The following is an account of our trip to Tucson on Easter weekend, April 19-21.
April 19, Saturday: Nebra and I decided we’d try to summit Mount Wrightson again during the long Easter weekend. The 9,453-foot peak is located about 40 miles south of Tucson. We’d last hiked to the top 28 years ago, not long after we met. So we reserved a room in a north Tucson motel and set out about 2 o’clock from our home in Phoenix.
Normally it takes about two hours to drive the 110 miles south to The Old Pueblo, as Tucson was once called. It took four hours today. That is because we took the so-called backroads, not Interstate 10. The traffic is much less and the roadsides more interesting this way. And we did stop twice. The first time was to hike up a barren basalt pimple of hill to the lonely gravesite of a once-renowned Arizonan, Charles Poston. The second stop came at the memorial for the old cowboy movie star, Tom Mix, off 79 Highway south of Florence.
South of the Mix memorial, the road gains elevation and the landscape changes from desert drab to lush in comparison. Lots of chain-fruit cholla and prickly pear cactus, all in bloom. And the backdrop is the high Catalina Mountains to the south as you approach Oro Valley. An interesting day again on the backroads.
April 20, Sunday: We talked ourselves out of doing Wrightson today. We’ll do it on Monday. It’s a daunting hike of nearly 11 miles. The trail is steep and unrelenting. An elevation gain of 4,000 feet in 5.5 miles. Don’t know if I’m ready for it. Nebra wanted to relax anyway. So we stayed late in our motel room along North Oracle Road. The day was warm on the way to a long string of 100-degrees in the coming weeks.
In the afternoon, we visited the site where the Congressman Gabby Giffords was shot in 2011. Giffords, who suffered a wound to the head, is making a slow recovery. Six others died in the rampage by a delusional Tucson man, Jared Loughner. There is a small memorial set aside by the Safeway store where the incident occurred. A memorial plaque is placed on a large stone at one side. An attractive flower bed rests on the other.
In late afternoon, we did a 3-mile hike in busy Sabino Canyon. It’s located in northeast Tucson. I called it a warm-up for tomorrow’s attempt at the Wrightson summit. It was a pleasant walk through saguaro and chaparral. Cactus flowers bloomed at every turn. Even the mighty saguaro was showing buds.
April 21, Monday: Up early and nibbled on trail mix as we drove south of Tucson on I-19 toward Wrightson. The trailhead is 47.5 miles from our motel. As we neared the towns of Sahuarita, Green Valley and Continental along the freeway, Wrightson loomed like a monster in front of us.
We hit the trail at 10:30, thinking it would take six hours round-trip to the summit and back. The trail was steep and I pooped out at Old Baldy Saddle at about 8,800 feet elevation. Nebra did better but was also ready to turn around. We were then about 9/10 of a mile of steep and rocky terrain from reaching the top, having completed 4.85 miles of torture. Another day perhaps.
It was after 6 when we reached the parking lot and our car. We’d done a total of 9.47 miles on the trail, our bodies exhausted and legs aching. It was past time to head home. Had a big supper at the pleasant Arizona Family Restaurant in Green Valley and got back in Phoenix a little before 11 pm.