Wednesday, April 22, 2009

EMPS: Islands in the Sky, part one

As promised, I drove up Mount Lemmon Highway on Monday afternoon to gather photos for the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot: Earth Day, and also just to get away from the computer for a while. I'm going to show you the results in two parts. This morning's entry covers the drive from the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains up to Babad Do'ag Vista, Molina Canyon Overlook and Seven Cataracts Vista. Next time we'll cover Windy Point and San Pedro Vistas, and perhaps a few surprises.

The view from Babad Do'ag

The 27-mile road (or something like that; depends on what you choose as the end points) up Mount Lemmon has another, fancier designation these days, the Sky Island Scenic Byway. The concept is this: each elevation has its own habitat, isolated from surrounding ones and rising as high as almost 9000 feet above sea level, more than a mile above the desert floor where Tucson is located.

Sagauros at Babad Do'ag Vista mark a typical Sonoran Desert habitat.
From Mount Lemmon Highway

First stop is Babad Do'ag, which is Tohono O'odham for Frog Mountain. I've photographed this place before, breaking in my first Canon digital in 2005 with some sunset shots, and later for at least two Round Robin topics. It's only 2.6 miles miles up from the beginning of the byway, which makes it rather handy. It features a good stand of giant saguaros, the huge, iconic cactus native to the Sonoran Desert. Here, too, you can look down at the valley below, toward a part of the city that looks remarkably green.

Next stop, just before the fee station, which was closed, is the Molina Canyon Overlook. This is almost a trailhead, with a more extensive network of improved paths, some of them paved, than last time I was here. Here we start to leave the saguaros behind and move into the grassland that comes in at this elevation.

My intrepid canine explorers.

Oh, did I mention that I brought the dogs along?

A little farther on is Seven Cataracts Vista. This is the wrong time of year to see much flowing water, but I think there's a little bit in the distance there.

I also managed to photograph this mildly cheeky rock wren.

John was positively jealous when I told him I'd made a 2-hour drive partway up the mountains; he reckons I should be more productive around the house while I'm unemployed, not larking about. But sometimes I need to get away from the house and the daily routine. For a truly restorative rut-breaker, nothing beats a drive into the Catalina Mountains, where there is more natural beauty than can be captured in a thousand photo shoots.


See also:

EMPS: Islands in the Sky, part two

EMPS: Islands in the Sky, part three

and from April 2005:

Diary of a Day Trip, Part One

Diary of a Day Trip: Mount Lemmon, Part Two

Diary of a Day Trip: Mount Lemmon, Part Three

Diary of a Day Trip: Mount Lemmon, Part Four


Carly said...

Hi Karen :)

Beautiful photos! You have some beautiful surroundings, more photos this summer please!


Jama said...

As much as I love to be confine at home, I too need to get away from mundane everyday life once in a while.But trouble is, it's too damn hot to be outdoor here in Singapore! Most of the time it's the malls I go to, at least there's air con there , nevermind if I didn't buy anything! lol Love all your photos!

Kiva said...

I am sooooo jealous. I love those photos. Tell John that the outing was preventive medicine to the dreaded disease of cabin fever which makes everyone's life miserable if you catch it.

Suzanne R said...

Great photos of a very picturesque area!