La Posta Quemada: Adventure Close to Home

December 19, 2009

Work and family are keeping us close to home this holiday season, but to our delight, we recently discovered a nearby getaway with lots of opportunities for camping, hiking, biking and exploring. It began with a bike ride along Old Spanish Trail that ended up at Colossal Cave Mountain Park. Although the cave is impressive, it turns out there's a lot more to this Pima County Park.

We eagerly returned the following weekend and made our way along the busted-up road that threads in and out of Posta Quemada Wash. There are numerous campsites along the road clustered at El Bosquecito and La Selvilla. It's rough camping — no restrooms or electrical hookups — but that suited us just fine. And there was only one other tent in the park that evening.

We set up camp along the creek in a mesquite bosque, and while exploring just up the hill from our campsite, we stumbled across a freshly minted section of the Arizona Trail. A sunset walk took us along this trail, across the wash and through a saguaro-studded plain to La Posta Quemada Ranch.

There are magnificent views in all directions from this enclosed canyon. Stands of saguaros are highlighted by giant cottonwoods that have been brushed with gold for the few weeks that pass for fall in this part of the world. Hypnotized by the light, we continued walking and returned to the tent long after dark with at least four miles behind us.

Next morning, we explored north along the Arizona Trail toward Rincon Peak and then cross-country back to the wash, passing near the remains of Rancho del Cielo, a would-be resort that foundered in the 1970s, and eventually back to La Posta Quemada Ranch.

"Posta Quemada" means "burnt station", after a stage stop that was located here by the Southern Pacific Railroad in the mid-1870s. In 1989-1991, Pima Country Parklands acquired both Colossal Cave and the ranch, which today includes a museum, riding stables, a small gift shop and a snack bar.

But from our point of view, the biggest attraction is a certain stiped girl-tiger who shakes her tail in excitement at the approach of visitors. She's an expert at persuading you to share your lunch, which she will consume with blinding speed. Our advice? Bring snacks. And watch your fingers!