Fees, Tram, Lions, Floods – 11/20/2017

A sun dog to the right - looking over Tucson from the Pontatoc Canyon Trail. November 2017.
A sun dog to the right – looking over Tucson from the Pontatoc Canyon Trail. November 2017.

A long overdue news catch-up! 

The Forest Service held meetings earlier this year about the restructuring of the Developed Recreation Program (which has a tremendous budget gap) and is now moving forward with a proposal to increase some fees – Forest Fees May Go Up For Some Camping, Day-Use Sites – Arizona Public Media, Coronado Forest officials seek comment on proposed recreation fee increase – Arizona Daily Star, Coronado National Forest – News & Events – Coronado National Forest

Fall always brings color to the mountain – but it can be easy to miss with the color confined to beautiful, but limited areas – this article has some pictures and good suggestions on places to go and some notes about the color lingering into November – Don’t miss this: Autumn is showing its colors in Tucson’s Catalina Mountains – Arizona Daily Star, Fall finale: Autumn color lingers in Catalina Mountains – Arizona Daily Star

The long-running process of permitting the Sabino Canyon Tram continues – in early November the Forest Service issued a final decision that appears to clear the way for upgrades to the shuttle program. Current tram operator takes aim at proposed Sabino shuttle changes – Arizona Daily Star, Letter: Sabino Canyon tours need to upgrade – Arizona Daily Star

Arizona State Parks system wins a prized gold medal – Arizona Daily Star: Arizona State Parks have received a 2017 Gold Medal Award Recipient in the category of ‘State Park Systems’ from the National Recreation and Park Association whose mission is ‘To advance parks, recreation and environmental conservation efforts that enhance the quality of life for all people.’

Oracle State Park: Hiking trails, home tour – The Arizona Republic: It has been great to have Oracle State Park open full-time again – this article gives a nice overview of the park, points out this is the only state park that the Arizona Trail runs thru and includes a short history of the Kannally family whose ranch house is a major part of the park. With the weather cooling off this is a great time of year to visit!

County puts limits on exploding target use – Green Valley News: The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve an ordinance which bans the sale, possession or use of any target with a mixture of chemicals that will explode after being hit by a bullet. Note that there are a number of exceptions to in the ordinance. Exploding targets are believed to have caused the Sawmill fire.

National Public Lands Day on Coronado National Forest – Tucson News Now,  Visit any of Arizona’s state parks for free on Black Friday – Arizona Daily Star: With some effort there are many ways to visit public lands that don’t require a fee – but there are many – often very popular and well known areas – that you can only visit by paying a fee – thankfully each year many fee areas have select days where access is free!

Three mountain lions – a mother and 2 yearlings – were caught on film near the Sabino Canyon Tram road and there was a possible mountain lion attack on a dog in the Tucson Mountain area (unconfirmed but AZGF notes an increase in mountain lion reports in residential areas this monsoon season). The articles states that photos/video of mountain lions close to the Sabino Canyon tram road are rare but both incidents are good reminders that there are mountain lions in many areas around Tucson. Mountain lion sightings in the Santa Catalina Mountains are relatively rare, and there have been few negative mountain lion/human interactions, but it is important to be aware of these beautiful animals! Female mountain lion, yearlings caught on camera at Sabino Canyo – KVOA.com, Mountain lions spotted not far from Sabino Canyon tram road – Tucson News Now, Dog dies in possible mountain lion attack on west side of Tucson – Tucson News Now

New Oro Valley trail aims at hikers, cyclists, horses – Arizona Daily Star: Planning is going forward on a new trail! The current plan is for a new trailhead off Rancho Vistoso Boulevard and a 1.2 mile earthen path extending northeast along Big Wash. For me the most exciting part of this project is the indication that at some point it may connect the CDO to the Tortolita Mountain Park!!! “The second phase will go from Tangerine Road to Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, and the third phase will be from the Cañada del Oro Wash to Tangerine Road.”

Interesting to see Bighorn Sheep back in the news: continued money to study the sheep in the Santa Catalina Mountains, 32 of the tracking collars are still functional and there was a September 30th aerial survey that should result in a population estimate after photos from the survey are analyzed. Bighorn sheep thrive in mountains near Tucson – The Daily Courier, Hunter Legacy Fund grant allows AZGFD and SCI to continue desert bighorn study – goHUNT

 

The Mount Lemmon Marathon took place recently – news coverage seemed to focus more on the closure of the highway – but to me it was inspiring to see the pictures runners, rather than cars, taking up the entire road and ascending the mountain Mt. Lemmon Marathon this weekend – KVOA.com, Traffic restricted on Mt. Lemmon Highway Sunday morning – Arizona Daily Star, Despite road delays, business still flowed on Mt. Lemmon on Marathon Day – KGUN9

Forests of the Catalinas: Unburned and beautiful | Recreation | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star: The Burro Fire largely burned in areas that are no longer covered by the trail system in the Santa Catalina Mountains – this article points out a few of the beautiful places not impacted by the recent fire.

Local coffee roaster adds Arizona Trail Blend – Copper Area News: Sky Island Roasters, located in Oracle, is selling an AZ Trail Coffee blend and donating a portion of every purchase to the Arizona Trail Association!

Critical water tanks on Mount Lemmon are full, thanks to monsoon – Arizona Daily Star: Good news from the mountain and always great to see a positive story about water in southern Arizona.

An extended season for Rose Canyon Lake! Good news for Tucson anglers and campers: Season extended at Rose Canyon Lake – Arizona Daily Star

Firewood permits are available – Coronado National Forest – News & Events – Coronado National Forest

In late August the Molino Basin restrooms were vandalized with offensive graffiti – Vandals graffiti popular Mt. Lemmon campground – KGUN9, Popular Mt. Lemmon campground vandalized with graffiti – Tucson News Now

It was a fun wildflower season this summer and according to Mark Dimmitt (a wildflower expert and retired director of natural history at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum) this summer was one of the best summers since 1990 for well-spaced frequent wildflower friendly storms. Urban wildflower color abounds in this rain-washed summer – Arizona Daily Star, Tucson deserts burst into summer bloom thanks to abundant monsoon rains | Recreation | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star

I know that our American landscape has value beyond ‘dollars’ to many citizens – but in today’s America I think that even those of us who would rather spend our time talking passionately about the intrinsic value of our public land should be aware and able to talk about public lands as an important part of our economy – Tourists visiting Arizona spent a record $21.2 billion last year | Business News | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star

Looking down on the San Pedro River from a flight out of Tucson - from this angle the Santa Catalina Mountains look strangely small... November 2017.
Looking down on the San Pedro River from a flight out of Tucson – from this angle the Santa Catalina Mountains look strangely small… November 2017.

Today in Arizona History – U.S.News: For September 10, 1936: “on this date, Tucson and Pima County applied to the federal government for permission to construct a 250-foot (76-meter) high dam in Sabino Canyon.” – thankfully that dam was never built!

Neto’s Tucson: Son’s memoir honors mother who raised 6 children on her own – Arizona Daily Star: Published several years ago Jesus Loreto’s The Tortilla Maker: A Social and Historic Mexican American Narrative tells the tale of his family starting with his grandmother who came to Bisbee, AZ from Sonora, Mexico in 1957 and eventually moved to Tucson. In addition to being what looks like a very interesting personal narrative from the Southern Arizona area this book is mentioned here because Loreto’s mother worked on a dude ranch in the Sabino Canyon area.

Tucson time lapse: What do you see? – Arizona Daily Star: This page contains an interesting time lapse view of Tucson – it is not really focused on the Santa Catalina Mountains, but you can see in the time lapse the growth of Tucson which has impacted access to the mountains is creating a situation where the Santa Catalina Mountains are isolated from other mountain ranges – an important concern for hikers, hunters and wildlife.

Throwback Thursday Video: Fall at Sabino Canyon – City of Tucson: A video from 20 years ago about Sabino Canyon.

Tales from the Morgue: Assault in Sabino Canyon | Tucson history and Stories from the Star’s archives – Arizona Daily Star: A strange altercation from the past…

Find spectacular stone arches along Tucson’s Catalina Highway – Arizona Daily Star: The Santa Catalina Mountains don’t have the massive and stunning arches that you can find in southern Utah – but we do have a number of smaller arches and windows – including a number of interesting ones that you can see from the highway!

Hundreds of butterflies add a dash of color to Tucson’s Catalina Mountains | Recreation | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star: A interesting article about the butterflies – in particular the painted lady butterflies, that have been notable on mountain this year.

Why the Catalinas glow pink at sunset – KVOA.com, What’s with those streaky clouds? – KVOA.com: Two quick and interesting articles with the ‘whys’ of some of the beauty in the sky.

Live on the mountain and want to help record data for the National Weather Service? Wanted: Mt. Lemmon snow observer – KVOA.com, NWS Tucson looking for volunteer snowfall observers on Mt. Lemmon – Arizona Daily Star

Bus-sized asteroid 2017 SX17 gives Earth a close shave – Skymania: 2017 SX17 – ‘an asteroid the size of a bus’ – passed within 55k miles of the earth and was first detected by a telescope in the Santa Catalina Mountains that is part of the Catalina Sky Survey.

Wildfire season threatened several telescopes on Mount Graham, Mount Lemmon – Arizona Daily Star: The telescopes on the top of the mountain and near Mount Bigelow were closed during the Burro Fire but thankfully none were seriously threatened by the fire.

Eww! Invasion of the caterpillars in Tucson pool – azfamily.com: Caterpillar invasion! White-lined Sphinx Moth Catepillars invade a neighborhood near Catalina State Park!Man facing charges after holding bobcat captive – KVOA.com: In August a man was charged for holding a bobcat in captivity in the Sabino Canyon and Snyder Roads area – it is suspected that the man was trying to help the animal when it was injured. If you are concerned about an injured wild animal consider contacting the Tucson Wildlife Center.

Hikes and Events:

Summer flash floods and the rescue of stranded hikers were major news items – flash flood related rescues, and sometimes injuries and deaths, are in the news every year, but this year featured larger groups of people stranded than I remember in previous years. While the various discussions about potentially closing resources, how to inform the public and rescues are interesting (and complicated – Star Opinion: Time for a ‘stupid hiker’ rule for some rescues? – Arizona Daily Star) probably the most valuable action you can take is to learn more about flash floods and Tim Stellar wrote an article for the Arizona Daily Star this summer that is a good start – Steller: You can lower flood risk at canyon swimming holes – Arizona Daily Star. Other flood related articles:

Other rescues:

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

  • 7/1/107 Butterfly Trail: New boots caused blisters until he was unable to continue – hoisted out.
  • 7/1/2017 Seven Falls Trail: An exhausted family is met by SARA after reaching the road.
  • 7/1/2017 Green Mountain Trail: A group was helped after a member injured their ankle.
  • 7/4/2017 Seven Falls Trail: Exhausted hiker at Seven Falls is hoisted out.
  • 7/25/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: Exhausted hiker hoisted out.
  • 8/12/2017 Butterfly Trail: An exhausted hiker (partly due to medication) was helped on the trail and able to hike out.
  • 8/16/2017 Sabino Basin: A group became separated and was eventually able to ask for help via cell phone – the lost group was helped with directions.
  • 8/19/2017 Anderson Dam: Ankle injury carried out.
  • 9/4/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: Hikers were unable to find the trail at dusk and called for help – helped by other hikers.
  • 9/6/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: Exhausted hikers.
  • 9/6/2017 Butterfly Trail: Ankle injury – the group tried to continue but eventually called for help – the hiker was hoisted out.
  • 9/10/2017 Sabino Canyon Trail: A hiker with a head laceration is met just above the road in Sabino Canyon.
  • 9/10/2017 Romero Canyon: A hiker missed the trail crossing at Romero Pools, continued downstream, injured his knee and had a history of diabetes – the hiker was hoisted out.
  • 9/10/2017 Bear Canyon: An exhausted hiker is assisted with hydration and helped out.
  • 9/23/2017 Aspen Draw Trail: A hiker with injured ribs is treated and walked out.
  • 9/23/2017 Romero Pools: A hiker with an ankle injury is hoisted out.
  • 10/9/2017 Palisades Trail: Hikers miss the trail below Mud Spring – they were located, helped back to the trail and assisted out.
  • 10/14/2017 Ventana Canyon Trail: A hiker intending to turn around got confused and continued to the junction below The Window – met on trail and assisted out.
  • 10/14/2017 Sycamore Canyon Trail: Hikers who came down Pine Canyon became exhausted hiking out to Prison Camp – one of the hikers went to get water for the other and they were assisted out by campers.
  • 10/15/2017 Golder Ranch Trails: Mountain Bikers coming down from the top of the mountain via the CDO were separated, exhausted – after a 911 call they were all eventually found – two in the Golder Ranch Area and two on the Charouleau Gap Road.
  • 10/21/2017 Pima Canyon Trail: A hiker is treated and assisted out after a fall.
  • 10/21/2017 Brush Corral Trail: A hiker was unable follow the trail below the junction with the Brush Corral Shortcut Trail and was helped back up the mountain.

Pockets of Fall Color – 10/16/2017

Beautiful colors in Bear Wallow. October 2017.
Beautiful colors in Bear Wallow. October 2017.

In Tucson it is still hot, the only hint of fall a slight cooling trend that takes us down into the low 90s by the end of the week. After being trapped inside for a few days by illness the cool air and fall colors in Bear Wallow were a pleasant surprise. It was great to see so many hikers out and about, many with cameras and tripods capturing the fleeting change of seasons.

Changing colors in Bear Wallow. October 2017.
Changing colors in Bear Wallow. October 2017.

There is more color on the mountain than you might expect – Bear Wallow might be the best single stop in the Santa Catalina Mountains for fall colors, fun to visit camera in hand – but what I really love is stalking the smaller pockets of color scattered across the higher areas of the mountain. Today we hiked around the top of the mountain, wandered down from the Box Elder Picnic Area and pointed at distant hints of color thinking ahead to next week…

Below the Box Elder Picnic Area looking over colorful Aspens at Marble Peak . October 2017.
Below the Box Elder Picnic Area looking over colorful Aspens at Marble Peak . October 2017.
Aspens near the top of Mount Lemmon. October 2017.
Aspens near the top of Mount Lemmon. October 2017.

Fall Color – 10/24/2016

Bare Aspens near the top of the Red Ridge Trail. October 2016.
Bare Aspens near the top of the Red Ridge Trail. October 2016.

The Aspens along the Red Ridge Trail are bare – from the Aspen Trail we can see a few trees still with fall colors – but the best color is lower on the mountain where the walk from the Sunset Trailhead into Bear Wallow on the 1918 Trail flows thru red and yellow maple leaves in the trees, and on the ground…

Last fall colors in the Aspens from the Aspen Trail. October 2016.
Last fall colors in the Aspens from the Aspen Trail. October 2016.
Fall color - Maples in Bear Wallow. October 2016.
Fall color – Maples in Bear Wallow. October 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.

Agua Caliente Canyon, La Milagrosa Loop, Colors – 11/21/2015

Gnat Tank - covered in color. November 2015.
Gnat Tank – covered in color. November 2015.
Flowers covering the ground alongside the Agua Calinte Canyon Trail near Gnat Tank. November 2015.
Flowers covering the ground alongside the Agua Calinte Canyon Trail near Gnat Tank. November 2015.

The colors were the highlight on this Agua Caliente Canyon and La Milagrosa Trail loop – the yellowish green covering Gnat Tank with patches of purple and yellow flowers nearby, subtle hints of fall color in the bottom of Agua Caliente Canyon and fallen fall color in the cool clear water. 

A hint of fall color in the bottom of Agua Caliente Canyon - from the Agua Caliente Hill Trail. November 2015.
A hint of fall color in the bottom of Agua Caliente Canyon – from the Agua Caliente Hill Trail. November 2015.
A fallen fall leaf floating in clear water in Agua Caliente Canyon. November 2015.
A fallen fall leaf floating in clear water in Agua Caliente Canyon. November 2015.