Category Archives: Santa Catalinas

First Days of Fall, October 2013

The first days of Fall are lovely in Tucson, the sun seems just as bright as it was last month, but the experience of standing under it has changed – the piercing rays of summer are gone, replaced by something still lovely-bright but more gentle. We don’t have the picture postcard Fall color change here, but the beautiful blue skies of Fall are amazing…

1310 View from Mount Kimball
An amazing view from Mount Kimball – I especially love this view of Table Mountain (far left)!

I managed to ascend the notoriously steep Finger Rock Trail, turn onto the Pima Canyon Trail and take the side trail up to Mount Kimball during mid-day hours without any concern for the heat/temperature! What a contrast to the summer months when even early am/late pm hikes/runs on the lower/front range Santa Catalina trails are brutally hot.

But perhaps Fall had not quite arrived – the joy of cooler temps did not last the entire hike – the last two miles down had the summer ‘baking in the hot sun’ feeling that anyone from Tucson should be able to instantly call to mind…

1310 Molino Basin to Agua Caliente Hill Trailhead
Looking toward Agua Caliente Hill after coming over the high point on the Bellota Trail.

Out of the Santa Catalina Mountains on the Bellota Trail – views into two stunning canyons along the Milagrosa Trail – across Agua Caliente Canyon and up new-to-me trails to the Agua Caliente Hill Trail and down Agua Caliente Hill Trail with Alison! Between unfamiliar trail junctions and new stretches of trail I didn’t even think about the temperature during this run. There are many more ‘serious’ point-to-point hikes out of the Santa Catalina Mountains (esp. into the Rincon Mountains), but at just over 11 miles (about 14 if you have time time go to the top of Agua Caliente Hill) this is a fantastic journey that is a bit less committing.

1310 Richard on the East Fork Trail
Richard running the East Fork trail – great views, smoother trails and downhill from east to west this is an absolute blast to run!

We met Richard at Prison Camp, provided a little extra water (he ran up via Bear Canyon) and then joined him for on his run down to the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center via the Molino Basin, Sycamore Reservoir, East Fork, Sabino Canyon and Phoneline Trails. This was a repeat of an adventure from February of this year (pictures) – we weren’t any faster this time – but we were smarter and finished the run in much better shape! Much of the landscape looked the same – although the area near Sycamore Reservoir seemed to have more green – and the temps were beautiful!

1311 Ryan finishing his run to the Basin
Ryan finishing his out and back run to Sabino Basin.

Richard and I ran in shorts and short sleeve shirts, never reaching for more until we finished – and sitting still and relaxing at the end the extra layer felt like more of a luxury than a necessity… But a few days later on a night run on the Phoneline Trail (with friends from the Summit Hut) the weather seemed changed. Sitting in the dark waiting for Ryan and Dave to return from Sabino Basin (most of us had stopped at the last junction down to the road) I added a long sleeve shirt, then a light wind jacket, then a thin beanie but still shivered and hugged myself for warmth in the chilly night air – maybe technically not the coldest night of the year, but the first night where my light layers were inadequate, I think it is time to change the gear in my pack, Fall is here…

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…