Mount Hopkins Sunset

As we adjust to the searing early summer heat of the Sonoran Desert, today’s goal was to gain enough altitude to lose 10-15 degrees of heat … and see a sunset.

So, we hopped on the 19 towards Mexico, and then hung a left towards the tallest mountain we could see. This took us up past the small VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) ground-based gamma-ray telescope — it finds exploding stars, pulsars, quasars and black holes — off the paved road, and then, suddenly….

I’m pretty sure this little guy was a coati, sometimes also called a hog-nosed racoon, probably a male since he was definitely without a pack, and randy young guys apparently go rogue this time of year.

Our progress up the road from there was pretty solitary, with the occasional small group of cows wandering near the road, and one deer we startled down a steep embankment.

Speaking of embankments, the hillside dropped off pretty precipitously on my side of the car, and I rode mostly the whole way with my hands jammed under my thighs to keep myself from reacting and distracting my faithful driver….

We did make a few stops along the way (to take pictures of flowers, of course!) but the sun was low in the sky already, and we wanted to be sure to make it up to a good vantage point before sunset.

At the elbow of one particularly hairpin turn, down in a gully that ran under the road, we ran into this guy, strutting his stuff among the rocks, not terribly concerned about our presence, backing down the hill to grab a closer shot.

We reached the highest point we were allowed to see shortly before sunset, the gates of UArizona and the Smithsonian’s Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory.

This was, however, the sunrise side of the mountain, so we only stopped for a few photos, and then hurried back down in search of a better angle on a sunset.

Another ridiculous spur-of-the-moment adventure successfully concluded!

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