Reaching Upwards

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I love hiking the deserts and mountains of New Mexico, but one thing our beloved state does not have is the giant Saguaro cacti that are emblematic of the deserts in Arizona. Like the arms of the Saguaro that reach upwards towards the sun, I felt myself stretching and reaching upwards at Thanksgiving, thankful for an opportunity to hike in the warmer temperatures of the mountains around Tucson.

Both of our hikes were in the Santa Catalina Mountains that sit to the northeast of Tucson, similar to our Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque. The Catalinas are not quite as high as the Sandias but, like the Sandias, there are numerous trails to choose from that provide a wilderness getaway with awe-inspiring views of the city below and the mountains and desert in the distance.
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On Thanksgiving day we hiked 8 miles, an in-and-out route on the Bug Spring Trail. We were at the trailhead by 8:00am so we could finish before the hottest part of the day. 80 degrees was predicted for Tucson and it definitely was that warm by the time we got back to the car. Along the way we encountered several other parties of hikers and exchanged holiday greetings, agreeing that there was no better way to spend Thanksgiving.

Interesting rock formations on Bug Spring Trail.
Interesting rock formations on Bug Spring Trail.

Enjoying Bug Spring Trail hike.
Enjoying Bug Spring Trail hike.

Looking west from halfway up Bug Spring Trail.
Looking west from halfway up Bug Spring Trail.

View towards Tucson from Bug Spring Trail.  Santa Rita Mountains in the distance.
View towards Tucson from Bug Spring Trail. Santa Rita Mountains in the distance.

The day after Thanksgiving we climbed up the Ventana Canyon Trail. This was a shorter, steeper hike providing views of the city from a different angle. We got started later in the morning and it was even hotter by the time we finished the hike. Wonderful day.
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Lots of Saguaro cacti on the Ventana Canyon hike.
Lots of Saguaro cacti on the Ventana Canyon hike.

Being in the shade of the canyon walls was a nice break as the day got hotter.
Being in the shade of the canyon walls was a nice break as the day got hotter.

Starting steeper ascent on Ventana Canyon Trail.
Starting steeper ascent on Ventana Canyon Trail.

Warm enough to wear shorts the end of November!
Warm enough to wear shorts the end of November!

Looking west from halfway up the trail.
Looking west from halfway up the trail.

Getting closer to the top.
Getting closer to the top.

The day we left there wasn’t time to hike, but we had time for an enjoyable morning stroll through the Tucson Botanical Gardens. We headed for Phoenix to spend one more day in Arizona.
A tourist stop at the Tucson Botanical Gardens the day we left.
A tourist stop at the Tucson Botanical Gardens the day we left.

Back to the colder climate of Albuquerque, having soaked up some of southern Arizona’s warmth, maybe the winter months won’t seem quite as long.

San Lorenzo Canyon

Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, about 50 miles south of Albuquerque, encompasses a large area but very little of the land there is open to the public. However, at the southern end of the refuge there is an area of BLM land called San Lorenzo Canyon that is an excellent spot for hiking and photography. There are no marked trails and without our friend, Sue, and her trusty GPS device we probably never would have hiked there.

After weeks of exceptionally warm weather, today started off quite chilly with overcast skies. But we bundled up and weren’t on the trail too long before we found ourselves warming up enough to take off some extra layers. We were also glad that Sue was driving her 4-wheel drive vehicle because of the last stretch over rough, dirt road that leads through the lower part of the canyon. Most of the interesting rock formations and hoodoos were along the road leading into the canyon. When the canyon road ends there is a rock face that you climb up and over to access the upper part of the canyon to start the hike.

Rock formations along road into the canyon.
Rock formations along road into the canyon.
Along the road.
Along the road.
End of dirt road into San Lorenzo Canyon.  Hike starts just around the corner.
End of dirt road into San Lorenzo Canyon. Hike starts just around the corner.
A tiny stream is sometimes visible in the canyon; other times it goes underground.
A tiny stream is sometimes visible in the canyon; other times it goes underground.
Stream makes a waterfall.  Size is deceptive.  It was less than a foot high.
Stream makes a waterfall. Size is deceptive. It was less than a foot high.

After walking about a half mile in the canyon we hiked out of the canyon onto a ridge that we followed for another mile or so. Stopping for some views along the way, we then went up and down through an arroyo where we found a sheltered spot for lunch. We came back through a side canyon that rejoined San Lorenzo Canyon close to our starting point.

View after climbing out of canyon.
View after climbing out of canyon.
Sue and Lee stopping to look at some birds.
Sue and Lee stopping to look at some birds.
A viewpoint looking north at Ladrone Peak.
A viewpoint looking north at Ladrone Peak.

Before leaving the area, on the road back out, we stopped at an interesting slot canyon and walked a short distance to explore that canyon. Another enjoyable day hiking in the New Mexico desert.

Heading into the slot canyon.
Heading into the slot canyon.
We saw several of these interesting caterpillars along the walls of the slot canyon.
We saw several of these interesting caterpillars along the walls of the slot canyon.