I’ve traded tall pines for stately saguaro cacti. A frozen creek for dry riverbeds. Cross-country skis for my bike. Winter storm warnings and deep snow for sunshine that warms my bare limbs. A woodland park for a desert canyon.
It’s this last trade-off that feels significant. We bought our lot across from Amity Creek for its proximity to nature, the convenience of the trails, the white noise of the waterfalls at night. Living next to Lester-Amity Park is a statement about who we are, and what we like to do.
Seeking a mid-winter warm-up, Rich and I chose a condo on the outskirts of Tucson, nestled in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains. Within minutes of unloading the car, we set out exploring, and Sabino Canyon Recreation Area – just a mile away – quickly became our neighborhood park.
The park has one 3.5 mile road that snakes up into the canyon. The road mostly winds uphill. There are undulations to provide a bit of climbing relief, but the pitch is reasonable – at least until the last half mile. It travels through dry mountainsides populated by the mighty saguaro, prickly pear, barrel and other abundant cacti. Mountains rise in every direction, rocky angled faces dotted with small bits of vegetation.
From 9-5 daily, open air shuttles own the road, carting hikers to their trailheads or sightseers merely wanting an easy narrated tour. Pedestrians are allowed on the road, but bicycles are restricted to the park hours before 9 or after 5. It doesn’t take me long to discover that those are the prime hours anyway. The golden hours.
Early mornings are my favorite for cycling or running the road. I have plenty of company, as a whole generation of gray haired hikers seems to be striding purposefully up and down each morning. It’s brisk out there, with temperatures registering in the 30s and the canyon still in the shade of the mountains until well into my workout. The sun gradually finds its way onto the hillsides, illuminating select bits of the landscape as it works its way above the opposite mountain range.
Numerous stone bridges mark my progress. Having arrived in town following a 3-day rainy spell, the normally dry riverbed is still brimming with flowing water. As designed, the current flows right over the bridge surfaces, and I follow the example of the hikers who plow right on through. It’s a cold, wet sensation. Even on my bike, it’s deep enough to splash my feet.
I save the afternoons for less strenuous pursuits. A hike on one of the many trails or a slow shorter bike ride up the road still gives me access to the day’s fading light.
Proximity is everything. We’ve explored and enjoyed other parks and wilderness areas here, but this one easily keeps calling us back. It’s our own park away from home.