Trails and roads in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson are open during the government shutdown — and visitors to the heights will find cool autumn air and trees showing off in the golden hues of the season.
But here’s a word of friendly advice if you head into the Catalinas while the shutdown is in effect: Bring toilet paper.
That’s because the U.S. Forest Service has closed and locked public restrooms in the range — meaning that you will be doing your business in the woods if you’re hiking or taking in sights along the Catalina Highway. If you can hold it until you get the mountain community of Summerhaven or Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, you might ask to use restrooms in restaurants or other businesses.
The comfort-station quandary notwithstanding, this weekend and the next couple of weeks are shaping up as prime time for a day in the Catalinas.
Midday temperatures are just about perfect, with highs hovering around 70 degrees. Start your excursion early or stay until sunset and you might actually need something called a jacket.
Aspen trees near Ski Valley and along some trails high in the range are morphing from summer green to autumn gold.
Maples in Bear Wallow, near Mile Marker 22 on the Catalina Highway, are dressing out in shades of coppery brown and red. The color show is expected to peak in mid-October.
“This place is just plain gorgeous. Look at these aspen trees! Gorgeous,” hiker Larry Kosden said as he paused Friday near a trailhead under a canopy of yellow leaves quaking in a breeze.
At Ski Valley, Anabel Thompson and Robert McKenzie kicked back on a rustic log bench and took in a panorama of evergreen forests accented with the autumn colors of aspens and maples.
“This is fantastic,”
McKenzie said. “We’re very lucky to have something like this so close to Tucson.”
Elsewhere in the range, a group of rock climbers prepared for an ascent at Windy Point. A party of sightseers pulled up to the restroom at the scenic point, took note of its uncooperative status and piled back into their vehicle — bound, perhaps, for a suitable spot in the woods.
Meanwhile, the annual Oktoberfest celebration continues at Ski Valley from noon to 5 p.m. today and Sunday as well as next Saturday and Sunday.
“We are open; no shutdown for us!” says a notice on Ski Valley’s website. “Two more weekends of Oktoberfest left; get up here!”