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 | – 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 –, 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 – 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 – 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 | – Arizona Daily Star, Missing hiker recuperating after spending 3 days on Mt Lemmon –

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 –

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’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 – “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 – 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 – 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 – 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.

Heat, Deaths, Fire, Joining – 7/1/2017

White Tank off Redington Road near the Bellota Trail - Rincons in the distance, storm clouds above. June 2016.
White Tank off Redington Road near the Bellota Trail – the Rincons Mountains in the backgroud, storm clouds above. June 2016.

During a tragic weekend in late June record heat was the cause of three deaths in the Santa Catalina Mountains. One female hiker from out of state died on the Finger Rock Trail and two hikers from Germany died on the Ventana Canyon Trail. 


Heat related deaths seem to happen every year – there have been several articles recently with tips and information on staying safe in the heat – As Heat Wave Causes Hikers’ Deaths, Experts Share Safety TipsStaying safe on the trails in extreme heat and Desert Heat: Deaths, Rescuers and Ways to Stay Safe – all with good information and smart warnings, but it is hard to convey exactly how serious and intense the heat can be in Tucson in the summer.


With the recent heat related deaths the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board considered a ban on hiking in extreme heat – which was not approved – but did put in place a ban on dogs on city hiking trails when the temperature is over 100 degrees. Phoenix proposal to ban hiking during extreme heat denied, ban of dogs is approved over 100 degrees – abc15.


From the Southern Arizona Rescue Association:

Southern Arizona Rescue Association is looking for hikers who are team players to join our group! If you are interested, please plan to attend one of two Orientations and the Candidate Hike:
Orientation 1 – Thursday, June 23, 7:00pm
Orientation 2 – Tuesday, July 19, 7:00pm
Applicant Hike and selection – Saturday, August 13

Attendance at one of the two Orientation meetings and the hike is a MANDATORY first step in joining SARA. Orientations are intended to tell you everything you need to know about the selection process and being in SARA, will last about an hour, and are held at the SARA house at 5990 N. Sabino Canyon Road. We will see you there!


A group of 4 family members out for a hike on the Butterfly Trail were reported missing – they were later found.


Mount Lemmon offers relief from the heat – A short piece on trying to stay cool by escaping up to Mount Lemmon – it is, of course, always cooler at the top of the mountain… But recent temperatures have been high enough that it has been very hot even at higher elevations. If you are considering heading to the top of the mountain here is a short video about the Meadow Trail – Hittin’ the Trails 4 You: Mt. Lemmon’s Meadow Loop Trail –


Campers recently spotted a black bear on Organization Ridge Road near a dumpster – a good reminder to be ‘bear aware’ when you are on the mountain. From Mark Hart of Arizona Game and Fish: “Overall it’s the heat, the bears are hungry and they are thirsty and some are moving into higher country to escape the heat.” Another sighting on Mt. Lemmon reminder to be bear aware –


The Race Track Fire started on June 26th near Redington Road– the last update from June indicates the fire is unlikely to grow:

The Racetrack fire’s perimeter remains 80% contained today. All forward progress of the fire has been halted. Three engines and two crews remain on the fire and are mopping up hot spots, rehabilitating control lines to minimize erosion from expected monsoon rains, and patrolling for additional heat. By the end of the work period today, the incident commander anticipates increased containment.

The fire burned approximately 800 acres in an area north of Redington Road, east of Agua Caliente Hill and west of Race Track Tank.

The cause of the fire is listed as under investigation, however I don’t believe there was any weather/lightning in the Redington Road area at the time the fire started so it seems likely it will be labeled human caused.

The perimeter of the Race Track Fire - note Agua Caliente Hill in the bottom left of this map and Redington Road on the far right. June 2016.
The perimeter of the Race Track Fire – note Agua Caliente Hill in the bottom left of this map and Redington Road on the far right. June 2016.


Milt Jensen, an experienced tower climber, died in an accidental fall while repairing the power to an amateur radio tower on Mount Lemmon. Well-Known DXer, DXpeditioner Milt Jensen, N5IA, Dies in Tower Fall –, Man dies after 50-foot fall off radio tower on Mount Lemmon –, Man killed in tower fall on Mount Lemmon –


The Santa Catalina Bighorn Sheep Reintroduction Project update for the period ending June 22 was released recently and unlike a number of recent updates there were no mortality signals from the remaining collars and the bulk of the report is filled with great pictures and reports from biologists about the Bighorn observed during the period.


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

  • Wilderness of Rocks 5/1/2016 – Hikers coming up from Catalina State Park via Romero Canyon were stopped at the junction of the Wilderness of Rocks and Lookout Trail when one member was unable to continue. The group was given help out.
  • Butterfly Trail 5/23/2016 – A hiker with an ankle injury was carried out from the Butterfly Trail.
  • Box Camp Trail 5/26/2016 – Two members of a group hiking down the Box Camp Trail towards Molino Basin were exhausted when they reached Sabino Basin and were ferried by helicopter to Prison Camp – two other members of the group were given assistance near Shreve Saddle.
Trash - a bundle of balloons snagged on a barbed wire fence near White Tank off Redington Road - the only trash in sight... June 2016.
Trash – a bundle of balloons snagged on a barbed wire fence near White Tank off Redington Road – the only trash in sight… June 2016.

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.