I Finally Understand Southern AZ

I Finally Understand Southern AZ

After spending a week here, I finally get it. I finally understand why people live in southern Arizona. People suffer through the few burning months of summer just like northerners suffer through six months of winter – because the rest of the year is amazing. Right now it’s mid-November and it’s mid-70s during the day and 40-50s overnight. And the sun! Only 15 cloudy days a year, on average!

After a little trial and error, we found a great park outside Tucson: Catalina State Park. It borders the Santa Catalina Natural Area, a rough range of wild granite peaks. But there’s one strange thing: the suburbs have rapidly encroached, so that across the road there’s a huge development, with everything from a Walmart to an outpost of Paul’s favorite western chain, the unfortunately named (but delicious) In-N-Out Burger. Rainy day? Catch a movie at the cinema. Burned your steak? Go for a sit-down replacement at the Keg Bar & Steakhouse. Crabby teenage daughter? Drop her off for a few hours at DSW and Ulta. This juxtaposition is a bit odd. Inside the park, especially after you hike a mile or so on any of the trails, it feels like you’re in the wild, but during the night you’ll hear sirens and traffic on the six lane highway less than a mile away. I like it, but at the same time, I don’t.

Besides the temps and the trails (and the showers, though they be of the skin-peeling variety), the other great thing about Catalina SP is that they have a dishwashing sink with hot water. What a luxury! This, and the fact that our fingers aren’t freezing off the second the sun sets, has enabled us to cook some tasty meals.

In honor of Catalina, here’s our first campfire recipe, which I’ll call Catalina Grilled Corn: over charcoal, grill an ear of corn until the kernels are translucent. Then drizzle it with olive oil and continue to grill until it’s a little charred. Cut the kernels off the ear. Sprinkle with some lime juice, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika (we have a healthy supply of our favorite, Penzeys’ Smoked Spanish Paprika, along for the trip). Yum.

We like it here, and we’re staying until we leave for Thanksgiving. We may even come back afterward. We’ll see.

Here are some of the reasons I like Southern AZ, and none of the reasons I don’t (you’ll find that list at the very bottom):

Dead saguaro
Dead saguaros look creepy — like skeletons shedding their skin. Which is exactly what they are.
Saguaros are very easy to personify. I love them.
White dove
The ‘white dove of the desert,’ a beautiful old Spanish mission. Thanks for the tip, Gina!
Very challenging trail in the Santa Catalina Natural Area.
The tough hike was worth it — it was gorgeous.
A view back at the edges of the Tucson sprawl.
Prickly pear
The skeleton of a prickly pear cactus.
Just another great trail.
Water and autumn.  Both things you don’t expect to see in the desert.
Paul and his new favorite cacti, the self-destructive barrel cactus. Someone has intervened to prevent this one from toppling.

And now for a few of the reasons I dislike southern AZ: snakes, tarantulas and other spiders, big ugly black beetles, mountain lions, gila monsters, javelinas, scorpions, jaguars, sprawl, signs about guns, the realization that anyone could be carrying a gun anywhere, anytime, Border Patrol checkpoints, not being able to bushwhack for fear of cacti and previously mentioned animals, sprawl, dry skin, and mountain lions. And spiders.