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. At a point where the trail ascended precipitously to Mt Bigelow Nathan and I turned around. 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