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Spectacular overlook in the Mazatzal Wilderness

Spectacular overlook in the Mazatzal Wilderness

April 30 – May 3

Just four days left to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association through our Indiegogo campaign- if you’ve been waiting to donate, now’s the time! There’s special Arizona Trail pint glasses, signed art prints of Arizona Trail: Journey to Center, even a chance to help brew Arizona Trail Ale with Steve Morken from That Brewery- Click here to check out the incentives!

Arizona Trail Pint Glass

Arizona Trail Pint Glass

 

Arizona Trail: Journey to Center

Arizona Trail: Journey to Center

After a night at Horse Camp Seep, me and my four hiking companions packed up and headed up the hill toward a rocky outcrop above the camp. As we got closer, I could tell that the view was going to be spectacular. Even though it was a hazy day the 360-degree views are some of the best on the entire AZT. Saw a shadowy figure of the San Francisco Peaks still looking very far away. Incredible that I’m going to walk there.

The trail to The Park was in good shape, and we took a lunch break in a beautiful stand of pines. Next up was the aptly named Red Hills passage. Beautiful red rock canyons and hills, up and down, up and down.

The Park with North Peak above

The Park with North Peak above

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There were pools in the drainages from the storm that happened right before our trip and we found a nice place to camp with a sunset view and a sliver of moon.

The next day we hiked to the Brush Spring Trail and were passed by a very fast thru-hiker from Oklahoma. He was amazed by the beauty of the state- I feel so lucky to call Arizona my home, all these incredible landscapes available to me whenever I want.

Brush Spring Trail went through hills thick with green vegetation, thankfully the brush wasn’t encroaching onto the trail. The whole trail through the Mazzies was in much better condition than I had expected, it was nice to not have to climb over burnt trees or get scratched by thorny bushes. After a break at a nice campsite near Brush Spring, we climbed to a saddle overlooking our descent to the East Verde River.

Climbing to the saddle

Climbing to the saddle

The trail follows an old road that plummets thousands of feet down to the LF Ranch. Temperatures got hotter and the umbrellas came out for shade.

Hazy view from the saddle of the East Verde below

Hazy view from the saddle of the East Verde below

Umbrella time!

Old road down to LF Ranch

Old road down to LF Ranch

It seemed like it took forever to descend to the ranch. We heard the ranch before we saw it- the sounds of peacocks calling, cows mooing, and dogs barking. The LF Ranch is a working cattle ranch run by Maryann Pratt, completely surrounded by the Mazatzal Wilderness. Maryann also welcomes weary hikers with a bunkhouse to stay in and home-cooked meals. I had heard about the ranch for years and was super-excited for my stay.

LF Ranch welcomes hikers!

LF Ranch welcomes hikers!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ranch is on the banks of the East Verde River and we went to check it out. There was a great swimming hole and nearby the cool waters of Rock Creek joined the East Verde. What a place!

East Verde River

East Verde River

Standing in Rock Creek

Standing in Rock Creek

Unfortunately for my travel companions, their trip was at an end and they hiked out the rough four-mile access road to their cars. It was a great group and I really enjoyed their company.

I went back to the river for a swim and relaxed until Maryann brought out the most amazing dinner- vegetarian lasagna, a giant salad, bread and pie for dessert! She knows the way to a thru-hiker’s heart for sure!

Yum!

Yum!

Sunset at the LF Ranch

Sunset at the LF Ranch

I had an enjoyable stay in the bunkhouse and then Maryann fed me again, a wonderful breakfast to start my day. It was so hard to leave this sanctuary, I could have stayed for weeks, chatting with Maryann, swimming in the river, watching the peacocks, staring at the beautiful surroundings. If you’re coming through the area, plan an extra day, you’ll be glad you did. Visit www.lfranch.com for details and reservations.

Peacocks!

Peacocks!

Maryann Pratt

Maryann Pratt

I hiked back to the East Verde crossing and spent way too much time lounging around on the banks, enjoying the river. I had a full day of climbing ahead of me and it was going to get hot.

The Arizona Trail uses an old, steep, nasty road filled with softball-sized loose rock for it’s ascent from the river. It would be so nice to have new singletrack built, but projects like that cost money and for now, the road is the trail.

Ugh.

Ugh.

I ascended to Polles Mesa and hiked from cairn to cairn across the plateau. Then the trail came to Whiterock Spring, where I refilled my water. Whiterock Mesa is my favorite part of this passage, it has wildly shaped rocks that look like dinosaur bones contrasting with the red dirt. I found a cairn that I had built with a flower-holder rock from back when I hiked this in 2009.

Flower holder cairn

Flower holder cairn

After Whiterock Mesa came Saddle Ridge, another field of rocks to navigate. I climbed to the wilderness boundary and had a little celebration- I had just finished the last wilderness area on the Arizona Trail! Miller Peak, Mount Wrightson, Rincon, Pusch Ridge, Superstition, Four Peaks, and now the Mazatzals.

Looking back at North Peak

Looking back at North Peak

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Wilderness Boundary

Wilderness Boundary

My dad met me at the Twin Buttes Trailhead and took me into Pine, where I feasted on artichoke and spinach pizza from That Brewery. The Mazatzal Wilderness is a true gem of the Arizona Trail and I’ll be back to explore more for sure!

The next day I hiked from Twin Buttes into Pine, stopping at beautiful Oak Spring for a break by the water. It was exciting for me to hike into the Pine Trailhead and connect my steps from Mexico to Pine. Love this little town nestled under the Mogollon Rim!

 

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Horses and Peaks

Horses and Peaks

I apologize for not updating the blog recently. It’s tough to thru-hike, hold events, lead hikes, and be timely about the blog at the same time. I’ve had some incredible experiences out here and promise a more detailed account once I reach the Grand Canyon!

There’s less than 10 days left in the campaign to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association- please share the link with others so we can reach our goal!

All sorts of perks available when you donate, like an Arizona Trail Pint Glass, signed artwork by Cole Habay, and the opportunity to participate in a special Arizona Highways Photo Workshop! There’s even a chance for you and a friend to help brew Arizona Trail Ale and stay in a cabin and eat at That Brewery in charming Pine, AZ.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/arizona-trail-trek-stepping-up-to-support-the-arizona-trail

There’s an updated video with new footage from my hike and the events, check it out:

Another update coming soon, I promise!

 

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April 16- 19IMG_1025The Arizona Trail Trek event in Superior at Porter’s Cafe had a great turnout and a good time was had by all! Michael Salerno and his guitar entertained folks out on the patio on a beautiful evening with a backdrop of mighty Picketpost Mountain and the Apache Leap. Even Mayor Jayme Valenzuela stopped in to say hi- I took him on his first hike last year during the Legends of Superior Eco-Festival.

Mayor Jayme Valenzuela and me

Mayor Jayme Valenzuela and me share a laugh

The next morning, I was less than motivated to get on the trail. All I wanted to do was hang out with my husband and have a rest day where I didn’t have an event that night. Brian dropped me off at Picketpost Trailhead and I headed north. As soon as I was hiking, all was well and I was back to my energetic, happy self.

Starting at Picketpost Trailhead

Starting at Picketpost Trailhead

I crossed under Highway 60 and hiked up an undulating ridge toward Whitford Canyon. The pointy top of Weavers Needle coming in and out of view reminded me of my friend John that I’d lost earlier this year. He was part of the group that climbed the Needle with me for my birthday in 2011 and had a fatal accident this spring when a boulder dislodged and fell on him as he was standing at the bottom of a climbing route. I’d been able to see the Needle since the Catalinas, many miles ago, and it always brought mixed feelings. Happiness at the fact that I’d stood on top of this Arizona landmark, but so sad that John wouldn’t be joining me on any hikes or events during my Trek.

John waits patiently for his turn to climb

We miss you John!

Whitford Canyon’s pink walls were as pretty as ever, but the dry year meant no pools to play in, just rocks in the streambed. I encountered a rattlesnake in the trail, all contorted and buzzing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI continued on to Reavis Trail Canyon and the trail meandered back and forth along the creekbed, this one also almost totally dry with small mucky pools. I met the first woman thru-hiker I’ve seen since I started the Trek, a woman named Marianne out hiking the Grand Enchantment Trail from Phoenix to Albuquerque.

Marianne, Grand Enchantment Trail thru-hiker

Marianne, Grand Enchantment Trail thru-hiker

I wanted to set myself up for the climb up Montana Mountain early the next day, and found an attractive pink-rocked drainage for camp.

Within the first mile the next morning, I came upon the strangest thing. Right by the side of the trail was a rattlesnake, belly-up, stuck halfway out of a hole. Poor guy- I buried him under a pile of rocks. Wonder what happened?

Poor snake

Poor snake

The trail switchbacked up Montana Mountain and I was glad I was getting the climb over with in the cool morning. Unfortunately it was quite hazy from the high winds we’ve been having, but the views south of Picketpost, the Apache Leap and Superior, with the tiny bump of Antelope Peak and the hazy rounded shape of the Catalinas were still inspiring. So incredible to be able to see back to where I’ve walked from.

View south from Montana Mountain

View south from Montana Mountain

At the saddle, the views got even better and the Superstition Ridgeline and 4 Peaks came into view. Too bad it was inundated with tiny gnats. I was at 5400 feet, the highest I’d been since descending into the low desert north of Oracle and the temps were so much cooler!

Superstition Ridgeline

Superstition Ridgeline

There was a roadwalk to Roger’s Trough Trailhead and I passed a group heading out after having a picnic on the mountain. This area is very popular with off-road enthusiasts. They offered to fill my water and then gave me the most wonderful thing before driving off- a bag of grapes! Trail magic!

Good times!

Good times!

I happily ate my grapes as I hiked along the road to the trailhead. Took a break at Roger’s Trough to peruse the trail register and see which of the other thru-hikers came by and when.

I hiked into the Superstition Wilderness and found running water in the canyon after a short distance. Break time again, even though I just took one! There is nothing better than a flowing creek with rockbound pools.

Pools by Roger's Trough TH

Pools by Roger’s Trough TH

Eventually, I moved on toward Reavis Ranch, my destination for the evening. I passed a family who had been out for a night at the ranch and a group of 10 ladies out to see the ruins in Roger’s Canyon. I just love answering the question “Where are you headed?” with  “Utah”. I told them about my hike and Indiegogo campaign to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association.

I visited Old Man Reavis’ grave before hiking up to Reavis Pass. Once at the pass, the ecosystem changes and giant pinyon and juniper trees replace the brush and catclaw of the lower elevations. It is such pleasant hiking through forests and the occasional grassy meadow. Closer to the ranch, flowing water appeared in the creek.

Reavis' Grave

Reavis’ Grave

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Hugging the giant Juniper

Hugging the giant Juniper

I reached the ruins of the ranch, unfortunately burned to the ground in 1991. Now all that remains is the concrete slab. Elisha Reavis moved to this valley in 1872 to raise vegetables to sell to the mining towns in the area. A great summary of his life can be found here.

One part of the ranch that still remains is the apple orchard, and that’s where I made my camp for the night, among the fragrant blooms.

Camp in the Reavis apple orchard

Camp in the Reavis apple orchard

The next morning was the coldest I’d been in a while and I savored the feeling.  Spent the morning lounging in my sleeping bag, no need to beat the heat today. It was overcast and the forecast was for possible showers.

I turned onto the Reavis Gap Trail upon leaving the ranch and got great views as I gained elevation. There were parts of the trail that were exposed rock with small gravel, and at one point I thought to myself, “Someone could easily fall on that”. Immediately afterward, my foot shot out from under me and I ended up sprawled out on the trail.

Above Reavis Ranch on the Gap trail

Above Reavis Ranch on the Gap trail

Crap. I sat on the trail and surveyed my injuries. Skinned knee and elbow, nothing broken, ankle twisted a bit. Cleaned my wounds, collected myself and continued along the trail.

The Reavis Gap Trail is lined with attractive rock towers and boulder formations on the way to the Two Bar Ridge Trail. There was a big pool in Pine Creek where I (you guessed it) took a break.

Reavis Gap Trail

Reavis Gap Trail

Reached the Two Bar Ridge turnoff and was surprised to see how green the start of the trail was even though it’s been such a dry year. I got to Walnut Spring to refill my water bottles and was met with a surprise guest- a rattlesnake between me and the spring!

Guardian of Walnut Spring

Guardian of Walnut Spring

It was a black-tailed rattler, making all sorts of noise to keep me away. It wasn’t going to work, I needed the water! So I went around it and gave it the speech from Pulp Fiction about us being cool like little Fonzies while keeping a watchful eye.

The Two Bar Ridge Trail has tremendous views of the 4 Peaks and Superstitions as well as Apache Lake. Too bad there’s no chance to look around while walking because this is one of the rockiest trails I’ve ever encountered. Rocky and loose with never-ending ups and downs.

Two Bar Ridge Trail

Two Bar Ridge Trail

4 Peaks

4 Peaks

It started sprinkling while I was on Two Bar Ridge and I was thankful that it was overcast and cool. I had one last climb to contour around Pinyon Mountain before leaving the wilderness boundary. One more loose and rocky descent down FR 83 and I reached my camp for the night.

Roosevelt Lake comes into view

Roosevelt Lake comes into view

View toward the Pinals

View toward the Pinals

The next morning I set out for the Cottonwood Canyon Trail. I remembered it as having a gorgeous area near the spring. What I didn’t remember is that it is even more loose and rocky than Two Bar Ridge. The trail is right in the creekbed at times and my body was getting tired from trying to keep from turning my already-sore ankle.

The spring area is really something to behold, though- it goes from dry, rocky creekbed to lush, green and inviting with a running creek.

Cottonwood Canyon without water

Cottonwood Canyon without water

Cottonwood Canyon with water

Cottonwood Canyon with water

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail ended at a forest road that took me up and down through the hills toward Roosevelt Lake. I could hear the noise from the boat engines from far away.

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Lined with wildflowers!

Finally I could see the marina, but skipped the chance to go there and continued on toward the Roosevelt Bridge. There is the most wonderful view of the bridge and surrounding areas from the trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking down on the marina and the lake

Looking down on the marina and the lake

I reached the pavement and had an enjoyable walk across the bridge, knowing that I had walked here all the way from Mexico. Clouds were building on both sides and I’d heard thunder all day, but didn’t get rained on at all.

Roosevelt Lake and Bridge Panorama

Roosevelt Lake and Bridge Panorama

Micro Chicken crosses the Roosevelt Bridge

Micro Chicken crosses the Roosevelt Bridge

My friend Bob was taking his hiking class to the Angel Wings in the Sierra Ancha across the lake and came to get me. He took me to his place in Globe, where I spent Easter with his family and a well-deserved day off. My dad came back from Chicago to run support for the remainder of the AZT Trek, so glad to have him back!

To all those who have donated to my campaign to raise $20,000- a heartfelt thank you! Check out all the fantastic incentives available when you support the Arizona Trail Association!

Joanne, Bob, me and my Dad on Easter

Joanne, Bob, me and my Dad on Easter

Roosevelt Bridge

Roosevelt Bridge

 

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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.

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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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