It was a beautiful day in the Oro Valley yesterday, with lots of sunshine and temperatures in the low 80s. After running a number of errands, It was time to get out and get some meaningful exercise. Fortunately, our hotel is close to a very fine trail, reachable after navigating through some parking lots and a Frisbee golf competition and then following a dusty access road to the trail head.
The trail is the Linda Vista trail, which winds through the Pusch Ridge Wilderness area that is part of the Coronado National Forest. The trail runs in a loop that gets you up close to a ridgeline of peaks, shown above, in the Santa Catalina Mountains. All told, the trail is about two-and-a-half miles in length, with lots of switchbacks and elevation changes that take you up and down and around the hills at the base of the ridgeline.
This is a good time of year to be hiking in the desert, if yesterday’s excursion was any indication. Many of the desert plants were in bloom, and there were flowers and splashes of color pretty much everywhere you looked. Even the prickly pear cacti were sprouting delicate flowers, as shown in the photo below–although of course you don’t want to examine them too closely, or you’ll risk ending up with a fistful of needles.
Mother Nature is a bit sparing with her color palette in the desert; she leans heavily on lots of different shades of brown and dusty greens. That just makes the contrast with the, yellows, oranges and reds all the more striking. It helps, too, when the sky is a deep, bright blue, to make the color of the blossoms all the more noticeable. Yesterday’s walk was like an artist’s study of primary colors.
Although it wasn’t brutally hot by Sonoran desert standards, the dusty trail, the dry air, and the elevation changes made the hike some thirsty work. I made sure to bring my trusty bottle of water, and the interesting plants, like the one in the photo below, were a good place to stop and take a much-appreciated swig of liquid while studying Mother Nature’s handiwork.
Of the flowering plants, my favorites were the ones with the bright yellow blossoms, like the one shown below at the foot of a cactus. It would be interesting to learn more about the desert plant life, and particularly how the plants are pollinated. There were no bees along the trail, and no birds, either. The only “wildlife” were a couple of annoying flies who quickly went on their way when I took my ballcap off and waved them away.
To the south, the trail hugs the ridge, and there is nothing but wilderness between the trail and the mountain peaks. To the north is the Oro Valley, which has been the subject of significant development over the past 20 years. The photo below shows the peaks in the distance that constitute the other rim of the Oro Valley. In between the Pusch Ridge area and those peaks there is lots of development. Fortunately, Arizona and the locals have seen fit to preserve some natural areas, like this one, for solitary hikers to enjoy.
Speaking of solitary hikers, I pretty much had the trail to myself in the early afternoon hours. I saw two other people on my hike: an older gentleman who was heading up the trail, in the opposite direction, as I was coming down and a young guy who was actually jogging up and down the trail. I would think jogging on a rock-strewn trail where you had to watch your step would be especially treacherous, but then I’m sure the locals would say I was crazy for hiking during the hottest hours of the day.
The trail continues upward, and brings you close to the spill areas of the ridgeline, where chunks of the peaks have broken off and tumbled down the mountainside. In this area, the saguaro cactus is king and shares its territory with lots of sizeable boulders. In certain areas, the saguaro are so numerous they make up a kind of forest.
At the highest point of the trail you reach the bottom of the slag area and can enjoy up close and personal looks at the mountains. By then, the twisting Linda Vista trail has taken you upward about 300 feet, to a total elevation of about 3,000 feet. When I reached that height, the mountains stood in sharp relief in the bright sunshine, with their ruggedness etched against the blue sky. The pinnacle point of the trail, shown below, also is a good place to enjoy a gulp of water and take in the scenery. Then it is time to turn to the left and follow the trial back down the ridgeline.