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Posts Tagged ‘Pusch Ridge Wilderness’

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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Silhouette of Pusch Ridge- Pusch Peak is the first one on the ridge

I have been eyeing up Pusch Peak this summer, and whenever I drive nearby early in the morning, I notice that the canyon that the trail goes up stays in the shade for several hours after sunrise. The humidity has dropped since the monsoons are almost over, so the idea became more feasible. I started at 5:50 am just as it was getting light out, and I had shade for all but the last 45 minutes of the hike.

As I hiked out from the trailhead, I saw a Great Horned Owl and a kestrel. I reached the small metal sign that marks the turnoff for the route to the peak and got ready to climb.

Turnoff for the route for Pusch Peak

Pottery sherds on the route

Organ Mountain Blazingstar

I haven’t hiked all the way to the peak in many years, but I remembered how very steep it was. (It climbs about two thousand feet in a mile and a quarter) My memory served me right on the steepness, but the route was in much better shape than I remembered (either that or my standards for what is a “good” trail have dropped precipitously) The route is well beat-in, and the trail is very rocky, but not loose. I made my way up and up and up, feeling really good. I noticed that my recovery from being out of breath happens quickly now. I didn’t take the path that went to the campsite, and stayed to the left.

Campsite is in the area ahead

The views downcanyon from the trail are great, especially the trail winding far below you. I remembered that there was a false peak, but I must have blown right by without realizing it, because before I knew it, I was on top! What views!!!

View west from the summit

View south toward the Santa Ritas

Looking north toward Samaniego Ridge- Bighorn and Table Mtns. to the right

Particularly attractive was the view of Bighorn and Table Mtns., farther down Pusch Ridge. I have plans for when it cools off… The morning was so clear that I could see the Superstition Ridgeline, Four Peaks, and the Weaver’s Needle near Phoenix. It was breezy and cool at the summit at 8 am, but I knew I couldn’t stay too long, because it was going to warm up quick in the canyon once the sun hit. The last entry in the register at the top was from 8/27. As I hiked down from the peak, once I was behind the ridgeline back in the canyon, it was shady again, with a pleasant breeze. The descent was not too bad, mainly because there weren’t a lot of parts with loose gravel and rock. I took my time on the steep parts back down to the Linda Vista Trail and was back to my car at 10.

This was a great hike, though I wouldn’t recommend it in the summertime unless you’re acclimated to the heat, start at first light, and have a good handle on how fast of a hiker you are. What was a delightful hike at 6am would be a scorcher later in the day.

For the Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser picture, last week we had a baby spotted skunk that was brought to us. It’s a little scary changing his cage, and we have to make sure that we don’t make any loud noises to scare him.

Baby Spotted Skunk

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