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Posts Tagged ‘Catalinas’

Today is the fifth anniversary of Sirena’s Wanderings- big thanks to all my readers!! It’s been great to share my adventures with you and I am always happy when I hear that the information in my blog helps people to plan their own hikes. It’s been almost seven years since I started my first blog on my Arizona Trail for Fibromyalgia website, when I hiked the Arizona Trail the first time. So thanks again for indulging my penchance for long-winded triplogs and for taking the time to follow along. I’m going to break with tradition and keep this entry short.

I have gone on a couple of small hikes since I’ve been back from the river, still taking it kind of easy. Soon enough I’ll be back doing crazy, all-day bushwhacks and backpacking trips.

Wendy and I went hiking in the rain in the Tortolitas on the Wild Mustang-Wild Burro loop. It was really green and lush from our ample monsoon season. The trails out there are so nice, I’ll have to do a longer trip sometime and check out the new Ridgeline Trail.

Jackrabbit

Jackrabbit

Tucson Mountains

Tucson Mountains

Tiny toad

Tiny toad

Wendy in the mist

Wendy in the mist

Desert Cotton

Desert Cotton

Today, I went up to Mt. Lemmon to do a presentation on my Arizona Trail Trek thru-hike in Summerhaven, but first I met with some of the ladies from the Women’s Backpacking Trip for a fall color hike. I am so fortunate to have such great friends to enjoy the outdoors with. Jasmine the mini-donkey and Dr. Otis the Goldendoodle therapy dog were along too!

Jasmine, Leigh Anne, Silver, India, Lynn, Bonnie, and Dr. Otis

Jasmine, Leigh Anne, Silver, India, Lynn, Bonnie, and Dr. Otis

Leigh Anne and Jasmine

Leigh Anne and Jasmine

Maples on Mount Lemmon

Maples on Mount Lemmon

Micro Chicken ran into some friends in the forest

Micro Chicken ran into some friends in the forest

Loving the leaves!

Loving the leaves!

It was so wonderful to be among the leaves and running creeks on the mountain. There was a good turnout for my talk and on the way down the mountain I stopped at Windy Point to watch the sunset. It was outrageously good. So glad to be back home in Tucson among the mountains I love so much.

Looking south at the Santa Ritas from Windy Point

Looking south at the Santa Ritas from Windy Point

Windy Point Sunset

Windy Point Sunset

In wildlife rehab news, I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of my videos from 2011 made it onto a blog I love called Cute Overload. It’s an adorable video of a baby ringtail cat. Enjoy! Hopefully people will donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson as a result. You can donate to help this entirely self-supported facility by clicking below:
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I was unable to attend any of the AZT Trek hikes and events since Sirena started her epic journey on March 14, so I was elated when she invited me to join her and Wendy as she trekked the Oracle Ridge portion of Passage 12 last Saturday. The three of us have had some memorable hikes in the past, including Frog Hollow and Elephant Head, so I knew this would be another great outing.

The hardest part about day-hiking sections of the Arizona Trail in a one-way direction is logistics and Oracle Ridge was no exception. Sirena had spent the night on Mt. Lemmon in Summerhaven so she was set to go. On the other hand Wendy and I were coming from afar and met up at the American Flag Trailhead at 6:30am after leaving our respective homes at 0-dark-hundred. We left Wendy’s truck at American Flag and shuttled in my vehicle up Mt. Lemmon via the Oracle Control Road (FR38).  Although the Control Road was only about 25 miles in length its twisty, rocky unpaved route took nearly two hours. Fortunately FR38 was Subaru-friendly.  Upon reaching Summerhaven we picked up Sirena and drove back down the Control Road a short distance to the Oracle Ridge Trailhead where we began our 13.2 mile Arizona Trail Trek.

Sirena & Wendy at Oracle Ridge Trailhead

Sirena & Wendy at Oracle Ridge Trailhead

As we began our hike at 8:45am the air temperature on Mt. Lemmon was in the mid 30’s under a clear, sunny sky. It wasn’t long before we had an impressive view down Oracle Ridge along which we would spend most of the day. Some of the “bumps” along Oracle Ridge include Marble, Rice, and Apache Peaks.

Oracle Ridge

Oracle Ridge

Most of Oracle Ridge is still recovering from wildfire over a decade ago.  We wondered if it had been the 2002 Bullock Fire or the 2003 Aspen Fire that had torched the ridge, or perhaps both.  There were many charred trees still standing tall among new vegetation.

"Roasted" alligator juniper

“Roasted” alligator juniper

Looking back toward Mt. Lemmon you can see the vastness of the burn.

Mt. Lemmon from Oracle Ridge

Mt. Lemmon from Oracle Ridge

The awesome views from the AZT on Oracle Ridge are a big benefit of the fire. Off to the east were the Galiuros and Mt. Graham. We could see as far north as Four Peaks, Weavers Needle, and the Superstitions.  Closer in the Biosphere domes were visible.

Biosphere

Biosphere

Before we knew it we were at Dan Saddle and a little further down the trail we had a nice view of Marble Peak which we had skirted earlier.

Marble Peak

Marble Peak

There are so many amazing views along the Oracle Ridge portion of the Arizona Trail that it would be hard to pick a favorite. However, there probably isn’t a better view of the Reef of Rock anywhere else in the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Reef of Rock

Reef of Rock

Sirena and Wendy pointed out Canada del Oro, behind Reef of Rock, as they reminisced about backpacking in the past.

Canada del Oro

Canada del Oro

As we trekked along the AZT we observed impressive specimens of agave and hedgehog cacti.

Agave

Agave

Hedgehog cactus

Hedgehog cactus

Hedgehog cactus

Hedgehog cactus

After several hours into our hike we paused for a snack break along the trail where we enjoyed a grand view across the San Pedro River Valley toward the Galiuros and Mt. Graham.

San Pedro River Valley

San Pedro River Valley

Sirena & Wendy

Sirena & Wendy

Perhaps the most difficult part of the hike was around Rice Peak due to loose rock on a steep jeep road trail. We had a name for it which I can’t publish here 🙂  Glancing back and glad it was behind us…

Rice Peak

Rice Peak

Don’t tell AZGFD but we had a scary “wildlife incident” when Micro Chicken encountered a horned lizard in Sirena’s hand!  🙂

Horned lizard & Micro Chicken

Horned lizard & Micro Chicken

On the Oracle Ridge section of Passage 12 the Arizona Trail follows the Oracle Ridge Trail for 10.3 miles and the Cody Trail for 2.9 miles. Although the entire 13.2 mile section is in good shape and easy to follow the lower portion of the Oracle Ridge Trail and the entire Cody Trail had some recent tread work and were in super shape.

Along the Cody Trail the AZT winds through a scenic Texas Canyon-like boulder field.

Boulders along AZT/Cody Trail

Boulders along AZT/Cody Trail

A big highlight of this outing came late in the hike when we made a very short detour from the AZT/Cody Trail to High Jinks Ranch which is a National Historic Site once inhabited by “Buffalo Bill” Cody.

Nothing like a little bit of history to go along with a hike on the Arizona Trail!

High Jinks Ranch

High Jinks Ranch

Left click on photo for larger view

Left click on photo for larger view

Current owners Dan and Laurel invited us in for a visit as their dogs welcomed us from a rooftop lookout.

High Jinks Ranch

High Jinks Ranch

High Jinks Ranch

High Jinks Ranch

High Jinks Ranch

High Jinks Ranch

High Jinks Ranch is a pretty cool place and even has a hot tub and its own Arizona Trail portal.

Hot tub at High Jinks Ranch

Hot tub at High Jinks Ranch

Arizona Trail portal at High Jinks Ranch

Arizona Trail portal at High Jinks Ranch

From High Jinks Ranch it was a short but scenic 1.6 mile hike to the American Flag Trailhead which was our final destination for the day.

Along the AZT/Cody Trail

Along the AZT/Cody Trail

The sun was casting long shadows as we reached the 200 mile mark of Sirena’s Arizona Trail Trek.

IMG_2205

Upon arrival at the American Flag Trailhead Sirena posed with an limited edition AZT Trek bandana.

American Flag Trailhead

American Flag Trailhead

Meanwhile Wendy unwound after a memorable AZT Trek before making the long drive back up the Oracle Control Road to my car near Summerhaven.

Wendy

Wendy

The Arizona Trail Trek is an 800-mile thru-hike across Arizona to promote the Arizona National Scenic Trail, the Gateway Communities and the new official AZT guidebook. In addition, the AZT Trek is using an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign with unique and exclusive incentives to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association to maintain, protect, and promote the Arizona Trail. So far almost $2,500 has been raised. I made a contribution and challenge YOU to do the same. If nothing else check out the great video by Matt and Sirena and browse the unique and exclusive incentives.

It was an honor and pleasure to hike along with Sirena (and Wendy) for a small portion of her 800+ mile Arizona Trail Trek and to be a guest blogger on Sirena’s Wanderings.

Great hike, great weather, and great trail companions! … just another crummy day in the Sonoran Desert 🙂

Bill Bens

Sirena, Wendy and Bill at High Jinx Ranch

Sirena, Wendy and Bill at High Jinx Ranch

 

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Have you checked out the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association yet? We’ve got all sorts of fantastic incentives from Arizona Trail pint glasses to signed art prints and one-of-a-kind experiences. Launched on March 28th with a big belly dance kickoff event at Sky Bar Tucson, over $2,000 has been raised in the first week of the campaign!

Jess Walker from Belly Dance Tucson

Jess Walker from Belly Dance Tucson

The next day after a fantastic evening of dance and music, the next stop for the Arizona Trail Trek was Arizona Trail Day at Colossal Cave east of Tucson. I led a large group of folks on a hike from Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead to Posta Quemada Ranch at Colossal Cave Mountain Park. There was also a guided bike ride and a horseback ride as well. We all came together at the ranch for lunch and afternoon activities, including a visit from the birds at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson.

Arizona Trail Day hikers at the first big saguaros headed northbound on the AZT

Arizona Trail Day hikers at the first big saguaros headed northbound on the AZT

Elfie the Elf Owl

Elfie the Elf Owl

In the evening, the fun moved to the La Sevilla Campground, where we ate delicious food courtesy of It’s Greek to Me and listened to the music of Eb’s Camp Cookin’ around the campfire.  Terry, who is riding the whole trail with two horses and two dogs, was part of the festivities as well.

In the morning, I was excited to be hiking up into the Rincons. Though they are just east of Tucson, I don’t get into them nearly as much as I would like. I hiked the rest of the winding Rincon Valley passage, passing many mountain bikers out on a beautiful Sunday, many who I knew or who recognized me. I reached the Quilter Trail intersection and recalled fond memories of work trips in Saguaro National Park to build this connector trail. It has some of the fanciest rockwork ever.

Fancy!

Fancy!

It was a long day, and after taking in the sunset near some attractive pools of water, I continued on to Grass Shack Campground.

Big Saddle

Big Saddle

Rincons Sunset

Rincons Sunset

The next day was a big climb to Manning Camp at 8000 ft. I made an enjoyable day of it, taking frequent breaks to snack or take in the view. I had a long lunch with an exquisite nap under a tree. The Sky Islands are incredibly diverse- in just two days I’d gone from Saguaros to Ponderosa Pines. Met back up with Pops and Bars as well as two section-hikers Maverick and El Tractor for sunset-watching and an evening by the campfire.

So cold but so good!!

So cold but so good!!

Manning Camp

Manning Camp

Sunset on Rincon Peak

Sunset on Rincon Peak

The next day was one of my favorites of the whole trip so far- the views from the north side of the Rincons are spectacular with fantastic rock formations. The descent was steep but the trail was better than the last time I’d done it in 2008. I reached the cool pools of Tanque Verde Creek and dropped my pack and relaxed by the creek for hours. I saw no one all day.

Italian Spring Panorama

Italian Spring Panorama

Wonderful Rock Formations

Wonderful Rock Formations

Arizona Rainbow Cactus

Arizona Rainbow Cactus

I hiked on to where the Arizona Trail crosses Redington Road and manged to find a spot that was free of both bullet casings and broken glass, no small feat in this area. It had been windy for days upon end, to be expected of springtime in Arizona, but still mildly unpleasant.

The next morning I was met by my friends Laddie and Sue Cox, who brought me a resupply box for my next piece through the Catalinas. Great to see friendly faces, they are legends that have helped the Arizona Trail Association in many ways through the years. Laddie and I used to be on the same volunteer trail crew, the Crazies.

After repacking, I hiked through attractive juniper-dotted hills toward The Lake and then on toward West Spring. I kept an eye out for Kean Brown’s retired horses and was not disappointed. I spent a while visiting with the four horses near West Spring and then made the ascent to the saddle above Molino Basin and then down the other side to the campground. I know this piece of trail like the back of my hand, it used to be my go-to hike long ago when I was recovering from fibromyalgia. What a great thing to have the strength now to have walked here from Mexico.

Kean Brown's retired horses from the Bellota Ranch

Kean Brown’s retired horses from the Bellota Ranch

Hiking to the saddle

Hiking to the saddle

It was still windy and I got an idea in my head that I would love a hot shower. I have a friend, Tom- another of the Crazies, that lives right at the base of the Catalinas, and so I called and he and his wife Nancy were available to meet me at Gordon Hirabayashi (Prison Camp) Trailhead. Not only did I get my coveted shower, but also an invite to stay the night and dinner on top of it all! It was such a nice surprise.

The next morning Tom took me back to where he’d met me and we picked up another woman, India, for the next leg of the hike. Instead of hiking uphill, Tom offered to drive us up to the top of Mount Lemmon so that we could hike the next piece downhill instead. I didn’t have to think twice about that one! I love a good shuttle hike in the Catalinas, it’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy my home mountains.

Me and India

Me and India

India and I had known each other in the late 90’s- early 2000’s when I worked as an archaeologist with SWCA Environmental Consulting and had reconnected through her signing up for a couple of the Arizona Trail Trek hikes. She was the only taker for this particular backpacking trip.

The Wilderness of Rock Trail is breathtaking- since hiking it for the first time in 2008 on my AZT section-hike, I have come back again and again. Such a magical place with hoodoos and impossible rock balancing acts.

Wilderness of Rock

Wilderness of Rock

We filled up our water at Lemmon Creek and then began our descent toward Romero Pass. The trail gives incredible views of Cathedral Rock and Pusch Ridge, even little Sombrero Peak in the Tucson Mountains. Met Maverick again and wished him well on his way to Oracle.

Above the West Fork

Above the West Fork

Romero Pass was windy as usual and we looked for bighorns but didn’t see any. We switchbacked down the hill and finally reached the Cathedral Rock Trail junction and the canopy of the West Fork Sabino Canyon.

It was too early to camp, so we meandered along the trail a while longer, crossing the dry creekbed. India spotted a fire ring at a flat spot in the trees and we found a home for the night.

Camp in the West Fork

Camp in the West Fork

The West Fork is home to massive junipers and oaks and we really enjoyed our camp and hike the next morning. The trail then dropped back into the desert and we reached Hutch’s Pool. Too cold for a swim, I dunked my feet instead and fondly recalled times spent here with my pool floatie.

Delphinium

Delphinium

The hike out of Sabino Basin on the East Fork and Sycamore Trails went smoothly and soon we were at Shreve Saddle, one of the best views in all the Catalinas. A short downhill later, and we were back at Prison Camp TH. Nice to be done early and have the afternoon off.

India enjoying the Catalinas

India enjoying the Catalinas

Shreve Saddle, one of the best views in all the Catalinas

Shreve Saddle, one of the best views in all the Catalinas

My husband, Brian met me and we stayed at Leigh Anne Thrasher’s cabin in Summerhaven. Leigh Anne is a great friend to the AZT and she and her mini-donkey Jasmine hiked up and over the Huachucas in Passage 1 with me. It was great to spend some time with my husband, visits are going to be fewer and farther between as I head farther from my home in Tucson.

Micro Chicken rides Mini Donkey at the cabin in Summerhaven

Micro Chicken rides Mini Donkey at the cabin in Summerhaven

The next day my friends Wendy and Bill met me in Summerhaven for the hike down Oracle Ridge, but that’s a story I’ll leave for Bill to tell you in an upcoming guest blog. When I reached the American Flag Trailhead, it marked 200 miles so far on the Arizona Trail Trek- what a great feeling!

Here’s the link again to the crowdfunding campaign to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association, check it out and share with your friends! https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/arizona-trail-trek-stepping-up-to-support-the-arizona-trail/x/6377270

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I have been incredibly busy planning my upcoming Arizona Trail Trek– a thru-hike to promote the trail, our new guidebook, and the Gateway Communities. I’m starting on March 14th and it’s been a challenge to plan all the things that go along with a thru-hike plus all the fundraising events in the communities along the way. Here’s a promotional poster for the hike, I’ll have the website is www.aztrail.org/azttrek. Getting excited to actually get out on the trail!

Arizona Trail Trek poster

Arizona Trail Trek poster

Today was one of those days where I just had to turn off my phone and go for a hike. Haven’t been up this trail in a while and figured the hike to the pass would provide a good workout.

Romero Canyon above the Pools

Romero Canyon above the Pools

Started around 9:30 and made my way to the pools, lots of blooming fairy duster lining the trail. Only encountered a handful of folks beyond the pools. I forgot how beautiful the trail is above Old Trail Camp, winding through the oaks and junipers and big boulders.

Fairy Duster

Fairy Duster

Old Trail Camp

Old Trail Camp

Ancient grinding holes near the stream

Ancient grinding holes near the stream

I took a break at the waterfall campsite, which has a wonderful log seat with a backrest. The weather was perfect for the last climb to the pass.

Comfy seat at the waterfall campsite

Comfy seat at the waterfall campsite

The pass was windy, as usual. Great views down the West Fork toward the snowy Rincons. I said hi to the Arizona Trail and cut my break short because I was getting chilly.

View from Romero Pass down the West Fork of Sabino Canyon

View from Romero Pass down the West Fork of Sabino Canyon

Arizona Trail- always a welcome sight!

Arizona Trail- always a welcome sight!

Micro Chicken and Romero Canyon

Micro Chicken and Romero Canyon

As I left the pass, I noticed that Romero Canyon looked like it was getting rain, but up at 6000 ft I got snow flurries! They were short-lived and I made my way back down to the waterfall campsite to lounge for a bit on the log seat.

Sky Island Goodness

Sky Island Goodness

This trail is so beautiful, I would really like to do the canyoneering route in Romero Canyon one of these days. I stopped to take pictures of all the different wildflowers I saw- nice variety, hopefully we get more rain soon.

Intriguing pools in the streamcourse

Intriguing pools in the streamcourse

Primrose

Primrose

Blue Dicks

Blue Dicks

Desert Rose Mallow

Desert Rose Mallow

Micro-chicken sized flowers

Micro-chicken sized flowers

I reached my car and decided to wait and watch the sunset before leaving. So glad I did, it was a symphony of light and color on the Catalinas as well as to the west.

Sunset lights up Samaniego Ridge

Sunset lights up Samaniego Ridge

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, I have not been able to volunteer much lately at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson because I am so busy planning my thru-hike. I miss the birds!! Here’s a picture of a hungry hawk- your donations keep these guys fed and housed! I am going to be taking a short break from fundraising for the Wildlife Rehab and switching my focus to fundraising for the Arizona Trail Association during my Arizona Trail Trek. I’ve got an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign with unique and exciting incentives coming up to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association starting on March 28th.

Harris Hawk is hungry!

Harris Hawk is hungry!

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A different perspective on the ridgeline and Prominent Point

The Prominent Point Ridgeline as viewed from Tucson, the Thumb is visible to the right of the telephone pole

From January 1st- April 30th, the Bighorn Sheep Management Area of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness is off-limits to off-trail travel. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoy off-trail travel. It opens up a world of possibilities and I like the challenge of route-finding.

I wanted to make the last day of the year count and chose Prominent Point as my hike for December 31st . I had been doing some research on different ways to summit, but chose the Pima Canyon approach for my first attempt.

Bill and I started hiking around 7:30 am. The HikeArizona.com description says that the turnoff into the canyon is about 1.6 miles in, it is actually more like 2 miles. The entry is across the creek from the big slabs that I took to Table Mountain last year. There is a nice cairned route that pretty much stays in the canyon bottom. Rosewood Point looms above, but not for long.

Bill in the drainage

Bill in the drainage

We stopped to take a break and noticed that we were at the junction where you go to the right for Rosewood Point. We followed another cairn for the route that curved to the left. The canyon bottom here was pretty open and we had several sections of big slabs to walk up. It got steeper, but didn’t require any scrambling.

Rising above Rosewood Point

Rising above Rosewood Point

We had to ascend toward a saddle with a cliff on the left. No longer on a route, we shot straight up the hill. Big rocks came loose from the soil below and shindagger threatened every step. This was the worst footing of the day, both up and down.

Steep!

Steep!

We reached the saddle and saw our next big climb past the Thumb to the ridgeline. There were great views into Pima Canyon of the Pusch Ridge peaks. Sadly, for all our climbing, we were not yet above Pusch Peak.

Pusch Peak

Pusch Peak

Table Mountain

Table Mountain

The Thumb looms above

The Thumb looms above

Up until now, we’d been in the shade of the canyon. It was surprisingly hot for the last day of the year. There was a pretty good route heading toward the Thumb- what an impressive slab of rock! Finally we reached the ridgeline and the views were incredible. It was pretty easy walking for most of the ridgeline, just a few small scrambles where it narrowed down near the drainages.

Prominent Point west ridgeline

Prominent Point west ridgeline

Backdrop of the sheer cliffs of the Table

Backdrop of the sheer cliffs of the Table

The summit loomed ahead, the final slope steep and unrelenting especially after a long day of uphill. Patches of snow appeared and below the summit I found several large pottery sherds. I would imagine this peak would make a good lookout, given its prominence.

Getting closer...

Getting closer…

Pottery sherds near the summit

Pottery sherds near the summit

We reached the small maze of rocks that make up the Western summit and made a snowman. We posed on top with our New Year’s accoutrements.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Micro Chicken in the snow

Micro Chicken in the snow

Atop the summit jar spot

Atop the summit jar spot

The summit has fantastic views in every direction, too many peaks to name visible. A peregrine falcon flew overhead- what a great way to spend the last day of the year!

Prominent Point East Summit, Mt. Kimball and Little Kimball

Prominent Point East Summit, Mt. Kimball and Little Kimball

We started down the mountain around 1:30 and made our way along the ridgeline. Now that I’ve done this way, I’d like to summit via one of the other routes. Cowgill and Glendening say that the most direct route is the gully that comes off the summit into Finger Rock Canyon, and there are ways to get to it via the route to the Guard as well. So many interesting options! Too bad they will have to wait until after the summer, at least there are bighorn sheep to warrant the closures now. I won’t go into it here, but there was recently a great article in the Tucson Weekly about the Bighorn reintroduction project:  http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/rebalancing-nature/Content?oid=3941330

Neat view of Pusch Ridge, Picacho, Newman

Neat view of Pusch Ridge, Picacho, Newman

The Thumb

The Thumb

The lighting was spectacular on our way down. We managed to be on a route for most of the time which sped progress over straight bushwhacking. Still, the slope from the cliffs to the bottom of the canyon bend was really loose and unpleasant.

So many poky things

So many poky things

It eased up considerably once we got back down to the streambed. We took a break once we hit the shade, right before the side canyon curved back toward Pima Canyon. It is amazing how quiet and remote it feels back there, even though all that is between you and Tucson is Rosewood Point.

The Pima Canyon Trail seemed like it dragged on forever as usual, we saw our first people of the day a mile away from the trailhead. Made it back in time to watch the sunset light on Prominent Point. It doesn’t look as far away from the trailhead, because the long ridge is foreshortened.

Cottonwood in Pima Canyon

Cottonwood in Pima Canyon

Sunset on Prominent Point to top off the last day of the year

Sunset on Prominent Point to top off the last day of the year

Although it was a great hike, Bill and I agreed that it would have been even better with Wendy along. She’s been nursing a bum Achilles tendon-  hope she heals up soon so she can join me on bushwhacking adventures again in the new year.

Overall, the terrain and the route was easier than I had expected. It’s a long day, but the views are totally worth the collection of scratches you’ll amass hiking to Prominent Point.

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, I’m trying to get in as many shifts as I can before I leave for my thru-hike of the Arizona Trail on March 14th. We’ve got quite a few interesting characters at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, including three Peregrine Falcons. This one we’ve had for a while will eat from the fist. So I get to go into the cage with a plate of food, offer up my arm, and it hops on and I let the Peregrine eat from the plate in my hand. What a magical experience to be able to work so closely with the world’s fastest bird.
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Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

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Buster Mountain summit view toward Mt Lemmon

Buster Mountain summit view toward Mt Lemmon

I had originally planned on hiking Pusch Peak from Pima Canyon until I came across this description http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=17807 on HikeArizona.com the night before. I really enjoyed my hike up Buster last year and wanted to see more of the area. So glad I hiked this one and covered some new ground instead- the trail up to Peak 4223 was delightful with fantastic views!

On the ridgeline looking north

On the ridgeline looking north

I love autumn days when I can start my hike at noon. The weather was wonderful all day, sometimes overcast, sometimes breezy. Found the trail with no issues- it is very well cairned with good tread and hardly any poky things- almost seemed too easy! Interesting views of the Romero Canyon Trail and Samaniego Ridge. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Peak 4223 to the left, Buster on the right

Peak 4223 to the left, Buster on the right

Romero Canyon Trail

Romero Canyon Trail

I passed Peak 4223 and made my way across the ridge to the low saddle. I saw a flurry of activity and got really excited for a second- was it one of the newly released bighorns? Sadly, no. Just some deer.

Approaching Peak 4223

Approaching Peak 4223

Atop 4223 looking toward Buster

Atop 4223 looking toward Buster

After looking at dry Buster Spring I contoured around to meet the saddle to the east of Buster. There was no trail, but occasional cairns popped up from time to time. Thankfully the grass seeds weren’t too bad, that can turn a hike into a foot-stabbing nightmare quick. Also, not much shindagger on this route, not like areas in Pima Canyon where you are shindagger-surfing. Speaking of which, I had a great view of Table Mountain’s summit where Wendy and I spent a chilly night last year by the fireplace.

The views into Alamo Canyon are some of my favorite in all the Catalinas, so dramatic with the massive Leviathan and Wilderness Domes. The saddle felt remote, Buster blocked out civilization beyond, the sprawl of Oro Valley pink-tiled roofs.

Great views into Alamo Canyon

Great views into Alamo Canyon

One last short steep bit to the summit and I settled in for a long break. It was windy, but not cold. I loved that there was very little chance that I’d see anyone else today, even though the first parking lot was full.

Leviathan and Wilderness Domes

Leviathan and Wilderness Domes

After an enjoyable time on the summit, reading old logs and listening to music, I started down the east side. The small saddle below the summit really speaks to me and I stopped again. Spent time playing with my camera settings and investigating a cairned route that I think connects up with the trail in Alamo Canyon.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain

Micro Chicken

Micro Chicken is getting close to his second birthday. And yes- I’m wearing sparkly nail polish. Don’t judge.

Who the heck was Buster anyway? Here’s the history from the HikeArizona page:

Though details are slim, the history of this immediate area seems to revolve around the late Buster Bailey. Buster moved here from Texas in 1927. His father built their home somewhere in the area that is now Catalina State Park. Buster’s family soon moved back to Texas, but Buster returned to his one true love, The Catalina Mountains. He worked for area ranchers, he worked for the Zimmerman family, who developed what is now Summer Haven on Mt. Lemmon, but Buster’s real claim to fame was as a bootlegger, operating his still near the waters of the now dry Buster Spring. Remnants of his still are said to be in place, though in disrepair, somewhere near the current spring. This was Buster’s stomping ground, and you just can’t help but feel connected to him while you’re here. It’s said that he packed his product down alternating routes, so not to leave any obvious trails. It would be safe to say that if you’re on any passable route in or around Buster Canyon, Buster, himself had been there.

View north

View north

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Sunlit Saguaros

Gneiss!

I really needed a day like this- just me and the Catalinas. What a great route, I’ll have to check out the Alamo Canyon variation sometime.

In Wildlife Rehab news, I came across this picture from of a baby ringtail that we raised that was sent to an educational facility. Look at that yawn!! Donations go toward housing and feeding the animals at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson.
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Yawning Baby Ringtail

Yawning Baby Ringtail

Here’s a video:

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In 2010, I was looking at pictures on HikeArizona.com when I came across a photo of Palisades Canyon that took my breath away. I have looked at it many times over the years, it’s one of my favorites.

Palisades Canyon by nonot on HikeArizona.com

Palisades Canyon by nonot on HikeArizona.com

Such an incredible place, and right in my own backyard in the Catalinas. The colors and textures of the canyon walls, the person rappelling in a beautiful waterfall into a large, black pool. It was before I had ever gone canyoneering and when I checked the route description I saw that it was a strenuous route that takes 10-14 hours to complete. The picture is of the second in a series of seven rappels, many 100 feet or more. I have looked longingly at the falls in the canyon visible from the nearby Box Camp Trail.

Waterfalls in Palisades Canyon from Box Camp Trail

Waterfalls in Palisades Canyon from Box Camp Trail

Since my first canyoneering trip I have been totally taken by the pools, waterfalls, strenuous routes, and exciting rappels that come with it. Early in September I saw trip reports and pictures of Palisades and contacted a friend to see if he was planning on doing it anytime soon. He said he wasn’t going to be able to go, but a friend of his who had been through several times before would probably be interested in doing it again. I got in touch with Russ and we planned a trip for September 21st.

I hadn’t gone canyoneering in a little while, so before the trip I had a practice session hanging from my tree in the backyard. I was more nervous than I’d been in a while. A couple of groups that I knew had gone through the previous weekend and had epic 19 and 15 hour adventures.

Russ Newberg and I were met at the Sabino Canyon parking lot by my dear friend Tom who graciously shuttled us up the mountain to the Palisades Trailhead. Tom is the leader of Tom’s Sawyers, a volunteer group that goes into the wilderness in the Catalinas and Chiricahuas and removes downed trees on the trails with 2-man crosscut saws. He even has a website where you can report downed trees for the Sawyers to work on. We reached the Palisades trailhead and were hiking by 7 am.

Hiking into the drainage

Hiking into the drainage

We set a good pace down the mountain toward our turnoff point, descending first through pines, then through oaks and junipers. The trail rounded the rocky promontory I’d taken a long break at during my hike of the Palisades Trail to Prison Camp in 2011. Soon after the trail switchbacked down through the grasses, we reached our turnoff and took a gully into the creekbed. There were some ledges for us to get into our wetsuits, I wore a 3/2 full and was glad I did- made the time spent in the water enjoyable rather than merely tolerable.  We had a short hike to the first 150 ft. rappel.

Russ at the top of the first rappel

Russ at the top of the first rappel

150 ft. 1st rappel

150 ft. 1st rappel

Russ went down first so he could provide a fireman’s belay from below. He whistled that he was off rope and it was my turn. I rigged my belay device, double-checked everything, took a deep breath and started lowering myself down the slippery first drop into a pool. Sliding down on my side made the slick rock manageable. The second part of the rappel was down a waterfall black with slippery algae. I made my way down to the pool below and then we were at the top of the second rappel, the one that had captured my imagination years ago.

Bottom of the first rappel

Bottom of the first rappel

The second rappel has a chute that diverts the flow into a sideways spigot. I scooted down the chute on my side and stood with the water shooting sideways across the slot. I stopped a second to take it all in- here I was at last! I continued down the rest of the rappel to an immense circular black pool. My drybag buoyed me up in the water and I took a bit to happily float around in the pool, looking up at the waterfall- It’s one of my favorite things in the world to do!

Down the chute on the second rappel

Down the chute on the second rappel

Immediately afterwards, we had another 85 foot rappel followed by yet another 100 footer. There was a small downclimb and my foot slipped and I came down on my knee. It hurt a bit, but didn’t cause any problems the rest of the day. We were able to look at the cascades above that we had just descended. Incredible. Any one of these falls would be a worthy destination in and of itself.

Looking back up at the waterfalls

Looking back up at the waterfalls

We checked the time, surprised that it was still so early. If we got done early enough, we just might be able to catch the Sabino Canyon Tram for the last 4 miles instead of a hot, crowded roadwalk at the end of our day. Russ set up the fifth rappel and as I descended, the water splashing off my helmet made rainbows all around me. What a treat!

We packed up the ropes and rock-hopped toward our next rappel, two stages measuring 160 feet. The view from the top was fantastic. It took a little maneuvering to get down the first part, then yet another stunning slippery waterfall.

Top of 6th rappel

Top of 6th rappel

There was one last challenge before the technical section was complete- the last 85 footer had a notorious reputation for sticking ropes. Russ found a small stick and wedged it in the rope-eating crack. He went first and I followed. There was an overhang, then a free rappel for a moment underneath a chockstone with a hedgehog cactus clinging to life, dangling precariously by its roots. A short stop on a ledge with a tree, then down the rest of the way, rejoining the watercourse into a pool.

Micro Chicken at the last rappel

Micro Chicken at the last rappel

And now, the moment of truth- Russ and I looked at each other, took a deep breath and pulled as fast as we could, whooping with joy when we realized it was a clean pull- no stuck ropes today! We high-fived and then took a break to refuel and change out of our gear, our concern now was trying to stay cool instead of warm.

After eating and repacking all our soggy gear and ropes, we scrambled down Palisades Canyon, dunking ourselves to stay cool. The Sabino Basin got ever closer and finally we hit the East Fork Trail. Hello, Arizona Trail!

Rockhopping down the rest of the canyon

Rockhopping down the rest of the canyon

Trail!!

Trail!!

After a quick break to put away our helmets and grab some calories, we checked the time and realized that we could make the tram if we kept a good pace, so we booked it up the Sabino Canyon trail. Not sure where I got all that energy, but the idea of a long hot roadwalk certainly was a great motivator. At 4:30 we saw the tram below and ran to catch it, thinking it was the last one. It was the second to last one of the day, I was just happy that we were riding the road instead of hiking it. Interestingly, we sat right behind a group of guys who’d just come down Lemmon Canyon for the last two days. We shared canyoneering stories all the way to the parking lot.

Russ was wearing a GoPro camera, I’ll post his video when he gets done editing it. Until then, here’s the only picture of happy, sweaty me on the tram:

The sweaty run to catch the tram was all worth it!

The sweaty run to catch the tram was all worth it!

Edit: Here’s the video that Russ made:

I had a post-adventure endorphin-induced giant grin on my face as I drove home. Everything went smoothly in the canyon and the next day I was going to leave on an Arizona Trail business trip up to the North Rim and Flagstaff for a week.  I walked in the door, eager to share my day with my husband Brian when I was met with news that my dog Zeus was not doing well. He’s a big dog- half German Shepard and half Wolf- and at 15 1/2, this was not a great surprise. But something in Brian’s face told me that it wasn’t just the ordinary old-dog stuff.  My mood went instantly from elation to despair- it finally hit home that Zeus wasn’t going to be around much longer. I stayed home for two days and he seemed to stabilize, but when I left on my trip he went downhill again.

I spent the last week at home, getting in a last bit of quality time with him- massaging his tired old body, thinking about all the adventures we’d had together, and feeding him anything he wanted to eat.

We took Zeus and our other dog, Bailey on one last hike in the desert. As we walked, the dogs turned off toward a labyrinth I’d forgotten was there. I thought Zeus would just wander around and get tired and go back to the car. Instead he got a burst of energy and we had a great time hiking into the wash near some petroglyphs. Zeus was a big part of me getting into hiking, I’ll have to write about it sometime.

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Zeus on his last hike

Brian and I made arrangements for a vet to come to the house so that he didn’t have to get all riled up on the drive. It was a wonderful decision. We were all on the futon together, hugging Zeus as his heart finally stopped. We buried him out in Picture Rocks on a friend’s land- he’s got a great resting spot in the desert with a view of the mountains. I don’t know when I’ve ever been so heartbroken.

One way I’m dealing with the loss of Zeus is to volunteer a bunch at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson. I took off a bunch of time this summer because I was really busy with my river schedule and it’s good to be back. Fortunately, I managed to sneak a couple of shifts in between trips this summer and meet the myriad youngsters we had in residence. This video of a trio of “Fuzzballs”- baby Great Horned Owls- cracked me up all summer long.

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