Category Archives: Hiking

4 Days in Arizona, October 2013

The shutdown of the Federal Government ended a rather elaborate Grand Canyon vacation plan involving friends flying in from several different states, camping on both rims, R2R and R2R2R runs/hikes and general good fun. But Alison and I headed north anyway – on the one hand there is no substitute for the Grand Canyon, on the other Arizona is literally filled with substitutes…

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park had been in the back of our minds for several years and it was an easy decision to stop by on our way from Tucson to Flagstaff. There is a bit of hiking and short canyon trail, but the highlight and real reason to visit is certainly being able to view (and walk under!) the Tonto Natural Bridge.

1310 Under the BridgeUnder the Tonto Natural Bridge

It was amazing to stand under the bridge, see rainbows in the mist, feel the cold water and watch the sun slipping behind the walls of the bridge – too soon park hours demanded that we continue towards Flagstaff.

Humphreys Peak

Memory changes reality – we have been in Tucson 13 years and when I hike in the mountains near town I am rarely alone even if I don’t have any partners for the day – most hikes, at some point, cross paths with the phantoms of past adventures. We were on Humphreys Peak just a little over a decade ago and it was fun to remember that trip and those friends as we hiked.

1310 Changing Aspens BelowAlison above the treeline – the Aspens changing color below

1310 Humphreys PeakAfter several false peaks (that we remembered from our hike 10 years ago) we reached the top – it was crowded when we arrived (we were not the only ones finding alternatives to the Grand Canyon!), but we were lucky and had a few minutes alone to enjoy the views.

0307 Summit of Humphrey's PeakThe summit just over a decade ago – Joe, Tim, Chris (leaning on the sign), Me, Alison, Dave, Leah – all except Leah were Summit Hut employees.

1310 End of the day near the Snobowl TrailheadFinishing the hike in the last light of the day…

Sycamore Rim Trail

I had trained for the Grand Canyon, but after a long day on Humphreys Peak I was happy to end up on a hike without quite as much elevation gain/loss. After taking pictures of the Prairie Dogs near the road we started the hike at the Dow Springs Trailhead. The hike was a great contrast to Humphreys and different than the terrain near Tucson – water, green, springs,  Ka Hill, Pomeroy Tanks, Paradise Forks, Sycamore Canyon, moon, stars…

It was fun to be in this area again – in past years we climbed at Paradise Forks a number of times, but in this one hike we saw more of the area than we ever did in all our climbing trips…

1310 Pomeroy TanksStopping for a break at Pomeroy Tanks

1310 Sycamore CanyonSycamore Canyon – sunset – we were amazed at how deep the canyon is!

We had read that this trail could be crowded – at least near the numerous trailheads – and noisy from the roads cutting thru the area – but we didn’t see anyone for the entire 12 mile loop! A nice contrast to the line of people on Humphreys.

Cathedral Rock

We were tired but decided to fit in a short hike on the way back to Tucson – Cathedral Rock in Sedona. We parked at the Baldwin Trailhead and took the Baldwin and Templeton trails along Oak Creek to the Cathedral Rock Trail – the Cathedral Rock Trail is short, steep, fun and takes you to a great view and a classic photo opportunity –

1310 Alison near the end of the Cathedral Rock Trail

And then back to Tucson…


Sad Signs – Pictures from the Santa Catalina Mountains During the Government Shutdown, October 2013

1310 Trails Open Campground Closed
 Joy and Sadness – an informative message at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

The shutdown of the Federal Government is, at least for me, (beyond encouraging people to think about improving how our government works and/or who we elect) pointless.

One victim of the shutdown is our Federal Lands – a shame since they are truly one of the best things about the USA – parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon closed? Why? I was certainly deeply disappointed to have a vacation with good friends in the Grand Canyon destroyed – camping, dayhikes, R2R criss-crossing with friends, supporting R2R2R runs…

Thankfully Tucson is surrounded by quite a bit of National Forest, BLM, State and County land that is – unlike our National Parks which are ‘truly’  closed – still open for hiking/climbing/running/recreation!

The trails of the Santa Catalina Mountains (Mount Lemmon) remain open – trailheads, pullouts and the highway – open – but bathrooms, visitor centers, picnic areas and campgrounds are closed.

1310 Sabino Canyon Parking and Facilities Closed
Most of the trailheads at the base of the mountain are open, but the Sabino Canyon facilities (including bathrooms) and parking area are closed – if you can figure out where to park the area is still open to hiking (the Pima County Bear Canyon Trailhead is one option – beware the No Parking signs along Sabino Canyon Road near the parking lot entrance…)

1310 Molino Basin Bathrooms and some parking closed
The Molino Basin area is partly open – this is the only trailhead I saw where some of the parking spots were blocked – perhaps the parking spaces were blocked for reasons other than the shutdown? (note that the Prison Camp gate is closed limiting parking to the smaller parking areas near the highway – but that gate has been closed for months now).

1310 Cypress Picnic Area Closure
Sadly every Picnic Area and Campground that I saw was closed and either gated or blocked by caution tape and a sign. Note that the caution tape blocks access to the entire area (including parking) – not just to bathrooms/picnic tables…

1310 Windy Point Bathrooms Closed
The Windy Point Bathrooms – closed… Summerhaven has the only open public bathrooms on the Mountain that I am aware of – of course Summerhaven and Ski Valley businesses are still open as well.

1310 Mount Graham in the Distance from the San Pedro Vista
Taking a break and enjoying the view across the San Pedro River into the Galiuro and Pinaleno Mountains – vistas are open!

1310 Spencer Campground Closed
Campgrounds are closed – interesting that these signs have a slightly different tone than the white signs at the picnic area.

1310 Summit Parking Area Open and being used
The Summit Trailhead – alive with cars and hikers! The Bathrooms are closed but the trailhead and hiking is open!


An End To Summer, September 2013

Alison and I found the end of Summer on top of Blackett’s Ridge – sitting in the Tucson city lights we – for the first time in months – had to bundle up in our jackets, gloves and hats to stay and enjoy the view.

1309 Star and City light from the top of Blacketts Ridge

It seemed like a long summer this year – but don’t all Tucson summers seem to stretch on and on? This summer I made more time to venture into the higher reaches of the Santa Catalina Mountains – beautiful places…

1309 Flowers along the Red Ridge Trail
The lower miles of the Red Ridge Trail – where it makes its way from the East Fork of the Canada del Oro down to the Canada del Oro proper – were new to me. This section of trail obviously gets less use than the upper section of Red Ridge and on my first trip there were a few spots that seemed a bit obscure… On this particular trip I took the CDO Trail back to the Summit Parking area.

1309 South Fork of Edgar Canyon
For some time I have been curious about the lower stretches of the Knagge Trail – beyond the cabin ruins and old mine the obvious trail currently ends about 2 miles down – I thought with some time/gps/map surely I could find useful traces of this old path… I cross-crossed the supposed location multiple times as I headed down to the South Fork of Edgar Canyon but is seems time and nature have erased this particular trail.

1309 Clouds along Oracle Ridge
The best storms waited until later in the summer this year – it was a joy to hike the Red Ridge/Oracle Ridge loop again this year with Alison and Traci – Oracle Ridge was exploding with flowers/green and the clouds rolled over the ridge as we hiked – an amazing day!

1309 Ridge along the Brush Corral Trail
The Brush Corral Trail was new to me – the Brush Corral/Brush Corral Shortcut ‘loop’ was nice enough – but the part of the trail that I will be back to visit is below the junction of these trails – fire has burned across the ridges and the now faint trail heads down and out of the range, spectacular!

1309 Keebler Tree
The ‘Keebler Tree’ on the Crystal Springs trail – this area was lovely and fabulously overgrown, this trail always seems to take a bit more effort than I expect…

1308 AM Reflection Molino Basin headed to Box Camp
A view of the clouds and a reflection on the car – taking a break at Molino Basin on the way up to the Box Camp Trail – while climbing back up the Box Camp Trail from the East Fork/Box Camp junction I watched the clouds for hours – finally, at 7000′ I enjoyed my first storm of the summer…