Friday, February 21, 2014

Starr Pass Redemption February 20, 2014

                                                      Ocotillo in bloom with mountain in background

With my Master's Classes in full swing it is rare I get out for a weekday hike. Today I joined my cousin (Franak) and her twin sister Jasmine for a hike to Starr Pass. I rarely see Jasmine so it was great to spend time with her before she flew back to West Virginia this weekend. Part of me wanted to also atone for the embarrassment of getting turned around here in January with my cousin and having to have a mountain biker lead us back to the trail head. This area is tough because there are many illegal trail that are not marked on maps. Even though we were paying attention to all the trail junctions on the way back we did get off on a secondary trail which thankfully looped back to the main Star Pass trail. Total mileage for the hike was about 5 miles.

                               Trail sign with Tucson Mountains scenery

                                 Popeyes in the desert

Ventana Canyon February 15, 2014

                                  Northern Cardinal

Ventana Canyon is well-known among the Tucson hiking community because of its beauty and back country opportunities. It is possible to hike to the top of Mount Lemmon, climb Cathedral Peak, or access Esperero Canyon by way of the window. As a result the parking lot fills up fast on the weekend. Luckily Ventana Canyon Resort  lets visitors park in an overflow lot. Please do not park by the hotel as that is for guests of the resort. Today I hiked 10 miles round trip with an elevation gain about 2000 feet. In the future I want to hike into Esperero Canyon by way of the window which is an arduous hike of around 15 miles.

Trail description: The first mile of the trail crosses private land owned by the Ventana Canyon Resort. It is explicitly stated in many spots that future access to the public is dependent on the hiking public not straying from the trail. By the number of private property signs and warnings it is apparent that the resort has a love/hate relationship with the trail. After a mile the trail enters the canyon. Here the canyon is at its most scenic with steep walls on both sides. In this section the trail is also at the bottom of the canyon making for some hot hiking. I would definitely hike early in the morning in the future to avoid the sun. The trail stays fairly level until a mile from Maiden Pools when it starts to gain elevation. Maiden Pools turned out to be somewhat of a disappoint because of the lack of water. I will need to return after a rainy period.  After leaving Maiden Pools I met an older couple from Oregon who were climbing Cathedral Peak. I hiked with them for over a 1.5 miles because they set a good even climbing pace. They usually spend about three months of the year in the Southwest during the winter season hiking and  volunteering. At 1:30 pm I wished them luck on their climb and turned around because of a dinner engagement later in the day.

                      Looking down canyon near Maiden Pools

                            Rock, tree and sky

                         Scenery down canyon

                                             The tree zone begins in the Catalina Mountains

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tortolita Mountain Loop (Wild Mustang and Wild Burro Trails) February 8, 2014

                       Looking east Tortolita Mountain Park

Directions: To get to the Tortolita Mountains travel west on Interstate 10 until you see W Tangerine Road. Take the exit and turn right. Travel on Tangerine until you reach Dove Mountain Road. Take Dove Mountain all the way to the Ritz Carlton Resort. The big parking lot is the trail head for these mountains.

On Saturday morning at around 10:30 Nathan, his uncle and I arrived at the Wild Burro Canyon Trail head. Our objective today was a nine mile loop connecting the Wild Burro, Javelina and Wild Mustang Trails. Elevation gain is around 2000 feet. The view gets absolutely sublime after about two miles of hiking on the Wild Mustang trail. Toward the east is Wild Burro Canyon and the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. To the south is the Tucson valley. Around this time on the hike the vegetation regime also changes with more Yucca, Ironwood, grasses and less Saguaro. The last 0.7 mile to the Wild Burro trail junction is steep as the trail loses about 700 feet. The hike back to the trail head through Wild Burro Canyon is about four miles the first two of which are very scenic. I will definitely be back to explore more of this range in the future.

Special Considerations: During the months of May, June and July the temperatures in the Sonoran Desert can be over 115 degrees. Bring multiple gallons of water. During the fall, winter, and spring the sun can be very intense so still bring at least three nalgenes depending on the distance of the hike. Rattlesnakes are also very active so pay attention.


                                  Ocotillo in bloom

                              Yucca upper part of Wild Mustang trail

         Wild Burro Canyon
                       Impressive Saguaro

                     Beautiful Wild Burro Canyon

Friday, February 7, 2014

Picacho Peak February 1, 2014

                                           Looking south from saddle

West of Tucson, Arizona, Picacho Peak rises out of the desert. It looked like a technical climb with ropes and harnesses required when I drove by it on my way to San Diego. After reading online I discovered that this peak is hikable because  boy scouts built cables and bridges in places to aide hikers.There are cables in four sections. One section is relatively scary because it is straight up.

On Saturday Nathan and I climbed Picacho by way of the Hunter Trail. This is a four mile round trip with an elevation gain of around 1600 feet. This hike is strenuous because of the high elevation gain in a short period of time. Even though I had some trepidation about the cables before starting the climb, the rock provided great hand and foot holds and the cable sections were not hard but really fun. I look forward to hiking this trail later this spring.

If you are looking for solitude do not summit Picacho using the Hunter Trail. In fact this year Phoenix rated this hike as one of the best winter hikes in southern Arizona. The view from the top more than makes up for the lack of solitude because it is unobstructed by other mountain ranges.

Directions: Picacho Peak is located west of Tucson, Arizona, directly off of Interstate 10. The Hunter Trail is located in Picacho Peak State Park which charges $10 per vehicle for the day.

                         One of the sections which utilizes cables to aide hikers

                       View on the mountain

                            Me near the top of the vertical cable section

                         Me on top

                   View from the summit looking toward Tucson

                       The summit

                         Train and rockwall

                                  Picacho Peak