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.
Starting high in the Ponderosa pines.
Looking southwest to Cathedral Rock, Window Rock, and Mount Kimball.
Looking north-northwest down the west fork of the CDO drainage.
Blue is for … adventure.
Pretty tall, 4-5′, maybe Bracken (Pteridium equilinum).
One of hundreds of stream crossings.
Amazingly wet canyon.
Cattle fence near the junction with FR 736.
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.
For all the beautiful evidence see Charles’s great set of 26 photos from our adventure and his full route profile via GPS (elevation, mileage, etc).
Hat tip to Sirena Dufault for her thorough report about this exact route—very helpful in our planning.
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!
After settling back into our normal routine we made a trip to our local Humane Society. We had finally decided to adopt another cat. It took us a while to make that decision after losing Rookie. The three of us—Lance, Bailey, and myself—had settled into a calm, mellow routine in the past three months. Lance and I were on the fence about adopting another cat and until February, we’d been too busy to do much about it. (For the record, Bailey was adamantly against it.)
Ironically, the impetus for the adoption came from Bailey. In the past few months he’d gained three pounds. Quite a difference for a cat that has weighed 12 pounds his entire adult life. Clearly Bailey needed someone to play with; someone to chase around (or to chase him). Our parameters: young male, not a kitten, but not much over a year old.
A scrawny but healthy orange and white tabby fit the bill. Bailey was the opposite of thrilled when we returned with the kitty that night. To his credit the new guy wasn’t much phased by Bailey’s attitude. Kitty is bowlegged in the front and tends to slouch which makes his legs look really short. We thought of calling him our Cowboy Corgi Kitty but that was too much of a mouthful so we named him Keaton.
When the weather allows we like to start the New Year off by hitting the trail. The weather in Tucson usually obliges and this year was no different. It was a bit on the cool side but sunny as the five of us set out (Lance’s parents: Tom and Libby, and sister Cammy). Our chosen route through Catalina Regional Park was not the most adventurous but it proved very interesting as we were soon surrounded by wildlife. Desert Cottontails darted through the underbrush, flocks of birds chirped from all sides, and Coyotes shared our trail.
We picnicked next to an old pond that a group of volunteers help keep clear and clean. The location proved to be quite popular with our avian friends: a Black Phoebe hunted from the ledge of the bird blind, a Cooper’s Hawk glided in, a Curve-billed Thrasher churned through the leaf litter, a House Wren noisily scolded us, Lesser Goldfinches trilled, Red-tailed Hawks rode thermals, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets flitted in the branches above.
Our return trip was full of flocks of Lawrence’s Goldfinches and Chipping and Red-winged Sparrows. We also glimpsed a Northern Harrier as it coursed low over the open field. To cap it all off we spotted a Great Horned Owl high up in a tall pine tree. Our outing ended back at Lance’s parent’s house where we relaxed and capped the day off with a yummy dessert, homemade by Lance’s mom. What a lovely way to start the New Year!
It was difficult to turn our thoughts to typical fall activities since October in Tucson started off with temperatures in the high 90s. While people in other parts of the country were raking leaves and turning up their furnaces we were watching butterflies swarm our flower beds and swimming in our pool. It wasn’t all fun and games—we had a bunch of yard work to do and the hot weather didn’t help with that at all.
The second Friday of the month we had a lovely dinner with Matt (the founder of Automattic, where Lance works) and his sister Charleen. We offered them a choice between two of our favorite local restaurants, Mexican at El Charro or steak at El Corral; they opted for the beef. We enjoyed the dinner and conversation.
That Sunday Lance boarded the first flight of his multi-leg trip to Montevideo for a work meeting. Good thing he had planned to arrive a day early since his flight out of Miami was canceled. After catching a few winks in a hotel he hopped on the early morning flight and finally arrived only about 12 hours late. No one else had any trouble traveling so they were all able to get right down to work. Lucky Lance had similar difficulties on his return—arriving home after an eight hour delay. Lance was understandably tired when he returned but he declared the meeting a success.
I had less glowing news to report since it was during Lance’s absence that Rookie died. Not exactly a cheery homecoming.
One week away until my first long road race, the 60-mile version of the El Tour de Tucson. I think I’m ready! Lots of miles of training, riding 2–3 times a week. For keeping track I’ve been using the Strava iOS app.
Here are my training stats since in September 2012, when I purchased my first road bike and started using Strava.
Bike: Trek 311
Distance: 299.3 mi
Time: 19 hr 24 m
Biggest Ride: 25.1 mi
Biggest Climb: 552 ft
Elev Gain: 6,257 ft
View my full profile and follow me on Strava: http://www.strava.com/athletes/lancewillett.
The change from July to August was noticeable at our house, gone were the massive monsoons that dumped several inches of rain in two separate events. Instead multiple smaller storms swept through, sprinkling our property just enough to keep the plants happy. The one similarity between the two months? Triple digits. The days were definitely hot but at least they were in the low 100s and not up in the 110s. I know it may not sound like much but it makes a huge difference.
Near the beginning of the month Lance shocked his body by traveling to fall weather—he attended WordCamp San Francisco. He had a bit of trouble packing since he had to dig out cooler weather gear; like jeans, long sleeves, and even a couple sweatshirts.
Lance was welcomed back to Tucson by a hot and humid weekend. Since we only have an evaporative cooler on our house the muggy days are the worst. On hot, dry days our cooler keeps us comfortable but when the air is moist, forget it.
Hi lovely readers — Lance here, making my annual blog post (looking back, I posted once in 2011 and once in 2010).
I’m making the switch from mountain biking to road riding this month, with a goal of riding in the El Tour de Tucson in November 2012. First step: get a road bike.
Looking on Craigslist, and getting expert help from friends Josh W. and Brian M., I found this superb 80s Trek bicycle. All gray, with new grip tape and a new, snazzy saddle. After raising the seat height a bit, and adding my own pedals, it fits like a glove.
First ride early this morning, 8 miles on The Loop along the Santa Cruz River from Camino del Cerro to Ina Road. Love it.
Time to finally wrap up our time in Portland. The weather was perfect for a road trip during our last weekend, so we headed toward Mt. Hood. We drove east on I-84 and at the town of Hood River we turned onto the highly recommended “Fruit Loop.”
A 35-mile loop drive through apple, cherry, and pear orchards, vineyards, and farms—all dominated by Mt. Hood. After touring the loop we drove up to the aptly named Panorama Point for lunch. Mt. Hood was still hiding behind a few high clouds but the view was wonderful. The area truly lives up to its scenic designation!
Later as we reached the flanks of Mt. Hood we were finally treated to our first close-up view of the peak without clouds. It was stunning! Arriving at Timberline Lodge we learned that the sprinkles we had received earlier had fallen as snowflakes there. I guess it isn’t that unusual, after all the Lodge is at 5,960 feet.
I’d love to tell you the height of Mt. Hood but that measurement is somewhat in question—the summit is either 11,249 or 11,239 or 11,240 depending on who you believe. Regardless, Mt. Hood is the tallest mountain in Oregon and the fourth tallest in the Cascade range. Most importantly for people into snow sports, it is high enough to offer year-round skiing and snowboarding.
Things were warming up. Though the mornings still started off cloudy, cool, and grey—by mid-day the sun was in charge and the temperatures allowed for less clothing. The weather in Portland must’ve looked at the calendar and realized that the first day of summer was early this year. The difference was palpable.
On Saturday Lance went hiking with Michael, who still works at Digital Fusion the company Lance once contracted with. Their chosen trail led up to Indian Point which provided them with a stellar view of the Gorge. But as one might imagine, it was a bit of a climb to gain the necessary elevation. Needless to say, they earned their pint o’ brew that day.
Along with descriptions of the view and the various critters they encountered Lance recounted an exchange he and Michael had with a group of Boy Scouts. As they came off the trail Lance and Michael paused to chat with tail end of the group. When they asked the stragglers where they were headed with their backpacks, the first boy answered with a sigh, “To Hell.” The other scout chimed in, “And damnation.” Can’t you just picture those two red-faced, sweaty teenagers trudging up the hill? Hysterical!