Friday, February 19, 2016

Coronado National Forest

Harriet took us on a drive up the Catalina mountains to the Coronado National Forest located by Tucson and it was a glorious day!  This forest contains an area of about 1.78 million acres, spread throughout southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.  Tucson is surrounded by four mountain ranges, the Santa Catalinas to the northeast, the Rincons to the east, the Santa Rita mountains to the south, and the Tucson mountains to the west.  Tucson is situated in a high desert valley framed by these beautiful ranges.  The highest peak of the Santa Catalinas is Mt. Lemmon.  

We drove up the Catalina mountains for about 25 miles and reached a 9,000' elevation.  At this elevation, the range is called "Sky island", and once there you can understand why.  On our way up, we visited a couple of wonderful, yet simple campgrounds, the Molino Basin and the Gordon Hirabayashi at around 5,000' elevation.  The Hirabayashi campground is often referred to as the "prison camp" as during World War II, it was an internment camp for the Japanese.  Some building foundations are still present.

Here are many photos from the day:

Traveling the Catalina highway.

Views as we climbed:

Ocotillo and prickly pear.

Staghorn cholla 

Beautiful and unique rock formations all around.

Saguaro cactus

Former internment camp of Japanese in WW 2.

Prickly pear cactus.

A change in vegetation to pines from cacti as we drove higher.  So many cyclists do the long climb up to the top and then descend at high speeds and pass all of the cars!

We could have continued up, but decided to head back down.  I highly recommend this drive if you're in Tucson.