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Throwback Thursday; Catalina Highway

Back in 2012 I took a drive up the Catalina Highway through the Santa Catalina Range to Summerhaven near the 9,159 foot summit of Mount Lemmon.






The Catalina Highway is a 27 mile scenic route which starts at Tanque Verde Road in northeast Tucson and ends at Summerhaven within Coronado National Forest.  The Catalina Highway was constructed from 1933 to 1950 and is designated as Arizona Forest Route 39.  The original Catalina Highway was considered somewhat dangerous with narrow roadways and steep cliff-faces that were a hazard to traffic.  The Catalina Highway improved to the modern configuration from 1988 to 2007.

I started out fairly early in the morning ascending the Catalina Highway.  The lower elevations of the highway have typical plant life seen in the Sonoran Desert.





The Catalina Highway ascends rapidly but never had what I would consider a steep grade.  The Catalina Highway has wide shoulders which makes the road very popular with cyclists.  The increase in elevation yields a change of plant life resembling that of the nearby Chihuahuan Desert.












There are various pull-outs on the Catalina Highway offering wide vistas of the Sonoran Desert below.  As the terrain ascends the plant life becomes similar to what is typically seen on the Colorado Plateau with Ponderosa Pines making an appearance.






The grade of the Catalina Highway snakes through the Santa Catalina.  I don't recall how steep the road was but I would speculate it didn't exceed 10% at any point.






The vista near the top of the Catalina Highway offer wide views of the Sonoran Desert the roadway ascending the Santa Catalinas below.









Above the 7,000 foot line views shift towards the San Pedro River Watershed.







At about 8,000 the Catalina Highway begins to approach Summerhaven and Mount Lemmon.









Summerhaven apparently has about 40 full-time residents.  The community largely consists of people seeking temperatures 30F degrees cooler than the Sonoran Desert below in Tucson.  There are heavy burn scars from the 2003 Aspen Fire which apparently burned approximately 250 homes.








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