As you wind your way up the Catalina Highway, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a first-time visitor or a native Tucsonan; you know you’re on the way to someplace special.
The Santa Catalina Mountains first captivated Tony Zimmerman on a 1937 hunting trip. Regard for the alpine beauty must have been in his genes—he was the son of Swiss German immigrants—and by 1940 the Tucson schoolteacher had begun taking his family to Mount Lemmon to spend the summer. Back then, the road up the mountain was a rough two-track dirt road from Oracle, and Summerhaven was nothing but a sleepy cluster of summer cabins. But Tony Zimmerman was to help change all of that.
The Road to Mount Lemmon is a beguiling memoir of the Catalina Mountains told by the daughter of one of the pioneers in the life and development of Mount Lemmon’s communities. Mary Ellen Barnes tells how her father Tony resigned from teaching in 1943 to devote his career to the development of this mountain oasis. He not only sold real estate for long time landowner Randolph Jenks, he even bought the village’s tiny two-room store, installing a sawmill to build a larger store, and built the Mount Lemmon Inn. And as she spins Tony’s personal saga, she also gives readers a glimpse of the Catalinas before Tucson became a boom town, recalling idyllic adventures in wild country and the cowboys, rangers, ranchers, and loggers who worked there.
Barnes tells Tony’s story as if sharing it with family, evoking her father’s personality on every page. The Road to Mount Lemmon is an intimate view of a mountain community over the course of nearly sixty years—a view that few people have shared but one all can appreciate.