Posts Tagged ‘Ragged Top’

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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When I worked as an archaeologist, I did a pipeline survey that went from the New Mexico border up to Phoenix. It was great work, getting paid to hike along the pipeline and record archaeological sites. One of the areas the pipeline went through was what is now the Ironwood Forest National Monument. There was one peak that really caught my attention with it’s jagged appearance:

Ragged Top

Now, by the looks of this peak, and knowing that there is no constructed trail on it, you would never guess that it is hikeable. For years after seeing the peak up close, I would look longingly at it when in the Tucson Mtns. or driving up to Phoenix. I eventually read about a way to get up to the top that required bushwhacking (traveling without a trail) and 2nd and 3rd class scrambling. Here’s a description I found of 3rd class scrambling: “steep scrambling with exposure. An unroped fall on 3rd class terrain would likely be fatal.” A couple of years ago, I would have never attempted such a hike. But since climbing Baboquivari last year, I realize that in addition to being just this side of terrifying, scrambling can be a lot of fun! I asked Dave Baker, the owner of Summit Hut who had taken me up Babo, if he thought that it was similar to the scrambling we did there, and he said similar, but easier. He said that I probably wouldn’t have a problem with it. I scouted this hike solo in November, but upon reaching the steeper parts, decided it was best to come back with at least one other person.

Mitch and Bill

And so it was that Mitch Stevens, Bill Bens and I came together on a perfect winter day to hike to the summit. Mitch will be leading this hike for the Sierra Club in a couple of weeks and wanted to scout it out beforehand. Bill and I have corresponded with for a couple of years, but never met before. He runs the Tucson Hikers Yahoo Group. It was nice to finally meet him! Bill had been up Ragged Top before, but not on this route. We used a description by Dave Baker on his Trail Talk blog that can be found here.

Ragged Top Map

Mitch had 4WD on his truck, so we were able to drive up to the base of the mountain. When I had scouted this in November, I had to park my un-trailworthy Thunderbird on Silverbell Rd. and walk an additional 1.1 miles in. We started hiking at 8am after taking a bunch of pictures of the early morning light reflecting off the peak. I had done some map and GPS work for my previous attempt that would prove to be really helpful in figuring out the way to go. There is no constructed trail in this area, but there are several game trails that aid progress up to the Wolcott Peak- Ragged Top saddle.

From the saddle, we contoured under Ragged Top’s peak with great views. There are many interesting rock spires along the way.

Photo by Bill Bens

The hike up to the ridgeline was one of my least favorite combinations: steep, rocky, loose, and unstable. I was glad that we were doing a loop, so that I wouldn’t have to come back down this way. We took a long break when we got up to the ridgeline to take pictures and scout out the route. The next part of the hike went up a steep chute.

Up this chute to the summit

The chute was also loose and rocky, and required use of hands in places. The rock was so unstable, we would step on large rocks, only to have them move. The rock was also rotten, so every hand and foothold had to be tested before putting weight on it.

Up the Chute- Photo by Bill Bens

I tried not to look down too much- I am somewhat afraid of heights, though I can usually fight my way through it. Going up is not nearly as bad as coming down, and that was what was concerning me. Each bit I climbed, I would have to come back down. I was not looking forward to it. Thankfully, the views made it all worth it.

Enjoying the view-Photo by Bill Bens

Photo by Bill Bens

As we got to the top of the chute, the climbing became even more exposed and I got a little freaked out by where we were headed. We were so close to the top, but the last push was pretty scary. Any misstep would be bad news.

Tricky maneuvers near the top- Photo by Bill Bens

Final push to the summit- photo by Bill Bens

Finally, we made it to the summit, which had an old mailbox that housed the summit register.

Summit Mailbox

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

The views from the top at 3907 ft. were incredible! The summit is a lot larger than it looks from the bottom of the mountain. We took a break to eat lunch and take pictures. Here’s a video from the summit:

After spending a while on the summit, it was time to head down. Now we had to climb down the scary part we’d just come up, only this time, the view was all the way down the mountain to the chute.

Coming off the summit- photo by Bill Bens

I took my time and tried to find the best line to scramble down, and when I got down to the chute, I used my tried and true technique of sliding down/crabwalking on my butt. The way I figure it, if I’m already on the ground, then I can’t fall. Dave Baker called it “rumpage” (it sounds best if you say it like it’s a French word)

Butt-scooting down the chute- photo by Bill Bens

As we were coming down the chute, we saw a man coming toward us and he stopped to talk for a minute. He owns the ranch in the valley and said that he hikes Ragged Top every day when he is in town. He went up to the summit, and came back down at an unbelievable speed while we were still negotiating the chute.

We finally made it down to the second saddle, and we went down the North Gully to continue our loop back to the car. We stayed to the right on a good game trail that made travel a lot easier than the way we had come up. It was still steep and loose, but there was a pretty well-defined path and it did not feel as exposed as the South Gully. The path even had steep switchbacks in parts. I continued my rumpage down the mountain:

Scooting down the North Gully-photo by Bill Bens

The North Gully was a lot shorter than the way we came up the South, and before we knew it, we were down at the level that we needed to contour our way around the mountain back to Mitch’s truck.

Looking back at the North Gully

We made it back to the truck at about 5 1/2 hours after we started and I was shocked to see that the entire hike was only 3 miles! That is one of the most scenic, exciting 3 miles I’ve ever hiked. What a wonderful, rugged route- but I would recommend it to experienced hikers only, and only when temps are cool. Even just up to the first or second saddle could be a destination in itself if you’re not comfortable with the climbing part. I am so happy that Bill and Mitch accompanied me up to the summit- our group meshed well and we are planning some more off-trail adventures in the future. The rest of the day, I was floating on an endorphin high. I said at the summit that I probably wouldn’t want to do this hike again, but now that I have completed it safely, I have a sneaking feeling that this wasn’t the last time I’d see the summit of Ragged Top.

Catalinas, Rincons, and Tucson Mtns. from the summit

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