Piety Hill – 7/11/2017

Looking South from Piety Hill. July 2017.
Looking South from Piety Hill. July 2017.

Redington Road had been closed since the start of July due to the Burro Fire – on the first day that it re-opened I drove out along the fire perimeter and hiked to the top of Piety Hill. The Burro Fire was stopped west of Piety Hill and in the sunset light it was hard tell where the Burro Fire burned – I am sure that there are areas that were heavily impacted by the fire but from Piety Hill I can still see green trees and grass below.

Piety Hill's shadow towards the San Pedro Valley. July 2017.
Piety Hill’s shadow towards the San Pedro Valley. July 2017.

Piety Hill is located on Pima County’s A7 Ranch – at 4,714′ it is not stunning high (‘Hill’ is the right name) – but it is high enough to overlook the San Pedro Valley and offer great views of the surrounding terrain! There is no official trail to the top, but the terrain, while steep, is reasonably open and it is not hard to find a way to the top.

Looking up into the Santa Catalina Mountains from Piety Hill - Mount Bigelow on the left, Westfall Knob in the center. July 2017.
Looking up into the Santa Catalina Mountains from Piety Hill – Mount Bigelow on the left, Westfall Knob in the center. July 2017.
Balloon Trash on the slopes of Piety Hill. July 2017.
Balloon Trash on the slopes of Piety Hill. July 2017.

“CENTS FOR SEEDS” – 1968, Oracle – 6/3/2016

A humming bird perches in the shade near the Lower Oracle Ridge Trailhead. June 2016.
A hummingbird perches in the shade near the Lower Oracle Ridge Trailhead. June 2016.

In Oracle on an errand I hiked from the Lower Oracle Ridge Trailhead on the Oracle Ridge Trail – it was a hot day and I didn’t have time to go very far, but it didn’t matter – it was just great to spend a few minutes on the trail.

Cents for Seeds sign at FR4454. June 2016.
“CENTS FOR SEEDS” sign at FR4454. June 2016.

There is an interesting Coronado National Forest sign on the Cody Loop Road – the sign, on a small road in Oracle, and information, about a project from the late 1960s, seem, at best, obscure – but old newspaper articles quickly fill in the gaps – from the Tucson Daily Citizen, Friday, January 12, 1968, Page 13:

The second “cents-for-seeds” marker, sponsored by the Arizona Federation of Women’s Clubs (AFWC) and the Arizona Federation of Junior Women’s Clubs (AFJWC), will be unveiled and dedicated Wednesday at 2 p.m. The ceremony will take place near Camp Sue, Arizona Children’s Colony Lodge, Oracle. The day’s program will begin at 11 a.m. and Clyde W. Doran, forest supervisor, Coronado National Forest, will be master of ceremonies. Mrs. E. M. Bredwell, president of the AFWC, will talk on the “cents-for-seeds” project. Mrs. James R. Higgs, president of the AFJWC, will speak on the conservation activities of the AFJWC. Luncheon will be served by the Arizona-New Mexico Forest Products Industries Committee. Members of the Oracle Woman’s Club will be luncheon hostesses. The combined membership of these two statewide organizations is over 6,000. [?]11 member clubs support the “cents-for-seeds” project, which involves collecting funds for the reseeding of Arizona National Forests damaged by fires. Markers are erected to remind the traveling public of its responsibility to protect the land.

And more information about the fire from The Arizona Republic, Wednesday, January 17, 1968, Page 9:

The U.S. Forest Service will erect a large redwood sign commemorating the reseeding of the burn, which blackened more than 1,450 acres of grass and scrub oak near Oracle last May 20. The fire, which cost $80,000 to suppress, was started by children. It burned for two days and at one time threatened Oracle. No buildings were destroyed although the flames came as close as a quarter-mile to some Oracle homes.

Balloons - now trash - near the Arizona Trail outside of Oracle. June 2016.
Balloons – now trash – near the Arizona Trail outside of Oracle. June 2016.

More balloon trash – Balloons in the Backcountry

Balloon, Vandalism, Firescape, Bighorn – 2/14/2016

Balloon - trash on a hillside above La Milagrosa Canyon - there was a 2nd balloon below... February 2016.
Balloon – trash on a hillside above La Milagrosa Canyon – there was a 2nd balloon below… February 2016.

Balloons floating up into the sky can seem beautiful and symbolic – but after picking up balloons from an astounding number of places in the mountains – including many off-trail destinations with no sign of people/trash for miles – I cringe when I see a piece of floating trash ascending into the sky… For more sad pictures of balloons and a bit more information see Balloons in the Backcountry.

In January a boulder with a petroglyph was pushed over and some surrounding vegetation was damaged in Catalina State Park – if you have any information please contact the Coronado National Forest Supervisor’s Office at (520) 388-8300. It is sad anyone would vandalize a site like this – January was not a great month in regards to vandalism with an incident also reported in Saguaro National Park. Vandalism at Catalina State Park – Coronado National Forest, Catalina State Park vandalism under investigation – Arizona Daily Star, Native American petroglyph vandalized at Catalina State Park – TucsonSentinel.com, Vandals strike Catalina State Park – Tucson News Now.

The comment period for the Catalina-Rincon FireScape Project  is open and the Forest Service is holding several open houses about this project:

  • Saturday, February 20, 2016 – 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.  Chuck Bowden Mt. Lemmon Community Center, 12949 N. Sabino Canyon Parkway., Mt. Lemmon, AZ
  • Tuesday, February 23, 2016 – 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.  Oracle Fire Department, 1475 W. American Ave., Oracle, AZ
  • Thursday, February 25 – 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.  Morris K. Udall Regional Center, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Rd., Tucson, AZ

The press release from the Forest Service provides this quick summary of the project – “The CRFS is a landscape-scale restoration project that focuses on promoting resilient ecosystems; protecting life, property, and natural resources; and encouraging natural wildland fire to function as a healthy process in the ecosystem” – and the Scoping Notice provides background including:

The fire history recorded by tree rings indicates that, since the beginning of the early 20th century, the frequency of natural fire has decreased dramatically. Tree-ring research has shown that for many centuries, the Santa Catalina and Rincon mountains shared broadly similar fire regimes and ecosystem properties. However, since the early 20th century, natural fire regimes have been significantly altered because of grazing (which removes the fine fuels that carry surface fire) and continued fire suppression.

The latest Santa Catalina Bighorn Sheep Reintroduction Project update was recently released:

  • As of 2/10 the total number of lambs confirmed by visual observation is now 13! The Friends of Catalina Bighorn Sheep Facebook page has links to recent video/pictures.
  • Ewe #39540 died in the first part of February – “she had suffered a severe injury to her left front leg in addition to a
    superficial wound on her chest, both injuries likely sustained in a fall” – samples have been sent for disease testing.
  • Test results from Ewe #39554 who died in December indicate that she did not have pneumonia and that injuries sustained in a fall were the likely cause of death.

Coronado National Forest waives fees in honor of Presidents Day – Coronado National Forest: Coronado National Forest will waive fees at most of its day-use recreation sites Monday, February 15, in honor of Presidents Day – Fees are waived generally for day-use areas, such as picnic grounds, developed trailheads and destination visitor centers!

Recreation projects completed on Mt. Lemmon – Coronado National Forest: A recent press release from the Coronado National forest notes several recently complete projects include 22 new interpretive signs along/near the highway and new restrooms at the Cypress Picnic Area and Showers Point Campground.

Rescues/Accidents/Incidents including information from the SARCI Newsletter:

  • Finger Rock Trail 1/16/2016 – Hikers descending from Mount Kimball ran out of daylight on the way down the Finger Rock Trail, ended up at Linda Vista Saddle and couldn’t find the way down.
  • Alamo Canyon 1/18/2016 – Hikers returning from Romero Pools ended up in on the slopes of Alamo Canyon.
  • Blackett’s Ridge 1/20/2016 – A fall results in ankle, knee and face injuries – injured hiker was flown out by helicopter.


Balloons in the Backcountry

Today a friend of mine linked to a sad picture on Facebook from the Sonoran Desert Network of a field crew member holding quite a few of “the most conspicuous” pieces of trash found in remote areas of Saguaro National Park – balloons…!?!?! The Facebook post mentions a article from last year that I missed: Helium balloon releases in Tucson trash up nearby Saguaro National Park. A few excerpts from the article:


“Shriveled latex in rainbow colors is ubiquitous in the Rincon and Tucson mountains sections of Saguaro National Park, where the air-filled orbs often land due to local wind patterns, Zylstra found.”

“To Zylstra’s amazement, balloons greatly outnumbered desert tortoises and Western diamondback rattlesnakes in the 120 square kilometers – roughly 75 miles – of parkland she studied to collect the data.”

“In the Rincons, for example, a square kilometer of land had an estimated density of 62 balloons, 30 tortoises, 26 rattlers and 29 plastic bags, which Zylstra also counted.”


Sad stuff from Erin Zylstra who published Accumulation of wind-dispersed trash in desert environments in the Journal of Arid Environments (Volume 89, February 2013) – the first line of the abstract: “Detrimental effects of plastic debris and other trash have been well-studied in marine and coastal environments, but the extent and severity of the threat to terrestrial ecosystems are largely unknown.”

0901 Balloon Litter
Balloon Litter. January 2009.

A picture from 2009, off-trail in the Santa Catalina Mountains, I took the picture above and wrote “I have found a number of balloons in quite remote places on my hikes – they seem so harmless, maybe even beautiful sometimes,  floating up into the sky, but after seeing litter like this too many times they don’t seem so harmless anymore.”

And in 2011…

1112 Balloon Litter
SE Ridge of Pusch Peak. December 2011.


1210 Trash Balloon
Upper Sycamore Canyon. October 2012.


1308 Balloon below Rosewood Point
Below Rosewood Point. August 2013.


1403 Balloon Floating in the South Fork of Edgar Canyon
South Fork of Edgar Canyon – on this trip I saw an equal number of balloons and people… March 2014.

This is not an unknown problem – thankfully in some places mass releases of balloons are actually prohibited (the Balloons Blow… Don’t Let Them Go! has a page on Balloon Laws) – but not here in Tucson – the littering continues…