Thursday, August 26, 2010

mountain getaway

I've been away from this blog for quite a while. The summer has been busier and hotter than I'd like; the monsoons have been few and mostly stingy, so we gave up on some of the summer garden - seemed like a waste of expensive water - and are looking forward to cooler weather and planting for the winter. But in the meantime, Tucson has a wonderful sky island getaway available close by, Mt. Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains just northeast of the city, rising through several bio-zones from the saguaros of the desert floor to the pines of the 9000+ foot summit, and Joe and I escaped there for the day last Saturday.
About halfway up we stopped at a pullout and I picked this Hooker's primrose.  The blossom is as big and as yellow as the columbine we see on the shadier, moister trails higher up, but there was no shade or moisture where these were growing.  There was, however, a spcctacular view of the road we'd just driven up. I hadn't realized the switchbacks were quite that dramatic.  Good thing I outgrew most of the car-sickness that plagued me as a kid!

We decided to try one of our favorite trails from a few years ago, before the Aspen Fire that devastated so much of the mountain and virtually destroyed the village of Summerhaven, though the people of the village have since rebuilt much of what burned.  The memory of the fire is still fresh, both in human minds and in the landscape.  These burned trees stand as silent reminders to those who stop to look down into the San Pedro River valley on the far side of the mountains.

The Butterfly trail used to be
thickly wooded, but much of
it burned, and some of those
burned trees have since fallen
or been cut down, so it looks
very different these days. All
over the mountains there is
new growth, especially ferns
and aspen and locust trees,
and some trees seize any
opportunity to put down
roots, like this one that
seems to be growing right
out of the rock, probably
since before the fire.

When we hiked there before the fire we didn't see as many raspberries we did on Saturday, and last September we found lots of elderberries, enough to pick some to take home to make syrup.  We were hoping for elderberries on this trip, but they're not ripe yet. However, we found lots of wildflowers, like these columbines and Indian paintbrush.
I love the bearded penstemons that line the trail, and so do the hummingbirds.
This dead log surrounded by a froth of lovely, delicate cranesbill is fulfilling one of the higher purposes available to a downed tree, that is, to provide  a home for colorful fungi.
Unfortunately, we cut our hike a bit shorter than we'd planned because my left knee, which I injured a few weeks ago (just before the elevator went out in the building I was teaching in for three weeks, which didn't help matters), started acting up, so we turned back. But the nice thing about hiking out and back is that things look very different on the return trip, so it was just fine.  It was also uphill on the return, which was easier on my knee. And I'm happy to say that I've been walking every day and the knee continues to improve, just not as rapidly as I'd like - but patience really isn't my strongest virtue.

We'd packed a lunch, since the four eating establishments Summerhaven boasted before the fire had been reduced to one. Of the three that burned, only one has rebuilt so far, and it was always our least favorite (the one restaurant that survived the fire closed some months ago for other reasons). But hope springs eternal, so we drove into the village to see if there was anything new, and there was! At the upper end of the main street a big banner announced "Planet of the Crepes" so we pressed on eagerly and at the intersection with Carter Canyon Road, in a shady clearing, we found a white trailer and a few tables and the answer to our prayers.

The menu was a delightful surprise, ranging from breakfast bacon-and-egg crepes to sweet treats (Nutella and banana, for example) and some fairly sophisticated savory offerings, all folded up in delicious, generous, crispy crepes. Joe had the veggie option, tomatoes, cheese, pesto and some other fresh and delicious ingredients, while I tried the smoked duck breast with havarti and arugula. Our taste buds were very happy and so was our budget; the prices are quite reasonable (my very fancy lunch was $6.75). There's a Facebook page under Planet of the Crepes Tucson, but I couldn't find the menu posted anywhere online.  Guess you'll just have to drive up the mountain and check it out for yourselves - I promise you won't be sorry!

No comments:

Post a Comment