Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Arizona vacation with Mom: Made it to Arizona

Mar 31 2013: On to Arizona

This morning I got back on I10 and continued west.


As you cross New Mexico on I10 you make a gradual but noticeable climb to the continental divide near Lordsburg. From there you drop down on the west side of the divide and cross some flats where you can see dust plume 10's of miles away, too far away to tell if they are from vehicles or other such activity, or if the winds the signs along the road warn about are raising the dust.

Near the New Mexico/Arizona border you're climbing again, right up between Stern's Mountain to the north and Attorney Mountain to the south. (I wish maps included little explanations about how a place got named. . . That one might have an interesting story!)
A Google-eye view of the abandoned S curves along the Union Pacific
railroad just east of the Arizona/New Mexico border
The Union Pacific railroad roughly parallels I10 along here and at exit 3, not much more than a railroad siding called Stern's, I got off to do a little exploring. My map showed a foot trail of some sort along the flank of Stern's mountain and a close inspection of Google Earth reveals what looks like some really cool looking S curves that the tracks used to follow at one point, the usual reason being to flatten out the climb and/or reduce the amount of fills and cuts needed to get through an area, but have obviously been abandoned now, probably when the track was double-tracked through here at some point and either more powerful engines of the day could handle the steeper grade or more modern construction equipment and methods made creating fills and cuts more economical. (Curves create friction which results in more wear on rails and wheels and uses more fuel, so straight track is better if you can get it.)
Unfortunately I couldn't find a way to get close enough to the abandoned tracks to get a real look at them, nor was I able to find a foot trail, but I did spend a pleasant couple of hours away from the hustle of I10 exploring some rarely used roads along the Peloncillo Mountains.
Just on the Arizona side of the border I10 starts a long downhill slide towards Tucson through Texas Canyon which has all sorts of cool rock formations. The rest-area at mile marker 389 westbound, or 388 eastbound, is a convenient spot to stop and get a closer look. If you're not careful, while you're sitting at a one of the picnic tables with your back to the freeway you'll start daydreaming and just might start seeing ghosts of the Apache tribe members that inhabited this almost un-inhabitable area up there in the rocks. If you're even luckier you'll catch an eastbound freight grinding up the grade on the north side of the freeway.

When I got to Tucson I still had plenty of day left so stopped at the Saguaro National Park East Unit to renew my federal parks pass since I knew we would be stopping at several federal parks this trip. I had completely forgotten that this was Easter day so was lucky to get one of the few parking spots available at the park headquarters.

Since we’ll be back here in a few days I didn’t join the crowds entering the park after I renewed my pass as I had originally planned, but rather went off to explore a couple campgrounds in the area. I already had one in mind that I’ve stayed at before but wanted to make sure there wasn’t something better. There wasn’t.

Snaking my way across Tucson on surface streets (For a city of this size there sure aren’t many freeway options.) I picked up I10 again, but only for a few miles before stopping for the night at the Picacho KOA in the shadow of the Picacho Peak State Park.



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