I’ve been thinking about this one particular canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains for 15–20 years. Wondering what mysteries and beauty were held high up in the headwaters of the Cañada del Oro (often shortened to just CDO), a major watershed in the northwest Tucson basin.
About time to go tackle it, eh? Turns out it was also high on the list for good friend and fellow outdoor adventurer Charles.
We set out very early Saturday morning and hiked about 9 hours: 7am to 4pm, covering almost 21 miles down from atop Mt Lemmon to the end of Lago del Oro near Saddlebrooke. (Huge thanks to our ladies for the dropoff and pickup.)
It was wonderful! Water, water, water. Did I mention water? We were both blown away by how wet the canyon was; it continued to flow on its northward bend even after we joined the Charouleau Gap road.
The island that everyone thought was there, but no one actually bothered to check. Crazy. (Via NPR.)
Sit down and hang on because this is a roller coaster of a tale. It begins innocently enough. On September 13th, 1924 Charles E. Manier was out for a Sunday drive with his wife Bessie, daughter Ethel, and father J.E. Manier. As they tooled along Silverbell Road north of Tucson (coincidentally, not far from where we live) they espied an old limekiln in the hillside. Curious, they stopped to investigate. While snooping around Charles noticed a metal object sticking out of the hillside. Charles and his father set upon the caliche (a soil layer of calcium carbonate, similar to concrete, that occurs naturally here) and were rewarded with a lead cross, 18 inches long and weighing 64 pounds.
The Maniers took the cross home, cleaned it up, and found a Latin inscription that was shortly thereafter translated by Frank Fowler, a University of Arizona professor, as “Calalus, the unknown land.” While at the University the cross was handled by multiple professors in several departments.
Speculation about the object’s origin ran wild. Could there have been a Roman presence in southern Arizona? Was this evidence of a lost tribe of Israel? Could this be the great find that finally put sleepy Tucson on the world map? We may laugh at those ideas now, but keep in mind this was the era of astonishing discoveries; the richly fabulous tomb of Tutankhamen was uncovered just two years earlier.
After one last winter storm the second weekend of the month, March was warm and dry. Plants frozen back began to bud out, even some I thought for sure were goners put out new leaves. Resilient little buggers. Our Spring wildflower show wasn’t spectacular but it wasn’t half bad. Our yard had a lot less diversity but Scorpionweeds bloomed in large numbers dotted with a few California poppies. The gold discs glowing amongst a bed of purple was quite stunning. A small native bunch grass carpeted our yard; it looked lush and inviting. We enlisted a cadre of desert cottontails to help with the “mowing.”
Lance’s parents were the first to try out our new al fresco dining area created by the back porch extension. The weather cooperated nicely and our luncheon was a success. After the construction work ended Lance and I were finally able to tackle completing our backyard landscaping plan. Out here it makes sense to get as much done as possible before the searing summer heat.
We were excited to finally plant seeds in our raised beds. We have been pleasantly surprised by the success of our smaller garden this winter; lettuce, cilantro, carrots, garlic, and onions sailed through undaunted by the cold temperatures. The morning after every freezing night I would peek out the kitchen window at the frost covered ground and say, “Well, there goes our garden.” Thankfully, I was wrong every single time. We haven’t purchased lettuce in months!