Meadow, Mt Lemmon, Wilderness of Rock and Mint Spring Trail – 8/21/2017

Flowers along the Meadow Trail. August 2017.
Flowers along the Meadow Trail. August 2017.

The flowers on the Meadow Trail are fading a bit, ferns on the Mt. Lemmon Trail are starting to brown and small drainages crossing the Wilderness of Rocks Trail are beginning to go dry – the summer rains are gone, but summer temperatures are still very much here – a nice time to be at the top of the mountain.

Browning ferns along the Mt. Lemmon Trail. August 2017.
Browning ferns along the Mt. Lemmon Trail. August 2017.
Clouds and trees reflected in Lemmon Creek. August 2017.
Clouds and trees reflected in Lemmon Creek. August 2017.
Red galls in the Manzanita from Leafgall Aphids. August 2017.
Red galls in the Manzanita from Leafgall Aphids. August 2017.

Bears, Steward, Grants, 2006 – 9/10/2016

Clouds over the Santa Catalina Mountains. July 2016.
Clouds over the Santa Catalina Mountains. July 2016.

Bear sightings were in the news last month and this month a female bear who had reportedly followed hikers and tried to enter an occupied cabin was captured and taken to Bearizona in Williams, AZ (the alternative was likely killing the bear). It is worth restating some of the advice from AZGF that can help keep both people and bears safe: 

  • Keeping a clean camp or picnic site.
  • Stowing food, pet food, trash and picnic coolers out of sight and out of smell range of bears.
  • Using bear-proof food and trash receptacles where provided.
  • Washing and stowing cooking utensils immediately after use.
  • Not taking odorous items (toothpaste, lotions, etc.) or clothing used while cooking into tents.
  • Keeping pets leashed.
  • Avoiding contact with bears.

Yearling black bear nabbed on Mt. Lemmon near Tucson –, Nuisance bear removed from Mt. Lemmon –, Young bear captured on Mt. Lemmon (WITH VIDEO) – TucsonNewsNow.

Steward Observatory is celebrating its centennial! From the University of Arizona:

Steward Observatory was officially established in 1916 through the foresight and perseverance of its first director, Andrew Ellicott Douglass. Douglass had come to Arizona in 1894 under the sponsorship of Percival Lowell. He was tasked to establish an astronomical observatory which became Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. After he joined the University of Arizona faculty in 1906, Douglas sought to build an observatory in southern Arizona. Steward Observatory was made possible by the generous bequest made by Mrs. Lavinia Steward in memory of her late husband, Henry B. Steward.The Steward gift was used to build an observatory on an isolated tract of university land — a former ostrich farm. Its construction, delayed by World War I, was finally dedicated in 1923. The 36″ diameter Newtonian telescope was the first astronomical telescope to have been built using All-American made products.

Arizona State Parks Approves 29 Grants to Enhance Trails throughout AZ: “Arizona State Parks approved grant funding for 29 trail related projects totaling $3,079,377. Funds will be used to improve the state of existing trails and trail facilities and also to develop new trail systems.” This includes Catalina State Park – 80k, Coronado- Santa Catalina NF – 79k, Oro Valley – 30k, Climbing Association of Southern AZ – 73k and Assocation of 4WD Clubs 65k. Trail projects in Arizona to get funding – TucsonNewsNow


10 years ago - Boulders covering the Sabino Canyon Road. July 2006.
10 years ago – Boulders covering the Sabino Canyon Road. July 2006.

Work not over 10 years after historic flooding in Sabino Canyon – TucsonNewsNow, Residents remember Sabino Canyon flood on 10 year anniversary – It has been 10 years since the flooding in the Santa Catalina Mountains that brought huge boulders and massive amounts of debris into the bottom of Sabino Canyon causing millions of dollars of damage to the road and facilities. Other areas in and around the Santa Catalina Mountains were also impacted – but none as dramatically as Sabino Canyon. For a contrast to the flood related footage the City of Tucson posted a 20 year old video from Tucson 12 that showcases the tranquil side of Sabino Canyon from long before the flooding!

10 years ago - road damage in Sabino Canyon after heavy rains. July 2006.
10 years ago – road damage in Sabino Canyon after heavy rains. July 2006.

Mayor Rothschild: City parks need our financial support – A case from the Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild for funding City Parks including a brief discussion of the Land and Water Fund and the statement that he will “be working to make sure we include city parks in any revenue proposal we put before voters”.

Pima County road closures – TucsonNewsNow: There are quite a few washes/roads that can become impassable in stormy weather – if you are using Redington Road to access areas on the south/east side of Santa Catalina Mountains checking its status after significant weather is advisable. Pima County’s Road Closure Information can be helpful as can the Sheriff’s Department Hotline at (520) 547-7510 (as usual expect online information to lag behind the real world…).

North of Tucson, bright hues break out on Box Camp Trail – Inspiring coverage of the Box Camp Trail – “The Box Camp Trail in the Catalina Mountain offers a scenic hike at almost any time of the year, but a trek there in the wake of this summer’s abundant monsoon rains reveals a lush landscape of brilliant wildflowers, waist-high ferns and a gurgling creek.”

Lemmon Meadow: a haven of beauty and tranquility – Nice pictures from the Meadow Trail by Doug Kreutz.

The days are subtly shorter and there have been a few days recently where the temperatures have been beautiful – especially in the evening – certainly Oracle State Park will be having some beautiful days this month, as usual they have an interesting calendar of upcoming events.

Amy Michelle Kijewski was reported missing in early August – her car was found in the Palisades area. Search efforts were suspended several days after she was reported missing. She is described as “5’3″ tall, 135 lbs., with brown hair and brown eyes. She was wearing a royal blue short-sleeve shirt, green or grey shorts that fall above the knee” and her picture can been seen in the news articles about this incident – Sheriff’s department seeks missing Tucson hiker – Arizona Daily Star, Deputies look for missing hiker – KGUN9, Pima County authorities looking for overdue hiker – TucsonNewNow.

Girl, 8, injured in fall from Sabino Canyon tram – In an unusual accident a girl fell from a moving tram in Sabino Canyon – the owner of Sabino Canyon Tours stated “This is the first injury (involving a tram) that we know of in 30 years”.

It is a great time to visit Sabino Canyon – Monsoon rains have amplified Sabino Canyon’s beauty – – but, as always, it is important to be prepared, especially for the heat, when hiking in Southern Arizona – SARA assists in 5 heat-related rescues in Sabino Canyon – TucsonNewsNow.

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

  • Sabino Canyon, The Crack 8/7/2016: A man was hoisted out after a fall.
  • Marshall Saddle 8/10/2016: Hikers were stranded in the dark and assisted out by climbers and SAR teams.
  • Pima Canyon (Off-trail) 8/14/2016: Hikers without lights were helped out by a hiker and SAR Teams.
  • Box Camp Spring 8/16/2016: A hiker was unable to find the trail and requested help – he found the trail after requesting assistance and was met by a Mount Lemmon Deputy and SAR teams on his way out.
  • Butterfly Trail 8/16/2017: A son, part of a group of hikers, went in search of his father who was reported missing. The father was found but then the son was missing – he was found near the Davis Spring junction on the Butterfly Trail.
  • Pusch Peak 8/17/2016: A hiker was reported missing on a hike to the Pusch Peak area – contact was established by phone as he was coming back down and teams accompanied him out when he reached the Linda Vista Trail system.
  • Pima Canyon 8/21/2016: On the return trip from Pima Saddle a hiker slipped and injured his hamstring. He was spotted and hoisted from near the 2nd dam back to the road.

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.

Storm, Sky Island Traverse, AZTR 300/750 – 5/4/2016

Looking over Peck Basin and Point 5817 and across the San Pedro River Valley to the Galiuro Mountains. April 2016.
Looking over Peck Basin, Point 5817 and the San Pedro River Valley to the Galiuro Mountains from near the San Pedro Vista. April 2016.

The summer will bring plenty of cloudy days, but for now they remain infrequent and good clouds are more than enough of a reason to drive up the mountain – the payoffs on this trip were watching the light on the San Pedro River Valley and Galiuro Mountains from the Incinerator Ridge Trail, seeing the end of the day thru The Window from near the junction of the Mount Lemmon and Sutherland Trails and hiking in the darkness thru the clouds and big pines near the top of the mountain on the Meadow Trail.

The Window from near the Sutherland and Mount Lemmon Trail junction. April 2016.
The Window from near the Sutherland and Mount Lemmon Trail junction. April 2016.
A stormy night on the Meadow Trail - Mount Lemmon. April 2016.
A stormy night on the Meadow Trail – Mount Lemmon. April 2016.

Any ‘big view’ from the Santa Catalina Mountains is going to include at least one – and often more – of the Madrean Sky Islands. Like the Santa Catalina Mountains these ranges soar up from the desert floor to oak and pine forests at higher elevations. Almost anyone who has spent time hiking in Southern Arizona will have driven to some, or many, of the Madrean Sky Islands – some people have also connected these ranges in long distance human powered efforts – two notable recent events:

  • The Sky Island Traverse is an incredibly interesting and rugged route that spirals thru a number of Sky Island ranges in Southern Arizona including the Santa Catalina Mountains – a thru-hike of the SkIT was completed by Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva, a rare event, and his blog includes a great post on the SKiT!
  • Readers of this blog are probably intimately familiar with the Arizona Trail – but might not be familiar with the AZTR300 and 750 – probably best described by quoting Scott Morris’ Racing the Arizona Trail page:

    The Arizona Trail Race is an unofficial challenge that takes place every spring on the cross state Arizona Trail. Two distances are available. The Arizona Trail 300 is a 300 mile event that has been held every April since 2006. The Arizona Trail Race is the complete traversal (Mexico->Utah over 750+ miles) and was offered for the first time in 2010. Both events are run concurrently, starting on the same day.

    This is not an organized or sanctioned event in any way. It’s simply a group of friends out to ride their bikes on the same route at the same time. We’ll probably compare times afterwards, but more importantly, we’ll compare experiences — the highs and lows the trail and mountains offered us.

    For a great write up of the 2016 event check out Joe Grant’s series on his Alpine Works blog – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 – a quote from Part 1:

    The 18 miles or so of road climbing up to Mt. Lemmon are as challenging as I thought they would be. Pedaling up a sustained climb in the heat, on pavement, on a loaded mountain bike is a drudging affair. I decide to simply take my time and occupy myself people watching.
    I am passed by a few Tour de France style riders, who zip by effortlessly on their speed machines. I begin this ongoing joke in my head that Neil is up there attacking the climb, dropping all the roadies, while I am just turtle grinding in my lowest gear, waddling up the hill like that Gila Monster.

Storm: Point 5506, San Pedro Vista, Meadow Trail Loop – 10/9/2014

1410 Storm over the Molino Basin Trail and Shreve Saddle
Looking down on the Molino Basin Trail and Shreve Saddle from Point 5506. October 2014.

The rain started late Tuesday night and by the end of the day on Thursday the Pima County Regional Flood Control District ALERT System reported that 5.35″ of rain had fallen near the top of the Santa Catalina Mountains (the same guage would report just over 6″ for the work week!) – but on Thursday in Tucson blue skies were starting to show thru the clouds and by Friday there would be no weather to enjoy on the mountain…

1410 Blazing Star
Blazing Star coated pants from my hike from the highway up to Point 5506 – the summer heat largely kept me (and pants and socks!) away from the Blazing Star, no longer I guess… October 2014.
1410 A Stormy view from San Pedro Vista
A stormy view from the San Pedro Vista. October 2014.
1410 Meadow Trail covered in Clouds
The Meadow Trail covered in clouds. October 2014.