Monday, October 29, 2012

A Day On The Giant Sleeping Frog

The ride to Mt. Lemmon begins in Tucson, at the desert floor, approximately 2,600 feet above sea level.  The landscape is what you'd expect in a desert - cactus, brush, dirt - and it's almost always hot.  Even now, in October, it's not unusual to hit 90 degrees.  Which of course, is fucking insane.

Some people, especially during the summer, like to retreat to Mt. Lemmon.  At over 9,000 feet, the temperature is always cooler - up to 20 degrees cooler - and it's a popular place for hiking, camping, rock climbing, bird watching, and in the winter, skiing. 

This is the beginning of the ride, on Catalina Highway, also known by locals as Mt. Lemmon Highway.
It's not long before you start climbing the Santa Catalina Mountains - of which Mt. Lemmon is its highest peak -  and enter the Coronado National Forest, where the mountain range resides.  The Tohono O'odham Indians named the mountain Babad Do'ag, which means "Frog Mountain" because they thought its outline looked like a big sleeping frog.
When you reach one of the first turnouts, you can look out across the eastern part of the city, which you can see by the length of the road, runs for miles and miles.  At this point, you're at about 4,000 feet above sea level.
On the way up Catalina Highway, gigantic, sprawling, multi-million dollar houses can be seen dotting the hillside.  I've been in a few of these homes (not the ones pictured) when they were under construction, as these are the homes my brother works in, installing kitchens worth tens of thousands of dollars, shower stalls that cost as much as a car, and putting in entryways typically crossed by the high-heeled feet of well-known celebrities. 
Homes like this one, with its modern curves and walls of windows.
And this one with it's three-car garage and rooftop solar panels, flying the University of Arizona flag.
And this one, teetering on the edge of a rocky ravine.  No backyard or property to speak of, but a pretty good view of the city spread out below.
This is us at the first stop before the winding climb started, and before we picked up the Ferrari tail.
That's right, a Ferrari tail.  All the way up the mountain, we were followed by a red Ferrari. Well, not just followed but tailgaited. This guy was ON OUR ASS for miles. It's not as if he didn't have the power to pass us - hello? it's a Ferrari!

I think he was more interested in intimidating us into pulling over so he could pass without taking a chance on the blind turns. Yeah, like that was going to happen. We were doing the speed limit, other people passed us when their impatience got the best of them (where they were off to in such a rush I have no idea), and we hit several straight sections where he could have taken over.

Ed was driving and wanted me to get pictures and video of the car.  When the Ferrari saw me stick my hand out the window for this photo, he revved his engine and flashed his lights.  I'm not really sure what he was trying to signal, but we still weren't moving over.  If you're going to drive like an asshole, right on our bumper, you're going to wait.  He was seriously interfering with our leisurely sightseeing pace.
That said, there's really nothing to see on Mt. Lemmon, so I'm not sure where everyone was rushing to.  They have a General Store/Gift Shop, and two or three restaurants.  I haven't been up the mountain in over fifteen years for that very reason - nothing to do once you get there.  Even my friend Kim, who loves to hike and do outdoorsy things thinks it's a wasted ride.  Like she said, "It takes over an hour to get up the mountain, and for what?"   
We did have lunch at the Sawmill Run Restaurant, which was pretty good - I had a pulled pork sandwich, Ed had a smoked brisket dip, and my mother enjoyed a "real" turkey sandwich; all served with a side of real with-the-skins-on mashed potatoes.  We sat outside on the patio so we wouldn't miss anything should the streets suddenly fill up with throngs of people.   
Before our lunch arrived, we were approached by the waiter, saying we looked like a "fun bunch" - which was a bit odd since there was a very chatty, laughing group of bikers sitting one table over - and asked if we would mind being a witness to a wedding.  All we had to do was sign the marriage certificate saying we saw the ceremony transpire.

Leave it to my mother to ask the waiter, "Why can't you do it?"  She never wants to sign anything or help anyone out in this manner.  It was Classic Toni - "It could be a scam.  What if they want my signature to forge checks?  Or they send someone to my house once they know who I am?  Don't they have any friends who could have signed for them?  He looks Middle Eastern.  She's Asian.  Maybe they're in the witness protection program.  Do they even speak English?
Oh.  My.  God.  Can you fling around any more stereotypes, Mom??  The couple was lovely - they looked happy and excited, the bride was wearing a beautiful sunny yellow and white print sheath, and the groom had on a crisp button down shirt (I think it was lavender?) with a nice pair of slacks - and they were joined by an older woman and the gentleman who was marrying them.  By the way, I was the one who signed the marriage certificate.   
There isn't too much of a chance in this part of the country that weather will spoil your plans, so it was the perfect place for a wedding. Every day is pretty much the same - blistering hot and sunny, slightely less blistering hot and sunny, warm and sunny, slightly less warm and sunny, and on very rare occassions, cool and sunny. 
This day was cool on the mountain, and the Aspen were bright yellow in the sun.
After the ceremony, we drove a little further up to the top, where Ed took this shot of a helicopter flying off into the distance.
I took this one of a young guy standing on sunlit rocks.
And this one, just before we left, of hikers in silhouette.
Overall, it was a good day on the mountain, and what makes it even better, is knowing I don't have to go back for another twenty years.  Farewell, you giant frog you.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Off The Board And In The Air
2010: Evening Fruits And Vegetables
2009: He Parks Like A Girl
2008: Out Cattin’ On Halloween
2007: The Bridges And A Cowboy
2006: What Happens When Time Falls Into The Wrong Hands
2005: Me


James Cowlin said...

Salena and Ed,
The next time you drive up the Sleeping Frog, keep on going over the top and down the backside to Oracle. The view is spectacular to the north over the San Padro River valley to the mountains beyond. Oracle has five restaurants to choose from including the newest, Oracle Patio Cafe for breakfast and lunch. I guarantee you won't have a Ferrari tailgating you on that drive.

Pat said...

We've been to Sabino Canyon, which is just beautiful. But, not up to the top of Mt. Lemmon. I would think the hiking would be wonderful.

The Daily Rant said...

JAMES: I do know about the backside of the mountain - my brother has been down that side with his friends in a 4-wheel drive vehicle - and I mentioned it to Ed when he asked "What's that?" after he saw the Biosphere in the distance. You're right about the Ferrari - there's no way they'd make that trek! I haven't been to Oracle in FOREVER, or Mammoth for that matter. I might just have to take a drive up there and check out this cafe you speak of. Thanks for the tip!

PAT: I've been to Sabino Canyon too, but Ed hasn't - that's another place I'll have to take him, he'd love it. And yes, I'd guess the hiking on Mt. Lemmon would be great, I saw several "hiker" looking people up there. And I've heard friends talk of going hiking and camping up there.