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