The Southern Arizona landscape is dominated by cacti. However, we never realized until we began exploring in this area that there are more than two dozen species of cactus living here. The most well recognized is the Saguaro. This species can live to be 200 years old, grow to 50 feet in height and weigh six tons. We have identified six species during our hikes: saguaro, barrel, teddy bear, ocotillo, prickly pear and cane cholla.
Saguaro National Park + Tucson Mountains
We hiked Kings Canyon Trail to Wasson Peak loop trail. Wasson Peak is the highest peak in the Tucson Mountains and provided us with tremendous vistas. We were able to clearly see Mt Lemmon, Mt Wrightson, Kitt and Picacho Peaks as well as the city of Tucson. This hike is a bit on the strenous side at eight miles with an elevation gain of over 1600 feet but well worth the effort. In addition to the views the trail was awash with wild flowers.
Looking to rest our legs between hikes we spent an afternoon making the drive from Tucson up to Mt Lemmon and the village of Summerhaven via the Sky Island Scenic Byway. The road winds up through the Catalina Mounatains with an elevation gain of more than 6000 feet. As you leave Tucson you are in the desert and by the time you reach Mt Lemmon we found ourselves driving through connifer forests. The temperature drop was more than 30 degrees. Picture below is a view of the San Pedro River Valley from an elevation of apx. 8000 feet above sea level. This byway is a beautifully engineered road with incredible views and scenery. The general store is Summerhaven can provide you with ice cream and fudge as an added incentive to go all the way to the end of the drive.
Picacho Peak State Park was our base of operation for six nights. This location provided easy access to Tucson proper (coffee and tea!) and plenty of hiking in Saguaro NP and the Coronado NF. The added bonus was that Picacho Peak presented us with several challenging hikes without needing to leave the park. We photos below are from our hike on the Sunset Vista Trail.
Pima Air + Space
As we are both aviation buffs we kicked off our stay in the Tucson area with a visit to the Pima Air & Space Museum. Pima has a large collection of primarily military aircraft. We were able to see two aircraft (pictured below) that we had never seen in person previously. The Convair B58 Husler (left below) was the first USAF bomber capable of Mach 2 flight and was operational with SAC during the 1960s. On the top right is the Boeing B36 Peacemaker. The B36 was used from 1949 until 1959. It was the largest piston engined plane ever built. It was powered by six pusher props and four jet engines and had a wingspan of 230 feet. It is ugly but could travel 10,000 miles without refueling and carry 87,000 pounds of nuclear bombs. Two rare aircraft that we were pleased to have the opportunity to see in person.
We also took a tour of the “boneyard” located within Davis Monthan Air Force Base. The boneyard is home to more than 3000 military aircraft not currently needed operationally. A portion of the aircraft staged to be ready to operate within 24 hours while others are being cannabilized for parts to keep active models of the same aircraft flying.
Our next stop is Kartchner Caverns State Park located at the base of the Whetstone Mountains, located about 50 miles southeast of Tucson.
Lastly, please continue to follow the coffee and tea adventures of our good friends @fikawithfiona on Instagram.