Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Drive With a View

We continued our drive up to the peak of Mount Lemmon. The winding road covered 26 miles, rising from Tucson (elevation 2389 feet) to the town of Summerhaven, AZ (elevation approx. 8200 feet).

The winter scenery during the climb ranged from this grayish shrub (which looked quite striking against the deep blue sky) to
massive rock formations rising several feet above the roadside.

The Santa Catalina Mountains are the largest of several ranges of hills that surround Tucson, dominating the northern skyline and rising to a high point of 9,157 feet (Mt Lemmon), over 6,000 feet above the city.
All the high land is within the Coronado National Forest, which extends further southeast towards the slightly less tall Rincon Mountains, around Saguaro National Park. The mountains form one of the largest 'sky islands' of south Arizona--hills that rise far above the Sonoran Desert plains and harbor climate zones typical of lands much further north.
Much of the hillsides are quite inaccessible, reached only by a few trails along canyons, and a sizeable part is an officially designated wilderness area (Pusch Ridge).

From the numerous pullouts, we were rewarded with panoramic views.

From one of these viewpoints, I caught two photos of a climber. She was receiving instructions and encouragement from others who were out of sight.

Cyclists were frequent companions along the route.
At the higher elevations, we could see patches of snow.

As we neared the summit, we saw the sign indicating the presence of bears. We looked for them from the comfort of our truck, but did not see any.
Also, the area became quite densely-wooded with ponderosa and Arizona pine trees and groves of aspen.
In June of 2003, 84,750 pristine acres burned to the ground on Mount Lemmon. Fire fighters from all across the nation were brought in to contain Arizona’s third largest fire. When the fire jumped their containment lines outside the village of Summerhaven, it burned over 340 homes and businesses in the resort.
A ski center is located near the summit, the southernmost skiing area in the US.
We headed into Summerhaven for lunch.

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