Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cacti and Cliffs

As we tour the Southwest, we often are struck by the comparison of history book accounts of the estab-lishment of Jamestown in 1607 and the archaeo-logical findings of artifacts that date civilizations in the Southwest to as many as 12,000 - 15,000 years ago.

This comparison arose most recently on our visit to Sabino Canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains in the Coronado National Forest just northeast of Tucson.

Archaeolo-gists believe Clovis hunters could have come to the canyon as early as 12000 to 15000 years ago, and the Cochise were most likely visitors closer to 8000 B.C.

The Hohokam became the predominant people in this area after the Cochise. The peak of their culture occurred around 1100 AD.

Among the one million visitors every year, we thought there are three groups of people who visit the Canyon. One of the groups is content to take the tram, which offers a narrated, educational 45-minute, 3.8-mile tour into the foothills. The trams have nine stops along the tour and the two routes pass nearly 90 picnic sites.

Another group of joggers and walkers follow the same route as the tram only do so at their own pace.

Then there are the serious hikers who may forgo the tram altogether and begin their hike from the Visitors' Center (the trail leading to Sabino Dam) or take the tram to one of the trailheads. The tram running along the Sabino Canyon Trail has nine stops along the route; hikers can begin their hike from specific stops. Three trails from this route are the Blackett’s Ridge Trail, the Telephone Line Trail along the Sabino Creek, or the six to eight mile hike to Hutch’s Pools.

Bear Canyon Trail tram is a non-narrated two-mile ride that travels to the trailhead of Seven Falls Trail.

We were in the group of "tram-ride only" visitors. We certainly missed many opportunities for photographs by not venturing off the tram route, but when the tram arrives at each stop every 60 minutes, we would have spent several minutes waiting at the stop for the next tram.

So, the photos presented here were taken from the tram over its 3.8-mile course.

"In 1887, an earthquake centered in northern Mexico shook Southern Arizona. The result of this quake--the large boulders tumbling down the canyon walls into the valley--are plainly visible in Sabino's streambed today,

and it is not difficult to imagine what would happen to some of the delicately balanced rocks lining the canyon walls should a similar earthquake occur today" (

There is a contrast between the desert with its saguaro cactus and low-growing shrubs and the areas of green trees and bushes.

Even while riding the tram, we were able to see the colorful scenes along the creek.

We made a note to ourselves that a return visit in the spring would see the dry creek beds filled with the water from the spring thaw.

But the name of this colorful creature will remain a mystery.

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