Monday, January 16, 2017

The Desert's Amazing Beauty

I don't see the desert as barren at all;
I see it as full and ripe.
It doesn't need to be flattered with rain.
It certainly needs rain, but it does with what it has,
and creates amazing beauty!
Joy Harjo

Currently, we are "enjoying" a rare rainy day in the Tucson desert. In an area that gets less than 12 inches of rain a year, I can imagine that the cacti are "high-fiving" each other with joy today as they fervently soak up every drop of water!

As we near the end of our month in Tucson, we both are surprised by how much we have enjoyed the desert around us. During our hikes in the surrounding area we have learned to appreciate the unique allure of the desert.  Our treks through Saguaro National Park, Sabino Canyon, and Mount Lemmon have revealed to us the desert's amazing beauty.

Saguaro National Park

A hike along the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail lead us upward towards Mica Mountain where the cacti grow harmoniously among the beautiful rock and boulder formations. 

The colors, textures, and shapes of the flora accentuated the amazing beauty of the desert around us. 

After our upward climb we enjoyed the "forest" of saguaros,

... along with a magnificent view of the sunset,

... and colorful reflections on the surrounding mountains.

Sabino Canyon

We had the pleasure of meeting up with some Habitat friends for a day of hiking at Sabino Canyon located in the Coronado National Forest. We met at the Visitor's Center and bought our tickets for the tram which took us four miles up the road and into the canyon. The 45 minute narrated ride gave us a good overview of the history and the natural features of the canyon.

There are nine stops along the tram route that allowed us to see different parts of the canyon. We got off at the final stop and found the Telephone Line Trail that lead us up the mountain

... for some magnificent views 

... as well as fun conversations and group photo opportunities.

The trail then lead us back down to the canyon road so we could enjoy the scenery alongside Sabino Creek.

At a few points, we were challenged to cross the road without getting our feet too wet. Once again the water, the rocks and the cacti combined to create amazing beauty.

Mount Lemmon

We picked a beautiful clear day to take a drive up to the highest point in the Tucson area, Mount Lemmon. Our friend Gary offered to drive, so Doug was able to "ride shotgun" and photograph some of the beauty during the 29 mile ride up the mountain.

Our journey started out in the desert, but the scenery started to change as we ascended up the curvy Mount Lemmon Highway.

Interesting rock formations called hoodoos

... and breath-taking views greeted us at every lookout point.

Gary reassured us that he was a better driver than this poor soul who has been hanging out on the canyon floor for a number of years!

The cooler temps and greater abundance of water not only created
elegant mountain waterfalls,

... but also gave the area a more "northern" feel with the appearance of pine trees,

... and a little snow along the road.

Cycling up and cruising down Mount Lemmon Highway is one of the "epic" experiences for avid bicyclists. The 7000 ft ascent with a 4.3% average grade qualifies this as one of the toughest top 100 US bicycle climbs.

We were glad that we found these biker's energy source at the top of Mount Lemmon. The Cookie Cabin's  warm, gooey, and HUGE chocolate chip cookies would be the perfect "I biked up Mount Lemmon" reward! It could also be (just a tad bit) guilt-provoking but just as delicious if you drove up!

We completed our trip to the top of Mount Lemmon with a visit to their ski area. Unfortunately, the bright sun and 40 degree temps were not helping the snow conditions. One of their employees told us that they are still hoping for some decent snow so that they can open the slopes. Their "typical" ski season is usually about four weeks long.

While we could have paid $12 to take the ski lift up to the summit of the mountain, we opted for the 1.5 mile hike along the snow-lined road ... after all, we had that GIANT cookie fueling us!

And as usual, the view at the top did not disappoint!

Until next time ... delight in the amazing beauty around you ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

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