Wow, is right, the last two weeks have been a blur. A few weeks ago, Wednesday, Melissa got up in the middle of the night and threw up. Yep, the fle bug hit, lasted pretty bad for two days, putting her right down in the dumps. That’s why we stayed one day later at Crazy Horse. By the time we left for Karthchner Caverns, she was feeling a tad better. As for me I felt fine, that was about to change. That Saturday evening I got it, it hit me just as hard, for two days Melissa took care of me, still not feeling that well. For the rest of the week, we both felt like we were totally exhausted, stressed, dehydrated, not sleeping and all that. What the heck happened. Last Friday we arrived here at Catalinia State park, We have now been here four days, and just today we both feel a little better, Melissa has gotten a good night sleep. We still just don’t feel right ,though. Not sleeping sucks, it wears you down and your mind thinks of the craziest stuff. Hopefully in the next few days this will be behind us. I have not ruled out that we maybe had Covid, as it lasts about two weeks, but who knows. For now where has all the time gone, I know right down the toilet. Ha,Ha
We are now on the western slope of the Santa Catalina mountain range, just north of Tucson. We will be here two weeks. Have a nice long pull thru and views of the mountain range. Drove 71 miles today from Kartchner Caverns State park. It should be pleasant here, unlike what it was like at Karthcner. We did not have a good time there, which I will talk about in my next post. Our spot below.
View out our kitchen window.
We are now at Kartchner Caverns State Park. The park is about 45 miles southeast of Tucson and about 9 miles south of Benson, where we have been before. We drove 45 miles to get here, not far at all. The park has a big campground area, we have a giant pull through site, surrounded by Miscite trees. Yes there are cave’s here, we will be going on two tours this coming week.
We canceled our fist week here and stayed at Crazy horse a week longer. Also we should have arrived here yesterday, but that’s a blog story in itself for later.
It’ been awhile since we visited a cave so we checked out Colossal Cave, located in the foothills of the Rincon Mountains, at the end of Old Spanish Trail.
The cave has about 3.5 miles of mapped passageways. The park the cave is in covers over 2,400- acres with hiking trails, primitive camping and horseback riding.
Views of the park.
The cave was formed a couple hundred million years ago, the cave system was used by native tribes about a thousand years ago, where there’s still evidence of a fire pit and smoke residue near the cave entrance.
Around 1879 the owner Solomon Lick discovered an opening that he thought was a mine, upon further investigation it was a cave, a Colossal Cave.
According to cave’s history, three men robbed the same Southern Pacific train twice in a four month period. They escaped with thousand of dollars in currency, gold and silver. The sheriff and his posse tracked the bandits to the cave. After a shootout, just one of the train robbers survived. As the legend goes, he served almost two decades in prison in Yuma and never confessed to where the treasure was.
What happened to the stolen money is unclear. People are still looking for it today.
Colossal Cave had a few owners over the years, one of them Frank Schmidt. He became the owner in 1922. He and his family lived in a house in the winter months but in the heat of Arizona’s summers, the family lived in the cave. After all the cave has a constant temperature inside of 70 °year-round.
By 1930 Colossal Cave was well known and the public – especially the Arizona Daily Star newspaper – demanded its transformation into a National Monument. Schmidt agreed to hand everything over to the state and the CCC in 1934, if he and his family could still stay in the cave. The state agreed.
More stalactites, stalagmites, columns and draperies.
Between 1934 and 1937, two different CCC corps built the first roads, picnic areas, and buildings in Colossal Cave Mountain Park. The cave received stairs, paths, handrails, ladders, and a lighting system, as well. Frank Schmidt was hired by the State of Arizona as a director and held this job until 1956. I wonder long he got to live in the cave?
Trail around the cave we took.
” It doesn’t matter if a cave has been in darkness for 10,000 years or half an hour, once you light a match it is illuminated.”
Cheers to our friends the McHenry’s as they are on the road again! Safe Travels.
Just North of Tucson we drove through the Coronado National Forest up in the Santa Catalina Mountains to the Catalina Scenic Byway. The Catalina Scenic Byway also known as the “Mt. Lemmon Highway” is a 28-mile scenic drive that begins at the base of the mountain and peaks at 9,157 feet above sea level.
You start the highway in the desert amongst the saguaro cacti, and go through mountain passes with fields & meadows, rugged cliffs and hoodoos with spectacular outlooks then end up in an alpine and aspen forest.
This part of the drive you get to see saguaro cacti, the nearby Rincón Mountains and the city of Tucson.
Driving up the scenic highway you start to notice that the cacti are no longer and your seeing fields and scrubs on the mountain.
We stopped and hiked at the Molino Canyon Vista. It was a deep canyon with a creek running through it. This area was a fabulous spot and a great place to boondock, as someone had setup a yellow table cloth and their tent was close by. A really neat place for sure.
This site is also known as Prison Camp. The site was a Federal Honor Camp beginning in 1937 to house federal prisoners who worked to build a road for access into the Santa Catalina Mountains. The Prisoners had been convicted of federal crimes ranging from immigration law violations to tax evasion to bank robbery.
During World War II, many of the prisoners of this camp were conscientious objectors whose religions prohibited them from serving in the military. Some were Japanese Americans, as Gordon Hirabayashi was. After WWII Japanese Americans and many American Citizens, were imprisoned in these camps for fear they would conduct espionage and sabotage along the west coast. Gordon later fought that he was imprisoned wrongly, he won the case and after that the area is become known as The Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site.
What’s left of the prison today.
At this point the elevation being 5000ft. it was just a tad chilly.
The Scenic Highway is windy & curvy as it goes up the mountain. Dave had fun, plus now he has experience in driving these roads.
This picture shows the windy road from Windy Point Vista.
Windy Point is a scenic view point on Catalina Highway, on Mt. Lemmon. The overlook provides a a great view of the Catalinas and the Tucson valley below to the east and the Rincon Mountains to the west.
We never thought we would see hoodoos here, but it was great to see them, the huge tall rocks that look like statues.
Windy Point’s elevation is 7000ft. it was windy and felt very chilly. We noticed we started to see taller trees.
There are a lot of people who also bike up the mountain because it’s one of the highest roads in the state. 28 miles going up hill, I gotta give them a lot of credit, plus some of them looked older than us.
We kept driving higher and rolled up our windows because now we were 8000 ft. elevation, and it was about 45 degrees. All we were seeing is some leaves that changed color and pine trees.
We knew there was skiing on top of the mountain and signs told us so.
As we drove by the Ski Valley and kept going up higher we came to Summerhaven?
It was definitely chilly up here at 9000 ft elevation.
It was like we were on a mountain top in a small town somewhere in Vermont … Not Arizona. We drove thru the town and the road turned into a dirt road so we turned around and started back down. We did stop at Mt. Lemmon General Store to get some fudge, boy was it delicious! You can rent a room, get a bit to eat, there is a couple of restaurants, stores and a post office.
Little did we know that Summerhaven was even at the top but it’s popular both in the Winter & Summer. In Winter they say Mount Lemmon ski resort is the number #1 local ski hill for residents of Tucson, AZ and claims the title of the southernmost ski resort in the United States. In the hot summer months when it’s 100 degrees or more, people come to the top of the mountain where it’s 20 to 30 degrees cooler.
Some pictures of our trip back down Mt. Lemon.
All we can say is that we saw breathtaking views and a climate change that people say is similar to driving from Southern Arizona to Northern Montana. Each thousand feet up is like driving 600 miles north offering a unique opportunity to experience 4 seasons in one trip. It was a really spectacular drive and we feel it’s up there with one of the neatest things we’ve done.
View of the Santa Catalina Mountains and Mt. Lemmon from the campsite we’re at.
Where we took some time to clean, re-organize and take a breather from our travels.
Our friends Scott & Dawna came for a visit from the Mesa area. It was great to see them!
Pictures of the sky at the Campground
This past Wednesday we ventured out to . . .
Saguaro National Monument in Tucson was created in 1933, expanded in 1961, and became Saguaro National Park in 1994. There are two units: East, which includes the Rincon Mountains; and West, which includes part of the Tucson Mountains. We went to the East part of the park.
The National Park is about the saguaro cactus (pronounced “sah-wah-roh”), which only grows in Southern Arizona. The saguaro cactus is the largest cactus in the United States, and will normally reach heights of 40 feet tall. The tallest saguaro cactus ever measured towered over 78 feet into the air.
The cactus grows a column/pole at a very slow rate, with all growth occurring at the tip, or top of the cactus. It can take 10 years for a saguaro cactus to reach 1 inch in height. By 70 years of age, a saguaro cactus can reach 6 and a half feet tall, and will finally start to produce their first flowers. By 95-100 years in age, a saguaro cactus can reach a height of 15-16 feet, and could start to produce its first arm. By 200 years old, the saguaro cactus has reached its full height, reaching upwards of 45 feet tall.
We took hikes thru the park and kept saying boy most these Saguaro are old.
I have to give Paul a lot of credit.
What remains of the Cactus Shack today.
Lime kilns were used to make mortar and white wash from limestone. The kilns were built on the hills inside the park and the limestone was also dug from the hills in the park, it would be layered with wood until the kiln was full. The pile would be lit from the bottom where a vent would allow air to flow up through the stack. The lime would burn until it became a white powder and would then bag it and transport it to wherever it was needed. Adobe mud walls needed whitewash and dirty rooms needed plaster, just a few things it was used for when mixed with water.
The family’s adobe house, open-air kitchen, ocotillo fence corral, and rope-and-bucket well were tucked into a scenic valley surrounded by towering saguaros. In the 1950’s the park re-acquired the homestead, and today visitors wander down to walk the home’s tile floor and site under the shade tree planted so many years ago.