I Got High On Mount Graham

Safford, Arizona

Roper Lake State Park

February 29, 2020

Another lucky find for me. I picked this state park solely based on it being nearly halfway between Tucson and White Sands. Let’s say about 35 percent. But it fit the bill in terms of not requiring me to drive more than four hours.

The park is located a handful of miles outside of Safford and nearly at the base of Mount Graham. Safford is a nondescript town of about 10,000 folks. Big employers are the federal prison, a Freeport-McMoRan mine (gold and copper?) and WalMart.

Due to Safford's relatively isolated dark sky location, the area is a prime spot for observatories. The town’s street lights are low-output to minimize light pollution. atop the mountain to the southwest of the city. Mount Graham is home to the Mount Graham International Observatory and Large Binocular Telescope It is the largest binocular telescope in the world. The mountain also is home to the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, or VATT. It is also home to the Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope, or SMT. Other fun facts:

- Safford is one of the settings for the 1985 Albert Brooks comedy Lost in America

- Snowfall averages around 0.8 inches (0.020 m) but the median is zero. Figure that one out.

- Locals say Safford has two seasons - summer and hot summer. It has temperatures similar to Phoenix. Folks escape the heat by swimming in Roper Lake and going up into Coronado National Forest which is where Mount Graham is located.

- When I left the camp (at 3000 feet) the temperature was 61 degrees; when I got near the top of Mount Graham the temperature was 44 degrees. Actuall I only got to about 9200 feet; the last 12 miles of the road to the top is closed to the public for the winter.

- You did read that correctly - the Vatican has a telescope here. Here is a link to a New York Times article about it.

- The cost of living, when compared to the national average of 100 is approximately 80. The biggest factor in low cost of living is the cost of real estate.

Hope you enjoy this slideshow which principally documents my journey on Mount Graham. Tune is Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells A Story.“

Oops. YouTube didn't like that I used that song. Let's try the same video but this time with the Tams.

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