Monday, February 16, 2015

A Ruby Red Valentines!

Valentine's Day 2015

Curtis and I aren't really the gift giving type. When it comes to holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries, we've both agreed that what we care about the most is the memories we make on those days. Flowers will die, chocolate will be eaten (likely within the day), but I will never forget the fun we had yesterday! We made the day all about doing things we love as a happy little family. :)

To start off, we took off in our new Jeep (which we LOVE!) and headed South. We made a few letterboxing stops along the Anza Trail. It was a beautiful, warm February day - don't let the cloudy pictures fool you, it was the perfect day to be outside and enjoying Arizona! The highlight of boxing along the Anza Trail was finding a random patch of Bamboo.

Wait, there's bamboo in Arizona? Does that mean we can have pandas too?!

Hiking Anza Trail. (See what I did there?)

We were able to grab all 4 boxes that we set out to find. While Charlotte enjoys hiking with us, I don't think she was a big fan of the get in the car, drive a bit, get out, walk 10 minutes, letterbox, go back to car, repeat several times thing that we do when we letterbox. My sweet puppy just wants to go outside and go for a hike! I totally understand that feeling. :)

She dug herself a spot to lie down :')

After boxing, we drove to Nogales, exited at Ruby Road and headed West through the Coronado National Forest. The first several miles of the road were paved and after passing by a suburb area, we entered the National Forest and were driving on a windy, scenic road.

Our first stop was Pena Blanca Lake. We didn't plan to stop here, but as long as we're driving by, why not? It turned out to be a beautiful, peaceful location with a few kayakers and people going fishing. Well, peaceful, except for the about 8-10 year old kid who started screaming when we were walking by because Charlotte "was going to eat her." adorable <30 pound basset puppy totally eats people. 

My Valentines, overlooking the lake :)

We enjoyed wandering around and checking out the scenery here, then had some lunch before continuing. After this point, the road turned into gravel, but it was well maintained and fine to drive on. As we drove, we talked about all the roads we've driven on that were worse than this. There were too many to name...we also commented things like "Hey, at least I don't have to get out and move rocks out of the way for you this time!" Have I mentioned also how much we love our Jeep Patriot?!

Driving down Ruby Road

The view from Atascosa trailhead parking lot

We came to the trailhead parking lot for our hike of the day. The view was stunning, and we hadn't even begun the hike! I love how every mountain range around us is so uniquely beautiful. The part that makes this one special is that it isn't what we call  a Sky Island peak, (where it's mostly flat with random, tall mountains standing out) it's a huge range of rolling hills, and we were hiking to the highest peak around.

The only sign you'll find for the trail!

Back when we were in Iowa over Christmas, I happened to find a book in the "for sale" room in the library called "100 Hikes in Arizona", written by Scott S. Warren. I got it because, well it was only seventy five cents, why not? We've pretty much exhausted the list for Tucson hikes, so we were looking in the surrounding areas and found this one - Atascosa Lookout. It's referred to as a hidden gem in the area - only 5 miles round trip with around 2000 ft. elevation gain. It was what we call "Great reward for little effort"!

The book told us that it was considered "strenuous" because it was steep, sometimes rocky, and overgrown because it's so unused. We prepared for that, but found that the book was talking to people who didn't hike 21 miles last weekend. I personally really enjoy it when a trail is easier than we thought though. :) 

It started with several switchbacks - and to be fair, there were some rocks to step over, making it "rocky", but not strenuous. After that, it turned into ridge hiking, and stayed that way for the majority of the trail. We were excited and enjoying this "easy hiking" after last week! About 10 minutes in, we ran into an older couple headed the other way. They seemed very concerned that we were planning to hike all the way to the was 2:20, and they didn't think we'd make it back before sunset...which was 6:30. They also said it was very rocky and that Charlotte wouldn't make it. We thanked them for the advice, and carried on. If it was really that bad, we weren't going to overwork ourselves, but we would have to see for ourselves!

Looking up - the peak on the right is our destination!

The ridge continued for a long time, and we started to wonder if the lookout would actually be at a peak, or if the end would be steep scrambling to the top. The trail looped around the peak that we thought we were headed toward, and finally started switchbacking up. I didn't think it was that bad at all, it certainly wasn't too steep. There were 7 switchbacks before the trail evened out, then we came to its steepest section, which was a bit rocky, but not challenging. We made it to the top in 1 hour, 15 minutes. :)

View from the top :)

Enjoy the pictures of the top - it was stunning! There were a few towers, and a structure that Curtis said used to be where a man lived. I don't blame anyone for wanting to live here! Curtis found a Geocache while Charlotte and I enjoyed the view.

My baby!

Babaquivari in the distance!

There's the Santa Rita Mountains. Mt. Wrightson is the highest peak, and Elephant Head is the one on the far left with the rounded edge.

His favorite new toy - he was able to see Kitt Peak National Observatory from here!

Ruby Road to the East - can you see it winding around the hills?

Ruby Road to the West

There was one other couple at the top, so we were able to get a picture together. After spending about 15 minutes there, we began the trek down. I loved this hike so much, the only thing that had me on edge was how quiet it was. We've seen so much wildlife lately, so I'm always on the lookout for something watching us, or a skunk chasing us. I'm happy to report that it was an uneventful hike in that regard, and we made it back down in an hour. 5 miles in 2.5 hours - not bad! The sun hadn't set yet either. :)

One thirsty puppy!

Hey Cow!

After this, we continued on the dirt road headed to Arivaca. The road became rockier and less maintained after a bit, and we had to drive through several washes with water in them. We were in open ranges for most of it, and once saw a cow in the road. Charlotte growled at it. :) We also saw a couple mule deer along the way. I'm glad we were able to see our wildlife from the comfort of our vehicle. :)

Ruby Ghost Town/Old mining site

Once we left the National Forest, we drove through Arivaca, and attempted to find some boxes unsuccessfully. It grew dark after that, and we made our way back home.

Mesquite goose in Arivaca, AZ

I knew we'd all be tired and ready to relax after today's trip, so we threw ingredients for pizza crust into the bread maker that morning, and when we got home we had dough ready to bake, and within a half hour our pizza was done! What better way to end the best Valentine's Day ever with something we both love to eat that's easy to make. :)

And that was our weekend! 

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