It was in the late 1950s that my parents first took my nine siblings and me up to Mount Lemmon to spend a month at a cabin in Soldier Camp.
Every year, about halfway up the mountain, my mother would roll the car window down, sniff the air and relax — even with screaming kids in the car. “Ohh, Jim,” she would say to my father, “can you smell the pines?”
With the evacuation of the mountain because of the Burro Fire, it’s hard not to think of the time we’ve spent up there. Mount Lemmon is packed with memories from people who have wended their way up the hill to escape the heat, to embrace the snow — and to smell the pines.
We threw it out on Facebook: What’s your favorite Mount Lemmon memory? A few of the responses:
Robert Whitley, retired custom builder: “Cub Scout camp. Tents, trees — tall ones — that whispered something to us. Scent of burning pine we had brought to the circle and (learning) where to sneak off to when the lights were blown out ... late 1950.”
Stone mason Darrell Klesch: “Loved hanging out at Prison Camp, and fishing in nearby pond. The camp is now called Gordon Hirabayashi Prison Camp (during World War II, conscientious objectors, Hirabayashi and a few other Japanese Americans were incarcerated there). It was my pleasure to construct the stone/steel monument for the conscientious objectors who lived there while building the highway. I also was blessed to meet surviving prisoners, including Mr. Hirabayashi.”
Artist Cindy Cook-Keller: “The Girl Scout camp Whispering Pines; learning that low misty clouds were not smoke ... hope that stays true right now. … Took my dog Willow, RIP, up there every Monday each summer for several years. A very quiet day of the week. The small streams were heaven for both of us to put our feet in.”
Actor Roger Owen: “I love that mountain, too! So many great memories! My favorite is when I rehearsed ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ with the Invisible Theater just outside of Summerhaven. It was the summer of 1977.”
Puppeteer Barbara Mocking: Mocking traveled to the top of the mountain a few years back when she came across “ladybugs, ½-inch thick on the trees. I scooped a bunch up and put them in my mouth for photos. ... They were bitter. Hard to get out of my mouth and hard to get taste out. Then we were standing in some plants when we saw a flower move as if it were being jerked from below. We stared as it was jerked two more times and then whoosh, it vanished into the ground. This happened many times with each flower. Then through a small hole right next to my hiking boot a tiny mole popped out all squinty eyed and looking around. … Then it went back down to continue harvesting plants. It was just like in the cartoons.”
Valeska V. Cromer, retired dance instructor: “Our cabin was up the road now known as Turkey Creek Road. At right, as soon as you come down the hill into Summerhaven. … When I was there the creek always ran full, so you could still lay down on the ground and drink the water. … All my best childhood memories are in the summers spent on Mount Lemmon. When I was there we saw movies at the general store on Friday nights, danced in the same place on Saturday night and church in the same place Sunday mornings.”
Librarian, actress Rosanne Couston: “We’d go for family picnics when I was small and my dad would put together scavenger hunts for us and our cousins.”
Lori Hunt, actress, now living in Seattle: “I remember, of course, camping with family and friends as a kid ... going up in the winters for a taste of snow. But Mount Lemmon will forever be special to me because it’s where my family and I laid my mother’s ashes to rest in June 2009. There was a beautiful area just off the trail in Marshall Gulch where we took handfuls of her ashes and scattered them, then washed our hands with the fresh cold stream water. Going hiking on Mount Lemmon that summer became a regular pilgrimage for me that helped my grieving process. I hiked all over those trails off the Marshall Gulch trailhead, and every time I passed her memorial spot I would stop and sit with her a while. I still do, every time I can when I’m in town. ‘Hi, Mom!’”