Amore Arizona – Mount Graham Sunday Excursion

Sometimes The Universe steps in and sends you a message that you need to change your plans.

Sunday’s plan was to watch the NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen, which is always a race we enjoy watching due to the lovely scenery there that we are so familiar with. Watkins Glen is about twenty miles from where we used to live in upstate New York. But we had had some cable issues on Saturday and they did not improve on Sunday, even after calling the cable company four different times. By 10:00 it was apparent that we would not be watching anything on television and so we decided to leave the house entirely. I declared we should go to Apple Annie’s in Willcox to get peaches, even though we had peaches on the counter. So we loaded up the cooler with water, tea and snacks, I grabbed my camera and the map, and we were on the road by 10:30.

The Sulphur Springs Valley north of Willcox is always a pleasant drive for me, as it is mostly irrigated and I am guaranteed to see green things growing. Sunday was no exception. We saw corn, soybeans, cotton, apple orchards, pumpkins, pistachios orchards, alfalfa being baled, along with cows, silos, and the greenhouses of the Eurofresh, producer of hot house tomatoes and cucumbers. If you’ve bought Campari tomatoes at the grocery store or had them in your salad when you ate out, chances are they came from Willcox, Arizona.

We never did stop for peaches. It was just too hot (98 degrees at 11:00 when we drove past Cochise College and so likely even hotter in the valley). Instead we decided to drive to the top of Mount Graham, which is one of the higher mountains in Arizona at 10,720 ft. and the location of the Mount Graham International Observatory.

We knew we would not be able to drive all the way to the observatory, since the paved road ended approximately 10 miles short of the observatory, according to our map, and with our little car, we avoid dirt roads. But the paved road did appear to go to the very top of the mountain, and so we decided to see how far up we dared go!

We made it as far as the pavement went, which was somewhere between 9,000 and 10,000 feet, probably closer to the 10,000. When the pavement ended, we stopped to rest the car, ourselves (it was a bit of a nerve-wracking climb) and take some pictures. It was beautiful alpine country – tall pine trees and ferns and flowers.

We drove with the windows open, enjoying the scent of pines. Ah….

As you can see from these pictures looking down on the Sulphur Springs Valley to the southwest, we are as high as the clouds!

Heading back down the mountain, I took a picture of one of the many switchbacks. You definitely could meet yourself coming and going! Bill and I both have a healthy respect for heights and as we were driving up those switchbacks, we were asking ourselves why we were doing this crazy thing and whose idea it was in the first place! We decided that the reason we were doing it was to see where the road would go. After all, it was a road we had never travelled before!

Here we are at a lowly 6000 feet, looking down on the desert valley to the east and the city of Safford, where the Gila River flows (although you cannot see the river from this vantage point). The outside temperature definitely began to climb as we made our descent and we soon rolled the windows back up and turned the air conditioning back on.

We left the house at 10:30 a.m. and returned home around 8 p.m. We used most of a tank of gas. Since we get average 30 mpg and our tank holds 10+ gallons, we figure we drove close to 300 miles. For peaches. Which we didn’t get. Crazy, huh?

So, what began as a frustrating Sunday ended as a pleasant day spent exploring new territory. And a renewed commitment to spend at least one weekend day a month out of the house exploring Arizona and being electronics free!

This post is part of my Amore Arizona series that I mentioned in my January 4th post on Contentment,
in which I write about and post pictures of the things I love about Arizona.

1 Comment

  1. Cee Gee


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