I somewhat feel like I’m recycling activities from my last visit from Arizona 3 years ago, but that’s only for 2 reasons. The first is they were so great the first time around that not only would I want to do them again anyway the next chance I had, but the other reason is because Matt wasn’t there to experience them with me the first time and I wanted to be able to share in them with him. Plus, with the visit to Mt. Lemmon on this day, it helped knocked two birds with one stone in a second way: this is another high elevation destination to escape the heat of the valley and get a little greenery in. Remember Matt’s complaint that Arizona is all…oh, what was the color he used to describe it…adobe?; well, we were still determined to show him how colorful it could be.
The last time I made my way to Mt. Lemmon was in January of 2013, and when my dad and I happened to make the trip up after he finished with a recruitment seminar at one of the local technical schools in Tuscon, we actually found ourselves in a blizzard once we made it to the top. A blizzard so bad that the roads threatened to close down and we were a little unsure of how his two wheel drive truck would handle the steep hairpin turns on the way back down. On this visit we were escaping Phoenix’s first 3 digit temp day, and even though it can be up to 30 degrees cooler at the top of the mountain than in the valley, snow was of no concern this time.
We enjoyed a scenic ride from Phoenix down to Tuscon, with a great drive past the Santa Catalina mountains. The drive through Tuscon itself was terrible though, and I feel terrible for anyone who lives, works, or goes to school there and has to traverse those roads and sit through their endless red lights on a daily basis. All was forgotten though as soon as we picked up the road to take us to the little town of Summerhaven at the top of Mt. Lemmon. Finding an attractive scenic overlook about half way up, we stopped the car for a few minutes of wandering. Although Matt and I had both brought sneakers for once we reached the top, we roamed around this area in our flip flops. Maybe not the wisest decision we could make, and for scaling a few of the rocks we actually opted to go barefoot for better traction.
Back in the car we began on the rest of the drive up, our necks craning to take in the view with each turn we made. Luckily for us we were making this trip in the middle of the week and traffic was low, sine we’ve heard there can be backups for hours on busy summer weekends. When we did reach the top it was apparent that breakfast had been hours ago, and all of our stomachs were growling and ready for lunch. I will say there aren’t many places to eat out in the town of Summerhaven, but I did remember the sweet potato tots I had as a side on my last visit to the Sawmill Run restaurant with my dad, and it was an easy choice to go back a second time.
Sitting out on the patio we had a nice combination of sun and breeze, although the umbrella did help to keep Matt cool since he was apparently still overheating when the sun would run across his skin. I have no idea how he’s going to survive this next summer in Florida! There were so many delicious looking choices on the menu that it was incredibly hard to make a decision, and in the end I ended up splitting a ruben with my mom and we each picked our own side. When the food came out I couldn’t imagine trying to eat the full sandwich myself as the portions are huge!
(Photos courtesy of Sawmill Run)
(Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor)
Once our stomachs were full and I felt like I couldn’t even stand up, it was time for hiking! Driving further up the road we came into a little park with a stream that had some nice trails around it. The last time I had been up there this part of the road was closed, so it was nice to do a little more exploring this time around and actually see the place my parents keep telling me about where they sometimes pack a picnic to escape the heat of summer in Phoenix. The four of us took a stroll by the little brook, but when Matt and I decided to venture further, my parents were happy to sit back at the picnic tables and enjoy a glass of wine while we explored.
Since we opted to go off the beaten path, there were a few awkward moments of how to get over the stream in certain areas, or around big boulders that towered over us. Thankfully we had changed into our sneakers now and staying adhered to the ground was a little bit easier. Except in the areas which were carpeted in pine needles. Those still sent us sliding a little bit.
After forging our own path up a ravine with thrilling views of the drop below us and forests of pines in the distance, we were feeling quite proud of ourselves. That was, until we saw families with little kids just up ahead of us. Every damn time! This is just like when we climbed the Red Rock Canyon in Vegas and worried we were putting our lives in danger while getting to the top, only to find five year olds scampering past us once we reached the top. It turns out in this case there was a much easier path we had missed in the beginning. We had only found it half way through after basically scaling up logs and boulders.
It wasn’t a long hike for us as the trail we eventually caught onto kind of petered out into an area of dead trees which had most likely suffered from the terrible fire that ravaged parts of this town about 10 years ago. We followed our path back, but before joining up with my parents again we took a detour up to the top of hill to see what kind of views we could gain. It turns out we liked looking down the ravine better than we liked looking across to the next hill of pine trees. The views were still of course really nice, but we, or at least me, were craving the panoramic views of the valley below us. Sitting back down with my parents at their picnic table I took in a few sips of Gatorade before enjoying some wine and cheese before our drive back down. Another perfect day spent in Arizona surrounded by the people I care about most.