In the modest distance between Redington Road and Buehman Canyon the SunZia transmission line project will add ten 135 foot tall steel lattice towers, two tension pads and 5 new access roads – only a fraction of the additions the project will make to the San Pedro River Valley. It appears that the only remaining barrier in Arizona to SunZia’s plan is a single lawsuit.
The San Pedro River Valley east of the Santa Catalina Mountains is far from pristine wilderness – farms, ranches, homes, utility lines, cattle, a gas pipeline and dirt roads cutting thru the desert… But that list obscures the truth that this area is something special, a part of Arizona that should be preserved as a welcome and important contrast to (and relief from) the dense development on the south and west side of the mountain. Giant steel towers looming over the valley and power lines imprisoning the sky don’t belong here.
I walk north and imagine the towers and lines – the subtle rolling hills won’t give them any place to hide, every time I look up I can see where they will create new shapes on skyline blocking the open sky – and every time I look down the variety of rocks and plants is amazing.
The terrain is steeper near Buehman Canyon and there is still fall color in the bottom of the canyon – beautiful to see this late in the season. The SunZia line will cross high above the canyon.
On a hillside east of the line the sunset comes into view – I wonder if this shot will be interrupted by towers and lines in the future…
The Cascabel Working Group’s SunZia Page has a long history of the project and the group’s work “Helping the SunZia transmission line project to understand that the environmentally unique San Pedro River Valley is NOT a viable location for a major powerline corridor.”
Thanksgiving – I am standing in the spot marked as Cargodera Spring – a tree hangs over the canyon, there are deer tracks in the sand and a hazy white stain reveals where a bird perched above the canyon floor – we have already worked up and down canyon from this spot, there are water stains everywhere, but nowhere surface water or signs of Cargodera Spring.
It is really no surprise that we don’t find the spring – topo maps are always best considered beautiful works of historical fiction, often correct, current, and recognizable enough that it is easy to forget that they are frozen in time while the details of the real world constantly change – any blue marking on a map of the Santa Catalina Mountains is suspicious at best…
We watch a single Coati work up canyon standing still until his tall tail disappears – after one last glance for the spring we hike back to the Sutherland Trail and enjoy the sunset on the way out.
Flowers in Sabino Canyon lingering boldly into November – it is hard at the moment to imagine the top of the Santa Catalina Mountains turning a winter white, and while I know winter will come part of me feels like this this warm always-summer season will roll right into next year…
Down, down, down… Doing an out-and-back on the Mt. Lemmon Trail, the #5, doesn’t have the same allure to most hikers as the many loops at the top of the mountain – but it has different benefits… Not long after passing the junction with the Wilderness of Rock Trail the #5 takes on a slightly different character – far from obscure, but narrower and distinctly less used. Sections of the trail remind me of the upper CDO, somehow more wild than the well trodden loops at the top. As you wind down the mountain the interior of the Santa Catalina Mountains comes into view.
Admittedly the end of the #5 at Romero Pass is, I think, a bit of an anti-climax – the best views are on the trail above, but at least the pass is usually peaceful, a nice place for break before the long climb back up…
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.