Well here we are, about 10 miles west of downtown Tucson on a mid-size commercial RV Park at the backside of the western extension of the Saguaro National Park. I selected this location based on ratings, pricing and, last but not least, access to hiking trails. As always, I inspected the area around the campground with the help of Google Earth. The bird eye view provided by Google Earth showed a lot of open space and plenty of trails starting right at the campground. What I didn’t see was the significant presence of Silver Cholla, a nasty little cactus species that is simply incompatible with dog paws. Silver Cholla sheds off little thorny buds that litter the ground and attach themselves to everything walking by. After a few hikes we gave up on these trails due to the frequent stops required to remove Chollas from a wide variety of doggy body parts. The tweezers became the most important piece of hiking equipment.
So, the search was on for Cholla free spaces. Whoever said, “the harder you work, the luckier you get” was right. As a reward for the search effort I found the marvelous Brown Mountain Trail about 8 miles from our home. The Brown Mountain Trail offers a very enjoyable 5 miles loop up a mountain, along a ridge, down a mountain and back through some very luscious desert vegetation essentially free of, you guessed it, Cholla.
The Catalina Mountains on the east side of town are a large playground for excellent hiking above the desert floor. The highest elevations of these mountains reach over 9000 ft and are covered with trees and leafy shrubs. Above 5000 ft there are no prickly plants.
Per the 2010 census Tucson’s population is 520,000. The larger Tucson area is home to 1 million people. However, I find the city of Tucson not very appealing. The urban area is very spread out and confined only by the mountain ranges framing the valley. There is no west-east highway connection crossing the city. I can only assume that the city planners must have been asleep for quite some time. Driving from the western suburbs to the eastern suburbs is an exercise in stop-and-go that takes forever.
The campground where we are located is populated by snowbirds. Per Wikipedia, snowbirds are folks that travel from colder climates of the northern United States and Canada and migrate southward in winter to warmer locales. People here are settled down for 3 to 6 months and there is quite frankly not a lot of dynamic. While this place is nice and clean and quiet, I feel like zombies surround us.
We plan to spend more time hiking in the Catalina Mountains and visit the eastern and western extensions of the Saguaro National Park. Stay tuned.