Greetings Blog Fans. We’ve just returned from Spring Break in sunny Arizona and as usual, I’m documenting it here.
For this trip we’d thought we would give Tucson a try. We’ve been to Sedona twice and the Grand Canyon and Page once so why not head south? Tucson is about 2 hours southeast of Phoenix (which is another 2 hours from Sedona). Logistics and pricing had us flying into Tucson and out of Phoenix.
My grand plans hit a slight speed bump as our flight out on Friday was severely delayed (we actually de-planed in Indy). We rebooked for Saturday morning/afternoon and ending up losing a half day (bye-bye Pima Air & Space Museum). Due to some commitments on the back end, that left us with 5 nights and 4 full days of activities. We spent most of our time hiking (surprise, surprise).
Tucson is very spread out so there isn’t really a central location. We chose to stay in the Catalina Foothills in a great VRBO. It was a bit of a splurge but we did enjoy the extra space.
Our itinerary corresponding to the map above:
Day 0: (arrival day) Mission San Xavier del Bac
Day 2: Saguaro National Park (East)
Day 3: Sabino Canyon
Saturday: Mission San Xavier del Bac
From the website:
Sunday (Day 1): Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
For the first full day, we headed to the west side for the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Being early risers plus operating on east coast time allowed for an early start. The museum is essentially a desert-themed zoo. It was a bit pricey for 4 of us, but worthwhile nonetheless. A sample of the photos are below.
Sunday (Day 1): Saguaro National Park (West)
Two sites in one day. How about that! For the afternoon we stopped at the Saguaro National Park since we were close by (per the plan!). As you might have gathered, there are 2 districts for the national park (separated by about an hour’s drive) which both protect portions of the Sonoran desert. The west side encompasses some of the Tucson Mountains.
Saguaro (suh-whar-o) is the type of traditional-looking cactus that the region is famous for.
We stopped at the visitor’s center to get recommendations and decided on the hike to Wasson’s Peak via the Esperanza trail. This allowed us to take in the Bajada Scenic Loop (and then some).
We had a little bit of extra excitement on this hike. On the way up, with the kids slightly ahead of us, Nicole startled herself and a rattlesnake. Only the kids saw it, but we all heard it. It was loud! Fortunately it sought refuge under the bush while we scrambled over the rocks to get by. Needless to say, Nicole was a little shaken up (oh, but what a story!).
Oh the way back, she was on the lookout in the same area and saw it again (that’s it slithering away in the photo). Both were ready this time so no rattle.
Monday (Day 2): Saguaro National Park (East)
Day 2 — off to the east side to the Rincon Mountain version of Saguaro National Park and another hike. We lazed around a bit to time the opening of the visitor’s center (9 am) and see what hikes were recommended.
The east side has more interconnected trails which allows you to make things up as you go. The signage was very good as was the map.
I really enjoyed the varying landscape, greenery and views on the east side. Most of the rest of the crew preferred the west side hike to the peak though.
Tuesday (Day 3): Sabino Canyon
Sabino Canyon is located in the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Coronado National Forest north of Tucson and was our hiking destination for day 3. There’s a tram to take folks into the canyon and there are numerous trail options.
We eschewed the tram (and the $40 cost) and hiked up Blackett’s Ridge while taking in the Phone Line link connector to make a “lollipop” loop coming back. More rocks and “big steps” involved in the climb which slowed down the vertically challenged among us (i.e. Kuk).
Nice rewarding hike though certainly a little tougher. It was slow going during some parts of the climb but we were all glad we made it.
Wednesday (Day 4): Ventana Canyon
Last day. We had ambitions of potentially doing two 5-milers but given this was the 4th day in a row that wasn’t likely. The first stop was in Ventana Canyon off the backside of the swanky Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. The in/out trail goes quite a ways out and up but we just took it to the Maiden Pools.
The trail was very rocky and was hard on the feet even with hiking boots. It had a much more overgrown feel and lots of bees a buzzin on the way back. Probably our least favorite of the 4 big hikes.
Wednesday (Day 4): Catalina State Park
The stretch goal was to make it to Catalina State Park and perhaps do another medium hike to the Romero Pools. We weren’t feeling it. So, we had a quick drive into the park and walked one of the short loops (the Nature Trail). We’ll have to come back another time.
Bits and Bobs
We also had the great pleasure of meeting up with some old friends who winter here. Thanks for dinner Dave & Jan–it was great to see you! It would be easier to meet in Indy though — we’ll have to do that too. 🙂
Dave gave me a nice tip about the International Space Station. We were able to see a 4-minute pass on Tuesday in the clear night skies. Very cool!
The weather was great (70s during the day down to 50 at night). Summers would take some getting used to though.
We enjoyed El Minuto Cafe for some classic Sonoran food. Glad I got to try the local specialty carne seca. We flew out of Phoenix so I was able to take the family to one of my favorite places (Four Peaks Brewing Company in Tempe) for lunch.
And finally, it’s hard to write this blog without thinking of my biggest fan. I always imagine myself talking to my mother when I write these as she always enjoyed them so. I started the UK blog (and continued with this one) as a way to communicate back to her and the rest of the family and will always imagine her reaction and comments even though she’s no longer with us. Love you Mom.
We enjoyed our trip and could have used a few more days. We certainly left plenty for another trip or two. Our inclination is to want to compare this to Sedona but it’s really apples/oranges. Sedona definitely has more of the wow factor for us. In terms of future retirement options, more research is required! 🙂
Kids: Blackett’s Ridge, Wasson’s Peak, SNP East, Ventana Canyon
Kuk: Wasson’s Peak, SNP East, Blackett’s Ridge, Ventana Canyon
Steve: SNP East, Blackett’s Ridge, Wasson’s Peak, Ventana Canyon
Enjoy — see you next time (back to the UK in July). We’ll have a high school graduate by then!