Wrap Up

So, the end of my course, Borderbeat, is upon us, but this doesn’t necessarily mean my blog is completely done for.  I will be living in the desert till I graduate, which is December 16 and I definitely plan on going on some more hikes before that time.  So, I will post my pictures and thoughts about the trail.

I want to thank everyone who has been reading my blog, as it’s been my pleasure to give you guys a glimpse of what Tucson has to offer.  This blog began as a class assignment, but for me became more than that.  I received compliments from friends and family on my blog, so it became something I took pride in posting every week.  It urged me to get outside and show people the outdoors and a glimpse of the desert.  Not many people know the beauty of the desert, or simply even know what it looks like.  But I tried to offer a variety of different places in Tucson, which my friends, family, and strangers could look at and read about.  I think pictures definitely were something that brought my blog together.  With no visual aspect, my blog would be bland and not really worth reading.

Tucson is a beautiful place, the mountains have always attracted me, so living in Tucson for 4 1/2 years was no different.   Every chance I get to go up there, I take it.  Granted, gas money isn’t always there, so I have to spare my opportunities at times, but this has been one of the best class “assignments” I have had in my collegiate career.  I’m glad I could share my adventures with many of you and thanks again for reading!  I still plan on going hiking before I graduate so please do check back again for more posts.  Go have an adventure of your own!


“The Window”

One of the best sunsets I have ever seen.

This past weekend, myself and some good friends went to Gates Pass here in Tucson, AZ.  I’m going to get this out of the way in the beginning: if you live in Tucson and have never seen a sunset at Gates Pass, you my friend, are missing out on something special.

Arizona, and the Southwest in general, are known for their beautiful sunsets that paint the sky with shades of pink, purple, orange, and blue.  We got to Gates Pass at a perfect time, when the sun just began to set, but there was enough light for us to climb up to our spot.  We climbed the side of this peak for about 10 minutes.  This was only my second time being to Gates Pass, so I personally, had no idea where we were going.

My attempt at capturing a "facebook profile picture" moment haha.

But, the climb was definitely worth it!  On top of this peak, there was a bench made out of stone that was perfect for us.  The bench made me feel like we had a front row ticket to the sunset.  The sunsets here in Arizona make me feel like I’m looking a painting.  A painting that is being created and changed by the second with different shapes and colors.  It was a very surreal feeling seeing this beautiful sunset unveil itself to us.

The climb down was a little more difficult.  It was darker, so we didn’t quite follow the trail back down.  It was a steeper route, but we made it back to the car!

Colors sprayed the sky as the clouds began to reshape themselves.

Honestly, I’m begging you to go to Gates Pass for a sunset and check it out.  If you haven’t gone you truly are missing out on something you won’t see in many other places in the WORLD!  I know I’m going back before I graduate the U of A in December.  So, I hope to see you all there!


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Pena Blanca Lake

This weekend (Homecoming weekend) I was unable to hike/travel anywhere here in Tucson.  So, I’d like to share with you guys a place where I eventually want to go before I graduate, in a about a month or so.  I’d like to go to Pena Blanca Lake, near Nogales, AZ.  I bought a fishing pole in the beginning of the semester and have only used it once!  I need to get out to the calm lake, and catch some fish ASAP.

One of my professors, Jay, told me about Pena Blanca Lake and has caught my attention and interest.  However, I hope I make it out there before it gets too cold for the fish.  Being from Chicago, I know how cold it can get by the lakefront, but it should be less crowded as the temperature drops.

The lake is approximately 49 acres in the Pajarito Mountain foothills.  Communities from Nogales and Mexico enjoy the recreational activities the lake has to offer.  Pena Blanca Lake was built in 1957 by the Arizona Fish and Game Department, which is open year round, according to the USDA Forest Service website.

Hopefully my travels can bring me to Pena Blanca Lake.  My time here in Arizona is coming to an end soon, which is crazy to me.  So, I hope I can see a lot of the state that I have yet to explore.  Tune in next week.  Thanks for reading and live it up!

San Xavier del Bac Mission

Front view of the San Xavier del Bac Mission, also known as the "White Dove of the Desert."

The San Xavier del Bac Mission is a historical landmark, located in the backyard of Tucson.  According to their website, it is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona.

I visited the San Xavier Mission this past week and was amazed by how old, yet how preserved it really was.  Walking up to it, knowing how long ago this place was built definitely made me step back and really appreciate this fine piece of work.  It was bigger than I originally thought, as I saw some pictures of it before.  As I went inside the church, the artwork immediately caught my eye.  Artwork covered the walls, and portions of the ceiling as well.

Inside of the church. The ceilings and walls were covered with artwork.

The tall dome like ceilings were amazing to look up, but I was super bummed because a lot of the pictures I took of the inside were blurry because of the lighting inside.  So sorry for not showing you a lot of the inside!

In addition to the church, there is also a museum and a school at the San Xavier Mission.  I took a tour in the museum portion of the mission, which gave me a lot of information about the history.  The museum showed artifacts from the church that were 200 years old!  It’s mind blowing to me that they have been able to preserve a lot of the artifacts in the museum for this long, and I hope they can continue to do this for years to come.

For any of you in Tucson, I definitely recommend checking out this National Historic Landmark.  Its located 9 miles south of the downtown area, just off the Interstate 19.  Take Exit 92 (San Xavier Rd) and then follow the signs to the Mission, according to their website.

View of the courtyard at the Mission.

Romero Pools

Nice view of the Santa Catalina Mountains on the Romero Pools trail. (Photo Cred: Michael Gelb)

6:15 A.M.–  Ahhhh, the startling sound of the alarm clock resonates through my ears.  Wait, it’s still dark out though, this can’t be right.  Yet again, awake before the sun on a Saturday morning.  Today’s destination?  Romero Pools.  Too late for pool season?  Psshh, you’re dead wrong.

The cold water on my face didn’t quite seem to work at this time in the morning, but after a full bowl of Fruity Pebbles, I was ready to rock.  Made my sandwich, filled up the water jugs, and my roommate and I hit the road.  Romero Pools is not too far from the UA campus area, about 20-25 mins I’d say.  The hike is in the Catalina State Park, which requires a $7 fee to get inside, a small fee to pay for the rewards we got out of it.

The trailhead starts off with a long sand trail, which leads you to different trail paths.  Again, took us a minute to see exactly where we were going, because getting lost and backtracking this early in the game definitely puts a damper on the rest of the hike.

Early morning shot of the beginning sandy trail to Romero Pools. (Photo cred: Michael Gelb)

If you come to a point where you don’t know where to go, it’s worth it to take the 5 or so minutes to figure it out, then just keep hiking and figure out you’re going the wrong way a mile or so in.

To me, the hike really starts when the sand trail ends and you start to get the steep incline of rock hiking, and you start to see the “No dog’s allowed past this point” sign.  The hike starts with a moderate incline with rock steps, but nothing too difficult.  At certain points in on this hike, there were cool little places to climb up and see a better view of the landscape, which I love.

Romero Pools Rules! (Photo cred: Michael Gelb)

That is one of the best things about hiking to me.  You have the trail to follow, but at times you find a cool little rock surface to climb and find something for yourself.  We took breaks at certain spots with a good view to sit down and drink some water.  At a couple points on the hike, it seemed like we were getting really deep into the mountains, so I thought we were going the wrong way, but alas, we heard water and the pools were right in front of us.

The pools were amazing, although the water was absolutely freezing!  There were a few cliff jumping spots, which always makes the pools that much more fun.  But, before jumping in, always check the deepness of the water.  You don’t want to get injured when you’re miles outside of civilization.  There was no one at the pools when we first got there, but after about a half hour, there was about 15 to 20 people there.

Fellow hiker jumping into the water. (Photo cred: Michael Gelb)

Cliff jumping was the best part of the hike.  Having a destination, much like the pools, makes the hike more enjoyable to me.

The hike down was cake.  Yes, it was getting hotter and hotter as the day progressed, but hiking down is always much easier.  I highly recommend this hike.  This hike is definitely one of my favorites here in Tucson.  It gives great mountain views, moderate difficulty, and the Romero Pools were amazing.  This hike offers everything that’s beautiful about the Southwest.  Now, get off your computer and get outside!

Pontatoc Ridge Trail- Tucson, AZ

Early morning hike on Saturday. The sun is out on the Pontatoc Ridge Trail in Tucson, AZ.

6:30 A.M.–  Saturday morning came faster then expected, especially when you don’t get to sleep until about 2:30, but that’s a solid 4 hours.  Pontatoc Ridge Trail is my latest endeavor to add to my list.  Waking up was difficult, but when isn’t it, right?  This morning I was excited to hike a new trail, and of course, get some McDonald’s breakfast, which for me is always a blessing.

The trail begins at the same trail as “Finger Rock,” but veers off of the trail that leads you to the Pontatoc Ridge Trail.  The commute there wasn’t bad at all.  I just shot straight up Oracle Rd to Ina, then Ina to Skyline, then Alvernon and I was at the head of the trail.  The trail itself wasn’t too confusing, however at certain “forks” in the trail I had to stop, look and think to where I should head next, but that’s all a part of hiking!  The morning time brought

A little glimpse of "Finger Rock." This is the view from the bottom of the trail.

cooler air, but this morning seemed a little hotter then average.  It didn’t bother me too much, because most of the hike up was shaded.  The hike up was seemingly more difficult then the hike down.  It wasn’t too steep in most parts of the trail, but there were definitely regions of the hike that were a little difficult because of the flat rock surfaces.

The closer I got to the top, the hotter and later in the day it got.  At this point, I started regretting the sausage mcmuffin, hash brown and medium iced coffee.  I took breaks every now and again, if there was a nice view and a shady spot to sit, that had my name all over it.  At this time, I noticed there really weren’t that many people out on the trail as I usually do.  When I hike up at Sabino Canyon, even really early in the morning I seem to see a lot more hikers, runners, bikers, etc.  But, I liked that about this trail, there weren’t many people out on the mountain, but isn’t that a part of why we hike anyway, to get away from all the people, televisions, computers and cell phones?

A cactus I almost walked into. Thought it was interesting looking, however, I don't know what the name of this cactus is.

So, I don’t think I made it to the “top” of the actual Pontatoc Ridge.  But, I made it to a spot where I could see seemingly most of Tucson and had a great view.  I hung out at the “top” for a little while, but decided to climb onto this higher part of the mountain.  It was an even nicer view of Tucson and I really enjoyed this view. The hike down was a piece of cake, it was all down hill.  Overall, this hike was definitely worth it and I highly recommend it to anyone.  The great thing about this hike is that it’s easy enough for anyone who wants to hike, but it’s not just walking on a pavement pathway.  So, if you’re looking for a hike that has great views, won’t be too difficult, and not just glorified walking, then this is the trail for you.

I haven’t been on a hike in what seems like a long time.  This hike definitely got me back into the groove of things, so check back next week to see where my travels have brought me.  Now, go have an adventure of your own!

A shot of the "top" of my hike. Get on my level.

Colorado Trip

Me hanging right by the edge of a mountain with my friend Craig in Boulder, CO.

This past year, I went to Boulder, Colorado with some of my friends.  The reason I’m posting this, is to show all of you people who have never been to Colorado before, how beautiful of a place it is!  I stayed in Boulder for a week at on one of my friend’s couch.  I met three of my other buddies up there, who all stayed on the couches too.  Yes, there were four men on two couches for a week straight.  How did it work?  I will never know.  The use of chairs and tables assisted us in the luxury of having your feet up.  Yes, having your feet up was a luxury for the week, haha.

Anyways, we went on some hikes and sight seeing spots when we were there.  The majority of our sight seeing was not too far from where we were staying.  It was probably a half hour drive or 45 min drive at most.  When your driving up a mountain there, it seems like your never going to stop going up.  It’s insane.  Once you get out of the car and walk out to see the view, I guarantee you will be amazed at what you see.

Climbing back up the side of the mountain in Boulder, CO with my friend Tim.

You feel like a king on top of the world.  In the picture above, I’m probably about 5 feet or so from the edge.  It was amazing.  I’m sitting on this rock that was shaped kind of like a toilet.  It was the perfect seat on the rock, right on the edge of the mountain.

If you’re thinking about making a trip to Colorado, I highly recommend it.  I have been to Boulder, Aspen, Beaver Creek, and many other mountains in Colorado and they are all so unique and beautiful.  Colorado has to be one of my favorite places in the country, for obvious reasons.  The scenery is absolutely breathtaking.  The best part about it is that you can have a great time year round.  If you don’t mind the cold weather, the winter time is great for people who love to ski and snowboard.  Snowboarding in the mountains is second to none in my book.  The environment you are surrounded in, in itself is what makes it seem so surreal.  Also, the mass amounts of different mountains you can go to in the state really add diversity to your trip.  With certain lift ticket passes, you can hit up 2 to 3 mountains in a day or two if you really wanted.  Personally, I like to stay on one mountain, generally, each day.  That way you really navigate your way around the mountain and find little trails and such in the back country that you normally wouldn’t find in just a couple of hours.  If you’re on the fence about making a trip to Colorado, take my advice, and book your tickets now!

The Chicago boys enjoying the mountain scenery. A trip to remember.