Arizona Trip 2021 | Our Week in Tucson | November 29 – December 5, 2021
Our week in Tucson was packed with catching up with friends, going for short hikes, and reminiscing on the memories we made there 6-8 years ago. We always knew that whenever we had the chance to return together, we would need a whole week just to be able to see all our friends and still feel like we had a chance to experience the beauty of the desert. For this reason, we decided to take several days off following Curtis’ work days so that we could make the most of our trip here, and still take our time driving home.
Both Tuesday and Wednesday were full work days for Curtis, so Charlotte and I hung out at the hotel during that time working (me), napping (Charlie) and going for short walks around the hotel. In the evenings, we were able to get together with two different couples we’ve kept in contact with over the years: on Tuesday evening, we met up with Jon and Debbie, friends we met through letterboxing events that now live in the area. We enjoyed dinner with them at the Original Trident Grill near the university, chatting about travel adventures and their experiences section hiking the Arizona Trail. On Wednesday evening, we had dinner with John and Rachel, whose church we attended when living in Tucson and who I still work for. They treated us to a delicious meal at Vivace, and since we were up near the Catalina foothills we drove up early to watch the sunset.
When Thursday came, it was time to check out of our hotel. Our friends Mitchell and Emily had graciously invited us to stay with them for the rest of our visit. We had a few hours to kill before heading over to them, so we decided to go for a short hike. I usually let Curtis pick out hikes or letterboxes and am typically down for anything within reason, but today I knew exactly where I wanted to go: All I wanted was to be immersed in the Sonoran desert, surrounded by saguaros and everything else that grows there, enjoying the beauty that is so unique to Southern Arizona. Tucson Mountain Park seemed like a good place to go for that, and there happened to be a letterbox series there that we’ve been waiting years to find — the “Who Let the Dogs Out” series by our friend Jodi, AKA FamilyTreeShaker. The series is based on dogs she has met, and she had planted one for Charlotte with a cute basset hound carve, so obviously we had to go find it! I’ll admit I don’t enjoy letterboxing as much as I used to, but our hike reminded me why we used to enjoy it, and we both agreed that boxing in the desert is so much better than anywhere else.
We were successful both at finding the boxes, and at feeling immersed in the desert. Over the years I have forgotten about all the little details that make the Sonoran desert beautiful, and it was fun to be reminded of so many of those things on this walk. I also couldn’t get over how the Catalina and Rincon mountains looked from this angle, how they stand so tall over the land surrounding them, and seeing the many canyons of the Catalina foothills.
When we made it back to the car, we tried unsuccessfully to get Charlotte to drink — she was much more interested in something left behind in the parking lot that smelled good to her. We finally got her attention when we brought out leftovers from the night before, and the three of us enjoyed those while sitting in the shade.
After that, we drove over to Mitchell and Emily’s for the rest of the day. We had lunch with them and another friend Andrew, and then spent the afternoon playing a game that Andrew created. That evening, Alex and Kathy came over and we enjoyed catching up with them over tamales and card games. Being able to see everyone was a wonderful and humbling reminder that we have such great friends here. Somehow we can go away and come back years later and pick up right where we left off. We’re not sure how we managed to find such a great group, but we’re so thankful for each of them. The night flew by, and saying goodbye was harder than we imagined — we hope that it isn’t too long before we’re all together again!
The next day began with Curtis, Charlotte, and I driving over to Curtis’ cousin Gen’s house. She has a small acreage in Tucson with a cute house and an amazing view of the city and surrounding mountains — we were a little envious as she showed us around! We decided to go walk the washes in Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, followed by visiting one of her favorite wineries called Rune Wines and then sampling some mead at the Meading Room. We enjoyed catching up with her, hearing about her SAR work, and exchanging hiking and backpacking stories and gear recommendations.
We had some time inbetween visiting with Gen and dinner with Mitch & Emily, so we drove over to visit with our friends Pat and Jack for a couple hours. We always enjoy hearing about their travels, and about the unique goals they have, such as locating and creating a database for all historic post offices in Arizona. Since moving away from Arizona, they are actually the friends we have seen the most over the years because of their prolific travels — we’ve seen them in New York, Hawaii, and Virginia this summer when we both happened to be at the same place at the same time. We aspire to be like them someday, and look forward to seeing where our paths may cross next!
That night, Mitchell treated us to his tri-tip steak, and we planned out our hike for the next day. After throwing around lots of ideas, we ended up deciding on Slavin Gulch Trail in the Dragoon Mountains. Curtis and I had never hiked in this range, though from a distance I was always interested in these rocky mountains that looked similar to Texas Canyon, a highlight along I-10, and Chiricahua National Monument. However, when we lived in Arizona, Mitch always told us there were tiger rattlesnakes there, and that kept us away. Well, let me just say that if there are tiger rattlesnakes there, it is worth the risk!
We left early on Saturday morning, and it was cold enough to warrant wearing a jacket (it’s crazy how fast we adjusted to the heat after a few days in AZ after working so hard to acclimate to the cold this fall…). We drove about an hour and a half until we came to the trailhead. The hike was 6.8 miles round trip, and the trail gained about 1200 feet of elevation. The hike wasn’t too challenging even for us Midwesterners, but I was thankful we ended up choosing this hike over other higher and longer hikes suggested. The scenery was incredible throughout the whole hike and was well worth the effort. We made it up to some remains of an old mine, where Emily and I relaxed and chatted while the guys went looking for cool rocks and Curtis scrambled up higher to check out more of the mine. The hike back was easy and uneventful, and I was especially thankful that the only wildlife we saw was a tarantula.
We wrapped up our week with meeting Gen and her boyfriend Dan for dinner and drinks. This week flew by, and before we knew it it was time to repack the car and begin our long drive home. Thanks to all our friends for making this a wonderful week and return to Tucson, we hope it won’t be too long before our next visit! We love this city and the people there so much, as it remains our favorite place we’ve lived. We still think it would be a pretty near perfect place to settle down…but as of right now, we just aren’t ready to settle down. But we know our path will always bring us back to the desert!