Sightseeing in the Tortolita Mountains
via running shoes
Rail X Ranch sign with the Tortolita Mountains in the background
I emerged from my dad’s pick up with a Nathan running vest in hand, an ipod cranking out some inspirational, but mainly butt kicking tunes to keep me in motion, and a goal that looked, well, distant. The sun-fried, tiled sign in the parking lot, decorated with a hummingbird, mountains, cactus and a rather unique, ugly looking gila monster, welcomed me to Catalina, Arizona. A nearby dirt track etched into the desert landscape, the Rail X Ranch Road, rolls west to the faraway Tortolita Mountains.
Windmill with the Catalina Mountains in the distance
Not your typical tourist, I was here to site see via my own transportation. A pair of running shoes. I had a gnarmous (healthy chunk of dirt real estate) amount of miles to slowly take in the sights of the desert landscape sprawled out before me. The Arizona desert is a world away from my rainforest environment in Alaska. Oh, and its 75 degrees on this cloudless day in November. It will be a day of contrasts.
A small herd of perhaps 15 horses (feral horses) roam the rugged ridges and canyons of the Tortolita Mountains NW of Tucson. Not expected on the edge of the sprawling Tucson Metropolitan area.
According to officials and people who once operated ranches in the area, that the feral herd originated sometime in the first half of the last century when horses escaped or were released by ranchers. I was not expecting to see wild horses today. I would gladly settle for javelina, jaguars, mountain lions, tarantula or rattle snakes.
White Rock Mine
About an hour and 1/2 of slow, steady motion and the ipod blasting, takes me to the end of the Rail X Ranch Road and a gate. Beyond the gate is the White Rock Mine, opened in 1958. Posted on the rolling gate is 'Attention Security Guard on Duty'. Hmmm. Guessing that this sign is the actual guard on duty. A much cheaper option.
Sunset in the Tortolita's
Did I mention that at the turn around point the sun was minutes away from setting? That setting orb on my right, makes for a beautiful sight, and some beautiful photos, but the run, which has taken longer than anticipated, has become a lot more interesting. My ultra-mini pinch light and I are now best friends.
Tucson in the distance
The view of the twinkling lights in the distant world of concrete, stoplights, Big Macs and lots of human beings is a closing reminder of why I am making tracks on this lonely dirt road in the desert and not 25 miles south. The lights of Tucson, become more apparent as the sun dips behind the lofty spine of the Tortolita range. My current world consists of cactus, agave, dirt and a rare windmill, clicking as it spins in the light breeze. The lights of Catalina slowly come into view and the traffic whines along Oracle Road. I slide into the truck, flip on the lights, and head north.