Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mount Lemmon

In Tucson it was over 100 miserable degrees and the sun was troublesome. My friend Lo insisted on driving me up into the Catalina Mountains just north of town. I had never been up in the Catalinas, so I said "sure".

"We'll go up to Mt. Lemmon and Summerhaven," she said.

"Fine by me," I agreed. And off we went. The car stereo was playing Dylan's The Basement Tapes, then Miles Davis' In a Silent Way.

In one hour we went from an elevation of 2300' to 9000'. From a temperature of 100° to about 75°. From blinding sun to dark rain clouds. From baked brown Sonoran bajadas to lush forests thick with ponderosa pines and firs. In short, I couldn't believe the incredibly rapid change.

On the mountain we rolled the car windows down. Light rain splashed in on our arms. We laughed with glee at being underdressed for the cool weather we encountered. When we got to Summerhaven, Lo led us up a narrow road to a trailhead.

The rain had stopped but thunder continued to intermittently roll off the peaks. The sun managed to break through the clouds for a short time but was filtered by the dense canopy of trees.

"It's like Colorado!" I stammered.

"Indeed!" she said.

And it was like Colorado with the undergrowth of fern, grass, and raspberry bushes. Bright yellow columbine flowers grew waist high all along the path.

We picked some of the ripe raspberries to eat. We contemplated the word "raspberry" because almost no one says raspberry. They say "razzberry". So we would say "rasp" so distinctly that we laughed.

On the path we found a freshly dead red-faced warbler. Lo moved it into the brush where it could decompose in peace.

We did manage to bring a blanket, on which we lounged for an hour on a grassy hill above a creek, eating nori rolls, looking up into the tall trees, and reading aloud from Kipling's The Jungle Books.

Soon enough the lightning and thunder drove us back to the car. We momentarily parked on a bald peak where we watched the heavy clouds cloak the lower hills. The lightning grew closer.

In another hour we were back in Tucson where the heat awaited. But we were still smiling. We knew that, for most of the afternoon, we had cheated summer.

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