Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Camping at Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Area

The summer heat in Tucson is sometimes nearly unbearable.  But Tucson has a natural air-conditioner--Mt Lemmon--a 10,000 ft high mountain that rises straight up from the edge of the  city. At the top there is the very cool town of Summerhaven and the southernmost ski area in the U.S.

I was standing at an overlook less than 1/4 of the way up the mountain and looking south toward Mexico when I took this picture.  That litter you see all over the valley floor is actually the houses of Tucson.
The word Tucson comes from the Tohono O'odham language.  It translates to "At the foot of the Black Hill."

Humans probably entered the Tucson valley over 10,000 years ago in search of large animals still present at the close of the Pleistocene era.  Later inhabitants adapted to drier environments and eventually began farming.  Hohokam settlements thrived from about A.D. 200 to the 15th century.  The Tohono O'odham are likely descended from the Hohokam.

I was on my way to this campground to meet some fellow camping ladies for the weekend.

Bev, Myrna and Candy

These ladies do a monthly weekend camp trip somewhere in the close proximity to Tucson.   


This was a lovely weekend complete with hot dogs, marshmallows roasted on a stick and a huge skunk that wandered casually through our campsite without the least bit of concern that one of us might attack him.   

Good thing that Daisy had gone to bed before Pepe Le Pew arrived.   

This park was covered with ruins from what had been a Japanese internment camp during the second World War.  

The park and camp were named for Gordon Hirabayashi, who at age 24 challenged the internment of Japanese Americans. He was convicted of violating a curfew being imposed on the Japanese Americans  (all citizens of the U.S.) and was sentenced to this work camp.  

Prisoners built the structures that were here along with the highway that goes from Tucson to the top of the mountain.

 Many prisoners had been convicted of breaking tax or immigration laws.  Others refused to join the military for moral or religious reasons.  The conscientious objectors included Hopi Indians and Jehovah's Witnesses. Some, Like Hirabayashi were citizens who protested the internment of Japanese Americans.

At first, prisoners had only picks, shovels and wheelbarrows to use . Roadwork progressed faster 
 when jackhammers, bulldozers and tractors were added.
After the war the camp became a detention camp for wayward youth. The camp finally closed in the 1970s.


The largest forced removal and incarceration in U.S. history was signed by President Franklin Roosevelt  (Executive Order #9066) on February 19, 1942. Some 117,000 people were sent to ten internment camps in remote parts of the country. Their homes, businesses and belongings were left behind and lost forever.

"I was always able to hold my head up high, because I wasn't just objecting and saying 'no,' but was saying 'yes' to a prior principle, the highest of principles."
Gordon Hirabayashi

His case was reopened in 1987 and it led to an official apology from the U.S. government for the mass incarceration of 117,000 Japanese American citizens.

In 1988 President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, which acknowledged the injustice and apologized for the internment.


  1. I'm left wondering why they tore the buildings downs. Thank you for this delightful travel log that you give us.

  2. I wondered the same thing. The camp is located in the Coronado National Forest and the govt. may have removed the buildings to keep people from moving into the forest. (Just a thought).