February 28 to March 2, 2017
I left Ajo on February 28, and drove through the Tohono O’odam Nation towards Tucson, AZ. I really dislike cities, so I planned out a camp spot ahead of time. My choices on the south west side of Tucson were Snyder Hill, the parking lot of a casino, or a place close to the Ironwood Forest National Monument.
I chose Snyder Hill because it was convenient. when I arrived it didn’t look as bad as I thought it would, but it was very crowded and very noisy because there was traffic on three sides, and I think there was a shooting range nearby.
While I was camped there I researched my option for things to do in Tucson. Truth is, I didn’t actually want to do anything in the city proper, I just don’t find cities that interesting or fun, and especially when I’m on my own, and I’m not interested in shopping. I’d set myself a $20 budget for Tucson, and decided to spend it on gas for driving to the top of Mount Lemmon.
Driving through Tucson was a total nightmare (did I mention I don’t like cities OR city driving). For the first time in my life I decided to try GPS. I had just bought a new smart phone, and even though I didn’t have a data plan I decided to see if it would work with my Wi-Fi. I turned on my Jetpack and switched my phone to Wi-Fi enabled and amazingly it worked, and it was incredible. Most of you have probably been using this feature for years, but I just don’t want to pay the high price for data. The female voice telling me when to turn was such a life saver, I will certainly use GPS again but only in cities. I did learn one lesson though, be sure that the mode of travel is switched to auto. Mine was on walking so the voice took me to the trail head for the summit of Mt. Lemmon, and when she told me I’d reach my destination in about 11-hours, I knew I’d done something wrong.
As with nearly all my travels, I took my time doing this drive. People who started up the mountain at the same time as me, passed me on their way back down an hour or so later, and I wasn’t even half way there yet.
For some reason I can’t explain I love rest stops. Whether they be on interstates or scenic drives, I just love to relax a while at the stop, have a bite to eat, look at the flowers, watch the other vehicles and people. If there is a creek or view, I’ll savor it. I suppose it’s all part of the travel experience. It seems that most people these days are in such a hurry they speed everywhere, even on scenic drives. I do get annoyed at people who go 25 in a 45 mph speed zone and don’t pull over, but when I’m taking it slow (usually 5 or 10 under the limit) I’m always aware of the traffic behind me and pull over to let them pass. I don’t like being pushed by speeders, maybe it’s because I just had my 55th birthday, eh?
I didn’t drive all the way to the very top of the mountain, choosing to turn around at snow level and find a site for the night. The boondocking spots I found online were on roads that were still closed. I thought I might have to pay for a camp site in a campground, but then a climber pulled up by me and asked if I was looking for a spot for the night and told me of one site he knew about. It was just a slip of a spot, on a very narrow road by a locked gate, but it was perfect for Studley, and when it went dark I had a breathtaking sunset, and at full dark could see the city lights of Tucson sprawled out before me. Seeing Tucson in this manner was quite spectacular, even I have to admit that.
Below is the view I had. Tucson is just beyond the mountains in the foreground. The whole time I was there Tucson was hard to see clearly, I’m not sure if it was haze or smog, or a combination of both. It was lovely to be surrounded by pine trees after so much time in the desert. However, there was damage to the trees in the area around this camp spot that I always witness when camped near an area with a high population; someone had tried to cut down a live tree for firewood. There were also condoms left behind on the ground.
The next morning I took my time driving back down to Tucson, and then visited a friend in Tucson. I’d met Mary on my solo three-night backpacking trip to The All American Man Pictograph Panel, and we’d stayed in touch. I was spoiled that night. I took a hot bath, and enjoyed ice cream and a glass of wine while soaking in her tub. I then slept in Studley on the street outside (with permission from her immediate neighbor). This was the second time I’d slept in my van on a street, the first was in Moab. Fortunately, it was a dead-end street so there was no through traffic driving by. I don’t think I could have handled that, because there was enough noise coming from the rest of the city. I survived it by putting up everything I could over the windows, and wearing earplugs.
The next day I felt a very strong urge to get away from the city, and used my GPS to find the shortest route.
I hope you have enjoyed this installment of my travels during the winter of 2016/2017, and hope you’ll continue the journey with me. Please visit the HOME page to find more articles, and feel free to share, sign up and leave a comment. Also please visit my YouTube Channel. Until next time…remember to step outside of your comfort zone as often as possible and watch it grow.
Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature
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