Thursday, February 19, 2015

Little Bushmaster Peak Tucson Mountains February 7, 2015

                      A map created in ArcMap showing my route in red; an ESRI Basemap is used
Gates Pass is located in the Tucson Mountains on Gates Pass Road. To get to the main parking lot take Speedway BLVD away from Tucson to the west. Gates Pass Road is two-laned and drivers can be aggressive.

My objective for today was to hike until I reached a high point with views east and west. The summit I reached does not have a name but I called it Little Bushmaster Peak because it is on the same ridge as Bushmaster Peak. From Gates Pass there is an established trail that travels west descending out of the mountains. For this hike I will be on well-worn but un-established trails.I departed the parking lot and hiked passed the old CCC huts. These are great examples of stone work from the 30s sadly visitors have spray painted some of the walls and the inside floor has trash. From here I easily found a trail that ascended farther into the mountains and skirted most of the Devil's cholla that is brutal for hikers if you brush up against it. The unincorporated trail was easy to follow but there is one section that is steep with precarious footing. I also had to side step some cholla, Barrel cactus and Saguaro in this seection. At the top of this section,  the  trail switch backed some more before wrapping around the peak to the summit. This last section the trail is faint in spots and easy to miss. From the  top the top the view was extraordinary in all directions. The hike back was uneventful but I did get off this main trail onto an underused faint path which took me into a Devil cholla forest. At this point my hiking stick became useful in keeping me from brushing up against this nasty plant. During the Spring and Fall watch for rattlesnakes.

               Tucson Mountains scenery with chollas in the foreground

                  The steep and precarious section. The trail side-steps around the left side of the cholla

    Golden Gate Mountain on the right with Gates Pass Road far below

               Summit rocks with Golden Gate Mountain on the right and mountains in the background

                  The trail in the foreground with Golden Gate in the background

                Desert vegetation in the foreground with Kitt Peak in the background

                               On the slope of the mountain with the David Yetman Trailhead at the bottom

                               Dead Saguaro

Benchmark Mountain Tucson Mountains, Arizona February 6, 2015

                     Map showing my route in red with an ESRI Basemap in the background

Gates Pass is located to the west of Tucson in the Tucson Mountains. Take Speedway BLVD away from downtown. At the end of Speedway visitors will see the turnoff for Gates Pass Road.

Today I drove over Gates Pass and parked at the David Yetman Trailhead. The parking lot was full when I arrived and had to scramble to get a space when somebody left. The first half mile is on the David Yetman Trail which ends at Starr Pass. This trail is easy to follow and popular with visitors. At a small divide I departed the David Yetman and hiked the Golden Gate Trail which climbs on the side of the mountains and ends at Gates Pass. The scenery from this trail is very beautiful but hikers do need to watch for cholla polyps (or cholla bombs as they are affectionately called by hikers). The trail is also rocky so please watch your step.After a 1.5 or two miles about there is a small divide where hikers are rewarded with views toward Tucson. At this point I decided to summit Benchmark Mountain  I noticed a steep but hikeable trail leading up the slope of the mountain (cross-country hiking in the Tucson Mountains is not advisable because of all the cacti in the desert). After an initial steep pitch I noticed a nice well-maintained trail that wrapped around the peak to the summit, From the top I could see the Rincon Mountains and the Tucson basin to the north and Kitt Peak to the west. After eating some lunch I departed the peak to find some shade.

                      On the Golden Gate Trail looking toward the Old Tucson Studios and Kitt Peak

                                Sonoran Desert scenery

                Top of Benchmark Mountain looking toward Tucson

                               Right below the summit

                       Cool effect with the sun right behind the hill

                       Looks like the grass is lit from behind