Friday, September 19, 2014

King Canyon to Wasson Peak Saguaro National Park West September 13, 2014

                      Arizona poppy

Directions: King Canyon is located near the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. To get to the trail head take Speedway west from the University of Arizona. Drive under I-15 and follow the directions to Gates Pass. From Gates Pass carefully drive the windy road to Kinney Road. Turn right and watch for the trail head on the right near the museum.

The Hike: I returned to Saguaro National Park West to complete all four trails to the top of Wasson Peak.  Trails  included in this group are Sendero Esperanza, Hugh Norris, King Canyon and Sweetwater. All of these routes are beautiful but my personal favorite is Hugh Norris because it is longer and has views the whole way to the top.

Last Saturday we finally had temperatures cool enough (low 90s) to hike in the lower elevations so I took advantage. When I exited the car at 9 am there were clouds in the air and a cool wind blowing. I made good time hiking the old road that leads to the Mam-a-Gah Picnic Area.  For visitors who do not want to hike the old road a lower trail follows the wash below. The Mam-a-Gah Picnic Area was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Today the buildings are crumbling under disrepair.  The flora of this part of the trail is Saguaro, Palo verde, Ocotillo, and different species of cholla. After following the wash a short distance, the King Canyon trail becomes steep. Views start to open up toward Kitt Peak and the Baboquivari Hills to the west. The trail continues to climb until it reaches a saddle where the Sweetwater Trail descends  east toward town. Follow the Hugh Norris northward as it switchbacks its way past a number of inactive mines. After 1.1 miles a spur trail to the summit departs to the right. Wasson Peak is one of my favorite peaks to climb near Tucson because it offers a fantastic view. From the summit it is possible to see 20 wilderness areas.Total mileage was 7 miles with about 2000 feet of elevation gain.


                   Wild- dwarf morning glory

                  Trailing windmills


                           View looking east from top

                            Ocotillo with leaves

                                       Trail near top
                                                Arizona poppy    

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Butterfly Trail Mount Lemmon August 30, 2014

                                   View toward the San Pedro Valley

Directions: The Butterfly trail is located off of the Catalina Highway near Tucson, Arizona. Don't start looking for the trail head until you have driven over 20 miles. Along the way are a number of beautiful pull-offs including Windy Point Vista and San Pedro Vista. Remember a visitor pass ($5 for a day and $20 for the year) is required to park at picnic areas and trail heads in the Coronado National Forest. For this hike I did not start the Mount Bigelow trail head but the one above it near the Palisade Ranger Station.

The Hike: The trail starts off in the shade with towering Ponderosa pines and Douglas fir. After ascending over a small ridge the trail enters a landscape that is recovering from a fire in 2003. This part of the hike is not shaded and can get hot in the afternoon make sure to wear a hat and sunblock.  In this area the Crystal Spring trail departs at a well-signed junction. After three miles the trail reaches a ravine with a creek that flows during the monsoon period. An unmarked trail takes visitors to a waterfall and beautiful lunch spot. After about 3.5 to 4 miles Nathan and I turned around and we hiked back to the car at a point where the trail ascended precipitously to the Mount Bigelow. Throughout the trip I saw a profusion of columbine in the creek beds as well as Daisies and Corral bells along the trail. Views were predominantly of the San Pedro Valley and distant Mount Graham. Total Mileage was about 7.4 miles with 1500 feet of elevation gain.

                                           Arizona columbine


                    A Horned toad

                           Lunch spot under a falls

                                     Moth on a plant


Monday, September 1, 2014

Night Wings Pima Air and Space Museum August 23, 2014

                                 Pima County Search and Rescue demonstration

On August 23rd I returned to Pima Air and Space with the family for the third and final installment of night wings. Night Wings gives visitors the chance to visit the museum when it is cooler and engage in some activities as well. On this particular visit Pima County Search and Rescue gave a demonstration.

                         A beautiful sunset framed by airplanes

                  Another picture of the sunset

                   Love the colors and the tail

                 Quintin in a trainer in Hangar Three

                                       Quintin playing in a simulator

Palisade Trail August 23, 2014

                              Beautiful multi-colored mushroom on the trail

Location: Take the Catalina Highway 19 miles to the Organization Control Road right before the Palisade Ranger Station.The trailhead is 3/4 of a mile on the right.

The Hike: The Palisade Trail, nine miles, starts in the pine forest of Mount Lemmon and ends at Sabino Canyon. It gives hikers the opportunity to see the main vegetation types of southern Arizona including pine forests, oak woodlands, grasslands with Ocotillo and finally Saguaro cacti. This trail looses about 3800 feet of elevation so it is steep in places. Some route finding skills might be necessary on this route. Please inquire with rangers about trail conditions near the East Fork of Sabino Canyon.

Trail Description: The first four miles I was on the trail is well-worn and easy to follow. After leaving the trail head it follows the upper part of Palisade Canyon on Organization Ridge. Here there are a few trails that descend to the creek below and its beautiful pools. At 0.8 miles a side trail ascends to a Girl Scout Camp be sure to keep hiking straight. In this section of the trail I saw a number of different species of mushroom. After a mile the trail descends into Pine Canyon. Here it appeared the forest burned so this was definitely the hottest section of the hike. After about 2.3 miles the trail reaches Mud Spring which is not a reliable source of drinking water.After crossing the creek the trail ascends to the western side of the canyon. In this section look for a beautiful waterfall in Pine Canyon. After 3.5 miles the trail reaches a bluff with a beautiful view of the East and West Fork of Sabino Canyon as well as Tucson, Arizona, and the Rincon Mountains. From here it appeared that the trail descended rapidly to the East Fork so I chose this bluff as a nice spot to turn around.  Total mileage for the day was about eight miles (plus a short excursion to a nice lunch spot). Some information from Hiking Arizona's Cactus Country by Erik Molvar) 

                                    Pine forest on the upper section of the hike


                             Wild-dwarf morning glory

                      Great lunch spot

                         Looking into the Catalina Mountains

                                              East from the turnaround bluff

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Miller Canyon, Huachuca Mountains August 16, 2014

                                    Sonoran kingsnake

Hike Location: Drive south from Sierra Vista, Arizona, on State Rout 92 for nine miles. Turn right onto Miller Canyon road and drive until the trailhead, This road is an improved dirt road and it will accommodate passenger vehicles.

Miller Canyon is a nice alternative to the more popular Ramsey Canyon. It is about four miles and an elevation gain of 2700 feet to the Huachuca Crest Trail. This route also offers an alternative to the summit of Miller Peak. This canyon like the others in the Huachuca Mountains traps cooler air making it a nice microclimate for Syacamores and Douglas firs along with many species of pine. Most visitors do not realize that the mountains get cooler and wetter as you go south in this part of Arizona.

After leaving the trailhead the trail skirts around a private ranch at the base of the canyon. Past the ranch the trail returns to the canyon floor where it joins an old dirt road. Here the forest is delightful with shade from large oaks, After a half mile a trail to Hunter Canyon exits on to the left. In this part of Miller Canyon the trail can be hard to find because of floods in the canyon therefore, look for yellow flagging on trees which will mark the route. After about two mile the trail leaves the bottom of the canyon and climbs the right wall of the canyon. In this section of trail I came real close to almost getting bit by a Mojave rattlesnake. Luckily, I was hiking in front of two people who could have helped me if I had gotten bit. This part of Miller Canyon is heavily forested and high in elevation not the usual habitat for a Mojave.  I would have bushwhacked around the snake if there hadn't been Poison ivy along the trail. After ten minutes it became apparent that the snake would not move and I made the decision to turn around. I decided to hike the Hunter Canyon Trail because it was still early in the day. This trail ascended the southern wall of Miller Canyon before descending into Hunter Canyon. This canyon trail turned out to be a surprise because it gave me great views of Miller Canyon along with Miller Peak. As I returned to the trailhead a storm blew in over Miller Peak. At this time of year these storms are capable of producing lots of lightning, hail and rain which can be fatal if hikers are not prepared. Total mileage for the day was about seven miles with 1700 feet of elevation gain. (Information from Hiking Arizona's Cactus Country by Erik Molvar)


                          Mojave rattlesnake

                           A beautiful but deadly snake.

    Hunter Canyon

                 North wall of Miller Canyon

                       A beautiful lizard right off of the Hunter Canyon Trail.

                               Great picture of him on a rock.

Oracle Ridge Catalina Mountains August 9, 2014

                          Corral bells

Location: Take the Catalina Highway about 23.5 miles and turn right onto Oracle Control Road. Follow this road downhill passed the Mount Lemmon Fire Station. The trailhead is another 100 years along the road. If you have a jeep or all-terrain vehicle it is possible to drive down to Oracle, Arizona, by an unimproved dirt road.

The Hike: The trail along Oracle Ridge is actually the Arizona Trail which starts along the Mexican border and ends at the Utah border. This section is about 13 miles one-way and it ends at the American Flag Trailhead near Oracle, Arizona. It follows the ridge that extends northward from the Santa Catalina Mountains. Along the way are splendid views of the San Pedro Valley and Catalina Mountains. Many people hike the ridge to see its wildflowers which can be abundant in August.

Immediately after leaving the control road the trail climbs to over 8000 feet through a burned forest. Here I saw many species of wildflowers including Paintbrush, Corral bells and Sunflowers. The trail then descends to Stratton Saddle where it intermittently joins an old jeep trail for the descent to Dan Saddle. Make sure to keep an eye out for the wooden trail signs and the Arizona Trail blaze. At Dan Saddle a trail departs to the left descending to Catalina Camp and the Red Ridge Trail. The trail passed Dan Saddle is overgrown in places so watch your footing. The trail ascends precipitously climbing 500 feet in a half-mile. Keep an eye out for the Biosphere to the west. I would also watch for rattlesnakes because they like to sun themselves on the rocks. I hiked to the old Jeep trail near Rice Peak about four miles and turned around. Total mileage for the day was about eight miles with 1500 feet of elevation gain. (Information from Hiking Arizona's Cactus Country by Erik Molvar).

                 Along the ridge

    Looking west toward the reef.

      This truly is a beautiful trail.


     A burned forest with Red Ridge in the background.

        Vegetation along the ridge with a tall Century plant.

    Looking east across the San Pedro Valley.

                 I cannot go a summer without seeing Paintbrush.

   Corral bells

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Blacketts Ridge August 2, 2014

               Gila monster in the bush

Last Saturday I awoke to cloudy skies and cooler temperatures.  I also noticed a forecast of a 40 percent chance of rain. I threw my raingear in the backpack and drove up to Sabino Canyon. Sabino Canyon is not a summer hiking area because it is low elevation and can be hot. I arrived at the parking lot at 9:15 am. My objective is to hike Blacketts which is a about a six mile out and back with an elevation gain of 1700 feet.

Trail Description: The first 0.8 mile is in the main trail heading toward Bear Canyon. This trail is very popular and easy to follow. Various trail exit this one including Esperero Canyon and Sabino Canyon. After crossing Sabino Creek look for the junction with the Phoneline Trail on your left This trail is about five miles long and goes to the upper part of Sabino Canyon. Make sure to watch your footing because this trail is very rocky. A half mile later is the junction for Blacketts Ridge. Watch your footing on this trail because there are many loose rocks. After a mile it appears the trail ends at a nice shade tree. Watch for a fainter trail that continues to a sign at the top of the ridge. Views at this spot are spectacular; however, this is not a spot I would want to be in a lighting storm. Lucky for me it did not rain until later on in the day.

On the hike I saw  number of really interesting reptiles. Ten minutes from the parking lot I saw a Gila monster on the right side of the trail. I watched him for ten minutes before moving on. This Gila Monster was very active and even pawed at the ground a few times.  On the Blacketts Ridge Trail I saw a Desert tortoise. Desert tortoises are rare throughout the Sonoran and Mojave deserts and hikers can go years without seeing one.

                        The coolest reptile I have seen since I moved to Arizona.

                       Desert tortoise

                         Another picture of the tortoise climbing a rock

       A multi-colored lizard

    The view toward Tucson. The cloudy day made for softer lighting.

       Looking toward Bear Canyon near the top of the ridge.

      Sabino Canyon at the left. Mount Lemmon is also to the up.

        An Ocotillo with leaves.

              The upper part of Blacketts Ridge

              Blooming Hedgehog Cactus