Sunday, February 28, 2010

Carr Falls

We didn't get the rain as forecasted. The day began overcast and cold but dry. The rain didn't start to fall until after noon.

After running a few errands in town (I had been out of bird seed for several days and the wrens, sparrows, thrashers and pyrrhuloxia were getting hungry!) I decided, rather on a whim, to drive up Carr Canyon Road to take some winter scene shots. The road was closed so I parked at the waterfall. And this time I walked up the canyon, along the rocks, and saw water gushing downhill. I had never been there, nor seen so much water in this canyon. I can see why so many locals come up these rocks to drink beer (and trash the place) while gazing down into the valley. It's a little hide-out with gorgeous views.

I was wearing my six-year-old day hikers. These boots aren't the safest anymore, especially on wet lichen and slippery slopes, so we didn't venture too far up the falls. The higher I got, the wetter I got as well as the fog turned to rain and then a light snow. Despite the cold rain I was having fun discovering new sites.

The rain clouds were overhead, adding a wet fog around us. The sky was obviously a dull grey most of the day so the photos aren't brilliantly blue, but there is enough green coming up from new growth to add some wonderful subtle color to otherwise cold and wet scenes.

The dogs had fun, too, running around the rocks and dipping into the cold water. As old as Sara is now, when she's near water or mud she's like a two-year-old dog all over again. After yesterday's long hike, I wanted to make sure both Sammy and Sara got their rest.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

French Joe Canyon

Kevin was up before sunrise to get ready for a hunting trip in the Dragoons. He was gone all day hunting rabbits.

A Cooper's Hawk sat in our front yard pecan tree this morning, waiting for a bird to come by. The birds that normally eat from the feeder were quietly hiding in our shrubs. With no birdseed in the feeder for a few days, there had been no birds chirping after sunrise in the front yard.

I was in a bad need of a hiking fix. I didn't walk through my mountains last week because of school, but today I took a few hours off in the afternoon to explore French Joe's Canyon. I hadn't been there in 4-5 years. Back then both Sammy and Sadie were 25 pounds lighter and more spry. (Today they were more docile except for a few cows they hazed on the way back.) I wanted something short, easy and nearby but something I don't go to every day. This was today's choice, 20 miles north of us.

This canyon is a somewhat obscure canyon in the Whetstones. The only way in is via Highway 90. The entrance isn't marked but a sign for French Joe Canyon is inset a bit.

I like this canyon because it's more like a local hide-out. There are no designated hiking trails in this small mountain range. Parts of the peaks belong to state trust land, private property, and the Coronado National Forest. To get to the National Forest one must drive on badly-rutted dirt and gravel roads for a few miles. And if you're lucky, you may have to yield to slow-poking horses.

The creek here is a seasonal creek and when there's water in the creek, some of the water holes become small, deep soakers. Cattle, deer and illegals use the water. When I got to the trail head at 2:36pm, no one else was around. One older man with his foo-foo dog had just left. Another couple sat by the first waterfall on my return hike.

There is no true trail here. One follows the creek bed uphill toward the prominent peaks to the north. The peaks here are small, barely above 5000', but the small range is chockfull of old mining trails that people now use for their ATVs. The many geologic uplifts are reminders that this land was once beset with earthquakes (like the 8.8 temblor earlier today in Chile).

It was a beautiful sight to behold! Water was trickling down the small waterfalls of the creek. Larger waterholes were full of clear water. I was surprised that the largest waterfall at the end of the box canyon wasn't flowing, though. That is normally a destination hike during the wet season.

I had no water with me. I wore no backpack. The dogs drank from the creek. They had a blast. What turned out to be a quick exploratory hike turned into a nice two-hour hike of about 5-miles round trip through a quiet aromatic canyon. It was my third time here and it was the first time I've seen water in the creek.

The light grey sky wasn't very pretty at first, but a storm coming from California began to darken the clouds late in the afternoon, and before the sun set over the mountains the red soil turned an even more impressive red. What beautiful colors! The distant Huachucas with their snow-capped peaks looked cold in the grey background.

I swear I smelled the first scents of spring today as I walked under oaks, pass mesquites and around sycamores. While the eastern states are freezing, we here in southern Arizona can't complain about this wet and cool winter. It's the wettest one since we moved here in late 2004.

I passed what looked like a full-sized pick-up full of illegals in the back bed. They were driving north to evade the nearby USBP checkpoint.

On my return drive I stayed in the National Forest, driving south on FR369 as it meandered along the foothills. The highway was visible a few miles east and downhill. This is pretty country, as from this vantage point one can see all the mountain ranges nearby: the Huachucas, San Jose Peak in Sonora, the Dragoons, Chiricahuas, Peloncillos. The valley empties further east into a vast lowland of thorny brush, mesquites, agaves, yuccas, ocotillos and prickly pears. If you stop and just take in the views, one feels the "Old West." Gunfights and shoot-outs happened here 150 years ago, and the legend says the Clanton Brothers buried their gold loot somewhere in the Whetstones. Adventurers have been trying for decades to find that loot.

I had the dogs jog an additional three miles as I took on the rutted road. He followed me as I meandered slowly on the dirt road along the foothills, taking in the scenery. The dogs totalled over eight miles today, and when they finally got back inside the SUV, they panted hard all the way home. There was a LOT of heavy breathing in that truck!

When I got back home at 6pm Kevin was already in bed reading. We compared hiking notes. "It was absolutely beautiful!" said Kevin about Slavin Gulch and the Dragoons. "You would have liked some of the sights" he added. I have no doubts about that.

He didn't bag any rabbits, but he seemed to enjoy the solitary hike regardless. If rain weren't predicted for tomorrow, I'd say let's go back there. Those mountains have an attraction for me, like a vortex waiting to suck me in.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Summer plans

Kevin and I ended up going to Yuma without the dogs so therefore I didn't post about our trip here (but it's on my other blog). It was our first road trip in over a year and the first time I've traveled locally without the dogs. And I didn't even miss them!

Sadie's been acting up these last few weeks, whining at 3am to either be let out or fed. She's been annoying both of us. Getting her high-protein foods doesn't satiate her. I plan on taking her to the vet to see what is wrong with her, if there's something wrong with her. The other two dogs were never this bad when they were younger. Sadie's nighttime whining has ruined Kevin's patience with her.

I love that dog. She and I have bonded. I will do what I must to find out what is causing her constant hunger. She was tested last year in Indiana for parasites but the vet didn't find any in her. But that was a year ago. She's a hyper dog who is on the thin side. Even the other dogs are annoyed with her.

At any rate, a few days ago I had this great idea to invite Erin here instead of me driving to Indiana in May. Her vacation doesn't start until June and I managed to get a great flight rate for her and Ethan for late June. I'm looking forward to having her here. When I asked Kevin if he wouldn't mind babysitting, his immediate response was "Absolutely!" He's looking forward to being Grandpa.

Erin even said she wants to go hiking with me. I already have a few foothill hikes on my list. The altitude for a first-time visitor, though, especially a flatlander, may be too much.

Now I have to brainstorm things to do with Erin and Ethan. Tucson has plenty of neat stuff, but I'm at a loss for local stuff. This town is all about the military, retirees and loaded tourists. There's not much for kids here.

But, knowing me, I'll find something to do that's fun and entertaining! I am so looking forward to this visit.

My school ends 17 May. The summer session begins two weeks later. I may just take on-line courses that give me some liberty. Or I may take none at all. Maybe by May I'll be ready for another summer reprieve.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Nipple Peak

We didn't get any snow on the ground despite the winter storm warnings last night. If snow fell to the 3500' elevation it wasn't here along the border. Still, I had planned on taking a quick hike up the mountain to enjoy the snow views. Instead of Carr Canyon road, though, I drove up the more isolated Ash Canyon Road where a backyard bon fire seemed to attract the attention of a few gawkers. I drove on to the trailhead.

I have no idea if that is the real name of this minor peak in the Huachucas, but it
looks like a nipple from the northeast end as I approached it so that is what I'll call it. It could have been worse and resembled a phallus.

We left the house at 10:20 and made it to the trail head in 15 minutes. The dogs were beside themselves with anticipation and could barely contain themselves. A drive in the truck up a dirt road into the mountains means only one thing: Hiking! And they all still seem to enjoy it.

The road up the canyon was not as snowy as expected, and the only new snow seemed to be up at the highest peaks. When we got out of the truck we could see snow melting from the pine trees. The jeep trail to this point was muddy but mostly clear.

A Border Patrol agent was parked around the corner. He frightened me as he was in a bullet-proof jacket and carrying an AR-15. He looked serious.

I asked him if it was safe to proceed.
"How far are you going?"
"Up to the snowline so that the dogs can frolic." I wasn't sure how far I was going as I was dressed in jeans and didn't bring a backpack with water. I figured an hour out, an hour back would be enough exercise for the dogs.
"Then that should be OK. The guys we're waiting for are further up. The dogs are going to scare them away so you shouldn't have any problem if you stay in the canyon."

And with those words I slowly climbed up the jeep trail, switchbacking higher and higher until the jeep trail was a single-track and where the snow finally looked to be 2-3 inches deep. We didn't get much snow at all from this last storm, and it was already melting in exposed areas or on rocks. Most of the western edges of the trailwere already melted down to the wet soil. The old mines along the way showed no human life and the dogs didn't show any warning signs. They seemed to enjoy running ahead and rolling around in the snow.

The dogs had fun, jumping around and biting into the snow. The trail was clearly an illegal trail,as the jeep trail branched into three smaller trails and I took the most southern, left trail. This was pristine snow that meandered around scrub oaks, manzanitas, yuccas and thornybrush. In the summer this exposed hike would be brutal. I had never been on this narrow trail before and the views were opening up to quite a vista. Clouds over the two highest peaks remained grey, but in the distant valleys the sky was blue.

It took me just under 90 minutes to reach a ridge line with views into Mexico and toward Mount Wrightson. Even the upper sections of the Huachucas didn't look too bad. If new snow fell overnight, it stayed higher than predicted.

The trail I was on ended abruptly at a steep ledge at the base of Nipple Peak. An abandoned campsite for border crossers remained. Plastic bottles and tin cans littered the rocks. A few shoes lay on the ridge line. The Mexican border was no more than five miles down the mountain to the south. Whoever came up this way to this peak risk falling down steep ridges. There certainly are easier ways to sneak into this country!

This was a secluded area. It reminded me of an old Apache look-out: easy to climb to with expansive vistas, yet concealed nonetheless. It's no wonder illegals use this rock as a camp-out and hide-out; going down from here is fairly easy and direct.

I didn't climb up the "nipple," though. This looked like brittle, crumbly rock. With possible ice along its edges, I opted not to go any further. The dogs didn't seem too determined to climb up higher, either.

I bagged up that trash, enjoyed the views, and went down the way we came. We had trodden on pristine snow but left the trail looking busy with foot traffic, surely to get any illegals worried.

A Styrofoam coffee cup lay where the Border Patrol agent stood hours earlier gearing up. I took that trash back with me, too.

The lower canyon trail had already cleared itself of the snow when I got back to the truck at 1pm. There was little sign that we had had a storm overnight.

This unknown trail I was on today was a nice jaunt up a 7000' or so peak. I estimate it to be a five-mile moderate hike. I'll do this one again as the only people I'll meet are Border Crossers and Border Patrol agents, and I could let the dogs run free.

I do hope to learn the real name of this peak.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mini road trip?

I discovered that the Yuma Territorial Prison, a small relic of a building under the auspices of the Arizona State Park System (a badly-managed state agency) is closing at the end of March. With President's Day this weekend, I suggested to Kevin that we check it out before it becomes defunct. The prison and its neighboring depot were quite (in)famous in the second half of the 19th century. Yuma, now a run-down bordertown more associated with Mexico and river crossers, was once the first sign of civilization that immigrants sailing down from San Francisco saw, and the first major stop-over for prospectors traveling west into California in the 1850s.

It's really quite embarrassing that a state such as Arizona, with so much natural beauty here, has to close so many of its state parks due to its mismanaged state budget. Arizona will soon be a mini-California. Only money-generating state parks will remain open: nine will remain while 13 others will close. At the rate the current state legislature is going, Arizona will have only the Grand Canyon and artificially-irrigated golf courses open for the blue-haired crowd.

With the migration season in full swing, I also want to explore the marshes along the Colorado River. I hope to see a few waterfowl, and perhaps some golden or bald eagles. I've located a camping area on the California side, but hiking seems to be sparse as the terrain is mostly ancient volcanic basalt and void of any trees.

All this depends on the weather, though. We are getting rain as I write this, and for the third time in as many weeks, more snow is forecasted for the mountains and more rain forecasted for the valleys. Earlier today a thick white mass of clouds topped the peak of our mountains, but that mass of clouds sank lower and lower to the foothills as the day progressed. By 3pm it began drizzling in town and soon the entire mountain range was shrouded in fog.

My sister in the Baltimore area got 33" inches last week, then 15" last Friday, and the last I heard her area was getting snowed in again today. I'm glad I don't live on the East Coast anymore. I think I would have gotten tired of the cold after 24".

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Another winter storm due in

I must admit, I love this cool, stormy weather as that means precipitation that we badly need.

The day started out much colder and windier than yesterday. The empty bird feeder hanging off the south wall of the house was banging against the window as I awoke at sunrise. I fed the birds five cups of seed which are gone already. The palm tree lost a few fronds from the wind. Thick grey clouds are hunkering over the peaks as if waiting for the command to "RAIN!"

So, in short, it was a great day to sit down and get my first paper done. I took the two older dogs on a quick two-mile jaunt down to the local post office to drop off two bills. There was hardly any traffic on Hwy 92, perhaps because of the big game later that day. I hadn't walked to the post office in months, but was reminded what a quick and easy walk this is for the dogs and me. A dirt road a block away from our house takes me to the Highway, avoiding the heavier paved roads.

I left Sadie at home this time. She got her own walk later that day before rain fell at 3pm. Sammy took this opportunity to pee on every rock along the way. Sara kept look-out for all the demon dogs along the route. There are two demons she remembered from walks a few years ago to the post office. Once she locked in on those demons, she could not be distracted. She was on a mission to remind those demons that she was still in charge of all territory within her sniffing range.

The wind blew into my face on the way there, but it pushed me along on the way back. We used the closed-off lane of Hwy 92 as a walk-way, staying away from any traffic. It's SuperBore Weekend and fans were surely already getting ready for drunken debauchery at home and in local sports bars.

May the best team win. As for me, I'm hoping for one big-ass storm. My sister reported 33" in her Baltimore area neighborhood. Another storm's due in later this coming week! YAY!

(Edit: The Saints won the SuperBore 31-17)

Saguaro National Park East and the Bridal Wreath Falls loop

This was a dogless hike so it doesn't really belong here. However, my other travel blog is nearly out of GB space and will soon come to an end.

Yesterday's hike in the National Park east of Tucson was a change to the original idea of hiking Sabino Canyon. Recent reports had stated the water level in Sabino Canyon made fording the creek in some places treacherous, with swift-running water over two feet high. Although that's about as high as I like water to gush around me (admitting also to a fear of getting swept away by flash floods), I also didn't want to carry any guilt should anyone in the hiking party get injured or swept under. Most of the people I hike with are quite older than me.

Other than the strictly-enforced NO DOGS ALLOWED rule of this park, it was a lovely hike on a beautiful day. The eastern half of the country had gotten nailed by "Snowmageddon" (as quoted by Pres Obama) but snow was the last thing on any of our minds. Most of us hail from "Back East" so we migrated here for the land and the weather.

I followed Paul's advice and left my wind jacket in my truck. My long-sleeved white t-shirt was sufficient and I never got cold. The high temperature reached 72F.

We were a comfortable party of seven people: Big Steve, Susan, Paul, Rod and Caci and Kevin and me. Kevin continues to get accolades for his drastic weight loss and "healthier living" from everyone, but he's still a little slow and will need more time to catch up to his former hiking pace of our Appalachian Trail hiking days of 2001-2004. This loop of 7.5 miles was ideal. Water in the washes was minimal, if there was any water at all. The Bridal Wreath Falls were running but not at full force.

We arrived at the trailhead at 9:15am. The parking lot was packed. A park volunteer stood at the trailhead making sure no one had dogs. A sign stating this was clearly marked at the register, and later we came across a mounted patrol of more volunteers. Brenda and Gordon didn't join us today because of this dog ban and ended up hiking in the Dragoon's Slavin Gulch area, where they enjoyed a solitary retreat away from civilization and Chalita could romp around unimpeded.

Horses and their subsequent horse shit, however, are gladly accepted by the National Park personnel. And the trail damage these creatures create? No problem! That's where the rising park entrance fees come in handy! Although I wouldn't want to hike with dogs around horses anyway (out of concern for all the animals), this hike was so busy that having dogs would have been unenjoyable. The dogs would have wanted to sniff other dogs, Sara would have rolled around in horse shit, and Sadie would have made herself a few organic snacks from that shit.

I had a loop already marked out and passed out the maps to those interested. I had gotten the map from Boy Scout Troop 141's website out of Tucson. The scout leader had posted a map that was more legible than the official park map I had bought the week before at Summit Hut for $1O!

We started the hike on the Douglas Springs Trail, a wide and popular cactus-studded trail that leads into the Rincon Mountains and remote backpacking trails. The flora in this park is typical of the Tucson area and even typical of the yards of Tucsonans: palo verde, mesquite, thiornybrush, creosote, ocotillo and plenty of prickly pear and sage filled the landscape in all directions. Some ocotillos were even already in new bloom!

The grade was gradual at first, but after the first mile proceeded to get steeper. We had climbed 1000' in the two miles (Rod said his GPS read 1300'). There was a lot of traffic on this trail as hikers were coming and going in both directions. Most had hiked to the falls for a glimpse of the flow.

"It's not running as high as I thought it would be after all this rain," said one older hiker when I asked him about the waterfall. He had started his hike after sun rise for an early start.

Caci was a little weak and had to rest a few times. This gave Kevin an opportunity to rest as well. For someone getting back into shape, he was doing quite well.

I had hiked to the falls years ago when Susan led this hike, but back then we started off Broadway Blvd and climbed from the west. This time we were hiking from the north and traversing a southeastern direction. The views of the Catalinas to our north and the Tucson skyline were quite beautiful, but what always does me well are the views of the saguaros. The saguaro is strictly a Sonoran Desert flora which we in the transitional desert of the Chihuahuan influence don't have. They rise elegantly from the shaded desert floor to become monumental landscapes. They grow 1-1.5 inches a year and take 80 years to grow an "arm."

"I feel like I am hiking in the Superstitions" I told Kevin, "Without having to drive quite so far." The Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix are another wonderland of saguaro, but the mountains are even more heavily used by the greater Phoenix area.

We got to the falls at 11am. I wasn't ready to eat lunch yet. I wanted to see the falls and take photographs. Two smaller groups had already staked out the best viewing spots. A fat grey squirrel begging food from the hikers was entertaining us all. It even got bread from Rod who clearly enjoyed the encounter.

After a break of 30 minutes we continued westward, following the Three Tanks Trail downhill. We were now away from any shade. In the summer this surely would be a brutal hike. We stopped and had lunch on the rocks of a wide creek bed and sat there warming on the warm surface for quite a while. We discussed club issues the entire time. Despite being stressed out by college, the members present agreed that I should be re-nominated as club president a second year with Steve as the secretary/treasurer as no one else wants to have either position (either because they had already served in either position or are clearly not interested). As long as members don't expect me to lead a hike EVERY weekend, I'm OK with this. And as long as they don't get bent out of shape when I take a month or two off in the summer for my road trips (when most of Arizona hibernates from the desert heat) then I really don't mind at all. I have a few hikes I want to do this summer, but some hikes will be to get in shape for the Oregon road trip. The people that hiked with me today were quite honestly the ones I hang out the most with and whose company I trust and enjoy. Only Brenda, Gordon and Little Steve were absent from the standard "Regulars" of the Huachuca Hiking Club.

I already told the members I want to hike up Mount Humphreys over the July 4th weekend. It's Arizona's highest peak at 12633'. It's a nine-mile hike with a starting elevation of 9305. The only drawback to hiking this on the July 4th weekend is that surely every other Arizonan seeking a reprieve from the desert heat is going to want to hike this big hill. To get in shape for Mount Humphreys also means more peak bagging of other peaks, like Miller or Carr in my "back yard."

We now had just under half the hike left to go. The frequent rest stops for Caci and Kevin slowed us down quite a bit but then I never said we were going to conduct Olympic race trials today. At the Steel Tank we turned north to merge with the Wild Horse Trail. From this high point we could see the long reflecting line of cars parked at the trailhead. My goodness, there were a lot of hikers out there today! The park was working on rerouting badly-damaged trails here, especially the Wild Horse Trail. The Wentworth trail on our map was renamed the Converse trail. We didn't realize until back at the trailhead that the park had just started this rerouting project in mid January.

We made it back to the parking lot at 2:05pm. The others took off but I stayed under the shaded canopy at the trailhead to wait for Kevin. He had walked ahead but then took a wrong turn. Luckily a quick phone call got him back on course.

A park ranger pulled into the parking lot while I waited for Kevin. His uniform and car looked too much like a Border Patrol uniform and car. "People confuse us all the time with the Border Patrol" but in this region that's understandable. "I was here at 7am and the parking lot was full" he added, "and it's still crowded now!" Why would Tucsonans not want to park here, where admission to the trails was free as compared to the $10 admission from the main entrance.

The hike was the highlight of our trip to Tucson. We finished off with a stop at Udall Park for yet another recycle drop-off and then a stop at Trader Joe's. I didn't realize until I was at the cashier's, however, that I was missing my credit car. Where the hell was it? I had used it the day before on post to buy overpriced electronics (which I discovered later was $60 mistake; if only I had bought the stuff on!). Embarrassed, I had to cancel my purchase. The friendly cashier didn't act too annoyed. The gourmet dog and cat food in my cart had to stay behind.

"Damn," I told Kevin, "now the dogs are going to be really disappointed."
"They'll never know" he replied.

In the end the dogs got back to us for leaving them at home: Three bags of "Happy Hips Chicken Breast Treats" had been swiped off the kitchen counter, ripped open and devoured. These bags had been in their original sealed bags inside a larger plastic bag and were part of my first order of six from Each bag costs $5 individually. I had gotten them from as hiking treats for Sadie ($25 an order of six bags). She's going to have to eat cheaper treats for a while until the next shipment of "Happy Hips" arrive in two months. Try explaining that to a dog that likes to eat cat shit as an appetizer.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's raining

I knew that we were going to get rain today, so when I had some free time yesterday morning, I packed up the dogs and took them back to Ash Canyon for that pleasant three-mile out-and-back hike along the creek.

It was a pretty hike, and a hike I recommended to Kevin for a short and scenic hike. If there are no prospectors, hunters, doggers or horses in the area, then this is ideal. But if there are cars parked along the creek's lower parking lot, it's best avoided.

I drove up to the area at 11:20am yesterday. The dogs were anxious for a hike and there was no one else anywhere along the trail. The recent snow and rain has given life back to the creek bed, and small pools of water were available to the dogs for their refreshment.

Sadly, there was more trash along this route. I didn't have any bags to collect the stuff in, but made a note for this for a later time. Winter clothing left behind by border crossers was also left behind near the turn-around point, but I left all that there.

And this time I discovered a tombstone I had never noticed before. Off the dirt road was a small grave site fenced in wrought iron. A cement slab with a man's name in tile mosaic revealed the man's name but not death date. How long has this been there? When did he die? What other secrets are in these forests?

The dogs frolicked along the creek on our return hike, staying close to the trail which followed either bank of the creek. We made it back home by 1pm and I resumed my studies.

Later in the evening, perhaps by climbing over a metal pole to get around closed-off construction tape, I must have pulled my left knee muscle, as I limped most of the rest of the day and still am this morning. Several cactus puncture marks around my left knee, from when I was kneeling in my front yard taking photographs, reveal that I perhaps placed my knee right on a small cactus hidden by the gravel. I hope my legs feel better by this weekend, as there's another hike I'm leading in Sabino canyon this weekend, but now I'm learning that the creek water has already risen to one's knees and may be unsafe (too swift) for fording. We will do the Phoneline trail instead, to maintain the general area of the hike and still enjoy the scenic vistas from the high ground. This rain is slated to end by late Thursday.

My garden should be ready for tilling next weekend. I'm going to plant some sweet peas. I just need the time! I hope I don't get called in to work tomorrow, as I need time to outline two papers due next week, and next week is going to be hectic enough for me. I can't think of doing anything but read and study on a wet and cool day. A day off from hiking will give both Sammy and Sara time off to recuperate as they were limping rather stiffly this morning when they hobbled over to the kitchen for their breakfast. Why do dogs have to age so fast?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Day trip to Tucson

I had no major hike planned for Sunday. Instead, Kevin and I left the dogs at home and drove to Tucson. When we hit Tucson we usually get off on Kolb Avenue and stay along its north-south streets.

Yesterday we hit Tanque Verde Blvd and the Sabino Canyon area. I wanted to scout out the parking options and see how the creek was. Rumors had it that the water was too high and swift but I wanted to gauge for myself.

The parking lot for the park was near full when we got there around 11:30am. Driving north along the Catalina Highway was even more disturbing, as we could see a shiny long line of cars crawling uphill to the fee station. (Later that night I read on that there was an hour wait to get to Mount Lemmon.) Seeing the futility of this long line, we turned around.

The small trailhead parking lot for the Bear Creek Trail was full. A small pile of wood debris took up one precious spot that could have been mine. I was wrong when I told Scott on Saturday that the trashers are only in Sierra Vista. It's obvious that trashers also live in the Tucson area.

Kevin mentioned that he needed to eat by 1pm. That pretty much cancelled any walks I had hoped we could do today. We stopped briefly at the Summit Hut (an over-priced outfitter on Speedway Boulevard) where all I could afford were a few maps of regional mountain ranges, made another stop at Bookman's and then were on our way back home. Although it's always nice to spend time in Tucson, I don't really enjoy the city unless I can hike in the nearby mountains. I really don't know the Santa Catalina mountains that well.

We got back home by 4:30pm. The dogs were excited to see us, so I took the two older dogs for a two-mile power-walk, and then took Sadie for her walk. She pulled too much and didn't seem interested in the entire two-mile loop so she only got .8 mile in today.

That's how I spent my Sunday. It was as exciting as watching saguaros grow.