Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wilderness of Rock- Mount Lemon Lookout Loop July 26, 2014

            Rock formation and conifers in the Wilderness of Rock

Location: Today I am hiking out of Marshall Gulch on Mount Lemmon. To get to the trail head drive up the Catalina Highway to Summerhaven, Arizona. After you drive through town signs will start to appear for the parking area. It is important to realize that Mt. Lemmon is very popular during the weekend so arrive early in the morning.

The Hike: After looking at my map of the Catalina Mountains, I realized it was possible to string together five trails to create a loop through part of the Wilderness of Rock and along the top of Mount Lemmon back to Marshall Gulch. The Wilderness of Rock is a part of the Pusch Wilderness that has really impressive rock formations and older conifers. I left Marshall Gulch on the Marshall Gulch trail. This trail climbs through Marshall Gulch to Marshall Saddle. The Aspen Fire of 2003 did not burn in this part of Mount Lemmon so the forest is more mature. Wildflowers are also abundant because of a wetter micro climate. At the saddle is a junction for three trails: the Aspen trail, Mint Springs Trail and Wilderness of Rock( part of Arizona Trail).  This section of Wilderness of Rock has an impressive conifer forest with elaborate rock formations. I enjoyed resting in the shade of Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. This part of the Catalinas reminds me of a Montana conifer forest. After approximately two miles I reached the Mount Lemmon Lookout trail. This trail gains about 1600  feet, is steep and exposed to the sun. I would hike this in the morning in the future. While on this section I met a few individuals who were visibly struggling. Please do not attempt this if you are not physically fit. Near the lookout I started to get some nice views toward Tucson as well as more of the wilderness. When I reached the lookout I was surprised to see that it was closed to visitors. I talked with a few forest service employees who informed me they close the lookout during the fire season to minimize distractions to the person working at the lookout. The next mile I walked next to the main road and along Radio Tower Ridge to connect with the Aspen Trail. This section of the hike offered great views but many crowds as well. The Aspen Trail descended pretty quickly through a burned forest to the Marshall Saddle. The trail was easy to follow but rocky with a few burned trees across the trail. When I reached the saddle I returned via the Marshall Gulch trail. Total mileage for the day was 8.4.

       Looking toward the rest of Wilderness of Rock. This part of the trail was extremely hot and steep.

              Dead vegetation with a view

        The impressive Catalina Mountains

              Above the Mount Lemmon Lookout

      View toward the valley on top

           Aspen Trail with a recovering forest