Mount Lemmon Knows Your Name

October 28th, 2017 · No Comments

Mount Lemmon by Jane St. Clair

Tucson wouldn’t be Tucson without Mount Lemmon, the great rock and woods colossus in the Santa Catalinas. This mountain is Tucson’s upstairs, and it only takes about an hour to get to the top.

In summer, Mount Lemmon’s temperature is a shady 80 degrees compared to the desert’s 110-degree inferno. If you go upstairs in October or November, the season will change from mid-summer on the desert floor to autumn on the mountaintop. In December, you can go swimming downstairs and then go skiing upstairs in the snow.

The name of the long, twisty scary road up Mount Lemmon is Sky Island Scenic road. The way is high and steep, with pull-outs where you can get out of your car or off your bike. You can stand and look at landscape vistas that stretch for miles below.

The views make your physical being feel small, and yet your mind expands in awareness of the vast, pure Western space. No one can fence that in, so don’t even try.

Along the way up Mount Lemmon are great rock formations with horizontal timelines that mark past millennia. Some form big natural cathedrals of stone, looking as if some great hand twisted them into these amazing unlikely shapes.

We started in the desert full of cactus, lizards and scorpions.

But now we are going through foothills with seaweedish ocotillo, and then past bright green chaparral. Higher up we come to forest land, and higher still, to magnificent conifer woods, full of peaceful green triangles. We are 9000 feet high now.

Now we’re in a forest meadow full of quaking Aspens, these white-barked trees that keep waving their little yellow hands back and forth. So many leaves quake at once that it feels as if we’re surrounded by quaking yellow polka dots.

A trail leads through oaks and maples colored in fierce reds, yellows and oranges. Soon these color energies will dissolve into a winter of black branches and white snow, but wow! what a spectacle it is now!

We’re hiking on a natural carpet of fallen leaves that make crispy noises under our feet.

In a month or two this trail will be white with snow and blue silvery ice but now its trees are blazing with colors. Downstairs in Tucson, away from the drama of changing seasons, it is still summer, always summer, eternally summer. And yet summer seems so far away from here.

Before we go back, we look down to another vista one more time. It’s still so beautiful.

John Muir wrote, “Your mountain is calling you, so go on your way.” Mount Lemmon calls, and she knows your name.

To download a free tourist app from the University of Arizona that works as a cool science guide to Mount Lemmon, go to science tour app.

For more nature essays about mountains in Tucson, try Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragons about Pusch Ridge, and A Beautiful and Benign Science about Kitt Peak.

Tags: Arizona · Jane St. Clair · Mount Lemmon · nature essay · Tucson Tourism