Friday, April 24, 2015

Little Bushmaster Peak Second Time Tucson Mountains April 19, 2015

                     Staghorn cholla with yellow flowers

Today's hike was located at the main parking lot at Gates Pass in the Tucson Mountains of southern Arizona. If you are arriving from the interstate take the Speedway BLVD exit and turn west toward the Tucson Mountains. Speedway will soon become Gates Pass Road which is scenic but curvy. The parking lot is near the summit and it accommodates a large number of cars.This is a popular area for locals to see the sunset.

I arrived mid-afternoon to hike later in the day. Forecasts were calling for mid-eighties and sun so I wanted to take advantage of the cooler weather late afternoon provides. My goal was to duplicate a hike I did on February 7, 2015. On that day I summitted an unnamed peak on the same ridge as Bushmaster peak. On that hike I was using non-established but well-worn trails. At the beginning of the hike navigation can be difficult because visitors have made many different paths. If you pick the wrong path you might be  carefully traversing a forest of Teddy bear cholla. On this particular hike I did have to turn around below the summit because I found a bee hive. I was hiking along when I saw three bees enter a cleft in a rock wall. I stayed for a couple of minutes and watched about a dozen bees enter and exit. Luckily, I was upwind of them so they did not know I was present. Stumbling into bees in the Sonoran Desert is a scary proposition because many of them have hybridized with African killer bees and are very aggressive. On a hike I would much rather see a rattlesnake than bees. I quickly departed and returned to the car the way I came. On this hike I continued my run of beautiful flower displays. Today I saw Staghorn cholla and Teddy bear cholla in bloom. If you want a detailed description of the route please consult my February 7, 2015 post.

                       Tucson Mountains near Gates Pass

                              Teddy bear cholla

               Cholla blooms

                     Looking toward Gates Pass in the Tucson Mountais

                               Love the colors of spring in the desert

                    Staghorn cholla with yellow flower

Blacketts Ridge April 3, 2015

                                    Saguaro Cactus

Location: Sabino Canyon is one of Tucson's more popular places for hikes. From the University of Arizona take Campbell Avenue to Skyline Road. Turn right and drive Skyline (becomes Sunrise) until you reach Sabino Canyon. The parking lot gets packed on the weekends and later on in the morning so get there early.

I arrived early at the Sabino Canyon parking lot. My objective was to hike Blacketts Ridge. This hike is relatively short at six miles but the trail is rocky and steep in places so watch your footing and take your time. The route is easy to follow: take the main trail toward Bear Canyon and cross Sabino Creek turn left onto the Phoneline Trail. Hike this trail about half a mile until the junction for Balcketts Ridge on the right. After summitting the ridge I returned via Sabino Creek and dam. One of the memorable aspects for the hike would have to be the wildflowers. I saw many different species including Saguaro, Bitterbush, Mariposa lillies and poppies. Total mileage for the day was about eight miles with over 2000 feet of elevation gain.

                                  Blacketts Ridge

                                Bitterbush and vegetation along the trail



                                 Desert chickory and Hedgehog cactus

              Looking toward Tucson


                                          Mariposa Lilly

                                   Mariposa Lilly

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Pontatoc Ridge March 28, 2015


Location: Over the last couple of years I have completed numerous hikes out of Finger Rock Canyon. Devoted readers will find this location familiar. To get to the Finger Rock Canyon Trail head from the University of Arizona take Campbell Avenue north toward the Catalina Mountains. Turn right onto Skyline Road. After a couple of miles Skyline turns off to the left. Continue on this road until you see Alvernon Road on the left. Turn left and follow this to your destination.

A year ago I hiked the trail on Pontatoc Ridge which is about five miles roundtrip with 2000 feet of vertical change. After I finished the hike another hiker told me there was a mine on the ridge a little passed where the trail stops. It has taken me over a year but I have returned to hike the ridge and find the mine. I arrived at the trail head at 6:15 am in the morning. Temperatures in the afternoon have been getting warm and I wanted to get out before the heat of the day. The first mile of the hike the trail follows the Pontatoc Canyon trail before branching off 50 feet above Pontatoc Canyon. After departing the Pontatoc Ridge Trail sweeps back around to the front of the ridge before switchbacking up the ridge. Definitely one of the highlights of this hike were the wildflowers. The Brittle bush was blooming on both sides of the trail. I also saw other species including Globe mallow, Ocotillo, Hedgehog cactus, Mariposa lily, Desert chickory and Larkspur. In fact this was one of the best flower displays I have seen in the desert. A half mile after departing from a saddle a Forest Service sign tells visitors this is the end of the trail. From here it is another hundred yards to the old mine. The mine is not made out of timbers but uses rock walls as supports. Without some knowledge it would be easy to mistake it for a cave. I walked in a couple feet before returning to the front. A Tucsonian knowledgeable about the area told me there used to be a town on the canyon floor which was dismantled after World War II. I departed from the mine and arrived back at the car at 11 am. Along the way I saw blooming Hedgehog cacti which was definitely a treat. Total mileage was about six miles.

                              Blooming Ocotilllo

                                     Morning sun illuminating grass

                    Morning sun illuminating the grass with Ocotillos

                              The Brittle bush was fantastic

                          Globe mallow

                        At the cave looking toward town
                     Mariposa lilly

                           Desert chickory

                                    Blooming Hedgehog cactus

                         Blooming Hedgehog

                   Coulter's Hibiscus