Sue to tag along and share a spaghetti dinner (one of Dave’s favorites) with us.  Apparently Lewis has a “thing” about throw rugs as he enjoyed creating a pile with the one in our living area!

Where did the ball go?  If I had thumbs maybe I could find it!

 

One warm afternoon we took a break from the hiking trail and road some of the great bike trails that weave through and around Tucson.

The Santa Cruz River Park Trail

A nice covered picnic area along the trail

The Santa Cruz River is dry most of the time.  As we rode along side of it on the bike trail, a rider and horse came down the river bed at a fast pace.

As they came up next to us they stopped, turned, and headed back up the river bed.

We rode through downtown Tucson we found our way to the Aviation Bikeway.  The trail crosses over Broadway (one of the main streets in the city) by way of the Rattlesnake Bridge.  The north side of the bridge forms the mouth of a rattlesnake . . .

. . . while the south side forms the tail rattler of the snake.

 

Earlier in the week Dave and Sue moved from the KOA to Catalina State Park, located north of Tucson in Oro Valley.  The next day friends, Jodee and Bill (On the Road Abode), stopped at the same park for a two day stay.  We took advantage of their visit to have an afternoon get together at their site.  Steve and Mona Lisa joined the group as did friends of Dave and Sue.  Walter and Cindy P lived down the street from them for many years in Geneseo, NY.  This year they are in Arizona traveling with daughter Geneva in their fifth wheel for the winter.

Catalina State Park is a beautiful place nestled up against the Catalina Mountains.  The campsites are large and most have electric and water.  But the best part of the park is the view of the mountains.

Late last week we received a message from friends Hector and Brenda (Island Girl Walkabout) that they were coming to Tucson for a brief visit.  We had not seen them since there returned from a fantastic trip to Alaska last summer so we were anxious to see them and hear all about their adventure.  Brenda had heard that El Charro was a good restaurant and suggested we meet there.  Of course, we had just been there last week but we love the place so were very willing to go there again.  Steve and MonaLisa are also friends with them so they joined the group.

 

 

Does this place look familiar?

The scene in the photo above might look a bit familiar.  Yes, it is the same table we sat at last week.  We first ate at El Charro three years ago while in town for a Discovery RV National Rally.  We were part of a group of six and, you guessed it, we sat at the same table!

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Visit to UA and Hiking Bear Canyon

Tucson, AZ

We really enjoy riding our bicycles but consider ourselves to be “Florida bikers.”  In other words, we like to ride over flat terrain.  The city of Tucson is very flat (while surrounded by mountains) so one day this week we headed out to visit the campus of the University of Arizona, about nine miles to the north of our RV park.  Half of the ride is on a beautiful, fairly new bike path, while the other half is on in-town roads with nice sidewalks.

 

We entered the campus at what seems to be the main entrance off of Campbell Avenue and road along University Blvd. through the main quad area.

Looking east on the long grassy area between the lanes of University Blvd.

We road through the main academic area at what must have been a change of class time. The place area was teeming with students going in all directions on foot, skateboard, and bicycle.  To us it appeared to be utter chaos, but everyone made their way through the crowd without incident (much to our amazement).

One of the science buildings (note the people in lab coats decorating the entrance)

What a surprise, there is a nice crested saguaro on the grounds to the Old Main building at the west end of the quad.

The next day we picked up Steve and Mona Liza for a hike  in Sabino Canyon.  Sabino Canyon, located northeast of Tucson at the base of the Catalina Mountains, is operated by the U.S. Forestry Service.  Three years ago we hiked up to Seven Falls with Hans and Lisa (Metamorphosis Road) and were anxious to return and do the hike again.

The trail goes up Bear Canyon for about four and a half miles, crisscrossing Sabino Creek seven times, and ends at the base of a beautiful series of seven waterfalls.  We failed to consider the result of recent rain and mountain snow in the area on the creek but were “tipped off” that the stream might be quite deep when we had trouble crossing a bridge on the road that leads to the trailhead.

Sure enough, the creek was much deeper than it was the previous time we hiked the canyon.

Along the trail we did spot the one crested saguaro known to be in the canyon.

At the end of the trail the path goes up the side of the canyon, giving us a nice view of the falls and the large pool at the base.

Seven Falls scene from the trail

The water was flowing rapidly over the last of the falls

Looking up the canyon from the main pool

Mona Liza and Steve enjoy lunch while drying their shoes and socks (a futile effort)

Two youthful hikers spotted near the main pool

Lunch with a view

On the hike up the trail we took great care in trying to avoid getting wet feet, without much success.  On the return trip we abandoned all efforts to stay dry and just slogged our way through the crossings.

Mona Liza “steps in it”

A fairly direct route back across the bridge

Soggy feet at the end of the hike

While it is a bit uncomfortable hiking with wet feet, the water crossing just added a little adventure to the hike.

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To Naco and Back (to Tucson)

Tucson, AZ

Naco is a small town a hundred miles southeast of Tucson located right on the Mexican border, less than ten miles from the former mining town of Bisbee.   While Bisbee is now a neat town filled with former hippies and a couple of nice restaurants, Naco has one thing of interest, a golf course!

We originally planned to spend two weeks in Naco with Dave and Sue, but cold, rainy (and snowy) weather caused us to delay the trip and cut the visit down to a week.  That turned out to be a good move as the day we arrived was the first day the course was open due to snow.  But during our week long visit the skies were clear and the afternoon temperature was around sixty degrees.

When not on the golf course we were in downtown Bisbee, either for coffee in the morning at the funky Bisbee Coffee Company or in the evening at one of the many nice restaurants.

Tombstone Canyon Road through downtown Bisbee

One evening we enjoyed some great food at the Screaming Banshee Pizza Company.  The food was good but the paintings on the walls around us (all by local artists and available for purchase) were a bit strange.

Dave has a guardian angel looking over his shoulder

We also dined at the “upscale” Cafe Roka one evening.  If you enjoy great food, this is a “must visit” stop if you are ever in Bisbee.

Cafe Roka on the left

Since Naco is at a higher elevation than Tucson (and Bisbee is even higher) the temperatures were a bit cooler, especially at night.  So after a week it was nice to return to the more moderate temperatures of Tucson.  We’ll be staying here in Lazydays KOA for at least a month, giving us plenty of time to do some routine maintenance on the motorhome.

One item that has been at the top (no pun intended) of our to-do lists is the replacement of our slide toppers.  Slide toppers are pieces of canvas mounted on spring-loaded rollers.  When a slide is extended, the topper covers the top of the slide out, keeping dirt, water, and debris off.  Ours were original equipment and were beginning to show their age.  Our plan was to pay an RV repair shop to replace them.  But when our friends Steve and Joan (FOSJ) posted a blog on how Steve had replaced his (with the help of a friend) with no problems, John decided he could tackle the job, especially since he knew Dave and Sue would be staying nearby so Dave could help with the installation.  Our friends Steve (a different Steve) and Mona Liza (Lowe’s RV Adventures) are also in this park and need to replace the slide toppers on their motorhome, so Steve was eager to help with our installation and decide if this was a job he was able to tackle.

Dave and Steve remove an old slide topper (John is on the ground supervising)

The installation crew complete final adjustments on a slide topper

The installation went very smoothly (thanks to the extra help) and was completed by lunchtime.  Pam fixed a great meal and Sue and Mona Liza joined the installation crew as they basked in the the glow of a job well done!  Steve has ordered new toppers for their motorhome so the crew will be getting back together for another installation next week.

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Hiking Around Tucson

Tucson, AZ

Since New Year’s Day we have been doing some fairly easy hikes in the Tucson area.  Twice we went out to the Robles Pass area of Tucson Mountain Park, where there are a number of trails that can be combined for a hike of any length.  For one of the hikes we parked on the north side of the Ajo (A Ho) Highway and hiked through a storm drain under the highway.

We spotted a nice Crested Saguaro while on the 360 View Trail.

Along the Ledge Surfer Trail we stopped to check out the ruins of an old stone house located near the trail.

Later in the week, after a day of rain, we drove east of the city to the Douglas Springs Trailhead in the eastern section of Saguaro National Park, for a hike up to the Bridal Wreath Falls.  One website described this as an easy hike, suitable for an inexperienced hiker looking to see if they would enjoy hiking.  But we found this trail to be more of a moderate hike, as it gains over a thousand feet of elevation in less than two miles..

More water than normal due to the recent rains

There is normally just a trickle of water coming down the falls but we could hear the roar of water as we approached it.

At the base of the falls we found the water flow to be very strong.

Along the trail on the return hike the nimble hiker’s keen eyes spotted an unusual Crested Saguaro just below the trail.

After two days of cold temperatures, overcast skies, and heavy rain, today dawned cool but sunny.  We took advantage of the sun to return to Saguaro National Park and hike a series of trails beginning at the Broadway Trailhead.  Snow on the Catalina Mountains to our north and the Rincon Mountains to our east provided great scenic views.

Palm trees and snowy mountains?

The Catalina Mountains

After hiking we stopped at a local coffee chain on Broadway for our reward.  We found this shop has one of the best views we have ever found in our many “coffee house” experiences.

Enjoying a coffee with the Catalina Mountains in the distanced

Originally we had planned to drive south last week to Naco, a small town right on the Mexican border near Bisbee to meet Dave and Sue and enjoy two weeks of touring and playing golf at the course adjacent to the RV park.  But with the strong forecast of rain for the week we decided to stay in Tucson during the bad weather.  With a prediction of sunshine each day in the upcoming week, tomorrow we’ll break camp and head south to meet Dave and Sue for a shortened visit to the Naco/Bisbee area.

More on that later . . .

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Holiday Hiking in Tucson

Tucson, AZ

As she has each year since we began full-timing, our daughter, Jessica, flew out Christmas Day for a visit.  This year she was coming to Arizona.   A flight from Baltimore to Tucson would require changing planes in either Chicago or Minneapolis.  Since we didn’t want to risk stopping where winter weather was possible, we had her take a direct flight to Phoenix and we drove up to get her.  With all the flight delays that occurred over the holidays in those cities, that turned out to be a good move.

Welcome to Phoenix

On the drive back to Tucson we stopped in nearby Chandler and had Christmas dinner in a nice Irish Pub called Murphy’s Law.

The restaurant is in a commercial area surrounding a small park decorated with holiday lights.  The centerpiece of the display was a Christmas tree made out of tumbleweeds, a Chandler tradition.

The Tumbleweed Tree

While Tucson is at about 2,700 feet of elevation, Mount Lemmon, at 9,000 feet, sits just north of the city.  At the top of the mountain is a small ski resort.  With all the warm weather back in Pennsylvania, we decided to give Jessica a taste of winter and drove up to the ski area.  We took the Catalina Highway, which winds for over 25 miles up to the top of the mountain.  While it was a bit cool in the city (mid-40s), the temperature dropped steadily as we gained elevation.  Soon we left the sunshine of Tucson and went into the clouds covering the mountain.  That’s when the little white flakes began to blow around us!

The temperature at the top was much too cold for us.  Eighteen degrees!

It was the first significant snow of the season on the mountain and there was not enough to open the ski slopes, but a crowd of people were enjoying the snowfall and riding the chairlift.

The next day we drove over to nearby Tucson Mountain Park for some hiking.  After parking at the 36th Street trailhead we set out  for a hike that combined the 36th Street Trail, the Starr Pass Trail, and the Yetman Trail.

The experienced hiking planner in our group described a nice six mile hike but apparently there was a calculation error, as the hike turned out to be just over nine miles!  But the planner was very happy as we saw a number of Crested Saguaros along the route.

The next day we drove northeast of Tucson to Catalina State Park for a hike up the Romero Canyon Trail which goes up Montrose Canyon to the Romero Pools.  This hike (5.5 miles round trip) starts off on a nice, wide, flat trail but soon narrows and becomes rough as it goes steeply up the canyon.

We arrived at the Romero Pools to find a large number of people enjoying the area.  But we found a nice spot on the rocks high above the pools away from the crowd and enjoyed lunch.

Lunch with (a bit of) a view

Beauty among the rocks

One of the numerous Romero Pools

Jessica with the Catalina Mountains in the background

A view of the Oro Valley along the trail

Crossing the stream at the end of the trail

After a great four day visit we drove Jessica back to Phoenix for her return trip back to Pennsylvania.  We had planned to leave Tucson on Sunday and join Dave and Sue in Naco, AZ near Bisbee, but the weather prediction is for chilly temperatures and rain for most of the week.  So we’ve decided to delay our visit to Naco and stay put for a few more days here in Tucson.

More on that later . . .

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On to Tucson

Tucson, AZ

We left Picacho Peak early last week and made the short drive down to Tucson, where we will stay through the holidays.  We have a nice site at Tucson/ Lazydays KOA with a large patio, grapefruit tree, and a grass area surrounded by shrubs.

This is a large park with many, many pull-through sites as well as some back-ins.  We have always stayed here in the winter and the weather is usually cool and sunny.  But we know that for most of the year it is still sunny but very hot.  To bring more business to the park during those times of the year the park recently constructed two very large covers over two of the long row of pull-through sites.

We didn’t want a site under the cover as the sun is necessary to keep the coach warm this time of year.  Also, if you are in one of the sites that point north and you have a satellite dish on the front of your motorhome, you may have a problem.

Our daughter, Jessica, is flying out from Pennsylvania on Christmas Day so we are saving some of the best hiking for her stay.  But to keep old legs in “hiking shape” we have done a few hikes in nearby Tucson Mountain Park.  The hikes have been between five and six miles and the terrain is flat so they don’t feel very long.

But the scenery made the hikes very interesting.  If you read this blog, you know that when we are in Utah the posts are filled with rocks.  When in southern Arizona what would you expect to see?

Saguaros!

The nimble hiker focuses herself on finding the elusive Crested Saguaro, so we spend much of our hiking time scanning the horizon for these rare creatures.

Crested barrel cactus

Saguaro cacti come in all shapes and sizes, making any hike through the desert interesting.

This guy is probably over two hundred years old!

They went that-a-way

Once Jessica arrives we plan on doing some of the classic hikes around Tucson.  More on that later . . .

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