Posts Tagged ‘tucson’

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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Me and my husband Brian at the All Soul's Procession

Each year, in early November, there is an event in Tucson that makes me giddy with anticipation- the All Soul’s Procession. Here’s the description of how the Procession came to be from the excellent website:

“The All Souls Procession is perhaps one of the most important, inclusive and authentic public ceremonies in North America today. The Procession had its beginnings in 1990 with a ritualistic performance piece created by local artist Susan Johnson, who was grieving the passing of her father. Inspired by Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos holiday, Johnson felt she should honor her father in celebration and creativity. The performance was very well received and many artists were inspired to continue growing the Procession into its modern incarnation.

Today we find ourselves organizing over 20,000 participants on the streets of downtown Tucson for a two-mile long human-powered procession that ends in the finalizing action of burning a large urn filled with the hopes, offerings and wishes of the public for those who have passed. Inside the event are myriads of installation art, altars, performers, and creatives of all kinds collaborating for almost half the year to prepare their offerings to this amazing event. The All Souls Procession, and now the entire All Souls Weekend, is a celebration and mourning of the lives of our loved ones who have passed.”

Many people dress up as brides and grooms, in the vein of Dia De los Muertos. My costume has a wedding theme as well- the flowers used are silk flowers that were used at my wedding, seven years ago. Instead of them ending up in some box in my shed, I used them to create this costume:

A little different than my usual pictures with hiking gear...

During the procession, my husband usually finds some drummers to play with- this year we processed with my bellydance friends and I had a wonderful time, dancing for most of the two miles. I was so busy dancing that I didn’t take many pictures, but here are some shots from the procession and finale:

I like the use of the agave stalk on this one

Lots of big-head puppets

This was one of my favorites, it was over 10' tall

Dancing in the procession- Photo by Joel Smith

After the procession, there is an incredible finale with fire performers, acrobats, and the burning of an urn filled with prayers. Really, you’ve just got to go and see it for yourself.

You can see the urn in the distance being lifted onto its platform

This guy's costume was so detailed

Detail of his costume

If you’d like to see additional pictures from this event, you can visit the Flickr group: http://www.flickr.com/groups/tucson_all_souls_procession/

For today’s Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser picture, here’s a screech owl that is soon to be released. He went into this very showy defensive pose when I came in to feed him:

This screech owl gave me quite the show when I came in to feed him

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The other morning, I went out for a short hike on the Ventana Trail to Maiden Pools. I took a break at the pools, about 2.4 miles into my hike, to relax and write in my journal. As I was taking a picture of the pools, I realized that there was a snake in one of them. I got this series of images of Black-Necked Garter Snakes:

One Black-Necked Garter Snake staking out the Maiden Pools

Here comes another one...

I don't know what this means in snake language but it looked more amicable than belligerent.

After a brief touch of the noses, the first snake is alone again.

Some of the writing I was doing at the pools was making a wish list of the trips I’d like to do this winter and spring. So many wonderful places to go- it’s tough to choose! Here’s a partial list:

  • Aravaipa to see the fall colors
  • Climb Weaver’s Needle
  • Get some more Grand Enchantment segments done (Gila Wilderness?)
  • Backpack in the Rincons
  • Royal Arch Route Redux during wildflower season

For today’s Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser news: the baby spotted skunk that we have had for a couple of months was recently transferred to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum– a combination botanical garden and zoo in the Tucson Mountains. What a wonderful place for one of my favorite animals we have had at the Miller’s Wildlife Rehab- now I can go visit! The skunk will be held in quarantine for one month, then put into a habitat. I didn’t get a great picture on the day that the skunk left, so I will repost one of it when it came to us, just a baby.

Baby Spotted Skunk

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When I was growing up, my family would always get a crate of prickly pear fruit in September. My mom and grandparents grew up eating it in southern Italy (we called it Fichi d’India), and this is still one of my favorite foods. I have heard that saguaro fruits taste similar, and I have long wanted to taste one. I have been reading up on native harvest and processing techniques and after seeing the first of the red, ripe, open saguaro fruits while driving around town, I woke up this morning with a mission: gather and process enough fruit to make Saguaro Fruit Roll-Ups in my food dehydrator. It is early in the season, but I have several patches that I can gather from in the next couple of weeks.

Saguaro fruit cut open

I used a hula-hoe to take the ripe fruits down from the lower arms, and processed them on the spot. I used a knife to split the fruits and a spoon to scoop out the juicy red interior. I left the husks so the interior faced the sky as in Tohono O’Odham tradition. (it is supposed to help bring the monsoon rains) Some of the fruits I ate on the spot, but most I put into a bucket that I took home. I had about 40-50 fruits at the end of this trip.

Bucket of fruits

When I got home, I put the fruits in a pot with two cups of water and mushed up the pulp as I boiled it for 20 minutes, scraping and discarding the bright pink scum that formed on top.

Boiling the fruits with some water

I strained this through a cloth to trap any pulp, seeds, and anything else that had gotten into my bucket of saguaro fruit.There were a LOT of seeds, so I set them out for the birds in my yard.

Straining the seeds and pulp

I was left with a bright pink liquid that I put in my food dehydrator on a plastic tray that is used for making fruit roll-ups. About 4 hours later, I had bright, red, delicious, Saguaro Fruit Roll-Ups! If you have not tasted the fruit of the saguaro, the coming weeks are prime time for it.


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Sutherland Trail sign with trail visible above

When researching the Sutherland Trail in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, I found very few triplogs from hikers. And the ones I found said that it went through some really beautiful areas, but that it was a tough, brushy, steep, sometimes hard-to-find 12 miles and 6300 feet of elevation gain to get from Catalina State Park to the parking area at the top of Mount Lemmon. Naturally, I was intrigued.

At an Arizona Trail Association meeting in February, I was talking to Rachael Hohl who works with the Forest Service. I asked her what trails were scheduled for maintenance this spring and she said the Sutherland and Samaniego Ridge Trails. I was excited to hear that they were going to be fixed. I recently called Rachael to get an update and she said that crews had gotten all but 1 1/2 miles done on the Sutherland Trail, and that the part they hadn’t done was flagged. (Work is still being done on the Samaniego Ridge Trail, I can’t remember how many miles they have left to go.) I contacted some of my Crazies trailbuilding crew that I volunteer with, and we decided to take advantage of the lower temps forecast for the middle of the week.

One of my favorite parts of the Catalinas is that you can drive up to the top and hike downhill. You start your hike in the pines at 9000ft, going through six different life zones, each with their own type of vegetation, until you come to the Sonoran Desert at the base.  We dropped a car off at Catalina State Park and drove up to the parking area at the top of Mt. Lemmon. There were little patches of snow remaining at the highest elevations. We took the Mount Lemmon Trail (an old roadbed) downhill past some fantastic rock formations. There are great views along the upper ridgelines, partly because in 2003, the Aspen Fire burned 84,000 acres of the Catalinas. To some, the scorched stumps of trees might look unsightly, but personally I welcome the views that are a result of the burn. At a junction with a big, metal Arizona Trail sign, we took the Canada Del Oro Trail a short distance to the junction with the Sutherland Trail.

Lee, Tom, and David at the Canada Del Oro Junction

The views just got better and better as we hiked steeply down a ridge, following flagging and cairns in the upper mile and a half of trail that the trail crews had not gotten to yet. There were a number of downed trees, not surprising given the strong windstorms that we had this winter.

Happy to be on the Sutherland Trail
Under the deadfall on the flagged portion of the trail

The mile and a half went pretty quickly, and soon we were walking on just-maintained trail that had been re-benched. Much thanks goes out to the trail crew, because we could see all the brush and deadfall that they had to hack through to clear up this trail. When we stopped for a break at a particularly scenic spot, we were amazed at how far we could see in almost every direction. The Superstition Ridgeline and Four Peaks, near Phoenix, were clearly visible. Amazingly enough, I could even pick out the spire of the Weaver’s Needle- a volcanic spire that I hiked past on the first segment of the Grand Enchantment Trail.  Also visible along the trail was The Window, a natural arch in the front range of the Catalinas. In general, views on the Sutherland were great because it uses the ridge rather than the canyon to travel downhill.

Superstition Ridgeline in the distance on the right, Weaver's Needle visible at far right- click to enlarge

The Window is the hole in the rock in the middle right of the frame- click to enlarge

Once we were on the trail that had been worked on, the going was easier. We stayed in the tree cover for quite a while-there were lots of large pines and madrone trees on this part of the mountain that had escaped the fire of 2003. We crossed several drainages with running water and light pink flowering locust trees, and then came to an old metal sign. (1st picture in the post)

The trail now followed a 4WD road that steeply lost elevation and we took a break for some shade and a snack at a very lovely spot with a great running stream and rocks to sit on. I would like to come back here to camp sometime. I would have rather done this hike as an overnighter, but my husband Brian asked me to take a month off of backpacking because he was tired of being left home alone all the time. So a long dayhike it is. I understand his position, but that doesn’t mean that I am not counting the days till I am able to backpack again…


Eventually, at 4500 ft., the trail met up with some powerlines that we had seen earlier in the day, way up at 7700 ft. The road was rocky and steep and hard on the feet and knees, especially since we had already dropped 4500 ft. in elevation. I was happy that I had brought an elastic knee brace, because it alleviated the strain on my left knee, which began to ache around the middle of the hike.

Roadwalk near the powerlines

There were many wildflowers, and the ocotillo were still blooming at this elevation. The area started to look familiar as we descended toward the Baby Jesus Trail intersection.

Thistle bloom

I could see the Baby Jesus Ridge stretching out to the north- it is a beautiful stretch of trail with large rock outcroppings and giant forests of saguaros that I hiked in the fall. I was happy that there was only one short stretch of road left before we were back on singletrack toward Catalina State Park. We crossed Cargodera Canyon again before we headed into the park. I was really surprised at how much water there still was in the middle of May.

Crossng Cargodera Canyon

The singletrack was a definite relief after the stretch of rocky road. Once in Catalina State Park, the trail wove in and out of blooming cactus. My hiking companions were moving fast to get back to the car, as there was still a lot of driving to do at the end of the day to retrieve the car on top of the mountain. The trail was super-easy compared to what we’d been through all day, so the time flew by. There was water in every wash crossing all the way back to the parking lot. We kept waiting to run into the crowds that frequent the park, but amazingly made it all the way back without seeing a single soul for the whole eight hours, 12 miles, and over 6000 feet of elevation loss.

Back on singletrack through Catalina State Park

I was excited about finally having seen the Sutherland Trail. It was really scenic, and all the running water was a treat. It’s always so interesting to hike through all the different types of vegetation in one day. After driving back to the base of the mountain to retrieve my car, I topped off a great day with a visit to El Charro for dinner.

For the Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser picture, I have something really special. We had a baby coyote come into the rehab last week. Only a month and a half old, it was covered in cactus spines and was found on someone’s driveway. We picked cactus spines out of her for a couple of days, and I am happy to report that she is doing much better and has been transferred to a facility that has other coyote pups.

Baby Coyote

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I have had non-hiking visitors in town and have been trying to get away for days to see the wildflower bloom in the Tucson Mtns. This morning I woke up at 6am and snuck out the door before anyone was up. Hiked to Wasson Peak using Sendero Esperanza to the Hugh Norris Trail.  Sendero Esperanza’s wildflowers were great on the switchbacks up to the ridge, but the Hugh Norris Trail is completely carpeted for much of the way to the peak! I had a wonderful hike and experienced wildflower-induced giddiness that lasted all day!

Desert Chicory

Penstemon with Ragged Top in far center


Blooms line the trail, Kitt Peak in the distance

Lupine and poppies line the trail

Hedgehog Cactus bloom

I have gotten a lot of emails about the pictures of cute animals from my Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser, but everyone really loved the bunnies- so here’s some more:

A lap full of tiny bunnies waiting to be fed

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For the last two and a half years, every other Thursday I build and maintain the Arizona Trail with the Crazies. Our group used to be called the Summer Crazies, because we are the only Southern Arizona trail crew that works in the summer, no matter how hot it gets. Now, we are just known as the Crazies, because we work year-round building and maintaining the Arizona Trail, no matter what the weather.

Crazies building trail and gates in Las Colinas

One of the best parts of working with the Crazies is that their average age is 65 years old. We have one guy, Larry Schnebly (if you know AZ, yes, he is Sedona Schnebly’s grandson) who celebrated his 80th birthday working with the Crazies. As you can imagine, these guys have some stories to tell, and I love listening to them. Larry once told me about his transition from working in radio to working in  the “new medium” of television in Tucson in the 50’s. Fascinating stuff!

The Craziest Crazie (our leader, Lee Allen), is in his 60’s and thinks nothing of doing a dayhike up into the Rincons with over 4000′ elevation gain or an 18-mile dayhike:

Lee Allen heading for Rincon Creek

One of the other Crazies is Laddie Cox, leader of the Hit-and-Run Crew for the AZT. He was the second-oldest man to complete the 800-mile Arizona Trail, at over 70 years old! I tell you, these guys are inspiring and a testament to the benefits of staying active. You can see me, Laddie, Larry, and the other Crazies in this video from August done by Richard “Grodzo” Grodzicki in true Summer Crazies form at http://www.aztrail.org/reports/event_reports.html#090408

This week, we had a very exciting work event, our first in building a very important connector trail in Saguaro National Park. The hike in and out to the worksite was an adventure in itself. First, we met at Saguaro NP, and piled into 4wd vehicles for the ride to the access point, a rough 4wd off of X-9 Ranch Rd. We shimmied under our first fence, and soon heard Rincon Creek running with all the recent rains. Everyone took their shoes off to ford the chilly creek and the smarter ones brought sandals to avoid the sharp rocks in the streambed.

Fording Rincon Creek

I had some trashbags with me, but didn’t want to work with wet feet all day if they failed, so I took my shoes off for the crossing. Luckily, Lee had reminded everyone to bring something to wipe their feet with after the crossing, which led to this scene:

After the ford

The access to this area is longer than most, we had a 2 1/2 mile hike just to get to the worksite. We walked along an old roadbed towards Hope Camp. As we approached Hope Camp, we saw an Antelope Jackrabbit that was completely calm about 12 people traipsing by. He stayed in plain sight, even rearing up on his hind legs to eat something:

Antelope Jackrabbit

Jackrabbit rearing up on hind legs to eat

Hope Camp

We had to crawl under and over a couple of fences, but soon we were on a very well-flagged route through the desert toward our destination. We bypassed the easy-to-build parts so that an REI crew can come in and work this area on April 3rd. Finally, we reached the start of the trail that the NPS has been building and we were able to work the trail heading back to the south.

New trail appears- photo by Walt Tannert

The National Park Service has been building this connector trail for several weeks now, and I hiked up to see the new trail with my friend Mike Pratt, recently back from working in Afghanistan helping to train the police forces there. The new trail is through beautiful saguaro forests, and after it crosses a beautiful slickrock wash, has very well-built steps that help attain the ridgeline. We stopped to chat with the trail workers, one who was building a “spiral staircase” on the turn of a switchback. The Rincons were still enveloped in clouds, but he said if you looked upcanyon from the spiral staircase there was a really great waterfall in the distance.

Pools in the creek crossing on the brand new trail

Fancy steps put in by the SNP crew

The "Spiral Staircase"

On our way back we saw this unusual saguaro- it looked like a crested saguaro, but the crest was on one of the undersides of the arms instead of at the top.

Crest on a saguaro arm

The trailbuilding was made a lot easier by the dampness of the soil- much easier to dig out the trees and cacti in our trail. We built about 2/10 of a mile of trail today in about 3 hours of work-it may not sound like much, but we will be out there every other Thursday, and the tenths of a mile start to add up pretty quickly.

At noon, we started our hike back toward the vehicles- it’s amazing how much quicker the hike back is than the hike out. Along this stretch of the trail near Hope Camp, there are a lot of purple Santa Rita Prickly Pear cactus, even though we are in the Rincons, not the Santa Ritas!

Hiking back

And then it was back to Rincon Creek for one last ford- I gave my trashbags a try, they got me through with dry feet but definitely don’t work as well in rocky streams. After we forded the creek, it was a short walk back to the vehicles for the customary cookies and soda after working the trail.

Fording Rincon Creek

I can’t wait to go back to this area on the 25th- the clouds only began to clear toward the end of our workday- I bet this area will be even more fantastic with the snow-capped Rincons as a backdrop. If anyone is interested in joining the Crazies for trailbuilding, they can contact Lee Allen at janlee at dakotacom dot net.

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