Wednesday, December 31, 2014

San Pedro River Walk Sierra Vista, Arizona December 26, 2014

          San Pedro River and Freemont Cottonwoods

After relaxing part of the morning, I decided to hike along the San Pedro River east of Sierra Vista, Arizona. I drove east on Highway 90 and parked on the left side of the highway at a small parking area for the main trail that travels north toward the ghost town of Fairbanks, Arizona, and south toward Hereford Bridge. I hiked a mile and a half north through the grassy riparian environment of the San Pedro Basin. Fast-moving fires can easily ignite in this grassy environment so please be careful. I returned south along the river on a well-worn game trail. This trail takes hikers underneath the Freemont Cottonwoods and along the river. The San Pedro River is known for its avian diversity. Today I saw a number of different species of hawks and sparrows. It appeared there was more water in the river than last year owing to the early fall monsoon moisture Southern Arizona received in October. I hiked two and half miles before returning to the car via the established self-guided loop and San Pedro House. The San Pedro is one of my favorite riparian locations in the west so I hope to explore more of it in 2015.

                    Freemont Cottonwoods and grass

                    The San Pedro River

                   Freemont Cottonwoods

                            The river

                       The San Pedro Riparian area

Monday, December 29, 2014

Garden Canyon Huachuca Mountains December 24, 2014

                       Lower picnic area

Location: To access Garden Canyon visitors need to drive onto the Fort Huachuca Military Reservation. At the guard gate entrance you will have to present photo identification. The security officers were nice and presented concise and accurate directions to the canyon. Remember you are on a military installation so don't pull off at random areas and walk around.

Presently the Garden Canyon Road is closed at the lower picnic area because large portions of it were damaged this past October when the tropical storms came up from Mexico. A timetable has not been set for fixing the road because of budget constraints. I parked at the lower picnic area and hiked the road. Immediately after leaving the lower picnic area the  road  passes by two playgrounds which are deserted and being reclaimed by vegetation. A mile passed the upper picnic area is the trail head for Scheelite Canyon. I have never hiked the Scheelite Canyon Trail and have read on other blogs that the trail is overgrown and hard to follow in places. Garden Canyon is well-known in Southern Arizona because of its plant and animal diversity. Birders come from all over to see endemic species such as the  Mexican jay, Elegant trogon, and the Sulphur redstart. On this hike I saw many White-tailed deer and a number of different species of hawks. Four to five miles up the road are two rock art sites which are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Garden Canyon Rock Art Site, four miles from the trail head, is on the right. Historians believe this site was a place of religious significant for the Apache Native Americans. The October storms washed out the bridge across Garden Creek but the short trail to the pictographs is hikeable. A half- mile from the Garden Canyon site is the Rappel Cliffs Rockshelter Site. Historians believe this site predates the Garden Canyon site because of the presence of simple geometric elements ie, dots, lines, anthromoprths (human figures) created from red and black pigments that are not Apache in origin. Total mileage for the day was eight to nine with 1400 feet of elevation gain.

                               The washed out Garden Canyon Road

              Upper Garden Canyon

                       Interesting light on pines

                     Garden Canyon Rock Art Site

                   Rappel Rockshelter Site

                              Petroglyphs at Rappel Rock

                          Rappel Rock

                     Rappel Rockshelter Site

                 Waterfall in Garden Creek

                           Upper Garden Canyon

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Winterhaven Christmas Lights Tucson, Arizona December 22, 2014

The Winterhaven Festival of Lights is an annual Christmastime tradition in Tucson, Arizona. Every year residents in the Winterhaven neighborhood have decorated their houses with elaborate displays. The community judges the houses and gives awards for different categories.  The festival has run continuously since 1949 with only one off-year during the 1970s. The festival is one of the most important events for the Community Food Bank of Tucson with over 43,000 pounds of food donated in 2013. Admission for walkers is free with a canned food donation. If visitors want to ride the Winterhaven Hayrides or Winterhaven Trolley the cost is $12 per person with a food donation. The festival dates runs every year from December 13-27. Enjoy photos of the event, Some information from

                                Historic fire truck

                                One of my favorite displays; a zoo

                    Another picture of the zoo display

                                  This house had a fountain display set to music

                                       Candy canes

                                    Mickey Mouse                  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Pusch Peak Catalina Mountains November 22, 2014

                       The side of Pusch Mountain

Directions and Information: The Linda Vista Trail head is located off of the Oracle Road. From I-10 take the Ina Road exit (Exit 248). Head toward the Catalina Mountains. When you get to Oracle Road turn left traveling north. Turn right onto Linda Vista BLVD. The small trail head for Linda Vista is on the right. The parking lot accommodates about six cars and fills up quickly on weekends so arrive early.The main trail at Linda Vista is a 3.8 mile loop that gains about 500 feet. It gives visitors a great view of the Tortolita Mountains as well as Oracle Valley. This trail is popular with novice hikers and trail runners. An unimproved trail also takes visitors to the summit of Pusch Peak.

Today I am climbing Pusch Peak from Linda Vista. Pusch Peak is a prominent peak on Pusch Ridge in the western part of the Catalina Mountains. It does not have a Forest Service maintained trail to the top. Hikers have created an unimproved, steep and rocky trail to the top. As a result of it being unmaintained, this trail is frequented by few hikers so please be careful and hike with someone else.. The trail is short at 4 miles but gains about 2700 feet making it extremely steep. The first part of the hike is on the Linda Vista loop. This is the easy part of the hike with moderate elevation gain. After about 0.5 mile to one mile the Pusch Peak trail departs on the right at a sign warning visitors that the trail is unmaintained. At this point the trail immediately becomes steep, gaining elevation quickly. In the first mile I became apprehensive about hiking this trail by myself so I befriended a University of Arizona student who agreed to hike with me. Make sure to pay attention because it is easy to loose the trail in places. Also hike in a controlled manner because there are many plants that would hurt if you fell into them. Near the top of the peak we met a ten year old hiking with his father. I found this very impressive because most ten year old kids usually do not hike steep trails. The view from the top was extraordinary with Mt. Lemmon to the north, Santa Rita Mountains to the east, Tortolita Mountains to the West, and Tucson in the valley below. Please take your time descending because it is extremely rocky and steep making it easy to fall and injure a  knee. (Information from and

                                   Looking back towards Tucson from the trail

                  The top looking east with the Rincon Mountains in the distance

                                    Me on top with Mount Kimball in the background

                             The high peaks of the Catalina Mountains

                      Above Linda Vista and Tucson valley. The ridge to the left has a number of hikeable small peaks if you don't want to go to the top.

                         The rocky and steep trail

                         In the foothills of the Catalina Mountains with the Tortolita  Mountains in the distance.

Saguaro National Park East Three Tank Trail November 15, 2014

                    Saguaros with the Catalina Mountains in the background

The Douglas Spring trail head is located at the end of Speedway BLVD in East Tucson. Many trails radiate out from this trail head including the longer Douglas Spring Trail which takes hikers to Manning Camp. The other trails are located in the Cactus Forest. I love the Cactus Forest because it is possible to create hikes of various lengths from the many different trails.

On November 15 my cousin and I arrived at the trail head mid-morning to hike the Three-tank Trail and return to the car via the Wildhorse and Garwood Trails. This loop is approximately eight miles long with 1500 feet of vertical change. Views of Tucson and the Catalina Mountains become extraordinary on the Three-Tank Trail. The ecosystem also changes on the Douglas Spring Trail with Sonoran Desert vegetation ie. Saguaro Cacti, Palo verde, Ocotillo becoming more of a grassy mixture. While on the hike, my cousin and I encountered two individuals on horseback and a riding group from Tanque Verde Ranch.

                            Vegetation in the Sonoran Desert

                               Horseback on the Three-tank Trail