On my Arizona Trail Trek, one of the public hikes that I offered was a Women’s Backpacking Trip from Mormon Lake to Flagstaff. It was a lot of fun and I met some new friends and reconnected with old ones. Those of us who live in Tucson got together for another trip on the Arizona Trail, this time in the Santa Ritas.
We watched the weather- 80% chance of rain- hoping the forecast would be wrong. The trip across town to Bonnie’s was in driving rain. Met up with India, Silver, and Leigh Anne and her mini-donkey, Jasmine and loaded up for our shuttle to the Temporal Trailhead. We stopped for delicious breakfast burritos at the Shell station in Sonoita and made our way from Patagonia toward the TH. It was wet and muddy and we couldn’t see any of the surrounding mountains. Thankfully, it was a warm rain and not too windy- great umbrella weather.
We said goodbye to Bonnie and headed down the road- we had about 6.5 miles to get to the more remote Walker Basin TH. Jasmine had gotten wet on the ride over and seemed to look at us like, “Really? We’re going out in that?” She is adorable and packs all of Leigh Anne’s gear so that she can walk with a very small pack. The roadwalking made it easy for us to chat and catch up with each other. Normally one of the draws of this passage is the wonderful views of Josephine Peak and Mount Wrightson, not today. It was fun being in the rain and clouds for a change. Water was running all along the road, no need for heavy water carries today!
As the rain picked up, I decided to try a compactor bag rainskirt because I hate rain pants. It worked amazingly well! I cut open the bottom of the bag, put it on with a belt, and it worked all day long with ventilation so I didn’t get sweaty and wet from the inside like I do with rain pants. The sun was trying to break through the clouds in the afternoon and we were treated to the most wonderful rainbow that developed into a double. It was so interesting because it went from the road into the canyon below, so we were actually looking down on it. So cool!!
Reached the Walker Basin TH around 1 and took a break so Jasmine could feast on some green grass. Nice fancy new sign up there that Shawn and his crew put in since my hike. During the climb to the saddle it was raining the finest mist I’ve ever seen. It was so pretty on the golden grasses. Patches of blue sky and and Patagonia appeared and it seemed the rain was behind us. In fact, it became sunny and clear once we got to the saddle. Clouds only remained on the summits of Josephine and Wrightson.
After descending into Casa Blanca Canyon, we took a break at Bear Spring, which had multiple piles of scat from its namesake. We filtered water for our dry camp and continued on. I wanted to get out of the canyon for a warmer camp, temperatures were dropping fast. Wrightson finally appeared toward sunset and the full moon was glowing over Sonoita and the Mustang Mountains in the grassy valley below. We contoured along the conglomerate slope and came to Hole-in-the-Rock. The mini-donkey fit through with ease.
We timed it perfectly to arrive at camp to watch the sunset and get set up before it got dark. There was a perfect Jasmine-sized spot to tie her under a juniper tree. We did a little gift exchange game around the campfire and I finally gave in and set up a tent. Glad I did, because even though it was clear, my tent was soaked in the morning.
The sunrise was one to remember. The Mustangs and Whetstones were true Sky Islands rising out of the low clouds in the valley. Watching the subtle changes of light I felt so fortunate to get to experience moments like this.
My Gossamer Gear Mariposa backpack made packing the wet tent a lot easier, there is an external sleeve that the tent fits into that keeps it away from the rest of the pack. After breakfast, we contoured along Ditch Mountain and kept seeing pile after pile of scat, small and full of berries, possibly coati? We refilled water at Tunnel Spring, where the series of interpretive signs about gold mining in the Santa Ritas starts. It was a clear, beautiful morning and Wrightson was the star of the show. The trail reached Gardner Canyon and we walked the road that followed the stream. There is one part in particular that I like that has pretty rockbound pools and we stopped for a snack break, with Jasmine begging for granola and fruit.
We had a short distance after lunch to the end of the passage, where Bonnie was waiting with ice cream for all of us!
What fun! Hope to hike with these ladies and Jasmine again soon.
I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year!
In Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson news, we’ve released many animals back to the wild. It’s such a good feeling to see them return to where they are supposed to be. Thanks for donating to help house and feed these wonderful creatures.