This is part four of the four-part series that started Sunday night. My chronicle of the trip up Mount Lemmon ends at the top with Summerhaven, the village of shops and vacation homes that was largely destroyed (60%, or something like that) in the Aspen Fire of June-July 2003.
This is the first time I've been to Summerhaven since the fire. What I notice mostly is that everything looks new. There are lots of really nice new houses and shops, made of maple (or some kind of reddish wood) and topped with the kind of pitched roof one never sees in Tucson below. Summerhaven is about 30 miles from Tucson, and nearly 5,000 feet higher in elevation. Summerhaven gets snow, which Tucson mostly doesn't. (Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, a couple of miles from Summerhaven along the other fork in the road, is the southernmost ski resort in the continental U.S.) The name Summerhaven comes from the fact that people like to come up here to escape the summer heat. It's supposed to get to 90 degrees this week, so people will probably start visiting in droves shortly. How many people have to drive up there to qualify as a drove?
The Living Rainbow Gift Shop is the one commercial establishment I usually visit when I go up the mountain. It's kind of a hippie / new age sort of place, with some of the same cool merchandise (e.g. Albert Einstein action figure) seen at Yikes! I was very glad to find it rebuilt and open.
Inside Living Rainbow. The proprietor is still working on getting the place set up, but it's already rather beautiful. "My grand opening isn't supposed to be until Memorial Day," she explained, but she's already getting a lot of business.
The owner of Living Rainbow had a 27-year accumulation of beads in the old shop. The Aspen Fire destroyed thousands of them. Some melted together, some cracked, and some were charred. After the fire, she picked them all up, whatever condition they were in. She sells the surviving beads for $1 each, and the clumps of melted ones as sort of found art. Outside, her sidewalk is embedded with broken beads. Cool!
I'm not a bead fan at all, but I bought a clump of interesting black beads. And Carly, I almost bought a pin that reminded me of you. It said, Wild Weird Wonderful Woman. Actually, I suppose that describes several of my online friends.
And at the end of the day, this Abert's Squirrel turned up to pose for me outside Living Rainbow.
I would have taken more pictures of Summerhaven, but by then my CF memory card was full. For every picture I took there, I had to delete something else.
After that, I drove back down the mountain. For some reason, NPR was drowned out by loud, obnoxious rock (probably of recent vintage) for a couple of minutes outside Summerhaven, both as I was going up and going down. When I reached the red light above Windy Point, and Car Talk came on, I found a classical station. A medieval piece played as I waited. I thought, "When this was written, no European had ever seen these mountains." I left the classical station on all the way down. The changing air pressure, the centrifugal force of driving down a twisting road full of switchbacks, the classical music and my growing fatigue combined into something a bit like synesthesia, where the senses cross over and become confused with each other. It wasn't quite like that, but almost. I loved it!
The gas gauge was on E for Excellent all the way down. But I made it to the overpriced Chevron station at the edge of town. No problem.
Thanks, Carly, for inspiring a fun day!
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