Santa Ritas

November 14, 2003

14 Nov 2003

In honor of a round-numbered birthday -- I turned f-f-fif -- gasp! -- Kathy and Neill and David and I rented cabins at Santa Rita Lodge, and set out to explore lesser-known corners of the chain of mountains just southeast of Tucson. But first we had to tear ourselves away from the bird feeders at the lodge, which were all a-flutter with Mexican jays, acorn woodpeckers, bridled titmice and broad-tailed hummers.

We began our explorations with an early-morning scramble to the top of Huerfano Butte, a solitary cone in the western foothills. It was the local hangout for spectacular horse lubber grasshoppers, and they were very busy.

Neill and David found a perfectly intact skin.

We continued to the former mining town of Helvetia, on the northwest side of the mountains. At the turn of the century, this was a bustling community with four saloons and more than 300 residents. Today little remains except the crumbling ruins of the former Hevetia Hotel.

We celebrated the Day of the Dead with a bottle of Pinot Noir in the Greaterville Cemetery at the top of the ridge. The next morning David and I decided to explore a jeep trail at the base of Elephant Head Mountain.

When the road ran out, we continued on foot up the wash and shortly stumbled across a series of jade green pools.