Catalina State Park -Oro Valley/Tucson

Sunday morning we left Picacho State Park and headed in the direction of Tucson, but not exactly TO Tucson. I was not quite ready to return to anything resembling a big city, with its crowds and everything that goes with lots of people. We had read reviews of Catalina State Park, north of town and tucked up against the Catalina Mountains, officially in a suburb of Tucson known as Oro Valley.

The State Park and campgrounds are quite beautiful, complete with tons of trails for hiking, biking, dog walking, etc., all with a dramatic backdrop and gorgeous views of the rocky outcroppings of the western flank of the Catalina Mountains complete with a hint of snow up top. Park Sign

This is a VERY popular park, not only among travelers passing through, but also locals. When we drove to the end of the park, where there are no less than, say, 10 trailheads, we could not believe that the entire LARGE parking area was completely filled with cars. It WAS on the weekend, so we can only assume that the majority of the cars belonged to locals.

There is a great irony to Catalina State Park. When you are in the park, it would be easy to be convinced that you are totally immersed in sheer wilderness. And, IN the park, you certainly are. CampgroundThe irony is that, when you leave the park, and I mean at the stop sign when exiting, straight across the street is a Red Lobster, an In-N-Out, Best Buy, Century Theaters, and a whole host of other retailers. In fact, on the one day we were there, we went across the street to an RV show, and then drove down the highway for pizza.

Shortly after dinner, all hell broke loose. We were aware that a storm system was moving across the southwest and was due into the Tucson area. But the weather Sunday had been SO GREAT that we were shocked when winds started picking up just before dark. By the time we went to bed, the motorhome was rocking so violently that we actually thought it might turn over, even though we were sure that could not happen. Then, it started to snow. In the park. It’s not supposed to snow at such a low elevation. Surprisingly, in the morning, all evidence of any snow was gone except on the mountain. Nevertheless, during the night it sounded like heavy rain on the roof. I went outside and found that small beebees of snow were everywhere.

Since we have been trying to stick to a policy of “no reservations” ahead of time, we had to accept the risk of “no room at the inn”. Fortunately, we were able to get a space with water and electrical, but only for one night. Although we were told to check further availability later or in the morning, such availability was not to be. So, we proceeded to Plan B. Originally, 24 hours earlier, we were not sure what Plan B looked like. We had not decided whether to head west and south toward Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, or north toward Apache Junction. We had even thought about heading due west toward home. In spite of the weather that we woke up to, we decided to head north to Apache Junction. Fortunately, although we ran through some rain and snow flurries along the way, the storm was continuing east. And as we will detail in my next post, we were glad that “Plan B” turned out to be Apache Junction and the Superstition Mountains.

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