Monday, December 1, 2014

Drive Up Mt. Lemmon

Ed and I drove up Mt. Lemmon, the highest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains on the east side of Tucson last Friday. A curving, scenic highway ascends the mountain from the northeast side of Tucson and leads to the town of Summerhaven, almost on the top of the mountain, and to the ski area and observatory at the top.

I still have not been able to conquer my fear of heights and find that even riding in a car can be tough for me, so the ascent was a bit hairy. Coming down, I was fine and would do the drive again in a heartbeat. The scenery is breath taking. From the base of the mountain to the top you pass through several climate zones, the same as if you drove from Arizona to Calgary.

We packed a picnic lunch which we ate off the tailgate of the car at a pullout where we could see for miles. Thimble Rock, in the distance, seemed aptly named.

From Windy Point the view to the west was extraordinary. Much of the Tucson basin is visible to the south and west. We easily picked out the Santa Rita Mountains toward Tubac and the Tucson Mountains to the west. Kitt Peak loomed in the distance.

I decided that if I had been this climber, I might have had a helmet on. He looked so confidant and comfortable while hanging on the side of the rocks.

Late in the day, coming down the mountain, with the sun set, the glow of the horizon was etched with the mountain ridges in the distance. As it got darker, we met a lot of cars going up the mountains, no doubt weekend residents of Summerhaven.

There are many places to pull over and admire the beauty. The highway is in excellent condition and there are places to eat in Summerhaven.

Mt. Lemmon is a part of the Coronado National Forest, so there are campgrounds and hiking trails, too. It's a beautiful drive, one not to be missed when visiting Tucson.

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