Sunday, March 23, 2014

Know Your Tucson Landmarks - Window Rock!

There are a lot of interesting landmarks in the Tucson area, some harder to find than others.  The one that comes to mind is Window Rock.  Not only is it directly visible from much of Tucson, the Spanish word for window (Ventana) is a very popular name for streets, neighborhood and Canyon on Tucson's east side below it.  But while visible, few know about it, even those who've lived here for a long time, so here is your insider's guide to locate it!

The Santa Catalina Mountains form the northern limit to Tucson's northern edge.  The front range contains many trails for recreational hiking, and provide easy access to native desert in just a few minutes of hiking.  The trail to Window Rock climbs about 4500 feet elevation and is over 12 miles round trip.  Much easier to spot it visually or in binoculars!  The picture shown here at left was taken a couple miles from our house this morning, at the intersection of Campbell and Water, just north of Grant.  From the Chase Bank parking lot on the SW corner, the highest peaks of the front range are shown.  Not visible in the thumbnail shown, click on it to load the full-size image.  The Window is towards the right side near the top of the mountain profile - a large clear natural hole through the cliff allowing the sky to come through.  I've never done the hike, though Googling "Window Rock Tucson" brings up many hike descriptions and close-up pictures of it.  If you don't pick it out of the profile picture at left, the right image is labeled so that you can more easily pick it out.  These pictures are a 3-frame panorama with my 70-200mm zoom set to 115mm, and also are HDR images to get details of the storefronts in shadows as well as in the sun lit mountains.

Of course, the images above also readily show another landmark, Finger Rock.  Anyone driving north on Swan Road sees it straight ahead up on the Catalina's profile, and it is quite spectacular.  I've blogged about it before (enter "Finger Rock" in the search box at upper left), and this morning's close-up of it is shown here.  The most spectacular views of it are from the Finger Rock trail which starts at the end of Alvernon Road from Skyline Drive.  As you ascend the trail, you get closer as well as climb in elevation.  I've read that you can bushwhack to Finger Rock itself, but the trail itself climbs to Kimball Peak to the right of Finger Rock, ending at over 7,000 feet elevation.

The Window is easily visible over a wide swath of Tucson, from down near the airport up past the University area.  It is easiest to see in the morning when the rock face is in shadows and the light of the sky comes through.  It is much more difficult to see in the afternoon once the rock face is illuminated by the sun.  It can also become visible on heavily overcast days when direct sunlight is blocked.  Of course, with optical aid, even binoculars make observations easy.  When I was a patient at UMC, it was always readily visible from north-facing rooms, and Melinda often spots it around sunrise from her work there when she is in the appropriate-facing rooms.  This image was taken this morning (about 0830) with the William Optics 11cm diameter F/7 APO (770mm focal length).

This pair of images were taken late yesterday just before sunset.  You can see that with the afternoon sun shining on the west-facing cliff face, the brightness difference makes the window a little harder to see, though, of course, with optical aid, the color difference now takes over.  As you continue north from the University, driving towards the Mountains up Campbell, eventually the front range blocks the view.  The left image is taken as above on Campbell near Grant, and the left one a mile further north near Ft Lowell.  Another couple hundred yards to the north and it disappears below the top of the hill to the Window's left.  We can't see it from our house as it is below that same hill.

So there you have it!  Next time you have a good view to the north of Tucson, and you are south of Ft Lowell and somewhere between I'10 and Swan, scan the north edge of the Santa Catalinas and see if you can spot it.  Earlier in the morning is better, but give it a shot!

No comments: