Tag Archives: Lifestyle

The Boneyard

“The Boneyard”

The word “Boneyard” is not the right word! It should be “Dry Storage”. The more I look at this area, the more I love it! A majority of the aircraft is shrink wrapped in white plastic. I believe many are operational and ready to fly again. They, the aircraft, are not all Air Force. The Navy and Marines are well represented.

  • F-14 Tomcat
  • F-15 Strike Eagle
  • F-16 Falcon
  • F-18 Hornet
  • F-18 E Super Hornet
  • A-10 Thunderbolt
  • A-6 Intruder
B-52 Roadblock.jpg

B-52 Roadblock ~ Very Unsual Cloudy Day ~ No Rain!

FB-111 Fighter/Bomber/Reconnaissance, B-52’s, A-10’s and C-130’s are just a few more of these wonderful birds! I wonder what history making, these flying machines, have been involved in? How many carrier landings have some done? How many have dropped bombs on Bagdad and or Afghanistan? How many have actually seen combat or been in a combat area?

I have, unofficially, been told that taking pictures of them, the planes, as long as none are of “Top Secret” is permitted. No, “Top Secret” aircraft spotted. I always feel a little reluctant to take photos of these birds, thinking that I’m compromising some security. Going online, to Google Earth, one can easily see all of this from the satellites. I’m sure the Russians and Chinese can also.

C-5 Galaxy.jpg

Biger than Big!

C-5 Galaxy

Not the world largest, but the United States Air Force’s largest transport. Capable of carrying two 60 ton Abrams Tanks. So many wheels, on its belly, that I can’t count. 51,000 gallons of fuel. That’s 6-1/2 railroad tank cars! The link in this blog will give more detail of these behemoth’s capabilities. There are plenty of these parked all over the boneyard.   Landing a C-5M Galaxy  View the video!


C-130 parking lot ~iPhone.JPG

C-130 Parking Lot

C-130 Hercules

The backbone of front line support transport aircraft. Built in many different configurations. The C-130E being one of the latest. It can be identified with its six blade propellers. I could write an entire blog on the C-130, but I realise that many blog readers are not interested in aircraft, as I am.

The Blessing

Yes, we are blessed to be allowed to stay on this base. The “Boneyard” is yards from the campground. The base also is very active with A-10’s taking off daily and, I guess heading to the Barry Goldwater Bombing Range, just a short flying distance, for training and re-certification. Blackhawk helicopters and F-16 Falcons are also actively flying. The C-130’s also have a squadron that does training and re-certification.

The History

Davis/Monthan AFB was named after two pilots who died in WWII. The base was initially developed in 1925, well before WWII. On the North end of the runway, an old hanger still stands with the AFB name on the roof. The significance of this hanger or aerodrome is evident with some of the famous aviators that have been here including, Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Airhart.

From across town, in Tucson, there is a mountain called Sentinel Peak. It has a giant “A” at the top. We were there last night to shoot photos on the rising moon over Tucson. While waiting for the “Waning Gibbous” moon to rise, I noticed how strategically placed Davis/Monthan Air Force Base was located. It is in a North/South orientation, on an elevated and slightly up hill plateau in the San Cruise River Valley. The prevailing winds, coming up the valley, make it perfect for air craft takeoffs and landings.

Corner of Kolb & E Escalante Rd.jpg

Corner of Kolb & E Escalante Rd


From the Fam Camp.jpg

From the Fam Camp


The Line Up.jpg

The line Up ~ Full Hookups $$$$$$$$$


A-6 Intruder.jpg

A-6 Intruder

B-1B Bomber.jpg

B-1B Bomber

B-52 Bomber.jpg

B-52 Bomber 


That is what we saw and did!




Desert Animals

One would think that the desert is a barren waste land full of sand, cactus and rock. Well that is true. What really amazes me is the number of creatures that live here beside humans. I have already mentioned some of the animals we’ve encountered on our bike rides in the Sonoran Desert, but lets talk about a few more. The Coyote is very common, our neighbor, Jeff, saw two of them, while riding on Yuma Rd, on base, yesterday. A more sinister and beautiful creature around is the Arizona “Mountain Lion” I took a picture of one while in the West Saguaro National Park. It was relatively easy to get him or her to pose because we had Sallyanne, “Black Lab, ‘Angel’ ” with us and the Lion never stopped eyeing her. Another beautiful creature was a “Mexican Wolf”. A note at this point. I took these pictures at the Sonoran Desert Museum. These animals are in a natural setting, some are actually are outside in the open desert. Yes, they are alive! The birds actually free fly for food.

Great Horn Owl.jpg

Great Horn Owl ~ A Silent Hunter

The Raptors ~ Inches Above Our Heads

At 9am and again at 2pm, the museum, odd that it is not called a zoo, has a “Raptor Demonstration”. That is the coolest I’ve every seen! The first was of a Great Horn Owl. Here is how the museum crew work the Owl. We are all standing behind a fence, a crew member is about ten feet in front of us. Another crew member releases the Owl from its enclosure. The Owl comes to a perch close to the first crew member who has put a small bit size piece meat. Quickly the Owl finishes his bite size treat. Next, the Owl  flies inches above our heads to another crew member in back of us. We were forwarned not to raise cameras or iPad above our heads. I now could see why. I could feel the wind from his wings as he swiftly and silently flew above.

Hawk Landing.jpg

Harris Hawk ~ Landing

The next Raptor was the Harris Hawk. A Hawk is more aggressive looking than an Owl. His beak, looking like “vise grips” could snap a piece of barbed wire. Well, it looked that way anyhow. The Hawk did the same routine as the Owl, but was more bold in his eagerness to get more food. The Owl was extremely cautious after seeing Sallyanne’s dog. She had to keep the dog at a distance from the rest of the spectators. Actually, dogs are not allowed in the park! Now we understand how an Owl can rotate its head nearly 180º. Their large eyes look forward and the head rotation gives them a wide range of view.

Bird Photography

I discovered that it is nearly impossible to freeze bird wings in flight. Well, at least until I had a conversation with another neighbor who does bird photography. He told me to use a flash. That would freeze the motion of wings in flight. He knows what he’s talking about, you know those guys with a two foot telephoto lens on a tripod! He sometimes uses three or four slave flashes while he captures humming birds.

Black Tree Rattle Snake.jpg

Black Tree rattle Snake

Snakes ~ 13th varieties of Rattle Snakes!

I am not a snake lover! I do respect them and I’m constantly on the lookout for them. I, or we, haven’t seen one in the wild, yet!  Rattlesnake Types in Arizona   

The Sonoran Desert Museum certainly has many species of the “Rattlers” 13 species in Arizona, this along with 50 different species in the State. They are not all represented, but enough to get a good idea of what is around in the mountains and desert. Did you know that Arizona has more mountains than any other State? (3,928 mountain peaks!) While we were in the snake exhibit building, we were able to touch a non venomous snake. I was really surprised to the feel. It was smooth, almost like feeling plastic gimp. The handler told us to not go against the scales. This snake was white with redish markings, nearly looking fake, but it was real.

The Trainer & Hawk.jpg

The Trainer and Hawk!

The Raptor & The Crowd.jpg

The Hawk just above the crowd’s head!

Mexican Wolf X.jpg

Mexican Wolf

Two Coyotes.jpg

Two Coyotes ~ In the wild!

That is what we saw and did!


Winter Haven ~ A Tucson Christmas

Being in the Southwest, one would think that Christmas would be snow-less and not in the Northeast spirit. What I mean is, just a half hour away snow can be found, but more importantly, the Christmas season is in full swing here in Tucson! Like in Key West, families do decorate their homes. It is actually a little better with the milder temperatures. You can walk around and view the decorations up close and talk to the home owners. It’s hard to do this up north as people keep their car windows rolled up and their heaters on full blast.

Feature Photo.jpg

One of my favorites! Old Time Memories!

WINTERHAVEN ~ A special community!

Winterhaven is located in Tucson, AZ. It is the size of one large city block. One of the requirements to own a residence in Winter Haven is to decorate, to the fullest, at least on the exterior. The community is closed off to vehicles for a week or two before Christmas. Thousands of people walk and admire the decorations! At the center of the “mini village” vendors setup to serve food and drinks.

Candy Cane Lane ~ Winter Haven.jpg

Every Street was decorated ~ I was fortunate to get this shot without people!

The Fam Camp office had two buses carry a bunch of us campers over to the village. I, who hardly ever gets confused or lost was a little bewildered with the many streets and cul-de-sacs. We walked to end of three of the four blocked street entrances and finally asked a policeman for direction. All I could give him is that a police cruiser was in the middle of the road. “Ah”, he said, “That has to be Ft Lowell Street”. He gave us a direction to the bus pickup site.

Homes ~ WinterHaven.jpg

Some were tasteful, some were over done!

Back to the Decorations

For 69 years, this community has been decorating. This means that many cool creations have evolved. My photos won’t do the decorations justice. I can tell you that on this day we walked 8.2 miles. This included a 12 mile bike ride in the afternoon. With all of this exercise, the extra walking was worth looking at the amazing ideas that the citizens of Winterhaven have created. From traditional themes to Arizona football, Gnomes and you name it was there.

Winter Wonder Land.jpg

After touring the village, we made our way to the designated pickup point. Only than did we discover street maps…go figure! Needless to say many of us enjoyed sitting on a brick wall to wait for the rest of our Fam Camp campers to arrive. Our drivers, Scott, Glen and our tour guides Erica and Michelle soon took a head count and we were on the buses back to camp.

How it was.jpg

How it was…A few years back!


The Gnome Theme…Best Artistic!

Best of Lights.jpg

The Electric Company Loved this one!

Kids with Lights!.jpg

The Kids did have a Good Time here!

Winterhaven Festival of Lights.jpg

Sponsored by TEP…Tucson Electric Power…No Discount on Electric Bills!

That is what we did and saw

Biking ~ Davis/Monthan AFB

Temperature & Exercise

There are two reasons that we are here in Arizona. One being, most important, getting away from the darn, long cold winter! The other reason is trying to stay healthy! Well, the first item is nearly taken care of, that is no snow, but as I knew before coming here, it does get cold at night. After supper time, the temperature drops from the mid to low seventies into the mid forties. This is because of the radiation cooling, no clouds to keep the heat in and the 2,850 feet of elevation on the valley floor makes it drop quickly. We have overcome this problem with a little electric heater. Our propane furnace would certainly handle heating the truck camper, but it does make noise from its blower. Why use propane when we have electricity. I set the little heater on a timer, at 4:30am. It starts and heats perfectly!

The second reason for being here is exercise. Yes, at my age 72-3/4, I need to move and motivate this old body. Riding a bike, my prefered method, is on top of the list. This Air Force Base is large and nearly flat. Let me explain, the populated part of the base is around six miles in circumference. The entire base is miles and miles long, by just as much wide. It is bike friendly with bike lanes along the major streets. Our first long jaunt was up to the end of Yuma Rd. This 7-1/2 mile, one way, trek has a slight upgrade gradient. It isn’t bad unless there is wind blowing in the opposite direction. This ride is pretty cool. The road parallels the so call the bone-yard. 4,000 aircraft are stored there. Some are ready for dismantling, some are used for parts, some are obsolete and some are ready to fly. I love seeing every type of aircraft. I will do a separate blog in an upcoming adventure report.

When we first got here, we rode early morning. The temperature was moderate back then. Now, later in the season, it is a little too cool earlier in the morning. Helen and I prefer a ride in the early afternoon.

Jack & Helen ~ Stable at Yuma Rd.JPG

“Jack” ~ The Stallion and Helen

The Ride

One might think that our ride is boring on the long dead-end road. Not so, in the last 2-1/2 miles or so, the desert cactus multiplies, the Air Force Base buildings dwindle to a very few. The wildlife increases, one of our encounters was with a good size hawk. He or she would be sitting on top of a power line pole. I would bike fairly close, for photo, and the Hawk would fly two poles down. This would be repeated three times. No close up on this day. The next day, Helen noticed feathers in this same general area. It was that of a hawk! We stopped, I walked over to the feathers, the Hawk had been taken down. Looking around, thinking was this from a Coyote? How could a Coyote possibly catch a Hawk, even on the ground? I collected some long feathers and continued on our way. I kept thinking, in the back of my mind, how and what did the bird in.

The following day, our neighbor, forgot her name already, was sitting at the picnic table. I brought over the feathers. She is a birder. She would be able to identify the feathers. She identified the feathers as a Harris Hawk! I asked her what could possibly take down the Hawk? She said, “Most likely,” It was an owl”. She said, “It could have been a Mexican Spotted Owl”. That is the explanation that I can live with.

Hawk Feathers.JPG

The End of a Hawk

A week later, on our ride to the end of the road, I spotted something in the road, maybe a quarter-mile away, it was black and walked on the same side of the road as we were biking. It was too dark-colored or black for a Coyote. A range control pickup, coming from in back of us passed us. It caught up to the walking animal ahead of us. The animal now took off, like a bullet. I could now see that it was a Javelina (wild boar). Checkout the You Tube link for a look at what they look like and how they sound! Javelina ~ Looks & Sounds


“Jack” the Wild Horse

Yuma road, on base, our biking road, terminates at a military small arms rifle range. Also, to the right a horse stable. Our first encounter was with a Stallion named “Jack”. The stables are set back a couple of hundred feet from the road. We couldn’t see any horses at first. Upon parking our bikes for a break and drink of water, we actually were looking towards the firing range as gun firing was going on. Turning around there was a horse, in a coral, with a mesh mask over his head, (protection from flies). He was nodding his head up and down, as if saying, “come on over here”. So we did! Not knowing anything about horses, we approached cautiously, I knew enough not to reach up suddenly to pet him. As I reached up with my left hand slowly, he turned his head towards my hand, I quickly pulled my hand back. He immediately jumped back. We both, me and the horse, were cautious and feeling each other out! I didn’t want to get my hand bitten, so it took awhile to actually touch him. That was the extent of our first encounter with Jack.

Heather ~ The Owner

Our second encounter was a lot better, as we met Heather, Jacks’ owner. She had bought Jack at a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) auction. All wild horses belong to the Feds, at least on BLM land. She told us a lot about Jack and her love of horses. She gave us treats for Jack. Holding our hand flat as we gave him homemade granola type balls. We now had a horse friend! Heather also told us that she tried to ride Jack and was thrown off, with a broken neck as result. She’s alright now, but will have some cowboy do the break-in. This is just a small glimpse into our bike ride on Yuma Rd.

The Runway Loop ~ Ride

Another bike ride we discovered was a paved trail around the entire runway. It took us a couple of recon’s to figure where to get on this loop ride. A military police cruiser was parked next to the Swan Gate. I stopped to ask if this was the bike/jogging path and were we allowed to use it? He said, “Yes”, and off we went. Now here we are at the end of the active runway. Don’t get me wrong, the actual runway is a half mile away. To our right is a giant C-130, four engine plane coming in for a landing. How terrific is it to be able to have a plane landing just a hundred feet above your head. We stopped the bikes and I took my iPhone out for a photo. The plane had already touched the runway and took off for what they call a touch and go, a practice landing and take off. He flew around again and this time, I would be ready for that great shot above our heads!

Dismembered Aircraft

Further down the loop trail, on the civilian side of the fence line, we encountered a junk yard, not your ordinary car junk yard, but an aircraft dismantling junk yard. Massive planes, some with wings unbolted from their bodies, some with tails unattached, lay on the ground. They selectively strip different metals and materials for salvage. It is the ultimate in recycling! Of course big money is involved in these aircraft parts and materials.

At the end of the 12 mile loop is another gate. It’s called the Wilmott Gate. The odd thing of this ride is the fact that we are on the secure side of the fence. We ride up to the gate, on the trail and come to a man gate right across from the guard shack. From there we are on the main road back to the Fam Camp.


That is what we saw and did!


San Xavier del Bac Mission

“New Spain”

When Europeans first made contact with the villagers of “Wa:k”, (ranch), the King of Spain held title to this territory. Imagine the natives surprise when they learned that the land their people lived on for centuries belonged to a country thousands of miles away and across the Atlantic Ocean!

Padre Kino was probably the first European to visit the Piman rancherias Wa:k. His northern explorations between 1687 and 1711 pushed into new territory ~ the Pirmeria Alta ~ which has been labeled the “rim of Christendom”

San Xavier del Bac Mission.jpg

San Exavier del Bac Mission

The  Europeans failed to understand this lifestyle. They condemned mobility as “heathen vagabondage” because of their misunderstanding of the Pimans cultural and  ecological adaptation to life in a sometimes harsh semi-arid environment. (above taken from a poster at the San Xavier del Bac Mission)

The Mission

A short description above gave us insight into how and when the Mission came into being. Missions were set up in distance, from one another, by how far a man could ride on horseback in one day. San Xavier del Bac Mission became the largest mission in the West. It was like a territorial capital.

Many Beautiful Angles.jpg

Many Beautiful Angles


The Mission is entirely European. It has no Piman influence on its Baroque style, a mix of Byzantine and Moorish architecture, and aspects of the interior imagery.

Restoration in progress.jpg

Restoration in progress

Restored Tower.jpg

Restored Tower

Our Visit

On tour, we were accompanied by our friend Sallyanne, her friends Jamie and Paul. Sallyanne’s dog, Angel, Jamie and Paul’s dog Cody stayed behind in their respective campers. Paul’s four door pickup truck easily took the five of us to the mission, some 45 minutes away.

The large parking lot was empty. It was mid to late afternoon. The “First Nation Natives” had stands with jewelery and food for sale. We were told that on weekends this place is jam-packed. Once a year the Indian Tribes have a Pow Wow at the rear of the mission. We were also told that this is a big event and the public is welcomed.

Inside of San Exavier del Bac Mission.jpg

Inside of San Exavier Del Bac Mission ~ A.E. Araiza photo/Arizona Daily

Restoration ~ San Exavier del Bac Mission.jpg

Restoration in progress

Inside the Mission

Walking across the parking lot, the Mission stands out with its white facade. It is also known as the “White Dove Mission”. The part of the name del Bac is to honor Tohoham O’odham, meaning place where water appears!

Like many European churches, San Xavier is classic crucifix form ~ meaning it’s cross-shaped. A date, 1797 found above the Sacristy, is believed to be the finish date of San Xavier. Some of the photos were taken by A.E. Araiza/ Arizona Daily Star, I included to show reconstruction phase of the church.

Inside the church, one can look in any direction and see amazing details. I could only wonder what the artist conveyed. I am sure it all had a meaning, but I’m not that knowledgable in that department. I must say one thing really surprised me. It was an open coffin with the body of St Xavier. Well, as I was approaching the open coffin, some pilgrims in front of me, reached into the coffin and raised St Xavier head a few inches above its horizontal position. Wow, I was shocked! I didn’t know where to put myself. I later discovered, online, that it wasn’t St Xavier, at rest, in the coffin, but a statue. It wasn’t even a statue of St Xavier. Read on!

St Francis Xavier ~ Not a Mummy.jpg

St Francis Xavier ~ Not a Mummy!

St Francis.jpg

Statue of St Francis

The real story is even better. It’s a statue of the crucified Christ, and was originally at Tumacacori Mission (now Tumacacori National Historical Park, partway to Nogales).

When that community was abandoned in 1849 due to Apache raiding, the people moved to San Xavier, bringing their saints with them. Along the way, the statue of Christ lost its legs. By the 1890s, it was displayed in the west transept as the entombed Christ.

Around the time of War I, the statue was redefined as a reclining St. Francis Xavier, placed in a glass case, and there it remains, the object of considerable popular devotion. Jim Griffith for the Arizona Daily Star

Lifting of the head is said to bring prayer requests into being and good luck!

The church construction

Over the years, Patronato San Xavier has raised more than $11 million for preservation and restoration work at the mission, including a multi-year project to restore the altar area and interior artwork. The Patronato is trying to raise more money to restore the East tower.

The mission is built of low-fire clay brick, stone and lime mortar. The church’s interior is filled with original statuary and murals.

An interesting fact I learned was the modern-day waterproofing of the church roof. Many new epoxy sealants were tried, but moisture always seemed to be trapped in the lower layers of the masonry. Looking back to the original composition of the mortar, they learned that using a mix that had “cactus” in it proved to be the better approach. Sometimes the old ways just can’t be beat!

Cat & Mouse ~ San Exavier del Bac.jpg

If you look left and right you’ll see a cat and a mouse! It is believed that when the cat catches the mouse, it will be the end of the world! (Local Native Beliefs)

San Exavier del Bac ~ Restoration.jpg

The mission was abandoned briefly from 1837 to 1859, falling into disrepair

How Many people have walked through that arch?.jpg

How many people have walked through this arch?

Bell Tower from Garden.jpg

Bell Tower from the Garden

The Catus Framing.jpg

The Framed Cactus

Bells of San Xavier.jpg

Bells of San Xavier del Bac Mission ~ 

That is what we saw and did!

Mt Lemmon ~ The Return

We left the last blog on the Meadow 5a Trail on top of Mt Lemmon. You probably remember me talking about loving rocks! Mt Lemmon was no exception! The rocks up here have an unusual color. Light pink and white color. It was at this time, on the trail, that a souvenir might be appropriate. We’ll leave it at that!

Back on the trail, Helen was, at point, in the lead. She noticed a hiking stick leaning on a tree. She is so good at spotting things. Just the other day, she spotted a tool alongside the roadway, as we biked on post. It was a $15 adjustable wrench! A cool find! Back at the trailhead, I headed for the restroom. A girl standing by the information sign had just found some car keys. Now that would be a major loss if the owner didn’t have a second means of entering their car or starting it. I told the girl to hang them on the sign. That might be the best solution. No office or park personnel in the area.

The Canadian ~ Bike Connection

Back at the truck, we were chilling out having a snack and a cool drink. This girl, biking up to the lock gate, stopped and was catching her breath. After a few minutes, Helen asked her how long it took her to do the climb from the bottom. She answered 4 hours! Wow, I couldn’t believe it! Some 31 miles uphill in four hours! Only that amount of time for 6,300′ of elevation climb.

Her husband rolled in about five minutes later. He was in worse shape. The Canadian connection comes in because they live about 200 miles from us in Montreal, Canada. We took a couple of photos with her iPhone, at the top of Mt Lemmon, with her husband. They both deserve a round of applause!

The Observatory

Just before our hike, we walked up past the locked road gate. The University of Arizona operates the observatory. We walked a quarter-mile to another locked enclosure. This time a high chain link fence was as far as we could go. They do offer tours and even night-time tours, but with reservations. The odd thing that I noticed was a sign on the gate that said. “Leave with your headlights off.” Obviously, this was to protect your night vision in the observatory, but I’m thinking of how winding this road was coming up. I can’t imagine driving even a short distance without headlights down hill.


The End of the Road ~ Steward Observatory

Rock Climbing ~ At Wind Vista Outlook

Our return drive from Mt Lemmon was just as spectacular going down. I stopped in several pullouts to grab a few more memory photos.

Wind Vista was just begging for us to stop again! A parking spot was available and the clincher was a rock climber tackling a HooDoo formation across the street. I took several pictures of the climb and the repel.



The Climb.jpg

The Climb!

Don't Look Down!.jpg

Don’t Look Down!

Tip Top.jpg

Tip Top

Across the street, other people were getting lessons on repelling down a 150′ ledge. Other tourist were walking over the ledges to view the splendid “Wind Vistas”. From this overlook we made our way down into Tucson.

Dog & Couple.jpg

Wind Vista is a Perfect Spot for Photos!

That is what we saw and did!

Mt Lemmon

About Mt Lemmon


Speechless ~ The Road to the Top!

Everybody seemed to be talking about Mt Lemmon. Even Phillip, who we met at Chiricahua National Monument, on our way here, had given us a heads-up on Mt Lemmon. This mountain located 41.5 miles from our campsite, is very visible from our dinning room window. It is in the Santa Catalina mountain range. Driving to Mt Lemmon involves about 10 miles of city driving. The outskirts of Tucson reveals small foothills with million dollar views! This doesn’t include the multi-million dollar cost of the Casa’s (homes).

Mountain Roads.jpg

The Mountain Road ~ Winding and Switching back and Forth!

The Foothills

The terrain is still covered with sparse brush and varied desert plants. Soon the road climbs a little higher and around the first of many bends the Saguaro Cactus appear! Like a forest of telephone poles, most of them have no arms or limbs. We later learned that it takes 60 plus years for limbs to develop. These Cactus obviously can live to 200 years old. They can also grow to 15 to 20 feet in length. During the “Monson” season (July, Aug and Sep) they can store large quantities of water in their trunks. The trunks are pleated and when water is stored, the trunks can easily expand. They can survive for 2 years without additional water.

The Road.jpg

Remember, Looking Down Was Just One Switchback Away!

The Switch Back Road.jpg

Don’t You Just Love Rock Formations!

The Climb

The word switchbacks refers to U-turns to gain elevation in a small footprint. Well that is an understatement. The road is adequately wide and well paved. They did a lot of planning on this mountain climb, because several pull off parking places and rest areas dot the road up the mountain. Our first overlook was of Tucson, at a relative low altitude overlook. Not exceptional, but inspiring that more would come as we traveled. We had just, so far traveled a couple of miles of steep grades, another 28 miles of grade would follow. It wasn’t that further up the road that the Saguaro Cactus petered out. More rock outcroppings appeared regularly. We are “Rock Lovers!” My new dash-cam is working great. I am learning how to save the important (to us) 5 minute clips on my laptop. Well at first I was trying to save them to the iCloud, but at 580MB per 5 min clip, wasn’t working at all with the WiFi. I didn’t want to overload my laptop, so the best option for me was to save the important stuff to my portable external hard drive. This is a 1TB drive (WD Elements) I hope to be able to upload some to You Tube and have a link in the blog.

HooDoo Vista.jpg

HooDoo Vista Point

The Traffic and the Views!

Surprisingly, a lot of people are on this mountain daily. There are signs that say, “Tire chains required,” at least when snowing. No snow today or even this fall. It was in the low 80’s in Tucson metro area and the forecast for the summit was for 61 degrees. You’ve got to realize that the summit is at 9,145 feet above sea level! Tucson is around 2,388 ft in the valley. It is the best time for a visit to the top, especially for a little hiking.

Most of the traffic was moving slowly and admiring the views. The most popular overlook is called Wind Vista Point! Here we found a good size parking area and a lot of cars and people. It’s one of those places where you can walk out onto the ledges and grab one of those shots that makes the viewer think you’re on the edge. Well that is particularly true, but most times there is no danger! I say that with tongue in cheek! Example: Parents with small kids, around 4 to 5 years old, not controlling their kids, were a concern to me. The father says to his daughter, “if you see a snake let me know”, this is after she’s going down a very steep incline with no adult within reach.

Nearing the Top of Mt Lemmon

The terrain now changing again. From many outcroppings of ledge and rocks to very large pine trees. One would think that we would have been in an Alpine environment at 9,000 plus feet, but we weren’t. Reaching near the summit was a fork in the road, going left, which we took and it brought us to an Alpine style village with cottages dotting the mountain side. The village about a half mile long had restaurants, gift shops and people walking around. I soon realized that this road was coming to a dead-end. I had missed my turn onto Ski Run Rd. The road now narrowed considerably and climbed at a steeper rate. Nearing the forested top, the Iron Door restaurant was on the right overlooking the ski lift across the street. No skiing or snow, but a lot of people enjoying the afternoon sun.

The Private Road!

Two hundred feet beyond the restaurant an open gate with a sign that read, “Not a National Forest maintained road, pass at you own risk.” This is always a people stopper. I had plugged into my GPS “Meadow 5a” trail. It indicated that is was further up the now very narrow road. Always a sign for adventure! Off, I started, up the very winding road, Helen being a little apprehensive. Around the next corner, two bikes coming down the hill at full speed. They were not coasting, but pedaling, I stayed on my side of road, as they flew by. At least, I knew people were ahead, on top of the mountain. Through the tall trees, I spotted an observatory dome. I knew we were close to the summit. two more curves and we reached a locked, closed gate. To my left a parking lot with maybe 20 cars, I turned into the lot, but it was full. I backed out and was able to park next to the locked gate.

The Picnic and the Plan

It was time for a late lunch. At the end of the parking lot was a picnic table. A sign indicating that we were, now again, in a fee area and part of the National Forest. People were coming and going from several directions. The Mt Lemmon trail, the Meadow 5a trail, the observatory and the parking lot. The picnic hit the spot. It was time to take on the Meadow 5a tail!

Meadow 5a Trail

I picked this trail because it was relatively easy. Only 320 feet of elevation from one end to the other. We would hike the meadow and return the same way. We could have looped around and joined the Mt Lemmon trail, but it was a moderate to difficult trail. My thoughts were to take it easy on our first Arizona hike. I was so right! At 9,145 feet the air is thin and I was sucking for wind constantly. Nothing serious, but my 72-1/2 years were telling me that I wasn’t ready for Everest. Helen on the other hand didn’t seem to be bothered.

Meadow 5a Trail ~ Mt Lemmon.jpg

Meadow 5a Trail on top of Mt Lemmon

The Split with helen.jpg

The Split with Helen

The trail followed the observatory fence line for a while. The sun shining on us, the temperature, at truck read 63º F and it was about the same on the trail. Soon we were in the tall pines with sun filtering through. It was like the golden hour for photographers. The view here was of the forest, but as we crested the knoll, I could see distant mountain ranges, probably the Rincon Mountains to the Southeast. Just a little further, closer mountains revealed layers of color, dark green closer to us followed by blueish mountains and beyond that Tucson and its fast metropolitan area covered in a light smog. We were told that the smog only happens in the winter months when the temperature inversion kept it trapped by the mountains.

Catalina Mountain Range ~ Mt Lemmon.jpg

Rincon Mountains ~ Southeast of Tucson


Needless to say, if you own a camera or phone for that matter, there are many opportunities to photograph nature, people and landscapes. I may never print all those photos, but looking at them, on the computer, will bring back wonderful memories!

Greater Tucson.jpg

Greater Tucson

Tripple Mountain Range.jpg

Trippel Mountain Ranges

That is what we saw and did!