Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Mount Lemmon Vista Guru

We set out mid afternoon for Mount Lemmon. Danny traveled down Memory Lane, reminiscing on hiking Sabino Canyon to the top of Mount Lemmon when he was twenty one. He recalled fasting while he did the hike, taking and consuming only lemon water for days, no pun intended.
We drove the ribbon of road around the ever climbing mountain. A sign pointed us toward the first Vista. We were eager to get to the top for the view, but what was the point if we missed the sights along the way?
As I took pictures, Danny talked with another older gentleman who stood surrounded by heavy thoughts. I walked up as he said "I've realized the things we have weigh us down. We get so caught up in having and getting things, we forget about living. Everything has a price, we work to pay and the more we work- the more we pay."

Danny Lord and Patrick Kelly

One of many Mount Lemmon Views

He introduced himself as Patrick Kelly, truck driver from Chicago. He's taking a couple of weeks to just explore and decided what he wants to do next in life. He might keep driving trucks or he might do something else. I told him he was the Guru of Mount Lemmon, his wisdom was appreciated. He laughed, said it wasn't original but it felt right in his life now. I pointed at the blue sky. "I could say it's not raining. Danny could say it. Then you could also say it. It is still true regardless of whether it was original."
Danny and Patrick talked at length about changes in politics since Vietnam and their youth. They traded stories and laughter, they shook their heads at a government that is still inept and rife with corruption.
We waved goodbye and left our Guru to continue following the road to the top.
Our next Vista was my favorite. Walking a short oath we found a waterfall view and breathtaking rock formations.
We stopped at Vista after Vista. Desert scrub became oak, which turned to evergreen trees. The air went from hot and lazy to icy and crisp, with a constant breeze cooling the air. Signs warned of bear crossings and potential snow plows. Hard to believe in the desert outside Tuscon, where it had been over 80 degrees only a few thousand feet below.
Turning a corner over 8000 feet up, there was snow! Patches of snow and ice persisted in the shade, as if determined to prove how drastically different the climate was at the top.




We reached Summerhaven, Danny was shocked by the construction of houses and several shops. It had been mostly wilderness when he'd hiked it in the early seventies. We went to the end of Sky Drive. I felt like the end should have led to a Vista beyond compare, a place where the heart beats more quickly as your mind realizes you're surrounded by more air than earth.
The Road ended at a trailhead. We walked past a gate and found a waterfall of icy water. Pussywillows with their soft silver blooms regally stood in the shade on both sides of a winding road. Gray rocks continued up into the sky, I felt small there surrounded by stone at such a high elevation. The sun could not reach us, the shadows were thick and cool like a pudding setting in a refrigerator.
We met a young man who was walking his dogs. He smiled and showed us a fire agate necklace he'd just wire wrapped with copper.
Danny recognized the view from the end of his hike. We decided to see if we could make it to Sabino Canyon before sunset.
It was funny, finding the most breathtaking vistas first, along with the deeper philosophical thoughts while at the top moving more like a rock pendulum swinging back to its start.
Only in America are the gurus at the bottom.
Danny told me if the rock formations and the waterfalls along Sabino Canyon. We got to the park at twilight. Park. Visitors center, bathrooms, marked trails all more recent than the early seventies. Danny recalled driving straight up to the waterfall. Reading history through the windows of the closed Visitors' center we learned that traffic in the seventies had been too much. To protect the wilderness only hiking and a shuttle were allowed to to out into Sabino Canyon.
We saw pictures of the falls and looked at the hikes. At least four miles, it would have to be another day's adventure. We left somber. Such a drastic change, it was for the best but it was unexpected.
We talked of how different the world is now. In the seventies, Danny went to Mexico and slept in Ruins. Ruins that now have fences and are off limits. He did not deface them or leave garbage or steal artifacts. It weighed on our hearts tonight that too many people must do the negative, for the world to have to shift to limit accessibility. The wild memories he had, cannot be had by our generation and for this we grieved.
Sadly, for some absurd reason, people go to beautiful places and litter or destroy habitat or lives without thought. There were garbage bins at almost every Vista yet I saw beverage containers along the sides of the road like invasive weeds.
We learned at Joshua Tree park that mylar balloons and wrappers kill desert tortoises. The bright colors look like the flowers they eat to live. They die eating the balloons. Today an older couple released a group of five mylar balloons into the sky. They were beyond reach. They were absorbed in their selfish moment, filming it for someone or something. I was so angry and hurt by their ignorance and their choice to knowingly do such a thing.
Can we do something great? Can we teach our friends to stop releasing mylar balloons and stop treating the world as our personal garbage can?
It would be great for future generations to sleep in ancient ruins, to see the world with all its splendor rather than a version we've maimed so much that it belongs on a clearance rack.
It was a beautiful day. Mount Lemmon was gorgeous, Sabino Canyon remains pristine due to wise management. These positive thoughts bring me smiles as I head to bed.