01-27-2016 “Winter is Coming” so let’s go hiking at Catalina State Park

Current Location: Catalina Spa and RV Resort Desert Hot Springs, CA

Starting up the Romero Canyon Trail at Catalina State Park

I guess winter is already here if you are in the right place.  For us, it is another week in the future, unless you want to call rain and wind in Desert Hot Springs at 60F “winter”.  We have a few more days before we continue on the trek toward home and back to a real winter.  Looking at the weather today for Klamath Falls, it is 20F with snow predicted.  Remind me again why we are going back home?  Full timers will laugh at us, but we are NOT full timers and have no desire to live “the life”.  I love my hearth, my quilt room, my family close by.

Visiting Wes and Gayle at their home in Sauharita

Thinking about this a bit in the last few days, probably because we are around the snow birds and full timer’s who snowbird south in the winter.  I know lots of people who are doing the full time life and love it, but not for us.  Thinking about why, perhaps, it isn’t for us.  I used to want to do it, would daydream about it, but traveling for a few months at a time is plenty, and has reminded me why I love the roots of home with the freedom to travel.

There is something about a familiar shape in the landscape, a ridgeline that I know, mountain peaks all around me that I can name and have visited in person that settles my soul.  I feel “home” in so many places, but returning to a familiar landscape where I know the plants, the trees, the rocks, the soils, is as much a part of being at home as the familiar house and bed, books and sewing machine.  For Mo it might be her workshop, a project to work on, something to fix that gives her that home feeling. I love our life just as it is. Still, I might like waiting a bit longer before returning to winter in Klamath Falls.

Home is also about friends, but those friends do come and go.  Wes and Gayle are friends who have shared many good times with us, both at home in Oregon and in Arizona.  Since they at last sold their home in Rocky Point, it was important for us to get to Tucson to spend some time with them.

Their home is so much fun to see.  A lovely home, perfect for the desert, with wide views toward Madera Canyon on the northwest face of the Santa Rita Mountains, it is filled with Gayle’s artsy touch.  We have been the lucky recipient of Gayle’s excellent entertainment skills for years, with wonderful cooking served in magical settings on dishes that match whatever meal she has decided to serve.  Tuesday’s lunch was no exception, and after lingering in the sunny dining room a bit, Wes took Mo outside to show off his beautifully landscaped desert garden.

Mattie loved it too, with high solid desert walls that protected her safely from any critters who might try to eat her, and lots of spaces to explore.

Later in the afternoon we drove up the canyon, enjoying the views, looking for birds and laughing a lot about the sillouhette of the infamous Elephant Head that I couldn’t see no matter how much I squinted.  Takes a good imagination! 

Wes and Gayle had a great surprise planned for us that evening, and Mo and I thought it must be pretty good as we followed them in our car for almost an hour driving through Tucson.  We were headed for dinner at Little Anthony’s Diner, where the hamburgers were big and juicy and I had an Orange Crush soda that was like stepping back into my childhood. 

We thought that was the end of the surprise until we were led out the door of the restaurant to the entry to the Gaslight Theater, a Tucson institution for almost 40 years.  We had no clue.  The show playing was “The Cisco Kid”, and I haven’t laughed so hard in a very long time.  It was just the kind of comedy that gets to me, a touch of really stupid slapstick with some hysterical audience asides and a bit of Saturday Night Live.

The pianist was excellent, and got better as the night went on, and the songs were so funny.  Broadway type songs set to rock n roll music with lyrics that fit the silly melodrama.  We had so much fun with our friends.  Thanks so much to both of you, Wes and Gayle!!

With perfect weather in the forecast, we planned another day together on Wednesday, with our friends driving north to the park to have lunch with us before our planned afternoon hike.  We enjoyed a few appetizers and set off.

Our first hike was an easy one, walking from the campground along the Bridle Trail to share the Romero Ruin trail with our friends and Mattie.  We went back to the rig after an hour or so, and decided to save lunch for later in the afternoon when we returned from the Romero Canyon Trail.

Mo and I had hiked to the lower pools on the Romero Canyon Trail in 2014, but we had Abby with us, and no dogs are allowed in the wilderness to protect the Bighorn sheep. We left Mattie to rest safely in the rig and drove to the canyon trailhead for the next hike.

I had read that the hike to Romero Pools is considered a “moderate” hike.  Probably would be moderate for Bobbie and Mark, but for the four of us, it was fun, but on the upper edge of moderate.  After a little side trip to the lower pools, the trail gets progressively harder, with some fairly steep and rough sections as the trail approaches the crest.  After the crest it is another half hour or so down to the pools.

We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, and probably could have managed the hardest part of the trail up the last switchbacks to the crest, but decided against it.  So, no, we didn’t make it all the way to the pools.  We laughed a lot with the people coming back down, with some saying it was worth it and others saying “absolutely not!”. Best part of the hike was the amazing views from the upper parts of the canyon.

I suppose someday we will have to try again and find out for ourslelves, but I will go with a different frame of mind, ready for seriously rocky cliff climbing to reach the pools.  Rough granite and gneiss, the bedrock in this part of the Catalina Mountains, crumbled and sharp, with lots of loose stuff isn’t my favorite.  I’ll take Utah slickrock any day! 

After a few hours on the trail, we were all ready to enjoy our picnic lunch at the campsite with a cold beer to top it off.  By the time Wes and Gayle waved goodbye it was almost dark.  What a great way to spend a couple of days in Arizona.

Just for you, Joanne, some face time for Mattie!

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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