7 Days, Bighorn Spotting, Slides – 3/2/2017

Fairy Dusters and sunset on the Pontatoc Canyon Trail. February 2017.
Fairy Dusters and sunset on the Pontatoc Canyon Trail. February 2017.

Oracle State Park is now open 7 days a week!!!! Closed in 2009, re-opened to the public on weekends in 2012 and now open 7 days a week! Oracle State Park reopens to the Public 7 Days a Week! | Oracle State Park – Arizona State Parks, Oracle State Park north of Tucson will again be open daily – Arizona Daily Star.

Get a look at Tucson’s bighorn sheep through spotting scopes – Arizona Daily Star: This upcoming event is being hosted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Santa Catalina Bighorn Sheep Advisory Committee. The event is “a celebration of the completion of the initial phase of a bighorn reintroduction project in the Catalina Mountains” and will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa, 245 E. Ina Road – there is no fee and there will be exhibits, talks and spotting scopes!

I have made a number of visits to the Linda Vista Trails over the years and have always enjoyed it – great views of Pusch Ridge and amazing desert close to town. Certainly so close to town you won’t completely escape city views and noise – but still beautiful! So it was no surprise to see a positive article by Doug Kreutz about Linda Vista – but it was a surprise to read a short letter to the editor a few days later with concerns that the trails are suffering because a “commercial horseback riding enterprise now using Linda Vista as its own private trail system” – something to think about…  Linda Vista Trail’s various adventures attract amazing array of users – Arizona Daily Star, Letter: Linda Vista Trail suffers | Letters to the Editor | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star

Dark side of U.S. history that built Catalina Highway | Arizona Sonora News Service – Arizona Sonora News: An article about the Prison Camp – now called the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site – on the General Hitchcock Highway that provided labor for the construction of the highway. The article highlights the terrible treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII – 46 Japanese Americans were held at this Prison. The article does not contain details about the history of the Prison before and after WWII – the National Park System and the Densho Encyclopedia both have interesting additional information.

Highway closures – the first link has several pictures that give a good idea of the kind of rock/mud slides that can happen in wet weather:  Catalina Highway ‘open but restricted’ after rock slide – Tucson News Now, UPDATE: Rock slides cleared from road to Mt. Lemmon – Tucson News Now,  PCSD: Mt. Lemmon open with vehicle restrictions – Tucson News Now

Activity Lists: Outdoor activities March 2-10 | Things to Do in Tucson | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star, Outdoors Feb. 23-March 3 | Things to Do in Tucson | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star

Wild flowers and water! Where to see Arizona wildflowers – , Snowmelt turns Sabino Creek into a fast-flowing spectacle – Arizona Daily Star, Wildflowers, greenery shout spring at Catalina Park – Arizona Daily Star

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

  • 1/26/2017 Sutherland Trail: Hikers off-trail near the trailhead with small dogs were concerned about Javelina in the area, they were met and hiked out.
  • 1/27/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: A hiker waded upstream after loosing the trail at a crossing and twisted his ankle – helped to walk out.
  • 1/27/2017 Bluff Trail in Sabino Canyon: A fall results in a hip injury – the hiker was carried to a nearby maintenance road.
  • 2/2/2017 Phoneline Trail: After a fall the hiker is able to hike out with assistance.
  • 2/11/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: Ankle injury results in a carry out.
  • 2/12/2017 Romero Pools Trail: A hiker with an injured ankle at the Pools is hoisted out by the PCSD.
  • 2/20/2017 Bear Canyon: A hiker took the route to Thimble Peak and then started down a drainage towards Seven Falls and became stranded. The hiker was hoisted out by the PCSD.
Mount Lemmon above the clouds from Ironwood Forest National Monument. February 2017.
Mount Lemmon above the clouds from Ironwood Forest National Monument. February 2017.

Peppersauce, Shuttle, Weather, 60 – 2/11/2017

Santa Catalina Mountains from Panther Peak in the Tucson Mountains. January 2017.
Santa Catalina Mountains from Panther Peak in the Tucson Mountains. January 2017.

Photos: Exploring Peppersauce Cave in 1948 | News | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star: The Arizona Daily Star pictures from Peppersauce Cave in 1948! In 1948 Desert Magazine published a rather amazing article about Peppersauce Cave which included the location of the cave and a detailed map. The cave had been used/explored before 1948, but the Desert Magazine article – and a brief mention in a 1951 National Geographic Magazine article – probably contributed to the cave being widely known, and with the cave both widely known and completely accessible trash/graffiti/vandalism have been issues. (BTW there are apparently several versions of how Peppersauce Canyon got its name, but the popular stories involve Alex McKay – a prospector in the 1880s – and, you guessed it, his peppersauce…)

Free shuttle to Sabino Canyon for the holiday season – KVOA.com, Electric bus to Sabino Canyon part of new pilot program – Tucson News Now: An electric bus ran from Udall Park to Sabino Canyon during the holidays – it will be interesting to see if this service is provided next year. When this project was announced I mainly thought about the congestion of the Sabino Canyon Parking lot and the possible convenience of avoiding that – but one of the articles above points out that with several Sun Tran routes serving Udall this service provided a very nice link to Sabino Canyon! (And a bus that provides access to the great outdoors certainly brings to mind to the old pictures of the “Mount Lemmon Bus Line“!)

M.O.V.E. ACROSS 2 RANGES – “Marana, Oro Valley, Experience”,  “One Day. Two Ranges. Hike Challenge.” – This is an interesting event that has a variety of challenges to get you outside and into the Tortolita and Santa Catalina Mountains. Packet pickup and after party are being held at the Oro Valley Summit Hut and Patagonia & Summit Hut will donate $2 for every person who signs up for the event to the Friends of Catalina State Park!

This event is an awesome way to explore nature and get active. Hit the trails and experience the challenge and beauty of Southern Arizona’s Tortolita and Catalina Mountains in one day! Trail run, hike, or stroll through this fun event.  

Arizona State Parks and Trails Celebrates 60 Years and Holds 60 First Day Hikes throughout Arizona on January 1: On Jan. 1 the Arizona State Parks held 60 First Day Hikes to celebrate their 60th anniversary. If you have not visited the Arizona State Parks website you might enjoy visiting the updated site including new Oracle State Park and Catalina State Park pages and a statewide calendar of events.

Coronado National Forest announces fee-free days for 2017 – Tucson News Now: The remaining fee-free days for this year are President’s Day – Feb. 20, National Get Outdoors Day – June 10, National Public Lands Day – Sept. 30 and Veterans Day – Nov. 11.

Arizona Trail Association – Oracle Rumble: The Arizona Trail Assocation added a race to their list of trail running events this year – the Oracle Rumble! With 50 mile, 50k, half-marathon and 10k distances this race could be a great excuse to see the landscape just north of the Santa Catalina Mountains – a great area that is much less visited than the areas immediately around Tucson.

Opinion: Catalinas bighorn sheep reintroduction a win for wildlife and people | Guest Opinions | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star: An opinion piece about the Bighorn reintroduction – the piece makes some positive points about the reintroduction, but for me it seems like the missing piece of the puzzle in making judgments about the project is the knowing what happens long term…

Dog found after getting lost on Mount Lemmon three months ago – KVOA.com: A nice story about a dog lost on Mount Lemmon who was found months later at a San Manuel area ranch!

Buffelgrass pulled at Sabino Canyon – KVOA.com: Sabino Canyon is a popular area and it is great to see Buffelgrass removal taking place there – if you don’t know about Buffelgrass here is some reading from the Desert Museum.

Snow helps Mt. Lemmon firefighters contain blaze to 1 cabin, some trees – Tucson News Now: The plume of smoke from this fire wasn’t huge – but it was very visible – sad that the cabin burned but I am glad the blaze was contained.

Tucson Outdoors Jan. 26-Feb. 3 | Things to Do in Tucson | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star, Tucson Outdoors Feb. 2-10. | Things to Do in Tucson | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star: The Arizona Daily Star has started to do articles with lists of outdoor related events – quite a few different events are covered and you will probably find something going on that you didn’t know about!

The weather felt slightly late this year – but as always snow eventually covered the mountain and brought the standard road closures and overcrowding – slight frustrations compared to the joy of being in the snow an hour or less from Tucson!

Recent links about hikes and adventures:

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

  • 11/13/2016 La Milagrosa Canyon: Ankle injury above Molino Basin at the head of Milagrosa Canyon – hiker carried and ridden out.
  • 11/26/2016 Sutherland Trail: Backpackers loose their way and are found from their cellphone location after calling for help.
  • 11/27/2016 Soldier Canyon below Prison Camp: A climbing fall results in an ankle injury at Jailhouse Rock – climber carried out.
  • 12/7/2016 Pusch Peak Northwest Side Route: A hiker with a knee injury is able to hike out slowly with assistance.
  • 12/11/2016 Wilderness of Rocks: Hikers have trouble finding the trail, call for help and are assisted out.
  • 12/24/2016 Historic Trail in Sabino Canyon: A hiker with low blood sugar is assisted out.
  • 12/27/2016 Rattlesnake Junction, Sabino Canyon: A fall results in a dislocated hip and pelvis fracture – hiker was carried to the tram road and taken to the hospital.
  • 12/30/2016 Pima Canyon Trail: A hiker, possible with cardiac issues, becomes ill and is carried back to the trailhead.
  • 1/6/2017 Blackett’s Ridge: Ankle injury leads to a carry out.
  • 1/7/2017 Sycamore Reservoir Trail: Hikers at a trail sign but in the dark without lights call for help and are assisted out by family members.
  • 1/15/2017 Thimble Peak: Hikers intending to do the Bear Canyon Loop back to Sabino start up Bear Canyon but accidentally leave the Bear Canyon Trail and turn onto the route to Thimble Peak and are unable to continue – assisted out.
  • 1/24/2017 Seven Falls Trail: Hikers have problems with darkness and high water levels, assisted out.

Pontatoc Ridge – 12/18/2016

December 2016.
Javelina near the start of the trail. December 2016.

The houses near the Richard McKee Finger Rock Trailhead crowd against the forest boundary and many of the views from the trail include Tucson and the surrounding communities – some days the city pulls me back down with thoughts of friends and the warmth of home, other days it is a sprawling terror that pushes me up the mountain.

I don’t quite make it to the top of the ridge today – too bad since it will be my last chance in 2016, the route up the ridge is not an official Forest Service Trail and it will be closed at the beginning of January to help protect the Bighorn sheep that have been reintroduced in recent years. Something for next year…

December 2016.
End of the day on Pontatoc Ridge. December 2016.
December 2016.
Tucson city lights and the remains of the sunset, coming down the Pontatoc Ridge Trail. December 2016.

Smoke, Leg Traps, Closures, Survival, Last Release – 12/19/2016

December 2016.
Snowy roads in the Bear Wallow area. December 2016.

Smoke from Mount Bigelow north of Tucson is a good thing – Arizona Daily Star: An interesting article on the Bigelow Prescribed Burn including some good how and why information about the burn.

Sabino Canyon is a beautiful destination but it is often crowded on any weekend with (even vaguely) good weather. Holidays can be particularly busy – to help with the congestion from Dec. 26 to Jan. 2 there will be a shuttle from Udall Park to Sabino Canyon. The shuttle will start at Udall Park at 9:15 and run each hour – the last shuttle will leave Sabino Canyon at 4:45. The shuttle can carry 40 people and it could be a nice way to avoid a packed and frustrating experience in the Sabino Canyon Parking Lot!! I believe this is the first year this service has been offered – it might be best to keep a little flexibility in your plans just-in-case the shuttle is full or not quite on time… Free holiday shuttle could help ease Sabino Canyon’s parking hassles | Government and politics | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star, Free Electric Shuttle To and From Sabino Canyon During Holiday Break – City of Tucson

Seasonal gate closures on Mt. Lemmon – Coronado National Forest, Some Mt. Lemon roads, sites to close for winter – KVOA.com, Some roads, day-use sites on Mt. Lemmon close for winter – Tucson News Now

Redington Pass Shooting Closure Extended, One Area Reopens – Coronado National Forest: The shooting closures that has been in place since 2013 has been extended and slightly modified. The area was originally closed while trash and debris related to shooting were removed and the extension is designed to help the area to recover. From the Forest Service:

According to the closure, shooting will be prohibited within 0.6 miles on either side of the road from the western boundary of the Forest to mile marker 6.3. The previous closure prohibited recreational shooting from mile marker 5 to mile marker 7.

This article is about the return of seasonal residents to the area but is included here largely for the interesting bits of information about the Southern Arizona Rescue AssociationSnowbirds back in Southern Arizona, and the wild outdoors beckon

Raven euthanized after caught in leg trap in Redington Pass – KVOA.com: A rather sad story about a Raven found in a baited leg hold trap in the Redington Pass area who was eventually euthanized – these traps are illegal on public lands as is trapping Ravens.

Authorities need help after deer poached in Catalina Mountains – Tucson News Now: “A $1,000 reward is being offered for tips leading to the arrest of the person who killed a Whitetail deer in the Santa Catalina Mountains last month. The Arizona Game and Fish Department said the animal, an untagged Whitetail buck, was found Oct. 9 off Forest Service Road 4496 in the Charoleau Gap area.”

BREAKING: Vehicle reportedly went off the road in Redington Pass – KVOA.com: According to the article one person was rescued and taken to the hospital after an vehicle accident in the Redington Pass area.

History of the San Manuel-Kalamazoo Mine, Pinal County, Arizona – AZGS Document Repository: Not a recent document but I had never seen this short history of the San Manuel-Kalamazoo Mine before and thought it was very interesting.

A Career of Her Own: Edith Shreve at the Desert Laboratory – University of Arizona Campus Repository: Janice Bowers wrote about Forrest Shreve, who worked at the Desert Labratory in Tucson, in the book A Sense of Place - The Life and Work of Forrest Shreve – she also authored this article about Edith Shreve. The article is from 1986 but I had not come across it until recently – it is an interesting read and includes a picture of Edith Shreve during an expedition into the Santa Catalina Mountains in the early 1900s! The name Shreve will be familiar to dedicated Santa Catalina Mountain hikers because of Shreve Saddle on the Sycamore Reservoir Trail.

Ron Hutter was lost on the mountain for several and nights after leaving from the Upper Green Mountain Trailhead for what he intended to be a short hike – thankfully he was eventaully able to walk back to the highway without any major injuries or mishaps. In this article from Tucson News Now –  Hiker recounts fight survival after getting lost – he gives a detailed account of what happened and what he did, worth reading/watching and thinking about. Deputies continue search for missing hiker on Mt. Lemmon – Tucson News Now, Missing Mount Lemmon hiker found OK after being lost for 3 days | Crime | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star, Missing hiker recuperating after spending 3 days on Mt Lemmon – KVOA.com

In November, after the release of 20 more Bighorn into the Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona Game and Fish declared that the population has reached a sustainable level and that:

  • No more releases are planned
  • monthly updates about the project will no longer be released
  • not all of the sheep released had GPS collars attached
  • Mountain Lions that kill Bighorns will no longer be pursued
  • AZGF Research Projects are scheduled to end in June 2017

I suppose at this point it will be many years until we know if this project was truly successful…

Recent links about hikes and adventures:

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

  • Wilderness of Rocks 10/1/2016: Hiker stranded by darkness is found off trail near the Wilderness of Rocks/Lemmon Rock junction
  • Windy Point 10/6/2016: An injury requiring a carry out of the patient
  • Sutherland Trail 10/8/2016: A hiker on one of the many social trail off the Sutherland Trail in the Catalina State Park area became exhausted and was carried out
  • Sabino Canyon 10/13/2016: Hikers requested help after hiking down canyon past the guaging station and were helped out
  • Aspen Trail 10/15/2016: Hikers lost the trail but were able to find the trail and reach their vehicle before help arrived
  • Butterfly Trail 10/17/2016: A biker on the Butterfly Trail lost the trail in the Novio Spring area and was extracted.
December 2016.
Snow hiding in the shadow of Mount Bigelow. December 2016.

Sheep, Speed, Heat – 10/21/2016

A Saguaro in the sunset on the rim of Alamo Canyon in Catalina State Park. September 2016.
A Saguaro in the sunset on the rim of Alamo Canyon in Catalina State Park. September 2016.

The Fastest Known Times – FKTs – for the Arizona Trail were last set in 2011 and, with the exception of Kathy & Ras Vaughan’s yo-yo of the Arizona Trail, the Arizona Trail page on the Fastest Known Time site has stayed quiet. But in 2016 there have been two new records!

  • Michael Versteeg (facebook) set the supported FKT on October 19th with a time of 15 days 22 hours 39 minutes
  • Heather “Anish” Anderson (blog, facebook)  set the self-supported (thru-hiker) FKT & women’s overall FKT, on October 27th with a time of 19 days 17 hours 9 minutes (South Bound)

If you thought it felt warm out on the trails in October you were not wrong – the Arizona Daily Star reports that “It was the warmest October on record for Tucson, with an average high of 92.4, an average low of 62.5 and a median of 77.4 degrees.” – the previous record was set in 1952. Yes, Tucson’s October was warm — the warmest on record – tucson.com.

The Catalina Bighorn Sheep Reintroduction Project update for Sept 29 – Oct 26, 2016 contains a number of noteworthy details:

  • Ram 39538 was killed by a mountain lion on 10/21 (33 collared sheep are known to be alive now) – the adult male mountain lion was hunted and killed. At this point the death of another Bighorn and Mountain Lion is not remarkable – but this death prompted the release of some very interesting information about Ram 39538:

    “In February and March of this year, this ram embarked on a month-long trek through the Rincon Mountains and south towards I-10, spending time at Colossal Cave Mountain Park, and venturing even farther south to the train tracks north of Marsh Station Road before returning to the Santa Catalina Mountains. Ram #39538 was captured in the Imperial Hills in 2015.”

  • Aerial and ground surveys were conducted on 9/28 and 9/29 – 19 of the 34 collared sheep were observed which resulted in a calculated 54% observation rate – aerial surveys spotted 37 sheep, ground surveys spotted 20 sheep. The survey resulted in an estimate of 66 sheep in the Santa Catalina Mountains.
  • Rams are no longer showing any rutting behavior.
  • A fourth  translocation of up to 20 sheep is planned for this month.
Blooming Desert Cotton in Alamo Canyon. September 2016.
Blooming Desert Cotton in Alamo Canyon. September 2016.