Posts Tagged ‘Flatiron’

I’ve put together a look back at the past year of hiking and backpacking. For those who are regular readers, I’ve added quite a few pictures that didn’t make it in to the blog in other posts. You can click on the name of the hike to go to the journal entry about that hike, and all of the pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them. Enjoy!

In January I teamed up with Bill Bens and Mitch Stevens for a hike up Ragged Top in the Silverbell Mountains, northwest of Tucson. It was the first of a series of hikes we did together that required scrambling, something I really hadn’t experienced much before this year. I really took to it, and sought out a number of hikes with a scrambling element for the rest of the year.

Ragged Top

Coming up the South Gully- Photo by Bill Bens

Me and Bill at the summit with Picacho Peak in the background

In February I started the month with another scrambling route up Elephant Head in the Santa Ritas with Bill and Mitch. Another rugged, tough route leading to superlative views.

Elephant Head

Summit Ridge of Elephant Head

Summit ridge of Elephant Head

Summit cairn made of elephants

The day after my 36th birthday, I hiked my first piece of the Grand Enchantment Trail, a 730-mile route that goes from Phoenix to Albuquerque. I also started my Wildlife Rehabilitation Fundraiser to benefit Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, where I am a volunteer.

Starting the Grand Enchantment Trail

Antelope Peak

Nighthawk at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson

In March I tackled another piece of the Grand Enchantment Trail in the Superstitions from the Tortilla TH to First Water TH. This was my first time in the western Superstitions, and I loved every rugged, rocky minute of it.

Campsite View on Horse Ridge, looking at a snowy 4 Peaks

Entering La Barge Box

Me and the Weaver's Needle

I attempted to summit Baboquivari again, but was turned away by ice and snow on the first pitch. However, we got to spend the night at the Lion’s Ledge, one of my favorite places I’ve ever slept and any time on Babo is time well spent.

Babo's East Face

Dave takes in the sunrise

Lion's Ledge- we slept right under the cave-like spot with the dark stain running down the face

I also wrote about Arizona’s State Parks that were slated to close due to lack of funding and hiked the Hunter Trail at Picacho Peak State Park and the Flatiron and Peak 5024 at Lost Dutchman State Park. Thankfully, only a couple of the state parks ended up closing and nearby towns helped pick up some of the expenses for the other ones. It was a great spring for wildflowers. I gave several slideshow presentations about my Arizona Trail hike to raise funds for Wildlife Rehab.

Poppies and Lupine at Picacho Peak

Lost Dutchman State Park in bloom- Flatiron in the upper right

Hoodoos on the way to Peak 5024

Looking down on the Flatiron

In April I was fortunate to hike two pieces of the Grand Enchantment Trail in April- the Santa Teresa Wilderness with my friend Judy Eidson, and the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness. To give an idea of how remote the Santa Teresas are, when I called the Coronado National Forest to ask a question about the trails, they said, “We have no idea, no one goes out there, let us know what you find when you come back, ok?” I look forward to my return to Holdout Canyon – a spectacular place.

Holdout Canyon, Santa Teresa Wilderness

Winding Mariposa Lily

Taking in the view

Climbing above Preacher Canyon

Pretty waterfall in Cottonwood Canyon

Desert Honeysuckle in bloom, Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness

Great Blue Heron

Bends in the Stream

In MayI heard that Forest Service crews had been clearing the Sutherland Trail, so I teamed up with Lee Allen, David Rabb, and Tom Kimmel to hike from the top of Mount Lemmon to Catalina State Park via this formerly fire-damaged trail. The 6000 ft. of elevation loss was tough on the knees, but the views and the company more than made up for it.

Happy to be on the Sutherland Trail

Sutherland Trail


All spring long, I’d been telling my husband Brian, “Don’t worry, once it heats up in June I’ll be home a lot more often!” But then I bought the one piece of gear that made my summer bearable: my green inflatable innertube, known affectionately as “the floatie”, and the hiking really didn’t slow down at all. The floatie’s maiden voyage was to Hutch’s Pool on a overnight backpacking trip using the Box Camp Trail down to Sabino Canyon.

Coming down the ridge on the Box Camp Tr.

Coral Bean bloom

Happy to have Hutch's Pool all to myself!

I enjoyed the floatie so much, I took it on a trip to Horse Camp Canyon in the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness and floated the black pool on a day when I had the only permit for the whole canyon.

Important piece of summer gear in Aravaipa

Made even sweeter by the fact that I had it all to myself!

Also in June, I began harvesting and processing saguaro fruit and making syrup and delicious fruit leather. I really enjoyed it and everyone loved the flavor. Can’t wait to do it on a bigger scale next summer.

Saguaro fruit cut open

In July, a month that I would normally be cowering in my house avoiding the heat, I was able to find lots of ways to keep active this year. I went on short hikes early in the morning or night hikes, and was able to get away to the cooler Sky Islands for a couple of backpacking trips. Early in the month, I went to the Santa Ritas for an overnight at Baldy Saddle and saw one of the best sunsets I’d seen all year.

Baldy Saddle- Yep, I was right- it was an awesome campsite!

Looking north at the Santa Rita Crest- 7:19 pm

My favorite of the evening- 7:34 pm

Mountain Spiny Lizard Fight

Later in the month, I hiked the Grand Enchantment Trail through the tall, cool Pinaleno Mountains (also known as “The Grahams”) with Judy Eidson and Connie Simmons.

Through the waist-high ferns on the Clark Peak Tr.

View from Taylor Pass

Slick Rock, Ash Creek Trail

Sunset on The Pinnacles, Ash Creek Trail

The "spirited cascade"

I squeezed in one last hike in July, a trip to Chiricahua National Monument with my friend Wendy. Fantastic hoodoos and rock formations to tickle the imagination.

Hoodoos come in Large, Small, and Medium size for your viewing enjoyment

Punch and Judy Rock

August was all about the pools: Jammed Log Pool, Romero Pools, Lemmon Pools, Tanque Verde Falls- I hiked in early, got my float on, and was hiking out by 9 or 10 in the morning.

Who says the desert is a dry place? Photo by Bill Bens

Wendy takes a turn on the floatie at Jammed Log Pool

Tanque Verde Falls dwarfs me in my floatie- photo by Wendy Lotze

Lemmon Pools

Fly Agaric Mushrooms- these were over 8 inches across
Campsite view down Lemmon Canyon toward Tucson
Monday Morning Goodness at Romero Pools
Rattlesnake from night hikes in Sabino Canyon

Gila Monster from night hikes in Sabino Canyon

In September the leisurely hikes of summer came to an end, because it was time to start ramping up the difficulty levels to get in shape for the Grand Canyon in October. I hiked a long loop in the Santa Ritas, Pusch Peak, a dayhike to Lemmon Pools and an overnighter in Aravaipa to break in my new hiking shoes on uneven terrain with a full pack.

Lunch at Burnt Saddle- Elephant Head on the ridge in the foreground

So many unusual wildflowers! Crest Trail, Santa Ritas

Tiny Twin-Spotted Rattlesnake on the Foursprings Trail, Santa Ritas

View west from the summit of Pusch Peak

Lounging in Aravaipa Canyon

Rincon Mountains seen from the Lemmon Rock Trail

Shadow of Mount Lemmon on the Galiuro Mountains

And at the end of the month, I snuck in one last hike with the floatie in Sycamore Canyon in the Pajarita Wilderness near the Mexican border with some friends.

Near the slot pool

The Slot Pool- Bill and Ray went up and to the right, Lee and I swam across.

The green floatie- best $2 I've spent all year!

As much as I grumbled about training with a loaded pack on dayhikes, I was thankful for it in October when I spent 11 days in the Grand Canyon backpacking the Royal Arch Loop and at the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Association Volunteer Service Project. The Royal Arch Loop was the most difficult trip I’ve done to date.  Remember at the beginning of the year when I said I enjoyed scrambling on hikes? The whole year I’d made myself more and more used to scrambling and traveling on exposed areas, and it all came in handy on the Royal Arch Loop. Aesthetically, my favorite trip of the entire year and I can’t wait to do it again.

Sunrise on Mt. Huethawali from South Bass Trailhead

A Grand Vista

The Royal Arch

The anticipation was way worse than the actual rappel

Elves Chasm

A majestic pose before continuing across the slope

Kent, Ron, and Paul on the saddle leaving Copper Canyon

I hiked out of the Royal Arch Loop and back into the Grand Canyon for six days of work on the Volunteer Service Project. We got a lot of work done at Cottonwood and Bright Angel Campgrounds, and in our free time we hiked up to the North Rim for fall colors, pizza, and beer, as well as up Wall Creek and the Miner’s Route. 11 days and a little over a hundred miles of Grand Canyon goodness.

Hiking up to Cottonwood CG

Yay! We walked up into fall on the North Kaibab Trail!

Wall Creek Waterfall

Cairn where the Old Miner's Route meets the Tonto

After spending the last half of October mourning the fact that I wasn’t in the Grand Canyon anymore, in November I found plenty of places close to home to hold my interest. I took two solo backpacking trips: one to The Spine near the White Canyon Wilderness, and one on the Samaniego Ridge Trail in the Catalinas. I also hiked the little-used Brush Corral Trail in the northeastern part of the Catalinas with some friends.

Traveling atop The Spine from boulder to boulder

5:38 pm- looks like a postcard

Morning view of the White Canyon Wilderness

Samaniego Peak

Hiking up to the Mule Ears

Samaniego- what a wonderful ridge!

Incredible views on the Brush Corral Trail

Brush Corral Trail ridgeline

Between the oaks

In December I made one last trip to the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness (my 4th this year) and enjoyed the fall colors. It is trailbuilding season on the Arizona Trail and I led my first work event up near Oracle on the 9th  in the Black Hills passage. I plan on sneaking in one last trip before the end of the year to my favorite very large hole in the ground before the year’s over.

Fall colors in Aravaipa Canyon

The inagural crew of the Crazies North

Whew! I sure got a lot of adventures in this year! Thanks to one of my favorite websites HikeArizona.com, I was able to keep track of my miles hiked and other stats. This is the first year that I logged all my hikes, and by the end of the year, I will have hiked approximately 750 miles. Lucky me.

I want to thank all of my readers and people who came to my talks who donated to my Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser. Since February, over $700 worth of donations have been given to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson! If you haven’t donated yet but would like to, you can send a check made out to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson to Pima Federal Credit Union  P.O. Box 50267 Tucson, Arizona 85703. Please put Hiking in the memo, so they know where you heard about their facility. Any amount is appreciated! You can also donate via PayPal by clicking the button below. Even if you don’t have a PayPal account, you can donate securely via PayPal with a credit card.

"Elfie" the Elf Owl thanks you for your donations!


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My readers that live in Arizona are no doubt aware of the fact that the state is planning to close most of the state parks due to lack of funding. Without getting into too long of a rant, I think it is unconscionable that this is the way that the state plans on solving its budget shortfalls. One of Arizona’s main industries is tourism, and closing most of the state parks is a horrible, short-sighted way to save money. Besides, we still have to clarify what “closing a state park” means. Does it just give free reign to whomever can jump the fence or arrive via an alternate route? What about the state parks that have precious archaeological resources, like Homolovi Ruins? Do we just close these parks and hope that everyone is good stewards of the land and doesn’t take advantage of the closed status to go looting? The impending closings made it imperative that I check out two state parks before they closed: Picacho Peak SP and Lost Dutchman, both slated to close in June.

Lost Dutchman State Park in bloom

In Tucson, if the springtime is good for wildflowers, a trip up Picacho Peak is a must-do. The name is actually redundant, “picacho” means peak in Spanish, so it translates to “Peak Peak”. I hiked the steeper and more direct Hunter Trail last Monday, which takes off a short distance from the fee station. The trail climbs to the top of the peak in a short but steep 2 miles. I started early to beat the crowds, and I’m glad I did, because on the way down the trail was getting pretty crowded, even on a weekday. There were big patches of yellow poppies in bloom as I made my way up to the saddle.

Poppies and Lupine at Picacho

After the saddle, the fun begins- there are cables bolted to the mountain so that there is something to hold on to while descending steeply from the saddle- my pictures barely show the steepness. This is a good point to put away the hiking poles and put on some gloves to grip the cables.

Cables bolted into the mountain to ease yourself down from the saddle

Several parts of the trail have the cables- since I had an early start I encountered no one going up or down at the same time, but at the narrowest part of the trail I met Bill Cole, from Phoenix, out to enjoy the park before its scheduled closing. I was happy that I was doing this hike on a weekday, because there is no opportunity for two-way travel on some of the parts of the trail- I would have had to spend a bunch of time waiting. I was on a bit of a time crunch this morning because I had to get back to ready the house for visitors that were coming that night. I haven’t hiked this trail in several years and I was surprised to see how much precarious (albeit protected) climbing there was to get to the summit.

Trickiest part with the bolted cables

The trickiest part went straight up the rock with great foot and hand holds. I unfortunately got my hiking poles (which were stowed in my pack) caught up in the cables and had to gingerly extricate myself before continuing on. When I arrived at the summit there was a couple just heading back down, so I had the summit to myself. There were wonderful views in every direction, and a Harris’ Antelope Squirrel that was searching for any dropped snacks.

Antelope squirrel action shot!- click to enlarge

Posing for a picture, hoping for some snacks

As I was coming down from the peak, I decided to go check out the peak to the north for some views of Picacho:

Picacho Peak from the peak to the north

I was really glad that I got an early start, because on my way down, I met many hikers headed for the peak, and even more people at the trailhead poppy-peeping. I talked to several groups that said that they were out there to catch the views before they closed the park.


Later in the week, I had to go to Phoenix to do two Arizona Trail Talks at both of the REI locations, so I took the opportunity to visit another park that is scheduled to close in June, Lost Dutchman State Park. I have been hearing about this hike called the Flatiron for a while now, so I decided to finally do this hike while I was in Phoenix for my talks. It turned out to be a perfect hike! I am somewhat disenchanted with dayhiking lately. For a dayhike to wow me, it’s got to be a good “bang for the buck” kind of hike. I have also recently gotten very into scrambling, which is basically hiking so rugged you have to use your hands to pull yourself up in places. The Flatiron definitely fit the bill! I hit the trail by 7:15. The trail to the Flatiron gets progressively more difficult as you leave the trailhead- from wide, flat trail to a  well-maintained steeper portion and progressing to a scramble topped with a 10-foot wall to climb right as you reach the saddle.

Flatiron on the right, the chute to climb to get there in the center

As I reached the more difficult parts of the trail, I met a group of hikers that lived in nearby Mountainbrook Village. Several of the hikers had been to the Flatiron before, so I was able to follow them and use the path of least resistance, marked with spray-painted blue or white dots on the rock.

Looking back toward the chute I scrambled up

The 10-foot wall that I had heard so much about wasn’t too bad, just required a little thought into the hand and foot placement, and before I knew it, I had reached the saddle. Thankfully, my early start meant that the bulk of the climb was done in the shade, this would be one toasty hike at the wrong time of the day. At the saddle you can go right to the Flatiron or left toward Peak 5024. The group I tagged along with headed over to nearby Peak 5024, and I was glad I followed them. There were some parts that required me to take my pack off and shimmy underneath a passage in the boulders and hoodoos. This is one of my favorite parts of the Superstitions that I have been to thus far.

Hoodoos on the way to Peak 5024

The summit was spectacular! Views all the way south to the snow-covered Catalinas near my home in Tucson, a view of Weaver’s Needle and the interior of the Superstitions, and the Four Peaks as well.

The Mountainbrook Village group on the summit

4 Peaks from the summit of Peak 5024

Looking down on the Flatiron

The peak was so wonderful that by the time I headed down to the Flatiron, it was a little anticlimactic. I would urge those planning to hike the Flatiron to check out the nearby peak as well, it is certainly worth it! I had to get back to town to get ready for my speaking engagement at REI, so after spending some time on the Flatiron, it was time to head back to the car. On the way down, there were many more crowds, and I was glad that I had started early. The downhill scramble was much easier than uphill, and I made great time getting down to the trail in Siphon Draw. It is called the Siphon Draw because it drains a large portion of the Western Superstitions, and the water has carved out a beautiful natural bowl in the rock.

Siphon Draw

Once past the Siphon Draw bowl, its back to good old trail again, and I would have flown down this area if I hadn’t stopped so many times to take pictures of the greenery and wildflowers. The brittlebush hadn’t bloomed yet, but there were great swaths of purple lupine, scorpionweed, poppies, blue dicks, and chicory all the way to the parking lot.

Wildflowers looking back at the Flatiron

Hopefully, the state will figure out an alternative to closing the state parks. My two Arizona Trail talks in Phoenix went very well, and I was able to raise almost $200 for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Fundraiser. For today’s Wildlife Rehab picture, here’s a tiny Harris’ Antelope Squirrel.

Feeding a baby Harris' Antelope Squirrel at the Wildlife Rehab

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