What’s Up At Gilbert Ray

Well, the mercury for one.  It reached 93 degrees here.  The Saguaro National Park brochure says the average temperature for this time of year is 72 degrees.  Next year is the park’s 100th birthday.  This latest run of high temperatures makes me wonder if perhaps they have not updated the chart since establishing the park back in 1916.

The trail to Brown Mountain is very green.

The trail to Brown Mountain is very green.

Beautiful cholla blooms look like rosebuds.

Beautiful cholla blooms look like rosebuds.


Occupancy is also up in Gilbert Ray.  Last year, I had the entire A Loop practically to myself.  This year, all of the outer sites and about a third of the inner sites were occupied.  I suspect this was due to the electric hook-ups, given the unseasonably high temperatures.  If this park ever adds showers, we are in trouble…




Also up are the wildflowers and cactus blooms!   The cholla blooms are sprouting up like roses.  I always marvel at how something so prickly can be so beckoning at the same time.

The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada

Don't you think these guys could almost be twins?

Don’t you think these guys could almost be twins?

IMG_1570I was looking for some “up” in my desert landscape views, so I hiked the Brown Mountain / Cougar Trail loop in Tucson Mountain Park.    This 4 mile split-level loop is a great hike from Gilbert Ray, because the trail head is literally across the highway from the campground.  It starts out across several mountaintops, reverses directions at the Juan Santa Cruz picnic area just outside the Sonoran Desert Museum, then returns along the desert floor.  I crested three small summits on this hike, each of them “brown.”  I never could tell which one for sure was Brown Mountain.

The Brown Mountain, or a brown mountain?

The Brown Mountain, or a brown mountain?

"Don't worry, my son.  One day, you too will have arms."

“Don’t worry, my son. One day, you too will have arms.”

Sonoran Desert Museum is at the end of Brown Mountain / Cougar Loop Trail.

Sonoran Desert Museum is at the end of Brown Mountain / Cougar Loop Trail.


And the Bajada Loop Trail turned out to be a deceiving “up!”  I drove this 12 mile loop in the Tracker during my visit last year, and my recollection was mostly a flat, gravel road.  So you know how “uphill” can sometimes be deceiving when there are mountains in front of you?  Well, I kept wondering what was wrong.  I checked my tires for air.  I checked to be sure my brake pads hadn’t slipped in some way and were rubbing on the rims.  I just couldn’t seem to make any headway on the dirt road, which looked so reasonably flat ahead.

Don't you think these guys look like twins?

Don’t you think these guys look like twins?

A fallen soldier.  Very shallow roots for such a big guy.

A fallen soldier. Very shallow roots for such a big guy.

IMG_1560 IMG_1569Then I reached my “turn time” as the sun was setting.  Returning back to the car was a white knuckle ride!   I had no idea I had ridden uphill for an hour!    I never let off the brakes, alternating front and back all the way back to the car.  It was a scary ride on such a bumpy dirt road, but exhilarating as the cooling night desert air moved in, and glow of the setting sun came up along the horizon…IMG_1573 IMG_1580 IMG_1584 IMG_1587

Next up?  More “UP!”  I get up at sun-up to hike up Wasson Peak…

26 thoughts on “What’s Up At Gilbert Ray

  1. Great pictures of the flowers and cacti as well as the sunset. Enjoyed the trip which I made with out breaking a sweat. giggle. Thanks for sharing.

  2. So many flowers at this time of year! Those temps are way to hot for me. The worst we’ve had in TX is high 80’s (which is plenty high enough given equal humidity!).

    But I think you are in San Diego now so these temps are a thing of the past (though San Diego has been plenty hot already this spring!).

    • Lisa — The thing I hate about the heat is sweating, which happens more in the “cool” of San Diego than it did in the 90+ degree temps of Gilbert Ray. Something about “a dry heat?” 😉

  3. Your photos are fab. I can just imagine that downhill ride, carumba! I agree the temps of the world are certainly changing and quicker than we can have imagined.

  4. Absolutely love Saguaro National Park! Barb and I visited it in January while boondocking at Snyder Hills. We really enjoyed walking through the desert. I can only imagine what it would look like with them blooming like that!

    • Jim and Barb — I am truly in love with this part of the country, especially when the flowers are blooming. The small wildflower window feels like such a fleeting moment, which makes me treasure it more.

  5. Love all the flowers – especially Prada 🙂 I’m afraid the early heat will make them a flashing beauty this year. Great capture of the mother squaro and her son, too funny! Glad you made it safely to the bottom of the mountain – whether it was The Brown or not :-)))))

    • Thanks Jodee — There were so many buds on all the cactus! I think I left a little too soon, as the temps came back down again right after I left….

    • Thank you, LuAnn. I know there are so many more possibilities in this area to explore. I hope to return again next year.

  6. It seems to be more crowded everywhere we have gone this winter. It must be the warmer temps or way too many people are finding out how cool the southwest really is. But they need to find some where else to visit:)

    Love all the blooming cactus!!

    We’ve done that one on bikes before. The car sure doesn’t show the grades does it!

    Love Wasson Peak!!! We’ve done this twice. Perfect difficulty for a long hike. Hope you enjoyed it:)

    • Pam, I think you are right. And way too many people finding out about how cool the nomadic lifestyle is! I do worry about that sometimes, but we will just enjoy what we can for as long as we can, right? “Gather ye rosebuds…”

  7. The Trek comes out, finally. The more you ride that beast the more you will realize how much you need a new full suspension bike. It will complete your Desk Jockey to Outdoor Jock conversion 🙂

  8. We were in Gilbert Ray mid-February and did the Brown Mountain hike — I agree, it’s so nice to be able to hike right from the campground. I also hope they never put in showers. 🙂 Met up with Pam and John to hike Wasson Peak and LOVED it. Your cactus photos are gorgeous!

    • Laurel, you were so lucky to get to do that hike with the Intrepid Hiker! I sure hope to get to share a hike with them one of these days soon!

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