Posts Tagged ‘Pinalenos’

It was mine and Brian’s 8-year wedding anniversary on August 2nd, so we went camping in the Pinalenos (also known as the Grahams) to celebrate. This is the third year in a row that I have visited this sky island in the summertime, but Brian had never been before. We drove up the Swift Trail in the afternoon and decided to camp at Hospital Flat- a large meadow covered in wildflowers. We had a nice meal and sat around the fire for a while. The stars were incredible as it had been a new moon the day before.

Hospital Flat

Hospital Flat history-click to enlarge

The next morning, I was rudely awoken by someone chopping wood at 6:30 am. I have not camped at an “official” campground in a long time, so I was a bit put off by our noisy neighbors. One family had four very small children who took turns crying and screaming, while our other neighbors had a father that was one of the most unbearably rude, loudmouthed people I’ve heard in a long time. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there when we were setting up, otherwise we would have chosen another campground. He spent most of his time either yelling exuberantly or getting mad and swearing at his family, even the young girls. Ugh. I will never camp in a campground again. When Brian got up, he said that he would be willing to shuttle me so that I could hike the Arcadia Trail. The Arcadia Trail is designated as a National Recreational Trail- with a sexy name like that, how could I resist? The NRT website says that “National Recreation Trails (NRT) provide for numerous outdoor recreation activities in a variety of urban, rural, and remote areas. Over 1,000 trails in all 50 states, available for public use and ranging from less than a mile to 485 miles in length, have been designated as NRTs on federal, state, municipal, and privately owned lands.”

Cutleaf Coneflower

The Arcadia Trail is 5.1 miles long and connects the Shannon Campground at 8900 ft. with the Arcadia Campground at 6700 ft. Brian drove me over to Shannon CG and a small bear ran right across the road in front of our jeep. This made me a little nervous for Brian- one of his worst fears is that I will be attacked by a bear, so I half-expected him to freak out. Thankfully, he was (at least outwardly) cool about it. I started from Shannon CG at 11:30 am, a little late for monsoon season, but I was prepared for rain. I was a bit on-edge as I started on the trail. Maybe it was the giant amount of tea that I’d had in the morning. The trail started out benched into the hillside shaded by pines and dotted with lichen-covered boulders. I was able to snack along the way on handfuls of ripe wild raspberries that were growing all along the trail. The trail switchbacked up the hillside and I huffed and puffed along, reaching the turnoff for Heliograph Peak at about 9500 ft. That would have to wait for another time. The Arcadia Trail went into a much more open environment on the scorched hillside and there were fantastic views down into the valley.

Beginning of the Arcadia Trail from Shannon CG

Fields of ferns

There were quite a few downed trees on the trail, and when I was trying to hop over one of them, my foot caught and I took a fall and scraped up my wrist. Thankfully, it was only a scratch and I reminded myself to be a little more careful. I was a little wary of bears, so I made up a song to sing as I hiked downhill so that I wouldn’t surprise any on the blind turns. The grade of the trail was pleasant as it switchbacked and traversed the hillside. The trail became a thin line through a large, fern-covered area of the hillside and I spotted a snake. A Twin-Spotted Rattlesnake, to be exact. This attractive little snake is only found in the Chiricahua, Santa Rita, Huachuca, and Pinaleno sky islands at elevations from 6,000 to 11,000 ft. It is a grayish snake with two rows of brownish-red spots running down the back. The little guy rattled at me and ducked into some of the ferns on the ground before hiding under a log.

Twin-Spotted Rattlesnake

Video of the view from the fern-covered hillside at about 7900 ft.:

The trail was easy to follow and there were cairns placed in areas where deadfall had obscured the trail. I passed the Noon Creek Trail junction in a pine-covered shady spot that had been spared by the fire. The Arcadia CG was visible two trail miles away in the valley below. As I lost elevation, the vegetation changed and oaks and red-barked madrone trees began to appear. The trail was on a ridge between two forks of Wet Canyon and I began to hear rushing water below. Eventually, the trail crossed Wet Canyon and was benched high on the hillside as the canyon steepened below. The canyon was lush with greenery and yellow columbine and the trail was a large, duff-covered path. I knew I was approaching the campground when I passed a woman with her five children. She asked that her children step aside and let me pass. One of them, a little girl, looked up at me and asked her mom in all seriousness, “Is she going to die?” Weird. The five miles and 2300 feet of elevation loss took me a little under two hours, plus a half-hour for breaks. I arrived at the campground in plenty of time for my 2pm rendezvous with Brian, who was happy to see that I had not been mauled by a bear in the least.

Arcadia CG and the Swift Trail down in the valley

Wild Geranium

Wide trail near Arcadia CG

We went over to the Wet Canyon picnic area and explored around for a bit and sat in the shade by the running creek. It has been a dud of a monsoon season, so all the creeks are much lower than I’ve seen in previous years. This is the first trip that I haven’t gotten rained on- kinda sad. Once back at our campsite, I was happy to see that our noisy neighbors were out for the day and we played around in the Hospital Flat meadow. The meadow was covered in yellow sneezeweed, orange western wallflower, and pink shooting stars, with a small group of bounding deer- just gorgeous! In the evening, we took a drive over to Peter’s Flat to watch the sunset in blissful silence. Peter’s Flat is on the Grand Enchantment Trail, which goes from Phoenix to Albuquerque and it made me a little sad that I have not been able to complete more segments of this incredible trail. One of these days, I hope to be able to take a chunk of time off of work and complete the trail in several large chunks. It just got too time-consuming and costly to hike sections once I got to Safford. For my hike through the Pinalenos on the GET last summer, click here.

Sunset from Peter's Flat

Blooming Corn Lilly

Shooting Star

The next morning, I walked the half-mile from our campground to the Grant Hill Trailhead. There are many loop possibilities- I hiked clockwise from the TH, taking the outer loop. Much of the hike was on old roads, but there were a couple of lookout points that really were spectacular. Storms in the distance made for great moody lighting, and I wished that I was backpacking instead of car camping. (for the millionth time!) The roads were green and had a mix of aspen and pines dotted with wildflowers.

Views to the east on the Grant Hill Loop

Waterman Mtns. Dos Cabezas, and Chiricahuas

Wildflowers and Aspen

View from the first overlook:

I returned to the campground elated to see that our neighbors were packing up- however this brought a whole new round of screaming and swearing by the dad as he sat on his ass and told everyone else what to do. The worst part is when he was dropping F-bombs at his youngest girl (who looked to be about 7 years old) because she didn’t pack the car right and made her cry. I have never been so excited to see someone leave. Brian and I enjoyed our now-vacant campground and took a stroll on the Hospital Flat nature trail before begrudgingly packing up and heading back down the mountain just in time to miss a giant monsoon storm. We saw a very angry Black-Tailed Rattlesnake in the middle of the road on the way down- hope no one ran over him!

Atlantis Fritillary Butterfly on the Hospital Flat Nature Trail

Very angry Black-Tailed Rattlesnake in the middle of the road

Now for the Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser update- two very attractive Barn Owls dancing:

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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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