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