Stars, Death, Trails, Bees, Unattended Campfires, Summits – 5/28/2016

Gibbon Mountain floating above the shadows covering Bear Canyon with Saguaros catching the last light of the day. May 2016.
Gibbon Mountain floating above the shadows covering Bear Canyon – Saguaros catching the last light of the day. May 2016.

The Santa Catalina Bighorn Sheep Reintroduction Project update for the period ending May 25th was released today:

  • Ewe #39552 was killed early on 4/28 by a mountain lion that was pursued and killed (this is the 7th Mountain Lion ‘lethally removed’ as part of the re-introduction effort).
  • Ewe #37446 died on 5/21 – disease is suspected.
  • 36 collared sheep are known to be alive – the report states: “There could be as many as 45 uncollared sheep in this population as well, bringing the total potential population to 81 bighorn sheep.”

THE 46 SUMMITS OF THE SANTA CATALINA MOUNTAINS, TUCSON ARIZONA (PDF) – Old Adit, Andy Martin – I was recently reminded of Andy Martin’s work on a summits/high-points list for the Santa Catalina Mountains. This is a great list, especially if you love maps and the Santa Catalina Mountains, and unless you have looked thru it (or similar lists) it is likely to have at least a couple interesting summits that you have never thought about/noticed!

Green Mountain Trail offers lush summer color – Arizona Daily Star: A nice overview of the Green Mountain Trail including a nice tip – ‘The best bet for finding mountain wildflowers this early in the season is along the lower mile or two of the route.’

Hittin’ the Trails 4 You: The Pontatoc Ridge Trail – Hittin’ the Trails 4 You: Pima Canyon Trail in the Catalina Foothills – Short segments on the Pontatoc Ridge Trail and the Pima Canyon Trail.

Forest Officials: Too Many Unattended Campfires – Arizona Public Media: Unfortunately in recent weeks “crews in the Coronado National Forest’s Santa Catalina Ranger District have spotted about 15 unattended campfires” – significant human caused fires have burned in the Santa Catalina Mountains and there is certainly a risk that unattended campfires can cause a wildfire. From the article – “You want to drown the fire out… That means pouring plenty of water on the fire, stirring the embers around in the water, and repeating as necessary.” Also related: Coronado National Forest Warning Of Memorial Day Weekend Fire Danger – KJZZ, 

Sunset color above Pontatoc Ridge. May 2016.
Sunset color above Pontatoc Ridge. May 2016.

Night in the desert under the full moon is amazing – if hiking at night in Sabino Canyon is not something you want to, or can, do consider a tour of Sabino Canyon at night on the Tram! Sabino Canyon gives moonlight tours (Arizona Daily Star)

Stars above Blackett's Ridge. May 2016.
Full Moon on Blackett’s Ridge, watching the stars above… May 2016.

Bee alerts at Sabino Canyon – Tucson News Now: Two very informative quotes from Coronado National Forest spokeswoman Heidi Schewel about Bee alerts on the Stars, Death, Trails, Bees, Unattended Campfires, Summits - 5/28/2016

  • “Currently we have two hives … off of the Blackett’s Ridge Trail. They’re in the wilderness and they’re a ways from the trail. So we have put up signs just advising people of the activity in the area so they know and they can make a decision: ‘Well, do I want to go this way or do I want to take one of the other trails'”
  • “If we get a report, we’ll go check it out and if it’s something that’s really benign like a ball of bees hanging that’s resting, we’ll put up signs so people know to stay out of the area and let them rest up and move on their way. If there’s a hive we may direct traffic around it, [or] close an area”

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

  • Pontatoc Canyon 4/2/2016 – A hiker tried to traverse from Pontatoc Canyon to the Finger Rock Trail but called for help before completing the traverse and hiked out Pontatoc Canyon with SARA teams. Note: I believe that off-trail travel in the area between the Pontatoc and Finger Rock Canyons is prohibited in April due to Bighorn Sheep Restrictions.
  • Sabino Canyon Stop 9 4/4/2016 – Leg injury while hiking up from the stream.
  • Romero Canyon Trail 4/17/2016 – Ankle injury – able to walk out slowly.
  • Seven Falls 4/22/2016 – An exhausted hiker returning from Seven Falls was helped out on horse back.
  • Finger Rock Trail 4/23/2016 – A hiker called for help on the way down from Mount Kimball – after resting the hiker was able to continue to the trailhead.

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 –, 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.


Stars and Clouds, Night in Sabino Canyon – 2/6/2016

Blackett's Ridge under the stars. February 2016.
Blackett’s Ridge under the stars. February 2016.
A tree above the Sabino Canyon 'lake'. February 2016.
A tree above the Sabino Canyon ‘lake’. February 2016.
Clouds and Stars above the Santa Catalina Mountains. February 2016.
Clouds and Stars above the Santa Catalina Mountains. February 2016.

We hiked, slowly and with pauses for pictures, out passed the dam and to the lake, under the stars and clouds – it was a beautiful night and as our friend Mindi wrote “I can’t even describe how much fun it is to go sit in the dark with your camera!”

Mint Spring, Marshall Gulch, Blackett’s Ridge – 2014/4/19

1404 Mint at Mint Spring
A small mint growing near Mint Spring. April 2014.

The gray overcast sky was a surprise and a delight when we looked outside – the temperatures have started to soar, reminding us of summer, but today was quite cool. Summerhaven was not as crowded as I expected for a holiday weekend and we were alone at the Mint Spring Trailhead. We hiked slowly – our friend was testing out a new pack and had it loaded with his overnight gear – savoring the views, watching birds and enjoying the clouds. We turned onto the Marshall Gulch Trail – plenty of water here – and eventually took the road back to the car.

1404 Alison and Bill on the Mint Spring Trail
Arriving at the Mint Spring, Aspen, Wilderness of Rocks, Marshall Gulch junction. April 2014.

In the evening I met a friend and we ran/hiked up Blackett’s Ridge catching a great sun set from the ridge – a lovely trail with superb conversation – a perfect way to end the day!

1404 Ending the Day on Blackett's Ridge
End of the day on Blackett’s Ridge – the clouds kept the day cool and created an incredible sunset! April 2014.