December 22 and 23

This is the second year that my parents have invited me to join them on their somewhat traditional winter holiday trip to Tucson, Arizona. We will spend a week in Tucson doing day hikes, relaxing, perhaps seeing some movies, and generally having fun.

Hiking in this portion of the west can be a lot of fun. While the nights can be chilly daytime temperatures are generally quite warm sometimes even reaching 70F. Even on cloudy days the temperature is typically still fairly warm and an overcast sky here does not necessarily mean rain. There is a great variety of things to see in a desert mountain region so spending time here is always fun. Of course, you really need to have an eye for those details.

On Tuesday the decision was made to hike in the Santa Catalina Mountains State Park to visit the Romero pools which are some 2.8 miles from the trailhead parking lot. Like so many hikes in the area this hike would start out on the desert floor climb into the mountains and then back down somewhat too a set of pools.

We set off on the hike around 09:30 and initially the hiking was an easy walk along a wide hard sandy trail on the desert floor which at this elevation (about 2,6640 feet) is mainly scrub and cactus covered. Then the climbing began. The trail worked its way up through twisting turning rocky switchbacks that forced me to slow down quite a bit. I fell behind my parents who had also slowed down. As I trailed behind I was able to soak in some of the desert stillness. We scrambled up some 900 feet of vertical ascent over a distance that was certainly less than 2 miles.

We passed by and were passed by people going in both directions. As we gained altitude the vista of the desert floor opened up below us. We reached the top of the trail and began working our way down towards the pools. Now and then we would pass through a shady area that seemed to have more lush plants growing in it. I never saw open sources of water but I have always wondered if their are more lush plants if water can be hard to find. When I reached the Romero pools I was a bit disappointed. There was plenty of flowing water and some small pools but I think I was expecting deep pools of water. The spot was still quite pleasing and it is worth the trek.

The hike to the pools had taken about two hours and I expected the return journey to take longer than that. The return trip would naturally have more descent than ascent and since the climb had been modestly steep and rocky I expected tough going. The going was tricky and I certainly held my parents back (Dad got a 19 minute rest break at one point). But it turned out that the return trip took about the same amount of time as the hike in had.

Dinner at the Javalina Caf was a so-so affair. I think we all found our meals a bit uninteresting. Maybe we just were not in the mood for food, but I doubt that. The day was ending on a good note though and we all were ready for a good sleep and the days to come.