Coronado National Forest Fee Proposal – Coronado National Forest: News articles about and the press release for the Fee (Increase) Proposal were from a post here in November – the link leads to the official page for the project and is a good starting spot if you are interested in submitting a comment about the proposal (comments due by May 1, 2018). I think that the list of ‘New Fee Sites’ is worth reading thru and considering – included from the Santa Catalina Mountains are the Bigelow Trailhead, Butterfly Trailhead and Windy Point Vista Day Use Area.
Improvements at Marshall Gulch Picnic Area and Trailhead – Coronado National Forest: If this topic, or the illustration below, seem familiar it is because the first comments on this plan were taken in 2010… The long running process to redesign the Marshall Gulch Trailhead appears to be in the final stages and on 10/27/2017 the Draft Environmental Assessment was published. If this plan goes forward it will not increase the number of parking spaces available but will attempt to restore the convergence of Marshall Gulch and Sabino Creek and make the area easier to navigate on busy days. An interesting note on visitation from the EA:
On average, the site receives over 65,000 cars each summer (May through September), which includes those just driving through and others who stop to use the facilities (Forest Service, unpublished data, 2010). Assuming that there are an average of 2.5 visitors per car, estimated use is 162,500 visitors. This does not include walkin use from Summerhaven and walk-in use during the winter when the gate is closed.
The Coronado National Forest is now taking applications to operate the Sabino Canyon Shuttle System. The Sabino Canyon Shuttle Prospectus page has the relevant documents – the documents contain quite a few details about the shuttle system including limits on and requirements for the number of trips the shuttle makes, required operating hours and details about the costs/revenue involved – among the details was this statement about visitation to Sabino Canyon:
Visitation by private vehicle totals approximately 520,000 people annually; it is estimated that the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area receives more than one million visitors per year (Feasibility Study, 2010). Actual visitation to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is difficult to quantify, as the public may visit at any time of day and may to arrive on foot, on horseback, or by bicycle, as well as by private vehicle.
Meet the Black Friday resisters – KGUN9: This article made me laugh a little – I assumed it would be about a serious protest but instead was about people getting outside and avoiding the Black Friday deal-shopping crowds! Of course, I highly recommend joining the movement…
Popular Sabino Creek is bone-dry after months with no rain – Arizona Daily Star: Sabino Canyon is on a dry streak as we head into 2018, no surprise given the weather… The USGS makes data from Sabino Canyon available online and there is discharge data available back to late 1987. The graph below show data from 1988 to the end of 2017, this presentation is far from perfect – high spikes are cut off, some very low numbers are essentially hidden and this is just the raw data with no filtering for data quality – but it is still interesting to quickly scan thru:
Endangered Gila Topminnow Returns to Santa Cruz – Arizona Public Media: One explanation offered for the prescence of the Topminnow in the Santa Cruz is that “they may have reached the Santa Cruz from Sabino Canyon via the Rillito River”.
Suntran Sabino Canyon Sun Shuttle – Sun Tran: For the brief period of 12/26 to 1/1 there was shuttle service from Udall Park to Sabino Canyon – even with overflow parking available it can occasionally still be a challenge to find parking in Sabino Canyon and this service is a nice detail.
Rescues/Accidents/Incidents including information from SARCI’sSARNews:
12/11/2017 La Milagrosa Trail: Not a rescue but an interesting report because it was a false alert due to an accidental emergency beacon activation – no details were given about how the beacon might have been activated.
12/18/2017 Romero Canyon Trail: Two hikers were unable to find the trail after entering Romero Canyon – they found the trail before help arrived.
12/23/2017 Seven Falls Area: An ankle injury leads to a carry and ‘reindeer’ ride out.
Oracle State Park: Hiking trails, home tour – The Arizona Republic: It has been great to have Oracle State Park open full-time again – this article gives a nice overview of the park, points out this is the only state park that the Arizona Trail runs thru and includes a short history of the Kannally family whose ranch house is a major part of the park. With the weather cooling off this is a great time of year to visit!
County puts limits on exploding target use – Green Valley News: The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve an ordinance which bans the sale, possession or use of any target with a mixture of chemicals that will explode after being hit by a bullet. Note that there are a number of exceptions to in the ordinance. Exploding targets are believed to have caused the Sawmill fire.
Three mountain lions – a mother and 2 yearlings – were caught on film near the Sabino Canyon Tram road and there was a possible mountain lion attack on a dog in the Tucson Mountain area (unconfirmed but AZGF notes an increase in mountain lion reports in residential areas this monsoon season). The articles states that photos/video of mountain lions close to the Sabino Canyon tram road are rare but both incidents are good reminders that there are mountain lions in many areas around Tucson. Mountain lion sightings in the Santa Catalina Mountains are relatively rare, and there have been few negative mountain lion/human interactions, but it is important to be aware of these beautiful animals! Female mountain lion, yearlings caught on camera at Sabino Canyo – KVOA.com, Mountain lions spotted not far from Sabino Canyon tram road – Tucson News Now, Dog dies in possible mountain lion attack on west side of Tucson – Tucson News Now
New Oro Valley trail aims at hikers, cyclists, horses – Arizona Daily Star: Planning is going forward on a new trail! The current plan is for a new trailhead off Rancho Vistoso Boulevard and a 1.2 mile earthen path extending northeast along Big Wash. For me the most exciting part of this project is the indication that at some point it may connect the CDO to the Tortolita Mountain Park!!! “The second phase will go from Tangerine Road to Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, and the third phase will be from the Cañada del Oro Wash to Tangerine Road.”
Today in Arizona History – U.S.News: For September 10, 1936: “on this date, Tucson and Pima County applied to the federal government for permission to construct a 250-foot (76-meter) high dam in Sabino Canyon.” – thankfully that dam was never built!
Tucson time lapse: What do you see? – Arizona Daily Star: This page contains an interesting time lapse view of Tucson – it is not really focused on the Santa Catalina Mountains, but you can see in the time lapse the growth of Tucson which has impacted access to the mountains is creating a situation where the Santa Catalina Mountains are isolated from other mountain ranges – an important concern for hikers, hunters and wildlife.
Find spectacular stone arches along Tucson’s Catalina Highway – Arizona Daily Star: The Santa Catalina Mountains don’t have the massive and stunning arches that you can find in southern Utah – but we do have a number of smaller arches and windows – including a number of interesting ones that you can see from the highway!
Summer flash floods and the rescue of stranded hikers were major news items – flash flood related rescues, and sometimes injuries and deaths, are in the news every year, but this year featured larger groups of people stranded than I remember in previous years. While the various discussions about potentially closing resources, how to inform the public and rescues are interesting (and complicated – Star Opinion: Time for a ‘stupid hiker’ rule for some rescues? – Arizona Daily Star) probably the most valuable action you can take is to learn more about flash floods and Tim Stellar wrote an article for the Arizona Daily Star this summer that is a good start – Steller: You can lower flood risk at canyon swimming holes – Arizona Daily Star. Other flood related articles:
8/12/2017 Butterfly Trail: An exhausted hiker (partly due to medication) was helped on the trail and able to hike out.
8/16/2017 Sabino Basin: A group became separated and was eventually able to ask for help via cell phone – the lost group was helped with directions.
8/19/2017 Anderson Dam: Ankle injury carried out.
9/4/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: Hikers were unable to find the trail at dusk and called for help – helped by other hikers.
9/6/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: Exhausted hikers.
9/6/2017 Butterfly Trail: Ankle injury – the group tried to continue but eventually called for help – the hiker was hoisted out.
9/10/2017 Sabino Canyon Trail: A hiker with a head laceration is met just above the road in Sabino Canyon.
9/10/2017 Romero Canyon: A hiker missed the trail crossing at Romero Pools, continued downstream, injured his knee and had a history of diabetes – the hiker was hoisted out.
9/10/2017 Bear Canyon: An exhausted hiker is assisted with hydration and helped out.
9/23/2017 Aspen Draw Trail: A hiker with injured ribs is treated and walked out.
9/23/2017 Romero Pools: A hiker with an ankle injury is hoisted out.
10/9/2017 Palisades Trail: Hikers miss the trail below Mud Spring – they were located, helped back to the trail and assisted out.
10/14/2017 Ventana Canyon Trail: A hiker intending to turn around got confused and continued to the junction below The Window – met on trail and assisted out.
10/14/2017 Sycamore Canyon Trail: Hikers who came down Pine Canyon became exhausted hiking out to Prison Camp – one of the hikers went to get water for the other and they were assisted out by campers.
10/15/2017 Golder Ranch Trails: Mountain Bikers coming down from the top of the mountain via the CDO were separated, exhausted – after a 911 call they were all eventually found – two in the Golder Ranch Area and two on the Charouleau Gap Road.
10/21/2017 Pima Canyon Trail: A hiker is treated and assisted out after a fall.
10/21/2017 Brush Corral Trail: A hiker was unable follow the trail below the junction with the Brush Corral Shortcut Trail and was helped back up the mountain.
News links from the past few months for the Santa Catalina Mountains – this post was over due already in late June when I was working on finishing it but it was delayed several additional weeks by the Burro Fire. The Burro Fire burned over 27,000 acres in the Santa Catalina Mountains but did not destroy any homes/buildings/infrastructure – news links, maps, pictures and other information from the Burro Fire can be found here.
Giving back in Southern Arizona | Business News | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star: “Summit Hut raised $1,500 for Friends of Oracle State Park, a 4,000-acre wildlife refuge in northern foothills of the Catalina Mountains. It serves as a center for environmental education while providing programming for all ages through interactive programs, trails and avenues for interrelationships and habitats between plants, animals and people.” The Friends of Oracle State Park have done great work over the years and this March the park opened full time for the first time in years!
Stranded bighorns – High Country News: A letter to the editor about the Bighorn Sheep in the Santa Catalina Mountains – the paragraph that caught my attention: “The bighorn release area in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness is hemmed in right up to the Coronado National Forest and wilderness boundary by dense urban development. The bighorn are stranded on a “mountain island.” How will that herd maintain genetic diversity without manipulation by humans?”
Bears, Mountain Lions and even a rabid fox were concerns over the past few months – probably the most memorable item from the articles below is the picture of a bear looking thru the window into a Summerhaven cabin:
4/6/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: Exhausted hiker about x7 was given refreshments, helped down to the Horse Around and assisted out on horseback
4/12/2017 Box Camp Trail: A hiker was unable to find a way out of Sabino – found and assisted up the Box Camp Trail
4/15/2017 Nancy’s Thumb, above North Fin in the Windy Point Area: A climber soloed up Nancy’s Thumb (5.4) but was unable to get down – an anchor was set and the climber lowered down and assisted back to Windy Point
4/22/2017 7 Falls, Bear Canyon: A hiker falls and hits his head and feels poorly – helped with hydration and then assisted out on foot and horseback
4/23/2017 Pontatoc Trail: A fall results in an ankle injury – carried out
4/23/2017 Esperero Trail: On the return trip from Bridalveil Falls hikers ran out of water – one continued to the Visitors Center for help. The hiker still on the trail was given refreshments and was able to hike out
4/23/2017 7 Falls, Bear Canyon: Ankle injury – carried out but at x7 reported loss of sensation in her foot – hoisted out by helicopter
5/6/2017 7 Falls, Bear Canyon: A group looking for Seven Falls hiked up Sabino and down Bear – one hiker became exhausted just above the falls – given refreshments and iked out.
5/7/2017 Knagge Trail: A hiker attempting to follow the Knagge Trail got lost and continued off trail before calling for help. A care package was dropped by helicopter, SARA teams met the hiker and they hiked out.
5/7/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: Three hikers without lights are met and assisted out
5/20/2017 Romero Canyon: Hikers try to hike back from Romero Pools via the canyon bottom – several end up exhausted – met and given refreshemnts near the mouth of the canyon – assisted out.
5/20/2017 Sutherland Trail: Hikers reach the powerline but exhausted and out of water call for help. They were able to continue up slowly – meanwhile there ride at the top of the mountain went down the Lemmon Rock Lookout Trail to meet them, but the were on the Mount Lemmon Trail – they were found and accompanied back up.
5/23/2017 Wilderness of Rocks: Two hikers planning on hiking up the Lemmon Rock Lookout Trail end up in the dark without water – assisted out.
6/1/2017 Mt.Kimball Area: Hikers see a bear and after calling for help are advised to head downhill away from the bear – disoriented they started down into Ventana before realizing their error and turning around – met and assisted back to the trailhead.
6/3/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: Exhausted hiker at the first crossing escorted out
The Burro Fire started on June 30th near Burro Tank in the Redington Pass area – the fire burned 27,238 acres.
On 7/13/2017 a final update was issued on Inciweb – the mountain will re-open on 7/14 8am and and all closures will be lifted so that all trails/trailheads on the mountain will be open!! The final size of the fire is estimated at 27,238 acres. The containment is listed at 95% (there is a small area on the NW side of the fire that on the last map still has active perimeter marked). The cause is still listed as ‘Under Investigation’.
Evening: I drove Redington Road to Piety Hill to get a quick look at the impacts of the fire and fire fighting. Close to the road in the burned areas I could see the grass was gone, some or many trees were still standing and in some spots green vegetation was still visible. There were ridges in the distance that looked like they burned hotter – and near the road some of I saw was probably controlled burning by fire crews – but thankfully, at least near the road, the landscape was not a desolate moonscape!
6:40 AM: Yesterday evening 65% containment was announced – and perhaps more telling about the state of the fire residents, business owners and business employees were allowed back up the mountain starting at 3pm yesterday and at this time no additional community meetings are scheduled! (The incident commander, Bea Day, did not give any estimate on when the mountain would be open to the general public.) Redington Road is now open to all traffic. The fire is listed at 27,238 acres. The current map reflects the increased containment with more of perimeter marked as contained on every side of the fire! Rain again last night should help dampen the fire and increase containment (Green Mountain, Dan Saddle and Redington gauges all show rain in the last day on the Pima County ALERT map).
7:38 AM: 27,266 Acres, 51% Contained. Fire crews finished prepping the Control Road yesterday and added more dirt road/dozer lines to the map – the extensive circle of preparations can be seen on the map! Fire growth in Edgar Canyon was minimal even though hot/rugged conditions meant that there were not crews in the Peck Basin area yesterday – the fire continues a slow spread to the east, with hot conditions limiting crews on the ground and established lines to the east the fire is being allowed to grow in that direction for now. Progress was made containing the fire in the Piety Hill, Buehman Canyon and Guthrie Mountain areas.
7:40 AM: Inciweb was updated this AM to report 26,731 acres burned and 36% containment. Fire growth shown on the map this AM is modest. Fire crews with air support have been able to stop the fire at Edgar Canyon and prevent the fire from moving west into the Peck Basin area – east of this area the map now shows a much more extensive set of fire lines surrounding the fire. The southeast portion of the fire has quite a bit less active fire perimeter with area near Buehman Canyon and Piety Hill now shown in black.
5:30 PM: At the community meeting they just announced 36% containment. There is a news article below about two injured firefighters – at the meeting there was a question about the injuries and it was mentioned that they were minor and the firefighters were back at work.
7:20 AM: Inciweb lists the Burro Fire at 25,355 acres and 19% contained. Compared to yesterday note the growth in the Edgar Canyon/Peck Basin area – this area was mentioned multiple times in the Community Meeting last night in part because of the concern that the fire could burn up from this area towards the highway. The map this AM also adds a substantial number of firelines compared to yesterday AM. The southwest side of the fire is now contained. On the west side preparations to hold the fire at the highway have been made including plans for burnouts if needed. On the east side a line has been established from Black Hills Mine Road, across Alder Canyon at Ventana Windmill, out Davis Mesa, across Edgar Canyon down to Lone Hill and then towards the Brush Corral Area (Black Hills Mine Road connects to the Control Road which has been mentioned as a feature that could be used to control the fire – if this line + the Control Road + the highway was held it would encircle a large section of the fire).
7:30 AM: The Burro Fire is currently listed as 24,547 acres with 11% containment. The map as of this AM shows the south side of the fire – along Redington Road – as contained. Since yesterday AM the northern section of the fire has grown and is burning down towards Edgar Canyon.
Evening/Night: Driving north from Benson the fire came into view well before the junction with Redington Road – sun, smoke and fire created several amazing views from the road. Black Hills Mine road is now closed – but with Evans mountain and the slopes down into Edgar Canyon burning the fire was easy to see from Redington Road after it climbs away from the San Pedro. The evening update puts the fire at 24,547 acres 11% contained.
Today, firefighters strengthened control lines along the Redington Pass Road and after cold trailing and mop up of the line, declared that this section of fire perimeter is now contained. Tonight, engines will patrol the area and extinguish hot spots as needed. No additional fire growth is expected in this area.
Prep work along the Catalina Highway is nearing completion. Fire crews have reinforced Firewise mitigations put in place by residents and have set up contingency fire lines as a defensive measure. Crews are prepared to initiate burning operations in front of the fire, should it move westward, threatening structures and other values at risk.
Tonight crews will be patrolling the south eastern perimeter of the fire. Winds are predominately coming from the southeast, pushing the fire back onto itself.
The northeastern side of the fire will be monitored through the night. Incident Fire Behavior Analysts do not anticipate any substantial fire spread in this area over night.
The most active fire behavior on the Burro Fire was observed on the northwestern perimeter. In this section the fire has dropped into canyons where the vegetation is predominantly grass and scrub. Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft were used to impede the fires progress. Under current weather conditions, these canyons are in alignment with the wind, so that fire has the ability to move quickly through the light flashy fuels.
7:10 AM: Inciweb was updated this AM to list the fire at 21k acres – several notes from the update:
There will be a Community Meeting 5:30 p.m., Wednesday July 5, 2017, at the Sahuaro High School, 545 N. Camino Seco, Tucson, AZ 85710. American Sign Language (ASL) and Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) captioning will be provided. The meeting will be live streamed on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BurroFireInfo/
Fire crews continued patrolling and preparing homes and other structures along the Catalina Highway. They also surveyed the terrain between the fire’s western edge and the highway to determine locations where defensive measures might be taken should the fire encroach upon the roadway.
With the support of heavy helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, fire crews built fire line along the southern and eastern flanks of the fire to protect infrastructure as well as cultural and recreational values, and were able to hold the fire north of Redington Pass Road. Despite dry conditions, high heat and outflow winds, firefighters were able to successfully protect ranch buildings in those areas. To date, the suppression efforts have ensured that no structures have been burned.
The terrain on the north eastern side of the fire is rugged and mountainous. No roads exist that would provide access for fire apparatus. Given the topography and lack of access, the decision has been made to rely mainly on air resources to slow the fire’s progress in this area. Contingency plans are in place, should fire activity become a threat to infrastructure as well as cultural and recreational values.
In the maps this AM I noticed two interesting details:
The satellite information on the fire suggests that the fire has made notable progress over the Evans Mountain area and is much closer to Edgar Canyon and Peck Basin.
The maps reflect the note above about holding the fire north of Redington Road – the fire perimeter on the south-east now runs along Redington Road.
Inciweb currently lists the fire at 14,112 acres although more notably the maps from the AM show quite a bit of movement to the south. From Inciweb:
Beginning July 4, Burro Fire Public Information Officers will provide media briefings at 7am and 7pm daily at the Incident Command Post at Sabino High School, 5000 Bowes Road, Tucson Arizona.
The Coronado National Forest has now implemented forest closures from Redington Pass Road and the National Scenic Trail north including Catalina Highway and the Control Rd. to the Pima/Pinal County line. These closures can be found athttps://www.fs.usda.gov/coronado/
Evening/Night: With the Control Road and Highway up the mountain both closed I drove around the north end of the mountain and took Black Hills Mine Road out to the edge of Alder Canyon – this didn’t give me a view of the more active south side of the fire, but it did let me watch as flames and smoke rose from the Evans Mountain area. For the most part the fire stayed behind the ridge – but as night fell all of the small hot spots, hidden in the days, became visible… From Inciweb:
Firefighters made good progress on the Burro Fire. Indirect line construction and structural protection continued to be the focus along the Catalina (Mt. Lemmon) Highway. On the south side of the fire, firefighters continued preparation along the Redington Pass Road. Natural barriers are also being used to aid in suppression efforts. Airtankers and helicopters were used to help delay the fire’s spread where they could be used safely and effectively. With extreme temperatures, we expect to continue to have periods in the afternoons when it’s too hot to fly.
Today’s fire spread was primarily in the southern area of the fire. Firefighters provided structural protection at the Bellota Ranch.
There will be a Burro Fire Community meeting tonight, July 3, 5:30 p.m. at the Sahuaro High School (545 North Camino Seco, Tucson AZ). Please park in the main parking lot the meeting will be in the auditorium. The meeting will be live streamed on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BurroFireInfo/. You must have an account to view the stream live. Following the meeting the recording will be posted, this will not require an account to view.
Firefighters are actively working to fully suppress the Burro Fire. Due the steep, rugged, inaccessible terrain and fire activity, firefighters are currently using indirect tactics. On the west side of the road, firefighters are planning and implementing structure protection along Catalina Highway. On the south side of the fire, firefighters are scouting and planning for preparation on holding the Redington Road. Airtankers and helicopters are being used to help delay the fire’s spread where they can be used safely and effectively. With extreme temperatures, we expect to continue to have periods in the afternoons when it’s too hot to fly.
There are currently 185 personnel working on the fire. Current resources include three hand crews, 14 engines, one water tender, and three helicopters.
6:30 AM: Evacuations have been extended – evacuations in Summerhaven were scheduled to start at 6am this morning. Inciweb now lists the fire at 14,000 acres – up from 5,000 listed yesterday. In the map below from the The National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) it appears that the movement on the north side of the fire has been considerable – the fire has burned across Buehman Canyon and certainly looks like it will burn thru the Evans Mountain area. From Inciweb planned actions: “Assess options for indirect line construction and containment using natural barriers. Assess needs for point protection at threatened infrastructure/communities.”
In the AM driving up the mountain the usual traffic was out on the road, you could barely smell the smoke and lower down on the mountain you had to look in the right direction to even know there was a fire. Higher on the mountain the smoke became more and more obvious… I hiked out to several points below Green Mountain to watch the fire – the smoke was impressive, scary, and larger than I expected. I watched cautiously for an hour or so as flames came up onto a ridge near Guthrie Mountain and aircraft dropped fire retardant to try to keep it in the canyon… Driving down the mountain I noticed fire personnel coming down and at the base Police had started to turn away anyone who was not a resident.
5,000 acres (7/2/2017, 11:37:15 AM)
Redington Road closed from milepost 2 to 14 due to Burro Fire.
Burro Fire updates! Evacuations have started. They begin at mile marker 0 up to Palisades Road. North of Palisades Rd is under a pre evacuation status. We understand this decision is sudden however based on the activity of the fire this is the safest and best decision for our residents. Please follow social media and MyAlerts.pima.gov for more updates to follow. Pima County Office of Emergency Management can be found on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pcoem/
Maps suggest that the fire is currently burning between Bullock and Buehman Canyons and is still east of the Green Moutain Trail and just inside the National Forest boundary to the East.
Ironwood Forest National Monument preserves a beautiful piece of the Sonoran desert north west of the Santa Catalina Mountains. This site is focused on the Santa Catalina Mountains, which is already more than I could hope to cover and experience in my lifetime, but everything is connected…
I am not enough of a dreamer to visualize a map of Arizona with more than modest additions to our public lands, but in what what was clearly a bit of laughable optimism, I also never even considered a map where our public lands receive less protection.
Ironwood Forest National Monument is included in the Department of the Interior’s Review of Certain National Monuments Established Since 1996. I am disappointed with the government’s decision to conduct this review at all – but the inclusion of Ironwood National Monument is especially exasperating – the area is just so beautiful and important.
More convincing than any words I could write is a visit to the area – the Friends of Ironwood Forest National Monument have a ‘Visit’ section on their website that has useful information – it is a tough time of year for hiking in the desert but even just a drive into the area is a very very very worthwhile activity.
Comments on the review are open until 7/10/2017, please consider commenting – some links you might find interesting/helpful:
PS – The comment period closes 6/2/2017 on Proposed I-11 routes – I-11 could potentially put a major highway between Saguaro National Park and Ironwood Forest National Monument significantly, and I believe, negatively impacting the Avra Valley area – this short post from the Friends of Ironwood Forest National Monument is a very concise summary of the issues with links to more information.