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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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Arizona Trail Completed- 817 miles from Mexico to Utah Kelvin, Arizona (December 16, 2011) – The ceremony was a small one but the occasion was monumental. The Arizona Trail, a continuous 817 mile path connecting from Mexico to Utah, was completed today. The ceremony was held high on a remote mountainside, overlooking the Gila River, in the White Canyon passage of the Arizona Trail, not far from tiny Kelvin, Arizona.

A beautiful spot high above the Gila River- photo by Mike Bieke

“This trail connects mountains, desert, rivers, and canyons- but what it really connects is people” said Arizona Trail Association president Emily Nottingham. Many agency partners and volunteers worked together to complete this path used by hikers, bikers, and equestrians.

Emily Nottingham, president of the Arizona Trail Association- photo by Mike Bieke

26 years ago, Flagstaff teacher Dale Shewalter walked from Mexico to the Utah border to scout out a route that would ultimately become the Arizona Trail. Shewalter died in 2010 but founding member of the Arizona Trail Association Jan Hancock said, “Dale’s spirit was felt today” Several long-time Arizona Trail supporters and activists constructed the final stretch of trail, followed by installation of a commemorative Bureau of Land Management brass cap monument set in concrete.  The newly-constructed passage will open for public use in early January.

Volunteers finish up the final piece of trail- photo by Mike Bieke

The commemorative brass cap- photo by Mike Bieke

The public, grand celebration commemorating completion of the trail will be held on February 4th, 2012 at the PERA club in Tempe, Arizona. Visit www.aztrail.org for reservations and details of the event. For more photos of the event, click below:

Arizona Trail Completion Ceremony

For today’s Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser photo, we have a beautiful Peregrine Falcon. Donations help feed the hungry birds and small mammals at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson:

Peregrine Falcon

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