Brush Corral, Burro Fire Burn – 7/30/2017

View from near the end of the Upper Brush Corral Trail. July 2017.
View from near the end of the Upper Brush Corral Trail. July 2017.

Up to the junction with the Brush Corral Shortcut Trail there is no evidence of the Burro Fire on the Upper Brush Corral Trail – and even below the junction it takes some time to enter areas touched by the fire. But as you get closer to ridge where the Brush Corral Trail devolves into an off-trail route areas burned in the fire start to appear.

New grass just weeks after the Burro Fire. July 2017.
New grass Just weeks after the Burro Fire. July 2017.

Lower on the trail the impact of the burn is more severe but, somehow, maybe because some of this area burned in the 2002 Bullock Fire, the changes in this area don’t seem as shocking as on the top of Guthrie Mountain. The Upper Brush Corral Trail down into the more obscure part of the trail below the Brush Corral Shortcut Trail junction is definitely an interesting way to get a first hand look at the impact of the Burro Fire.

Looking over a hillside burned in the 2017 Burro Fire. July 2017.
Looking over a hillside burned in the 2017 Burro Fire. July 2017.
A Manzanita cleaned by the Burro Fire. July 2017.
A Manzanita cleaned by the Burro Fire. July 2017.

Brush Corral – 4/23/2017

At the junction of the Brush Corral and Green Mountain Trails. April 2017.
At the junction of the Brush Corral and Green Mountain Trails. April 2017.

In the early 20th century the Brush Corral area on the east side of the Santa Catalina Mountains featured a Ranger Station with a 3 room adobe building and a telephone connection up to Mount Lemmon. Today the area is just another indistinct flat along Buehman Canyon… Forest Road 4407 (Brush Corral Road) still allows high-clearance access into the area from Redington Road near the San Pedro River – but I would guess that the area saw more visitors in the the 1910s/1920s than it sees today.

I am not sure when the Forest Service began using Brush Corral on the east side of the Santa Catalina Mountains. It is absent from the 1904 Tucson topographic map and with a number of ranches and other Ranger Stations noted its omission seems notable. Jim Westfall – hired by the Forest Service in 1906 – and his wife Leeta were early residents, spending winters at Brush Corral after working on the mountain during the spring, summer and fall. Newspaper articles from 1911 and 1912 mention Brush Corral because it was on the route of a phone line being built from Tucson to Soldier Camp, down to Brush Corral and south to the Spud Rock Ranger Station in the Rincons. In a 1964 Arizona Daily Star article by Pete Cowgill Gilbert Sykes, a Forest Service employee after WWI, says “Brush Corral was used more as a camp with a guard stationed there two or three months of the year. The guard would work on grazing permits, timber sales and, of course, watch out for fires. But it was not a permanent ranger station like the one located, but not now used either, at Oracle”. The same article mentions that the cabin – possibly built about 1913 – was sold around 1925 and the timber removed.

Remains of the phoneline from the 1910s that came up from Tucson and over to the Brush Corral Ranger Station. April 2017.
Remains of the phoneline from the 1910s that came up from Tucson and over to the Brush Corral Ranger Station. April 2017.

Our ride dropped us at the Upper Green Mountain Trailhead, our destination was a vehicle we had dropped on FR4407 the previous day – it had been hours of driving to drop a vehicle, but it made our hike much simpler – no need to worry about the time needed to climb back up the mountain, carry overnight gear or make an uncomfortably hot walk out on Redington Road.

The Brush Corral Trail was described in the first three editions of the The Santa Catalina Mountains, A Guide to the Trails and Routes as “fair to very poor” and, after extensive work by the Southern Arizona Hiking Club in the late 1980s, was upgraded to “fair to good” in the 1990s. But those descriptions are pre-2002-Bulllock Fire… There are two notable posts online about this trail from after the Bullock Fire – Scott Morris’s ‘Brush Corral Epic’ from 2004 and Sirena Dufault’s ‘Brush Corral Trail’ from 2010. We knew from those posts, and a hike I made in 2013, that it would probably be difficult, or  impossible, to find all of the trail – our planning left a comfortable amount of time for traveling at an off-trail-didn’t-pick-the-best-way-thru-the-manzanita-are-we-on-the-right-ridge kind of pace…

Running an upper section of the trail - the Brush Corral Trail is easy to follow and in decent shape down the junction with the Brush Corral Shortcut Trail. April 2017.
Running an upper section of the trail – the Brush Corral Trail is easy to follow and in decent shape down the junction with the Brush Corral Shortcut Trail. April 2017.

We quickly reached the Brush Corral Trail’s junction with the Green Mountain Trail and started the descent to the junction with the Brush Corral Shortcut Trail – this section of trail is still in decent condition and is easy to follow. Below the junction with the Brush Corral Shortcut Trail the trail immediately becomes overgrown and interrupted by fallen trees, but it was still easy to follow until – at an old metal trail marker – the trail emerged from the trees and became an off-trail ‘route’.

A metal trail marker - it was encouraging to see this, but beyond this point the 'trail' was distinctly harder to find. April 2017.
A metal trail marker – it was encouraging to see this, but beyond this point the ‘trail’ was distinctly harder to find. April 2017.
Looking down on the ridges that the Brush Corral Route follows. April 2017.
Looking down on the ridges that the Brush Corral Route follows. April 2017.

We found stretches of the old trail, and cairns sometimes helped us stay on course – but in sections we just wandered across the ridges, perhaps we could have found more of the old trail but the terrain was not particularly difficult off-trail walking and rather than hunt for the old track it seemed more interesting to just keep moving forward.

A rather alarming note next to a small cairn - if anyone knows the story on this I would love to hear it... April 2017.
A rather alarming note – ‘Jim – 1PM’ – next to a small cairn – if anyone knows the story on this I would love to hear it… April 2017.

The biggest surprise of the hike may have been finding water when we crossed a small canyon – we had planned on the route being dry and it was nice surprise to find water to soak my shirt and hat with – we were thousands of feet lower than when we started and it was getting hot, the edge of the season for this part of the mountain I think.

Water in a canyon along the Brush Corral Trail. April 2017.
Water in a canyon along the Brush Corral Trail. April 2017.
An obvious section of trail across a grassy ridge - the brown carsonite post in the distance marks the lower part of the trail. April 2017.
An obvious section of trail across a grassy ridge – brown carsonite posts like the one at the top of this hill mark the lower part of the trail. April 2017.

From the crossing we quickly found the brown trail markers mentioned in other reports and the trail became relatively easy to follow thru the grass and across the ridges. We took advantage of the good trail and ran the final mile+ down to the Brush Corral site before making the hike up the road back to our ride home.

The trail close to the trailhead is in decent shape - brown carsonite posts mark the way. April 2017.
Richard running the bottom section of the trail – Mount Bigelow in the background – the trail close to the trailhead is in decent shape – brown carsonite posts mark the way. April 2017.
FR4407 coming to an end at the Brush Corral area. April 2017.
FR4407 coming to an end at the Brush Corral area. April 2017.

Newspaper articles that reference the Brush Corral Trail that I used for this post:

  • Arizona Daily Star, 8/24/1911, p. 5, Forestry Will Have Its Own Telephones
  • Arizona Daily Star, 10/10/1912, p. 8, Brevities
  • Arizona Daily Star, 11/6/1912, p. 8, Telephones Arrive For Mt. Lemmon Line
  • Arizona Daily Star, 12/6/1912, p. 8, Government Installs New Telephones
  • Arizona Daily Star, 3/22/1964, p 55, Pete Cowgill, Hike Up To Brush Corrall Is For Experienced Hikers
  • Arizona Daily Star, 11/8/1984, p. 51, Pete Cowgill, Old Ranger Station is Just a Memory
  • Arizona Daily Star, 11/17, 1989, p. 41, Pete Cowgill, Hiking club dug in for Brush Corral Trail

 

A Short Hike Above Bear Canyon, Points 6702, 7135 and 6810 – 8/23/2015

A Gopher Snake in a wash above Bear Canyon - after spotting us he disappeared into cracks below a small rock face. August 2015.
A Gopher Snake in a wash above Bear Canyon – after spotting us he disappeared into cracks below a small rock face. August 2015.

Points 6702, 7135 and 6810 east of Bear Canyon are, in many ways, ‘nothing special’ – but marks on a map are a great excuse to wander away from well trodden paths – and more often than not thru spots of subtle beauty, sometimes surrounded by sublimely devilish brush…

Summer rains filling Bear Canyon with beautiful running water. August 2015.
Summer rains filling Bear Canyon with beautiful running water. August 2015.
Juniper Berries. August 2015.
Juniper Berries. August 2015.
Wet mushrooms near the ridge east of Bear Canyon. August 2015.
Wet mushrooms near the ridge east of Bear Canyon. August 2015.
Looking across Bear Canyon from Point 6810 on the ridge east of Bear Canyon. August 2015.
Looking across Bear Canyon from Point 6810 on the ridge east of Bear Canyon. August 2015.

Lower Green Mountain Trailhead, Green Mountain Trail, off trail up onto the ridge, Point 6702, Point 7135, Point 6810, Bug Spring Trail, Lower Green Mountain Trailhead. 3.9 miles, +/- 2000′ of elevation gain/loss.

Brush Corral Shortcut Loop – 7/15/2015

There is basically no end to the great ‘workout’ hikes in the Santa Catalina Mountains – one fun option is a short loop using the Upper Green Mountain Trailhead, Green Mountain Trail, Brush Corral Trail, Brush Corral Shortcut TrailGreen Mountain Trail back to the Upper Green Mountain Trailhead.

Short with a nice bit of elevation, not very heavily used (for much of the loop anyway) and easily extended a few more miles to the Maverick Spring Trail or Guthrie Mountain. 4.5 miles, +/- 1500′ elevation gain/loss.

Fallen leaf in a drainage on the Brush Corral Trail.
Fallen leaf in a drainage on the Brush Corral Trail. July 2015.
Madrone berries along the Green Mountain Trail.
Madrone berries along the Green Mountain Trail. July 2015.
Sunset over Mount Bigelow - from the Green Mountain Trailhead.
Sunset over Mount Bigelow – from the Green Mountain Trailhead. July 2015.

Green Mountain and Point 6828 – 2014/7/13

Just a few minutes from the Upper Green Mountain Trailhead the trail reaches a small saddle – from there the official trail heads downhill, but an un-official route breaks off to the south towards the top of Green Mountain. As you climb towards the summit of Green Mountain the route becomes steeper, looser and a bit less obvious (take care!), but you reach the top soon enough…

1407 Near the summit of Green Mountain
Near the summit of Green Mountain. July 2014.

 The summit area is flat and open – peaceful perhaps, certainly not dramatic – and it turns out that the most impressive views are from the rocky ledges and outcroppings that you can find on the way up…

1407 Enjoying the view on the way up Green Mountain
On the way to the summit of Green Mountain there are several rocky ledges that provide great views! July 2014.

 

 After coming down from the summit of Green Mountain I had a little more time – I took the Green Mountain Trail to the Wild Burro Trail and then left the trail to follow a ridge out to Point 6828.

1407 Point 6828 from the Brush Corral Trail
Point 6828 in shadow – from the Brush Corral Trail. July 2014.

Point 6828 is not particularly prominent or impressive, but it’s small summit does provide a great view of the ridge above! (And if you do hike out to Point 6828 save a few minutes to continue just past the summit to a great spot under a beautiful tree…)

1407 Looking up from Point 6828
Looking up from Point 6828. July 2014.