Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Tucson, AZ - Last Hike

Ummm - on Sunday we head back to Iowa. Today we’d better get our last hike in. There’s not much hiking in Iowa. A new hike, one we haven’t done before. Hutch’s Pools, which ends at some deep blue pools hemmed in by rock walls and shaded by large oak trees. And, here’s the cool part, we can get to the trail head from the parking lot using a tram. And, here’s the second cool part, we can get back to our car using the same tram. Great!!! Oh shucks, we still have to hike from the trailhead to the pools and back. I knew there was a catch.

We wanted to take the first tram at 9:00 so got there about 8:30. While we were waiting we met a local who told us that the trail to Hutch’s Pools was rocky, really rocky. Yeah. Well, it’s a trail, isn’t it? Aren’t trails usually rocky?

Cool little tram. It winds up the Sabino Canyon gorge over several narrow bridges, often covered in water from the stream below, for about 3 miles with a narration about the canyon, its history, its flora and fauna and the attempts to build a road through it. The views are spectacular. The sheer rock cliff in this picture is actually 40’ tall. Between the road which we are on and the cliff is a trail called the Telephone Trail which we have taken several times. It’s right below the cliff face so is we hike in the shade of the rock face in the morning - great trail to take in the summer. Nice trail and we would have taken it to the trailhead instead of the tram if we were in better ‘hike a mountain trail’ shape than the ‘walk the beach in San Diego’ shape we are in now. Taking the tram would save us 6 miles of a 15 mile hike. Oh, yeah.

You can see how much rain we’ve had here by all the greenery that marches up the canyon walls.


Note the abundance of saguaros as the march up the south side of the canyon.
We got off the tram, put our packs on and began our climb up the hill. Must have been at least a million switchbacks to get to the top of the hill. Well, not quite that many, but maybe a hundred. Uh, probably about 8 or so. But, they went straight up the hill. At the top, the trail leveled off and we could look down on the tram turnaround, the small paved circle between the two saguaros center left in the picture below.
Once, when we were younger and in better shape, we took the right turn at this sign and hiked a cool 18 miles back to our car. We’ve learned our lesson.
Gary is checking our GPS to make sure we’re on the right trail.
Whew. We wound around the mountain, down to a bouldered stream with water rushing through,
through a grassy grove of trees
by masses of sunny yellow flowers lining the trail,
across a grassy meadow,
and finally to Hutch’s pools. Deep enough to be still,
blue enough for reflections,
clear enough to see boulders at the bottom
and calm enough to sit beside for a lunch and a rest.

We could watch the waterfall,
and enjoy a respite under the shade of the nearby trees.
We wondered at how this tree grew around the unseen boulder below it. All you can see here is the root of the tree.
But, finally it was time to return and take the tram back to the parking lot. Let’s get these packs off our backs.
Now, let’s plan our next hike - in the fall.

‘Honk if you love peace and quiet,’

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tucson, AZ - Misc

Sometimes we see things that are intriguing but don’t seem to fit in anywhere. Here’s a blog with some pictures that I saw intriguing enough to shoot with my camera but that fit in nowhere else.

While we were at Biosphere 2 we were walking out and happened to see this wooden thing with holes in it nailed to a tree. Puzzled we walked over and saw this explanation.
Of course we didn’t want to get to close to it so I used my telephoto lens.

On another jaunt, we had left Pinnacle Peak Restaurant after a disappointing dinner and walked through their Western set where they have shows at night. I told Gary to take my picture in the jail and all of a sudden a sheriff showed up and locked it. I’m in trouble. Must be because I tell bad jokes.
We saw this truck at the trailhead for one of our hikes. Must be drones. What are they looking for here? Saguaros? Hikers off the trails? But, we’ve often thought it might be fun to buy a drone to get a bird’s eye view of our hikes, our campgrounds and maybe our RV. But, we use Google a lot to see all of this. It’s amazing that you can even plot out a hike using Google - it’s that detailed.
We were impressed with this little family of baby cacti. Clinging to the stone cracks.
It’s hard to miss the Catalina Mts which loom over Tucson. Imagine, waking up every morning to this splendid scene.
Wherever we land in our motorhome, we walk a lot around surrounding neighborhoods for variety and to see some of the homes and meet some of the people who live around here. Here’s an elaborate memorial to a local resident who had died in 2010.
And, then there was the haircut. ‘Just a little trim’, I said.

‘Cut it all off’, she heard. An awful picture and thus I’ll leave it really small.

Saw some disheartening pictures of Lake Powell where the Colorado is dammed up by Glen Canyon Dam. Here’s a picture from a while back when the lake was much fuller than it is now.
Here’s a current picture, after a drought. Note the difference.
Part of it have almost disappeared and new islands have appeared. We hope that the rains and snows of 2017 have not just ended the drought in California but also the shrinking of the Colorado.

And, finally this comment on living in Tucson from Mary Commorford, who moved here from Wisconsin in the 80’s and now volunteers at the Visitor Center. We asked her if why she liked living in Arizona. She smiled and said:

‘I never had to shovel heat.’       

Monday, March 27, 2017

Tucson AZ - George Hirabayashi

There’s a beautiful road which curves up through the mountains to Mt Lemmon, the highest point near Tucson. For years the only access to the top of Mt Lemmon was by way of a winding, twisting steep, dirt road up the back of the mountains. A long difficult climb and far from the city itself. Now, there’s a beautiful 25 mile road that winds from Tucson up the slopes. Easier, more accessible and a beautiful drive. Built by prisoners who lived 1/3 of the way up the slope in a prison camp marked not by guards and walls but by painted white rocks on the ground.

History, a beautiful drive and a few trails on the way. A three-fer. Count us in and we were on our way up the slopes. We’ve had so much rain recently that the flowers were in full bloom carpeting the walls of the canyons we passed through.
The ocotillo was blooming adding its red accents to the carpet of green.
This road was built between 1933 and the 1951 when it was opened. Most of the building was done by 44 Japanese-Americans who had refused Executive Order 9066 which called for the relocation of thousands of people with 1/6th or more of Japanese blood away from the coasts where they were considered a threat to internment camps further inland.

Here’s a poster of the times. With posters like these, it’s no wonder that people wanted Order 9066.
But, the Germans were doing the same and worse but there were no internment camps for German-Americans. Gary’s mother’s whole German-American family would have been interned.

In all 117,000, 2/3rds of the Japanese-American citizens of the US, were given from 3 days to 2 weeks to sell their homes, their businesses, their fishing boats and anything else they owned, told to pack a few clothes and move. The largest forced removal and incarceration in US history.
And then, after all this, the US drafted the young Japanese-American men living in the internment camps.
More than 300 of these young men refused to be drafted into the military until their constitutional rights as citizens were restored. They didn’t resist the draft itself but they just wanted their citizenship and that of their families resorted. If they were citizens and could be drafted, why had they been sent to internment camps? If their loyalty was questioned, why were they being drafted? Good question.
They they were convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to 2 - 3 years in prison. 40 of them were sent to Tucson in leg chains and handcuffs under armed guard. One of these young men, Gordon Hirabayashi wanted to work outside and got assigned to the Catalina Federal Honor Camp in Tucson but the federal authorities refused to pay for his trip so he hitchhiked his way to Tucson stopping in to visit his family interned in Idaho along the way. When he arrived, the prison could not find his papers and Gordon went out to dinner and a movie while they found them.
Here’s the camp, running up a valley in the Catalina Mts. No walls, no guard towers only painted white rocks lines on the boundary.
And, here it is today - not much left of it.
The prisoners were given shovels and pick-axes to break up the mountains and wheelbarrows to cart the broken rock off. ‘Before I went to the Honor Camp, I thought only prisoners broke rocks with picks in cartoons,’ said one former prisoner.
Roadwork progressed much faster when jack-hammers, bulldozers and tractors were added. The prisoners also built the buildings in the camp and grew most of their own food.

Gordon served out his time at the camp and after the war, went on to become a professor of sociology. 40 years after his internment, historians discovered documents showing that the Justice Department had withheld evidence that the forced removal and internment of Japanese-Americans was unnecessary.

In 1987 a Federal Appeals Court unanimously overturned Gordon's conviction and in his honor, the old prison camp was renamed the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site. Hirabayashi is in the middle of this group of former prisoners.

And, we are at Gordon Hirabayashi Rec site with Gary at the top of some stairs that still remain.
We walked around a bit and then decided to take the trail which took off from here and have lunch at the Whimsical Rocks.

‘Plan to be spontaneous.’

Tucson, AZ - Lunch at the Whimsical Rocks

And, now the hike. We first walked through the campground near the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Area.
And, there we found this cool RV. A real home-made creation.
The trail, called the Bug Spring Trail headed straight up the hillside with lots of switchbacks. Hmmm. Who chose this trail? We started on the right of the diagram at the Prison Camp and you can see where we are headed. Of course - once we get to the top - there is only one direction - DOWN. Whoo-eee.
We started out along a canal that the prisoners had built to channel the water for their camp.
And some piping.
Saguaros standing guard over the trail.
We read that there had been a fire along the trail and we found evidence right away. On the other hand, look at all the greenery that has grown up to replace that lost to the fire.
Great views along the way.
We met these guys coming up from the other side.
At the top, we found some whimsical rocks that looked like a good lunch place. A long string of balanced rocks. Strangely, I’ve never found a soft rock to sit on for lunch.


And, then it was time to head back down.

‘Always try to be modest, and be darned proud of it.’