Saturday, January 25, 2014

Gates Pass Exploration Tucson Mountains January 20, 2014

                         Tucson Mountains above Gates Pass

After lunch on Martin Luther King Day I drove up to Gates Pass in the Tucson Mountains to do some hiking and photograph the Tucson Mountains. There are few trails at Gates Pass but I was able to scramble up to the top of small mountains using unofficial trails (as a result I do not know length or elevation gain). I do not usually go off-trail because it encourages the creation of illegal trails and accelerates erosion in the mountains. Respect wildlife and plant life. Hiking around I did see a disturbing amount of trash some of which I picked up. Enjoy our wild lands but please pack it out.

                     Tucson Mountains looking toward Saguaro Park West

           Extremely windy Gates Pass Road

                       Gates Pass Road at the summit

Cactus Garden Three Tank and Carrillo Trail Loop Saguaro National Park East January 19, 2014

               View from the Three Tank Trail

I arrived at the Douglas Spring Trail head at around 12:30 pm after volunteering at the Pima Air Space Museum. Today my objective was to hike the Three Tank Trail and then return back to the trail head by way of the Garwood Trail. This loop is about 8 miles with 1500 feet of elevation gain. Trails involved include  the Douglas Spring Trail (described in past post), Three Tank Trail, Wildhorse Trail, Carrillo Trail and Garwood Trail.

Highlights on the hike included views on the Three Tank Trail and Little Wildhorse Tank.  After a half mile on the Three Tank Trail, hikers are rewarded with views toward the Catalina Mountains, downtown Tucson and Tucson Mountains to the west. These views are truly splendid and make the 1100 foot climb on the Douglas Spring Trail worth it. Another highlight includes Little Wildhorse Tank. The trail to Wildhorse Tank is accessible from the Carrillo and Wildhorse Trail junction. After a half mile hikers are rewarded with three natural tanks in the desert and another scenic view of the Catalina Mountains and Rincon Mountains.

On this hike I met a number of incredible people. On the Three Tank Trail I met a group from the Czech Republic. They were extremely friendly and we talked about Tucson as well as their home country. They had a map of trail in Saguaro National Park but no idea how to use it. Luckily I was able to give them some guidance on how to complete the loop for which they wanted to hike. On the Garwood trail I met a couple who like to hike at night looking for animals with flashlights. What was strange is that the wife enjoyed it more than her husband. They have gotten many different species of wildlife on film including Jackrabbits, Coyote and Mountain lion. They did tell me a disturbing story about three teenagers who tagged Saguaros and cut Barrel cacti with a machete all along the Garwood Trail. Luckily the three individuals were photographed on wildlife cameras and arrested by police.

                           Desert vegetation with Rincon Mountains in the background                             

                     Me on the Three Tank Trail

                                Little Wildhorse Tank

                           Scenic view from Little Wildhorse Tank

                              Saguaros, Mesquite and Palo verde from the Garwood Trail

Monday, January 20, 2014

Starr Pass January 18, 2014

               Looking toward the Catalina Mountains from Starr Pass trail

Location: Starr Pass is located in the Tucson Mountains west of Tucson. To get to the trail head take I-10 south of the University of Arizona toward El Paso, Texas. Turn right onto Starr Pass Blvd and drive until you see Avenida del Correcaminos on your left. Turn left and drive another mile until you arrive at the trail head. This part of the Tucson Mountains has classic Sonoran Desert vegetation and wildlife. Every plant has some sort of thorn or spine on it that will hurt. Be especially careful when around Teddy bear chollas. I would also keep an eye out for rattlesnakes on the trail or in the bushes.

My cousin Franak and I arrived at the trail head at 9:45 am. Neither of us had hiked here before so we didn't have a specific distance or hike in mind.  We started hiking on an unnamed connector which after a mile intercepted the Yetman and Starr Pass Trails. After talking with another hiking group we decided that Starr Pass would be a worth while destination.  The Starr Pass Trail gains elevation moderately as it winds its way to Starr Pass. In this area be careful for illegal trails which can make route finding more difficult.  At Starr Pass Franak and I spent about a half an hour eating lunch and scrambling up some of the surrounding rocks. On our way back we missed a trail junction and ended up at a subdivision near the Starr Pass Resort. We walked on sidewalks for forty minutes before deciding to retrace our route to try and find a familiar trail junction. None of the junctions were signed so neither Franak nor I had any clue as to the correct way back to our car. Finally, two mountain bikers stopped and not only described the route but also walked almost all the way back with us. It turns out at an unsigned trail junction we went right instead of left. Needless to say I was embarrassed.  Before hiking here make sure to have an excellent map of the area and go with someone who has intimate knowledge of Starr Pass trails. Even a good map will not show the illegal mountain bike trails in Tucson Mountain Park. Total mileage including walking aimlessly was about seven miles.

                                           Looking west from Starr Pass

                Scenery near the resort

       Tucson Mountains scenery

Sabino Canyon Loop Phoneline Trail & Sabino Creek January 13, 2014

                  Palo verde nursing two Saguaros

Upon completion of this hike on December 6, 2013, this 3.5 mile loop quickly became one of my favorite short hikes in Tucson. In a relative short time it gives visitors a chance to see two different desert habitats the Sonoran Desert bajada and desert riparian. As a result, the plant and animal life change. Early evening is also a good time to photograph desert landscapes. 

On January 13 I returned to Sabino Canyon and completed the hike after an hour and half. I was able to photograph a great sunset and even spend more time at Sabino Dam.

Short description: Trails involved included the main trail to Bear Canyon, Phoneline Trail and Sabino Creek Trail. The hike is 3.5 miles with moderate elevation gain. Finally, trails begin and end at the Sabino Canyon Visitor at the end of Sunrise BlVD. For more detailed information on the route please consult my December 10, 2013, post.

                        Phoneline Trail scenery
                          Golden Saguaros

         Last light on the Catalinas

            Evening glow

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hutch's Pool West Fork Sabino Creek January 11, 2014

                                   Map showing Sabino Canyon and the wilderness

Directions: Sabino Canyon is at the end of Sunrise Road at the base of the Catalina Mountains.  To get to Sabino Canyon from the University of Arizona take Campbell Road all the way to Skyline Road. Turn right onto Skyline and drive all the way until Sabino Canyon. Skyline will become Sunrise. A pass to the Coronado National Forest cost about $20 for the year. $5 for one day.

Today I wanted to hike to Hutch's Pool in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. To bypass some of the lower trails which I have I hiked I decided to pay $8 to ride the tram to stop #9 at the top of Sabino Canyon. The last tram leaves stop #9 at 4:50 pm. From stop #9 Hutch's Pool is a 7.5 mile roundtrip hike with approximately an elevation gain of 1300 feet. I want to hike another 1.5 miles passed Hutch's Pool to see more of the wilderness which will extend the trip to ten miles. Trails involved include Sabino Canyon and West Fork of Sabino Canyon. This hike required very little route finding. At the trail junction of West and East Fork Trails make sure to take the West Fork. There is no sign for Hutch's Pool.

Trail Description: The first two miles of the trip the trail is above the creek. Here the canyon is very dramatic with steep walls on the western side. The view opens up to the north as well with the towers on the top of Mount Lemmon visible in the distance. Before the trail junction the trail descends to the creek.  The West Fork trail follows the creek up canyon. After about a mile it crosses the creek. There are pools here but hike on; Hutch's Pool is half a mile farther. The destination is off the main trail. At a huge rock visitors will see a cairn and a trail to the right. This trail is rocky and relatively steep so watch your footing. The next mile and a half the trail ascends rapidly giving hikers views of West Fork Canyon. Use Leave No Trace principles because this area gets a lot of use.

The joy of hiking and traveling is meeting wonderful people. At 1.5 miles into my trip I met an older couple from Eastern Kentucky who were hiking to the pool. We talked about the Daniel Boone National Forest, The Red River Gorge and the University of Kentucky basketball team. I did not hike with them because of their slower pace. On the West Fork Trail I met a couple who live in Calgary, Alberta, as well as Tucson. I talked with them about Canada as well as Arizona hiking. I would also see them at Hutch's Pool and on the 4:30 tram back down. Finally, at the destination I met a couple in their seventies from Ontario who spend three to four months of the winter in Arizona.

                              Looking back down Sabino Canyon

                               Tree with the upper mountains of the Catalinas

                  Brett at Hutch's Pool

                        Another picture of Hutch's Pool. Very beautiful

                          Pools in West Fork of Sabino Creek

                         West Fork Canyon

                         Pusch Wilderness

                                 Another beautiful pool

                         Me with the dramatic scenery of upper Sabino Canyon

Saguaro National Park East Cactus Forest Garwood Trail Loop January 5, 2014


                                  Map of the Cactus Forest with route in different colors   
For visitors who are looking for a great place to hike in the afternoon the trails of the Cactus Forest are an excellent option. From the Douglas Spring Trailhead trails radiate in all directions. It is possible to link many different trails in this area depending on time and ability level. Carrillo Trail and Three Tank Trail are much steeper.
Today's hike is a distance of 5.8 miles with minimal elevation gain.  If you hike passed the Garwood Trail junction the Douglas Spring Trail starts to gain elevation quickly. Trails involved in the loop include the Garwood, Carrillo, Squeeze Pen, Pink Hill, Loma Verde, Wentworth and Creosote.  It is possible to simplify the loop by returning via the Kennedy Trail. You don't have to follow my loop remember part of the fun of hiking in this area is connecting trails to make your own adventure.

                               Many Saguaros together

                         On the Garwood Trail

                            Desert vegetation with Rincon Mountains in the background

Monument Wash

Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum January 10, 2014

                         Quintin walking on the grounds

Directions: The Arizona- Sonoran Desert Museum is located on western side of the Tucson Mountains. The most scenic route is to take the Speedway BLVD exit off I-10. Turn left onto Speedway traveling west. After a number of miles Speedway turns into Gates Pass Road. Follow Gates Pass Road over the Tucson Mountains. (This road is windy so take it slow). Turn right onto Kinney Road.

General Admission: Adults $19.50 Seniors $17.50 Youth $15.50 Children 4-12 $6.00 A year-long membership for families is $75. (Benefits include unlimited membership, guest passes, and discounts).

The museum's mission is to educate the general public to "live in harmony with the natural world" and to "appreciate and understand the Sonoran Desert." The museum accomplishes this through wildlife enclosures, plant gardens, and educational demonstrations. The zoo portion is organized by habitat. Animals seen in the Mountain Woodland and Desert Grassland are together. There is also a cat canyon, aviary, and hummingbird enclosure. The Sonoran Desert Museum is one of the top ten locations for public gardens in the United States. There are 1200 different species of plants with 56,000 individual plant specimens planted. Notable gardens include the Mountain Woodland, Desert Grassland and Cactus Garden. It is fun to sit on the benches, identify plants and watch native birds in their habitat.  Finally, throughout the day museum docents give visitors demonstration with some of the wildlife. (Information from the Arizona Sonoran Desert website).

                            Quintin playing with rattlesnake scales

                                 Prairie dogs

                           Wooden covered enclosure with surrounding desert

                             Cactus wren

                        Desert bighorn sheep

                              Quintin walking in one of the gardens


                    Cacti on the grounds

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bernardo Mountain Escondido, California January 3, 2014

                 My mom walking up the trail to the summit

Before leaving on Saturday to drive back to Tucson, I wanted to do one last hike with my parents. We chose Bernardo Mountain because it is close to Rancho Bernardo, has a moderate elevation gain of 1000 feet and offers great views from the top. We drove to the trail head on Bernardo Drive and  began hiking at 11 am. The weather was beautiful but the temperature was very warm for January. I was happy I had brought three water bottles instead of the two I was planning on bringing. Around Lake Poway and the San Dieguito River Park I saw a total of seven hawks circling in the thermals. Without binoculars I identified four as Red-tails. On the summit I was struck by how much drier the mountains looked this year from last December. San Diego needs more rain in January and February. (Trail description available in my January 2012  post on Bernardo Mountain).

            My mother and father on the summit

                  My father looks like a mountain man.

             A nice picture of me with my father.

Woodson Mountain to Big Sky Ecological Preserve December 31, 2013

                              My mom hiking up to the top of Mount Woodson

When I returned to Southern California over the New Year to visit family, re-hiking my October route from Highway 67 to Big Sky over Mount Woodson would be a priority. This hike offers everything including great views, Lake Poway and the majestic oaks of Blue Sky Ecological Reserve. The hike is approximately 8 miles with 2000 feet of elevation gain. If visitors do not want to hike the whole route it is possible to hike to the top of Mount Woodson from Highway 67 (three miles) or the longer route starting at Lake Poway (seven miles).   The route up Mount Woodson from Highway 67 offers more shade from the sun.

Today I hiked the route with my mother. Over the years I have not been able to hike much with her so it was great she could join me. Her presence also forced me to slow down and appreciate the views and ecology of the area. This hike is very popular  in fact today we saw many groups of four or five hikers. When I hiked this route in October Potato Chip Rock was deserted. I was able to climb on it but didn't get the ubiquitous photo because my camera stopped working. Today the line for Potato Chip rock was about 75 people definitely too many to wait. (For more information on the route itself please consult my October 13, 2013, post).

                At the top of Mount Woodson showing the great boulders on the mountain.

              Top of Mount Woodson with the transmission towers definitely not a pristine summit.

              Me in foreground looking north

                 The line for Potato Chip rock
       View toward Poway from the top.

                  The blue of Lake Poway