Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Turning Down the Noise

There are few ailments of the body and soul that cannot be soothed by a walk in nature.  And, thus it was that post-election depression sent my like-minded friend and co-worker and I up into the Tucson Mountains for our annual trek to Wasson Peak. At 4687', Wasson Peak is the highest point in the Tucson Mountains on the west side of Tucson proper.  While there are several ways to access the peak, the trail we chose this time was the Camino del Cerro, leading up the east side of the mountains, 9.6 miles round-trip.

The low elevation and lack of cover make this definitely a hike for the winter, and this November day proved to be a perfect time - a light cloud cover, temperatures in the 70's, and a few breezes.

Leaving the trailhead parking lot, you immediately enter Saguaro National Park West. We had gone but perhaps a quarter of a mile when we spotted the first mule deer, and soon we encountered several more - 8 in total - watching us as we watched them.

Beautiful low-desert vegetation surrounded us - giant saguaro cactus, palo verde trees, ocotillo, prickly pear, barrel and cholla cactus.

As the trail rose in elevation, subtle changes occurred in the plant community.  Sotol (desert spoon) and jojoba appeared and soon became abundant.

The trail was mercifully quiet on this Tuesday morning and we met only one other hiker before reaching the 'saddle', where trails converge and meet the final leg to the top.  There it was time to have a brief rest and snack before tackling the steepest part of the trail.

Another 1.2 miles to the top and the legs were burning.  But once there, what glorious 360° views of the entire valley!  Such a fine spot for lunch, especially on this day of little wind.  Several other hiking parties shared the space, mostly visitors from Canada.

Then it was time for the descent. Another 3 hours of peace and beauty, undisturbed by political discussion, the news, television, the too-often ugliness of real life. There were few flowers blooming after a long dry spell, but a few desert zinnias and purple filaree added color, as did the bright red fruit of the Christmas cholla and the beautiful yellow fruit of the barrel cactus.   Bright neon green lichen decorated the north-facing rocks.  We marveled at the glowing spines of the teddy bear cholla, which looks deceivingly cuddly.  Lovely reddish tanglehead grass made a nice contrast to the brown and green palette.

Back at the trailhead parking lot, we were disturbed to see trash littering the ground all around the overflowing container, and cigarette butts everywhere.  Yes, we're back in 'civilization'.


  1. Love that trail i tried to run it last year turned around on the approach to the saddle, thank you for the post

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