Happy New Year! May your 2015 be filled with fantastic adventures!
For New Year’s Eve I decided to celebrate in the tiny town of Oracle. It’s on the northern side of the Catalina Mountains, and I go there often both for work and play because it’s one of the 33 Gateway Communities on the Arizona Trail. It’s a small but vibrant community with an artsy feel that has many historic guest ranches. As I drove closer to Oracle, gaining elevation on Highway 77, the rain turned into fat, wet snowflakes. I checked into my beautiful room at El Rancho Robles Guest Ranch and relaxed for a couple of hours before going out for the night.
When I emerged from the room, there was considerably more snow and I was glad that there was a shuttle service running so that I didn’t have to brave the roads filled with scared drivers and partiers. People in Southern Arizona are really bad at driving in any kind of precipitation, but throw a little snow in there and people just can’t deal.
My first stop was the Triangle L Ranch, where there was a fun band and delicious potluck. Normally, I would have spent at least a little time wandering the grounds, but I was wearing inappropriate footwear for so much snow. The ranch holds one of my favorite events, the GLOW Festival, in the fall. Their website describes it well- “Triangle L Ranch offers comfortable accommodations, privacy, easygoing hospitality, and the charm of a rustic, historic ranch setting enhanced by a commitment to the arts.” A wonderful place. I didn’t bring my camera, but here’s a pic of one of their outdoor areas:
After a while, I went with some folks to check out the new Ore House Hilltop Tavern. Formerly Don Juan’s Bar, it has new owners and has been completely remodeled. There is a gorgeous outdoor patio and I’ll have to come back sometime when there’s not four inches of snow on the bar.
I went back to the Triangle L to ring in the New Year with some dancing. It was a really fun night, made magical by the ever-falling snow. It finally stopped around 2 am and cleared up. I was glad I took the shuttle, a bunch of folks couldn’t get out of the icy driveway and had to unexpectedly stay the night.
The next morning, I couldn’t wait to go see the Arizona Trail with snow on it. For those who know me, I am not usually a fan of snow. I grew up in the frigid Chicago suburbs and developed a disgust for the white stuff. But snow at low elevations in the desert, frosting the mountaintops as well as the cacti- that is something to see!
I had to scrape my windshield and windows before leaving, something I haven’t had to do in years. There were abandoned cars all over the place as I drove to the trailhead. Like I said, people can’t deal. American Flag TH was exactly the winter wonderland I’d hoped for. This was my new Sony A6000 camera’s first hike, and what a scene!
I hiked a little ways to the north, enjoying the views of the snow-capped Galiuros and giggling about snowy cholla and prickly pear. I love this part of the Arizona Trail with its boulders and expansive views. The American Flag TH is where I originally got the idea back in May 2007 to hike the Arizona Trail and will always have a special place in my heart. Who knew that a simple hike seven years ago would put my life on such an unexpected path?
Then I returned to the trailhead and hiked south on the AZT. At first, I thought I’d just hike a little way in and turn around, but once I got going I realized that I could easily hike up to the High Jinks Ranch. After a short distance, there were no more tracks and it was so beautiful to see the glittering expanse of untouched white. I’ve hiked this part of the Arizona Trail so many times, but never in the snow. It doesn’t last too long at this elevation when the sun comes out.
I approached the High Jinks Ranch and the owner, Dan, invited me in for a cup of tea. Sounded great, as it was pretty chilly outside- the clouds had come in low again. The views from the ranch are expansive and spectacular. Dan rents out a casita on the grounds, which is where I celebrated my 40th birthday last year. The High Jinks is very hiker, biker, and horseback rider-friendly and totally worth a visit if you’re on the Arizona Trail.
I eventually had to head back down the hill and back to Tucson- my dog Bailey is quite old and I don’t like to leave her at home alone for long when my husband is not around. Before leaving town, I stopped at the Oracle Patio Cafe for a slice of their heavenly pie with homemade whipped cream to go. You could say that the pie was the icing on the cake of a fantastic New Year’s celebration- what a great way to start the year!
At Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, we recently released some skunks. I found this picture of one of them right before the release. Now they live at the Arlington Wildlife Area southwest of Phoenix.