Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘tucson’

The Loop is a system of paved, shared-use paths and short segments of buffered bike lanes connecting the Rillito, Santa Cruz, and Pantano River Parks with the Julian Wash and Harrison Road Greenways. It extends through unincorporated Pima County, Marana, Oro Valley, Tucson, and South Tucson. The Loop connects parks, trailheads, bus and bike routes, workplaces, restaurants, schools, hotels and motels, shopping areas, and entertainment venues. It is 131 miles total linking 30 parks and is the longest public multi-use path in the U. S. Click on the map below to enlarge or this link for an interactive map.4884 upgrade loop map V14 RTP

Starting on March 13th in partnership with Pima County, my company Trails Inspire will be covering all the river parks and greenways in the system, hiking approximately 80 miles in five days. The hike will end at The Loop completion celebration on March 17th at Kino Sports Complex. Trails Inspire is a consulting company that promotes the outdoors via photography, freelance writing, public speaking and trail design. I’ve logged thousands of miles hiking, backpacking, rafting and canyoneering in the Southwest and consider the Grand Canyon my second home. This journey will be a little different than what I’m used to, especially in regards to on-trail ice cream and taco stops 🙂

Sirena Dufault Hike The Loop

Sirena Dufault along The Loop, Tucson

I am excited to be joined by Liz Thomas, who is among the most experienced female hikers in the U.S. and known for backpacking light, fast, and solo.  She is affectionately known as the “Queen of Urban Hiking,” having pioneered and completed routes in 5 cities.  She is an award-winning author, public speaker and advocate for public lands. She will also be giving a talk on thru-hiking at the Tucson REI on March 16th from 6:30 – 8:00 pm.

Liz Thomas Chicago

Liz Thomas on her urban thru-hike of Chicago

During the hike, we will be posting on Trails Inspire’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, as well as The Loop’s Facebook page, doing live feeds and sharing the art, parks, and other points of interest we discover on their journey across Tucson with the hashtag #HikeTheLoop. Each day, we will highlight the food that makes Tucson a UNESCO International City of Gastronomy. We will also be promoting diversity with our message that the outdoors is for everyone.

The hike will end at the Completion Celebration at Kino Sports Complex on Saturday, March 17th. Sign up to join us as we hike the last 4.2 miles from Augie Acuña Los Ninos Park at 5432 S. Bryant Avenue into the Completion Celebration, arriving at Kino Sports Complex. Jasmine the adorable Mini-Donkey will even be along for the hike and event! There will be entertainment and activities for adults and kids alike and a ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at 11:30. Transportation will be available at 1 pm to shuttle people back to their cars. The hike is free but registration is required through REI at bit.ly/CompletionCelebrationHike.

There are also completion celebrations for The Loop taking place on the 17th at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm and Steam Pump Ranch in Oro Valley from 9:00 am to 11:00 am.The Loop Completion Celebration

Born out of the disastrous floods of 1983, The Loop began taking shape when Pima County taxpayers started investing their Pima County Regional Flood Control District dollars in building soil-cement banks along the metropolitan waterways to guard against future flooding. The County took the opportunity to build along those overbank areas a river park system that has become one of the most popular recreational facilities in the region.

We hope you’ll follow along on social media as we Hike The Loop and join us for the completion celebration on March 17th! See the video below for a taste of what The Loop has to offer.

Loop Celebration-Flyer for Kino Spanish

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

It’s the last month before the Bighorn Sheep restrictions go into effect in the Catalinas, so I wanted to do something in the area. From January 1st until April 30th, going more than 400 feet off the trail in the management area is prohibited because of lambing season. I had visited Alamo Canyon three years ago with my friend Bill and really enjoyed it- it was time to return.

2014-Bighorn-Closure-Map-For-Display

Bighorn Sheep Management Area

Alamo-Buster Loop (1)

Catalina State Park Boundary- Buster Mountain to the left, Alamo Canyon to the right

I parked at the Romero Ruins and took the trail for a short distance across the wash and then turned right at a cairn on an unnamed trail with surprisingly good tread. This trail took me to a little waterfall at the state park boundary. It had warmed up enough for me to wet my head in the creek before hiking on.

Waterfall in Alamo Canyon

Waterfall in Alamo Canyon- 2012

A trail continues past the park boundary that stays above the creek on canyon right. I took the trail until a large boulder jam in the creek, where I descended to take a break. There was a huge racket as a pack of javelinas moved to get downstream away from me. The giant striped granite boulders, golden ash trees and running water made for a perfect spot to settle in for a while.

Alamo-Buster Loop (2)

Saguaros and Leviathan and Wilderness Domes

Alamo-Buster Loop (3)

Giant granite boulders in Alamo Canyon

The gnats descended just as I was going to take a nap and I had to get a move on. I wasn’t in the mood to go farther up the creek, but I was intrigued by a cairned path I’d seen in 2012 that seemed to go up toward the Buster Mountain ridgeline. I’d also seen the top of the route on the ridgeline, today was the day to connect the dots.

The steep route out of the creek took me through an expanse of beautiful banded gneiss on the way to the ridge. It was fun following the well-cairned route. Much of it was on gravel, which made me happy to be hiking up rather than down it.

Alamo-Buster Loop (4)

Hiking up the cairned route to Buster Ridgeline

Alamo-Buster Loop (5)

Gneiss!

I reached the ridgeline saddle and took another extended break. Some of my water had spilled into my pack so I didn’t hit the peak, instead I spent my time taking pictures and even had a little dance party at the saddle.

Alamo-Buster Loop (6)

The route pops out at the saguaro on the ridgeline

I wanted to time my descent with the sunset and started down the steep route down the ridgeline. Tall grasses made route finding a little challenging, it was much more overgrown than in previous trips because of all the rain we’ve gotten this year. Made it off the ridge in the fading light and was excited to see the sunset paint pink and purple stripes above Pusch Ridge.

Alamo-Buster Loop (8)

Sunset over Pusch Ridge

The sunset was one of those rare ones that changes and develops different characters way after the sun goes down. The entire mountain took on a subtle pink hue and fiery waves of orange, pink and red streaked the sky. It felt like it went on for hours and I kept stopping to take picture after picture. Timed it perfectly to arrive at the parking lot just as the sunset had finally faded. What a great way to end such an enjoyable day on the mountain.

Alamo-Buster Loop (9)

Ever-changing light

Alamo-Buster Loop (10)

And then the sunset got ridiculously good!

Can it be that it’s already almost 2016? I guess it’s time to put together the end of the year recap. I’ve got some exciting news to share as well- Happy Holidays!

Micro Chicken in a festive mood

Micro Chicken in a festive mood

Read Full Post »

Festive Christmas hiking outfit

Festive Christmas hiking outfit

Last year, I spent Christmas in the Grand Canyon. It was awesome. This year, I needed to stay closer to home because my husband is visiting his family and I’m home with our old dog Bailey. I never hear of anyone backpacking in the Tortolitas north of Tucson, but I thought it might be a fun spot to wake up Christmas morning. I could also choose a campsite that would get early sun.

Tortolita Panorama

Tortolita Panorama

I wanted to make the trip a little special, so I got out a red sparkly skirt my dad had brought me from India and a Santa hat to wear on the trail. (I can see this becoming an annual tradition- see this picture for last year’s sparkly skirt). I didn’t see anyone after I left the parking lot and once I got past the Ritz-Carlton I couldn’t hear any sounds coming from the hotel. I hiked a little ways past the Cochie Canyon junction and found a great spot right off the trail with wonderful views for the sunset. I could see all the way from the top of the Catalinas down to the base of Pusch Ridge, south to the Santa Ritas and Huachucas and Babo, Kitt Peak and Ragged Top to the west. Good stuff so close to town.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My Gossamer Gear Mariposa and I have been some amazing places this year!

My Gossamer Gear Mariposa and I have been some amazing places this year!

Both my family and Brian’s celebrate on Christmas Eve, so I called and people passed the phone around. My family, being Italian, told me all the different foods that were served. My Christmas Eve dinner was cheese fondue with apples, bread, broccoli, cauliflower, and figs for dipping. And for dessert I had blackberries with balsamic and some Panettone (an Italian sweet bread). I listened to some music and then I went to bed. My camp had a great view of the city lights without being too noisy.

Sunset

The morning was gorgeous and the night had been warmer than expected. I wrote a bit in my journal and then got packed up. The best part of the hike down was meeting a family from New Jersey that was coming up the Wild Mustang Trail. They asked me how far I’d gone that morning and I told them I’d spent the night out. They didn’t quite know what to make of it- “By yourself? Did you see any wild animals? But you’re so clean! You had the cheapest room in the place!” Pretty funny. I took the hotel spur back to save myself walking the wash and was back at my house by 10:00 am.

Christmas Camp

Christmas Camp

Christmas in the Tortolitas

Christmas in the Tortolitas

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I had plenty of time to relax and then visit my friend Leigh Anne and her family before going over to Wendy’s for dinner. Wendy made me the coolest present for Christmas- she framed one of my Arizona Trail Trek bandannas and put pictures from my hike on it. She’s so thoughtful! This Christmas was a great mix of indoors and outdoors, solo and with friends.

Wendy's Arizona Trail Trek present- she's so crafty!!

Wendy’s Arizona Trail Trek present- she’s so crafty!!

For today’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson picture, I’m digging into the archives for this little Javelina that came to us several years ago. We don’t take care of many larger mammals, so seeing this little guy was pretty fun!

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson

2-week old Javelina

2-week old Javelina

Read Full Post »

Pusch Ridge is a series of four peaks extending westward in the Catalinas: Pusch Peak, closest to town, The Cleaver, Bighorn Mountain, and the tallest,  Table Mountain.  From town, Table Mountain is a dark-green-dotted diamond shape, but from Oro Valley you can see that three sides of the Table are massive sheer cliff walls.

Table Mountain from Tucson

Table Mountain from Tucson

I have had a longtime fascination with Table Mountain ever since I came across pictures of the summit views. The thing that most piqued my interest, though, was a photo of the campsite on the summit. Underneath a stately Juniper tree was a beautiful stone fireplace made out of Catalina granite. That was it- there was no way that I was going to hike Table without staying at the campsite on top.

The fireplace at the summit

The fireplace at the summit

There is only a short weather window for this peak because it is off-limits from January 1- April 30th for bighorn sheep off-trail restrictions. Most of the time that it is open, the weather is too hot. Two years ago, I had attempted to backpack to the top for a lunar eclipse, but had a shoe failure and had to turn around. Last year, the weather didn’t cooperate with my schedule. This year everything fell into place and the experience was even more amazing than I had anticipated.

All the trip reports I had read said to take the Pima Canyon Trail three miles to a steep, loose, brushy gully.  The reports made it sound unappealing and I was not looking forward to it. I remembered that Cowgill and Glendening’s book mentioned that there was a ridge option that would probably have more shindaggers. Then I came across a report by a woman who went by the name “Bloated Chipmunk” on NW Hikers.net that had pictures of the route. It looked way better to me, especially with a full pack.

The morning of December 17th, Wendy and I met at the Pima Canyon Trailhead, excited about the adventure ahead. Our packs were heavy with 7 liters of water and warm gear for our night at the 6265′ summit. We hiked about two miles on the Pima Canyon Trail and saw the slabs of our ridge route to our left, across the brushy creek.

Chilly start to the hike

Chilly start to the hike

First glimpse of our day's objective- looks far!

First glimpse of our day’s objective- looks far!

We followed the trail until it crossed the drainage. There was a distinct sharp smell of cat urine and a large sprayed area under an overhang. We decided that hit would be better to backtrack and try to cross the creek closer to the slabs. There was a spur trail and a small opening in the brush that allowed us to get into the creek. We took a break before beginning the ascent and  I spotted a pair of antlers in the creek. When I went to investigate, I saw an entire deer that had been picked clean, probably by our feline friend.

Our deer departed friend

Our deer departed friend

There were tufts of hair everywhere and the skeleton was picked clean

There were tufts of hair everywhere and the skeleton was picked clean

The beginning of the route was on large slanted granite slabs and was quite fun to walk on. There wasn’t a lot of vegetation and the views were great! The ascent was an off-trail choose your own adventure with the occasional cairn. Sadly, the slabs ran out and we picked our way through patches of prickly pear and ocotillo.

On the slabs of the ridge route

On the slabs of the ridge route

Me and The Cleaver

Me and The Cleaver

Out of the slabs and into the brush

Out of the slabs and into the brush

As we gained elevation, we lost most of the cacti and hiked into the sea of shindaggers. Wendy and I wove a path between them when possible, but sometimes there was no choice. The only way to deal with shindaggers is to step directly on the center. We reached a saddle and took a break for lunch with a fantastic view of our objective.

Shindaggers aplenty

Shindaggers aplenty

After lunch, we climbed steeply up and toward the Table, aiming above a rocky outcropping with scattered oak trees. The vegetation changed again with our first juniper and pinyon pines appearing near the base of the Table.

Our route went up the litle drainage above the oaks

Our route went up the litle drainage above the oaks

Getting closer!

Getting closer!

Base of the Table

Base of the Table

By this time, Wendy and I were getting pretty tired. We wished that we had a flat table ahead of us, instead there was another 1000 feet of elevation to go. We pressed on, but went a little far to the west and got into some boulders that made travel more difficult. The bonus was that we got to see the great views down the west gully right before the final ascent.  Somewhere along the way we were in a brushy area and I looked down and found a black case with a camera in it.

Oro Valley, Tortolitas and Picacho Peak

Oro Valley, Tortolitas and Picacho Peak

Patches of snow at the top

Patches of snow at the top

Finally, we could see blue sky and the end of our climb. We went through some pinyon and junipers to a clearing with breathtaking views of the Catalinas and the sheer cliffs of Table Mountain dropping off below. We dropped our packs at the fireplace and toured the summit, dotted with patches of snow. Now came the payoff for lugging all our stuff up here- watching the sunset and sunrise from this incredible promontory and an enjoyable night by the fabled fireplace.

Cathedral and Kimball

Cathedral and Kimball

Prominent Point and the Santa Ritas

Prominent Point and the Santa Ritas

Snow-covered Mt. Lemmon

Snow-covered Mt. Lemmon

There was a small glass jar summit register near the fireplace and I read through it before dinner. The first name I saw was the woman from NW Hikers.net who’s triplog I’d read. The second entry I read was an entry from February that said “Lost camera in a black camera case” and gave a phone number! I was so excited that we were going to be able to reunite the camera with its owners. I lost a camera this summer and would give anything to have it back.

View Northwest

View Northwest

Wendy got our fire going and we had a decadent meal of cheese fondue with all sorts of items for dipping and chocolates for dessert. The fireplace was great- it had a chimney and everything which diverted the smoke upward. The fire warmed the rocks and it radiated heat all night long as we slept in front of it. We hit a perfect weather window and the temperature was quite reasonable for 6000′ in December.

One of my favorite campsites ever!

One of my favorite campsites ever!

A little chilly last night!

A little chilly last night!

The night was a long one, and it stayed cold for a while after it finally got light out. I spent the amazing sunrise hanging my head over the cliff face and watching the light change. We ate breakfast in our sleeping bags and didn’t want to leave.

View north from atop Table Mtn.

View north from atop Table Mtn.

Eventually, we tore ourselves away and started hiking downhill, packs much lighter after a day’s water and food were consumed. We followed what looked like the standard route down the face which was much easier than our ascent route. But if we’d taken this ascent route we wouldn’t have found the camera.

Incredible rock and views on the way down

Incredible rock and views on the way down

Bighorn and Pusch below

Bighorn and Pusch below

It was a beautiful, cool day and we shindagger-stomped our way down the ridge, taking short breaks and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. It felt like we were flying compared to yesterday’s ponderous ascent. The golden cottonwoods in the canyon got closer and closer and then we were back to our slabs down to the creekbed.

What a place!

What a place!

Getting closer to the bottom of the canyon

Getting closer to the bottom of the canyon

Our deer departed friend had been moved in the night and looked more macabre than ever. We found our way out of the creek and intersected the Pima Canyon Trail. Clouds started rolling in and the wind picked up. The last two miles back to the car on the trail felt like they would never end.  It felt great to look up at Table Mountain knowing we’d finally spent the night at the fireplace.

Slabby ridge

Slabby ridge

A look back at our ridge

A look back at our ridge

We had been talking for the last two days about what flavors of gelato we were going to get at Frost after our hike. The weather changed so quickly that by the time we got our gelato, we had to eat it in Wendy’s car with the heat on!

That night, I called the owners of the camera and they were so excited that we had found it! They had gone back up the next week to try and locate it to no avail. It had become a running joke between their friends that someone was going to finally find the camera that was lost on Table Mountain. I dropped it off the next day on their porch and they sent a lovely card thanking us for returning their long-lost camera along with some pictures from the day they lost it.

What an amazing, life-affirming couple of days on the mountain. I’ve found another of my favorite campsites and Wendy is always a blast to hike with. So glad I finally got to spend a night on Table Mountain and it certainly won’t be my last.

You can see the full set of pictures at https://plus.google.com/photos/108844153292489172003/albums/5826811070181856545

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, I was going through old pictures when I came across this shot of mama and baby bunnies from 2010. So cute! You can read their story here.  Click below to donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson.

Baby bunnies that were born at the Wildlife Rehab to a broken-leg bunny

Baby bunnies that were born at the Wildlife Rehab to a broken-leg bunny

Read Full Post »

It’s that time of year again- time to head out to Sky Bar at 536 N. 4th Avenue from 7-10 pm Saturday, April 14th for the second annual Birds, Blues and Bellydance Benefit for Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson!

Citan the Harris Hawk

See Luna the Great Horned Owl, Citan the Harris Hawk, and the ever-adorable Elfie the Elf Owl from 7:30-8:30 pm. Enjoy danceable, funky blues by The Railbirdz and smoking-hot bellydance performances by Troupe HipNautic and their backing band, The Permanent Floating Riot Club. 100% of the $7 donation at the door, plus 15% of sales at Sky Bar and Brooklyn Pizza Company go toward the rehab. We had a blast last year and raised $1010 for this entirely self-supported rehabilitation center that treats and releases hundreds of birds and small mammals. I’d love if we could double it this year!

Gina closes the show last year -photo by Mike Bieke

I feel lucky to count myself among the dozens of dedicated volunteers that help 80-year old Janet Miller run the facility. Janet has encyclopedic knowledge and unending patience and spends thousands of dollars from her own pocket to run the only rehabilitation center on this side of town. So come on out and have a pizza and a beer and support this wonderful cause!

Elfie the Elf Owl

If you can’t make the event, but would still like to donate, click the button below to donate securely via PayPal or send an old-fashioned check made out to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson to Pima Federal Credit Union P.O. Box 50267  Tucson, Arizona 85703.

I’ve been on some pretty fantastic adventures lately, look for a blog post about my return to Baboquivari Peak in the near future. Hope to see you on Saturday!!

Read Full Post »

The Birds, Blues, and Bellydance benefit for Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson last Saturday, May 7th was a huge success! We raised $1010.00 that will go for food, medical care, housing, and maintenance for the many birds and small mammals at the wildlife rehab. $740 was from the door and $270 from 15% of food and drink sales during the event from the very generous Sky Bar and Brooklyn Pizza Company.

Everyone really liked to be able to see the Great Horned Owl and tiny Elfie the Elf Owl and Citan the Harris Hawk up close, and the birds did a fantastic job of keeping their composure at what was an unusual venue for them. They are a part of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson educational program. These birds cannot be released back into the wild, and the facility is licensed to do educational programs with these specially trained birds.  The Railbirdz rocked the house and filled the dance floor and the bellydance performances by Marjani, Amy, Brandye, and Gina were incredible. A heartfelt thanks to the performers, who all donated their time and talents to the benefit and thanks to Sky Bar/Brooklyn Pizza Company for being so fantastic to work with.  I was lucky enough to have my friend, photographer Mike Bieke at the event and here are some of his fantastic photos:

Sky Bar- photo by Mike Bieke

Marjani opened the show with a solo

The Railbirdz -photo by Mike Bieke

Great Horned Owl- photo by Mike Bieke

Citan the Harris Hawk - photo by Mike Bieke

Elfie the Elf Owl - photo by Mike Bieke

photo by Mike Bieke

Marjani and Amy dance a veil duet - photo by Mike Bieke

Amy and Marjani -photo by Mike Bieke

The Railbirdz funky blues got everyone dancing! - photo by Mike Bieke

Wine, pizza, blues, and dancing!

Brandye -Photo by Mike Bieke

Brandye - photo by Mike Bieke

Me and my helpful hubby Brian

The Railbirdz

Gina closes the show -photo by Mike Bieke

Gina -photo by Mike Bieke

Gina -photo by Mike Bieke

What a great night! I’m so glad that my first-ever fundraising event went smoothly and everyone enjoyed themselves. If you missed all the fun, don’t worry, I have a feeling this may turn into an annual event…

If you’d like to donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, just click on the donate button, or send an old-fashioned check 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. The rehab is entirely self-supported, so every dollar helps! It’s baby season at the rehab and we totally have our hands full of cute little critters. Here’s a baby Harris’ Antelope Squirrel enjoying his lunch of kale:

Harris' Antelope Squirrel munching on kale

Read Full Post »

The Hill That Felt Like A Mountain

Agua Caliente Hill Trail

Agua Caliente Hill is one of those places that I’ve always looked at and thought “I’ve got to get up there someday”.  It is 5369 feet high and nestled between the Catalina and Rincon mountain ranges on the east side of the Tucson valley. It can be seen from many hikes in the area and I knew that the views would be incredible from up top. I also knew it would take some effort to get there, with almost 3000 feet of elevation gain and a round-trip distance of about 9 miles. Effort that I wasn’t sure I wanted to expend when I woke up this morning. I’d worked late the evening before and was considering scrapping plans for the hike in favor of something more leisurely. But a quick glance at my calendar and the realization that I have several strenuous hikes planned that I need to train for got my butt moving, albeit slowly. I knew if I could just get myself on the trail that I’d be happy that I did.

I started hiking at 11:20 am (better late than never), looking forward to an area that I haven’t yet explored. Is there anything sweeter than fresh trail? I think not. The trail climbed almost immediately, switchbacking to attain the ridgeline. I was kind of tired, but told myself I might as well get used to the climb- I had 4.5 miles of ascent ahead.

Ridgeline views of the Rincons

Thankfully, the trail started out gently- the climbs were interspersed with flats on the ridgeline and the trail dipped into drainages, breaking up the ascent. The views from the ridgeline were great and I knew I’d made the right choice by going on a hike today. The first drainage had a skanky-looking, scummy green cattle tank in it called Cat Track Tank. This being national forest rather than wilderness, grazing is allowed. After crossing a couple more drainages, the trail climbed toward a saddle and the junction with Forest Road #4445. There was a gnarled, old saguaro at the junction and a great view of the Catalinas.

Peak 4778 in the distance

Drainage that contains Cat Track Tank

Gnarled Saguaro at the junction with FR 4445

At the saddle, which is at 4000ft, Forest Road #4445 dives toward Agua Caliente Canyon, while our trail #46 continues- you guessed it- climbing. The trail skirts Peak 4778, then levels out for one last, joyous stretch before you have to pay the piper to get to the top.

Summit (on right) is still a ways away

A mercifully flat part before the final big climb- Bassett Peak in the Galiuros in the distance

I could see the Galiuros and the snowy top of the Pinalenos to the east, and the Arizona Trail south of Molino Basin and the Bellota Ranch in the valley below. Here’s a video:

It was here that I made a mistake. By this time it was 1:10 pm and I had only had some yogurt for breakfast and a handful of trail mix at the junction. What I should have done was stop and eat my sandwich that was in my pack before continuing on. Instead, I thought, “It’s less than a mile to the top- I’ll just eat lunch when I get to the summit”.  0.7 miles with 750 feet of elevation gain left to go on an empty stomach makes for some unpleasant hiking and I bonked shortly after starting the final climb. I should have known better. One of the first hiking tips I ever remember learning is: No Food- No Fuel- No Fun. The summit now seemed so far off, like one of those dreams where you’re running and running (or hiking) but the goal keeps getting further and further away.

Still, there was no way I was going to come this far and not make the summit. I stopped to eat some snacks, but by this time it was too late to give me much energy. Of course this was when the trail went from a nicely-manicured and graded path to really steep, loose, and rocky. Ugh.

Steep and Rocky

It took everything I had to drag my sorry ass up the rest of that hill. At times I literally sat down in the middle of the trail to regain my energy.

Looking back toward the Catalinas and Tucson Mtns.

The last push was interminable, and I slogged upward, paying attention only to my feet, trying not to look at how far up ahead the summit was. (it was never closer than I thought, just disappointingly farther) It was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and repeating till there was no more trail left. The last 0.7 miles took me 40 exhausting minutes, but I finally reached the summit.

I made it!

The views immediately buoyed my spirits and I grabbed my sandwich (finally!) and dropped my pack for a lengthy break on the hard-earned summit of Agua Caliente Hill. And what views- 360 degrees of Sky Island goodness! Here’s a video tour of the summit:

There is a fire ring with a grill grate, for those who spend the night up here, and nearby I found the summit register under a pile of rocks. I settled in to eat lunch and read the summit register. It went back to 2005 and I can’t believe how many people I knew in the summit register! Hiking partners, people on my trail crew, and others. There were also the usual funny and insightful entries, like these two:

Fatty and Skinny

Summit Log Musings

Then I turned the page and saw an entry from December 2005 that stopped me in my tracks: Joe Domin, aka GPS Joe, who signed in with his hiking partner Gabriele, aka Sun_Hiker.

GPS Joe

I never met GPS Joe, but “knew” him from his many contributions to the hiking websites I frequent, HikeArizona.com and ArizonaHikers.com. GPS Joe went missing back in early November while hiking in the remote and wild Mazatzal Mountains, near Payson, and is yet to be found. My heart sank and my eyes welled up with tears. Joe has been missing now for 66 days as of this writing, despite incredible efforts to locate him. He went for a solo hike on November 8th without leaving an itinerary with anyone, and as a result, no one realized that he was missing until a week later. His vehicle was found at the Mount Peeley Trailhead, which gave a starting point, but didn’t help all that much because GPS Joe often went off-trail to bushwhack to remote peaks. An extensive Search and Rescue effort was mounted to try and find him, to no avail. Even though official Search and Rescue was called off after five days, the hiking community banded together and many hikers volunteered their time slogging through the thick brush and rugged terrain to try and locate him until snow finally made the area impassable. Such an unfortunate mystery and one that I hope will be solved soon. At least he went missing doing what he loved. I had a good cry for GPS Joe and replaced the summit register where I found it. You can read the HikeArizona forum thread on GPS Joe here.

While I was reading the summit register, I was visited by a very friendly Painted Lady butterfly who landed on my hand! I spent another hour wandering around the top of the hill, taking in the views and writing in my journal. I liked that I could see the path of the Arizona Trail south of Molino Basin, where I’d spent the night chasing the eclipse several weeks ago. Always the backpacker, I  wished that I was spending the night up here so I had more time to explore- it looked like there were several interesting bushwhacks that can be done from the top of the hill.

Friendly Painted Lady

I can see the Arizona Trail from here- click to enlarge

The hike down felt longer than 4.5 miles. The steepness of the last part before the summit was not much more fun to come down than up, and I was relieved when I reached the junction and the grade became more reasonable. My body still wasn’t too happy with me, even after eating lunch and I could tell I was more tired than usual because I was none too happy about the ascents out of the drainages on the way back. Finally, as the sunset painted the mountain with an orange glow, I reached my car. On the drive home, I listened to the memorial service for those killed in the shooting at the Safeway on the radio. I found myself crying for the second time today for the fallen as I drove home- what an emotional day it turned out to be.

Last glow at the trailhead

For today’s Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser picture, we got a Hog-Nosed Skunk at the rehab recently. I seem to have a soft spot for the stinky critters. We have four kinds of skunks in Arizona: Striped (the most common), Spotted, Hooded, and Hog-Nosed.

Hog-Nosed Skunk

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: