Fees, Redesign, Shuttle, Discharge – 1/2/2018

Sunset from Barnum Rock. January 2018.
Sunset from Barnum Rock. January 2018.

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September), which includes those just driving through and others who stop to use the facilities (Forest Service, unpublished data, 2010).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.

Conceptual Design Document for the proposed Marshall Gulch changes - the current 'main' trailhead parking and bathroom are below the area shown here and are eliminated to restore the area where Marshall Gulch and Sabino Canyon meet. January 2018.
Conceptual Design Document for the proposed Marshall Gulch changes – the current ‘main’ trailhead parking and bathroom are below the area shown in this illustration and are eliminated to restore the area where Marshall Gulch and Sabino Creek meet. January 2018.

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.

Potential shuttle service operators tour Sabino Canyon – KVOA.com, Forest, Arizona Tour Company Says Feds Arbitrarily Disqualified Its Canyon Trams – Courthouse News Service.

Gates are closed on a number of roads for the winter – foot traffic is still allowed. Seasonal road closures on Mt. Lemmon – Coronado National Forest, Seasonal road closures on Mt. Lemmon – Tucson News Now

A bear – reported to be “very old, malnourished and ill” – was euthanized in northeast Tucson in December – ‘Malnourished and ill’ bear euthanized on northeast side – Tucson News Now, AZ Game and Fish report bear sightings in Bear Canyon, Tanque Verde Area – Tucson News Now, Bear Euthanized Near Sabino Canyon – Arizona Public Media, Bear spotted several times in foothills this week – KGUN9

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…

The history behind the name of Arizona’s Mount Lemmon – The Arizona Republic: An article about Sara Lemmon and the name Mount Lemmon.

Sunburst Petroglyph Vandalized in the Tohono O’odham Haki:dag – Intercontinental Cry: In early 2016 a sunburst petroglyph in Catalina State Park was vandalized – this article details some of the efforts to preserve the petroglyph.

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:

Sabino Creek Discharge 1988 to 2017 - the data contains . January 2018.

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”.

One way to celebrate the New Year: Take a hike – Arizona Daily Star: Again this year the Arizona State Parks promoted getting outside and taking a hike on New Years by offering guided hikes in parks around the state.

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.

ASTEROID LATEST: NASA monitoring ‘unseen’ asteroid 2017 YZ4 set to skim Earth – Express.co.uk: An asteroid first observed from the Mount Lemmon Survey Observatory in the Santa Catalina Mountains!

Contador and Polartec-Kometa tackle Mt. Lemmon – Cyclingnews.com: A short article about the Polartec-Kometa Continental team and Alberto Contador riding up the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Weather! Even by Tucson standards this winter has been quite warm – we did get one winter storm that generated snow on the mountain…

Hikes and Events:

Rescues/Accidents/Incidents including information from SARCI’s SARNews:

  • 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.
Wolf moon from San Pedro Vista. January 2018.
Wolf moon from San Pedro Vista. January 2018.

Catalina State Park Alamo Canyon Loop – 4/17/2017

End of the season for this poppy in Catalina State Park. April 2017.
End of the season for this poppy in Catalina State Park. April 2017.
Leaving the nest - the sounds of hungry young birds was a constant while we sat and watched the parent come and go. April 2017.
Leaving the nest – the sounds of hungry young birds was a constant while we sat and watched the parent come and go. April 2017.
A Gambel's Quail perched and calling near the trail. April 2017.
A Gambel’s Quail perched and calling near the trail. April 2017.
A field of puff balls in the sun. April 2017.
A field of puff balls in the sun. April 2017.

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.

Visitation, 66, Death, Shuttles, Booms – 10/22/2016

Stars over Sabino Canyon. August 2016.
Stars over Sabino Canyon. August 2016.

Positive Arizona State Park attendance and revenue were highlighted in a news release from Arizona Governor Doug Ducey:

More than 2.68 million people visited the parks, contributing $16.4 million in revenue to the State Parks system, an increase from $14.4 million in fiscal year 2015. Visitors to Arizona State Parks contribute nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to Arizona’s economy, according to a 2014 Northern Arizona University study.

The publicly available year-to-date State Park Visitation numbers show a 1.8% visitation increase thru August across all state parks with Catalina State Park reporting an 8.1% increase  (numbers compiled by Northern Arizona University’s Arizona Hospitality Research & Resource Center, the year-to-date comparison is available in the August Report from the Arizona Office of Tourism Data and Trends page under State Park Visitation). Arizona State Parks Attendance And Revenue Hit All-Time High – Office of the Governor Doug Ducey, AZ report reflects good news for state’s parks – TucsonNewsNow.

The shuttle permit in Sabino Canyon is up for renewal – extensive information is available from the Forest Service. There are also comments from Donn Ricketts of Sabino Canyon Tours in KVOA.com’s article Forest Service considering options with Sabino Canyon tram and short summaries of the proposal and alternatives in Speak out: Public comment sought on Sabino Canyon shuttle service from the Arizona Daily Star. Comments must be submitted by 11/13/2016 – design features that would be implemented under the Proposed Action:

  • Minimize the potential for user conflicts and accidents with the shuttle service and other Sabino Canyon Recreation Area users service by modernizing existing 1970s era shuttle fleet
  • Reduce auditory impacts emanating from interpretive narration service and protect ecosystem integrity by modernizing existing 1970s era shuttle fleet and improving audio distribution system
  • Ensure shuttle operations are in accordance with State and local emissions standards by modernizing existing 1970s era shuttle fleet
  • Protect water quality by minimizing point-source pollution from shuttle service by modernizing existing 1970s era shuttle fleet
  • Protect and reduce impacts to the federally-listed Gila Chub and its designated Critical Habitat found within Sabino and Bear Creeks, and the federally-listed Gila topminnow by modernizing existing 1970s era shuttle fleet and improving sedimentation removal procedures from vented low-water crossings
  • Avoid adverse effects to historic vented low-water crossing within the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

The most important news for Bighorn Sheep in the Santa Catalina Mountains this month was the release of the results from the Arizona Game and Fish population count conducted at the end of September. When the project began the population could be very closely monitored via collars put on all sheep released into the range – but the collars eventually drop off when the batteries are exhausted and sheep born in the range are not collared – at this point the collars no longer give a complete picture of the population. The estimate from the count was a population of 66 – quotes from AZGF before the count stated they would consider an addition translocation if the population was under 70 and the AZGF page for the project now states that a “fourth translocation is being planned, pending survey results of potential source populations.” Recent links:

AZGFD: Deer poached in Santa Catalina Mountains – KVOA.com: “A reward of up to $750 is being offered for information leading to an arrest of a poacher responsible for illegally killing a whitetail deer on Oct. 9 in the Santa Catalina Mountains… the deer’s remains were found on Forest Service Road 4496 near Ruin Tank, in the Charouleau Gap area.” Call 1-800-352-0700 if you have information.

University of Arizona Sky School held guided hikes on the Meadow Trail in October – the Sky School “provides immersive, inquiry-based science programs to Arizona K-12 students. Field experiences focus on core University of Arizona science areas such as sky island ecology, earth sciences, dendrochronology, hydrology, and astronomy, and meet Arizona State Science Standards.” No additional hikes are scheduled at this time but check out their Facebook Page for programs and opportunities.

Hittin’ the Trails 4 You: The Finger Rock Trail – KVOA.com: coverage of a classic hike in the Santa Catalina Mountains – the opening text below the video is pretty accurate… “If there’s a poster child for a leg-burning, lung-busting hike, it resides in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains.”

Hittin’ the Trails 4 You: Molino Basin – KVOA.com: The Molino Basin Trail is an easy trail to overlook – it might not become your favorite trail but it is surprisingly nice, especially considering how close to the highway it is.

First flushes of fall color brighten Sabino Canyon – Arizona Daily Star: Even lower on the mountain Fall brings some color to the trees – especially along the canyon bottoms!

Pima Co. Sheriff’s Dept. identifies suspect in serial rape case – TucsonNewsNow: The investigation into this case started with a naked woman was found on the side of Mt. Lemmon Highway – other connected assaults did not take place on the mountain.

The TORCA 2016 PACHANGA is currently going on – based at the Gordon Hirabayashi Campground the event features a number of rides and events and is supported by both local businesses and manufacturers including Specialized, Niner, Ibis, Guerilla Gravity, Trek, Giant, Liv and Rocky Mountain. TORCA is “focused on the All-Mountain and Downhill disciplines of mountain biking with a focus on the Santa Catalina Mountains.”

N4T Investigates: Baffling Booms Update – KVOA.com: Some theories about loud booms that started in May and were heard for about a month by residents near the intersection of Linda Vista and Oracle Rd…

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

  • Sabino Dam 9/3/2016: A hiker injured at Seven Falls was helped after making it to Sabino Dam.
  • Box Camp Trail 9/3/2016: Exhausted hikers who started in Bear Canyon were transported out by helicopter.
  • Seven Falls 9/3/2016: A hiker left his group, ran out of water, lost the trail and received help getting back to the trail and with hydration.
  • Bear Canyon Trail 9/5/2016: An exhausted hiker is carried out.
  • Blackett’s Ridge 9/6/2016: A missing person reported by his family was found below cliffs on Blackett’s Ridge and transported out by helicopter.
  • Pima Canyon 9/7/2016: A hiker who left the Pima Canyon Trail under Rosewood point slipped and fell injuring a leg – transported out by helicopter.
  • Bear Canyon Trail 9/10/2016: Exhausted hiker is carried out.
  • Romero Trail 9/10/2016: An exhausted hiker calls for help but is able to make it back to the trailhead.
  • Bear Canyon Trail 9/10/2016: Exhausted and off-trail hikers are assisted out.
  • Bear Canyon Trail 9/10/2016: A hiker with a shoulder injury sustained while trying to climb slippery rock was assisted with their shoulder injury and able to walk out.
  • Blackett’s Ridge 9/11/2016: A hiker became ill after being stung by bees – after receiving assistance on the trail the hiker was flown out.
  • Lemmon Rock Trail 9/16/2016: Hikers on the Meadow Trail continued along other trails without a map – they were unable to continue in the dark and were assisted out.
  • Molino Canyon 9/18/2016: An ankle injury results in a hiker being carried out via the social trail along the canyon.
Sacred Datura in Lower Sabino Canyon. August 2016.
Sacred Datura in Lower Sabino Canyon. August 2016.