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.
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…
the cameras at the top of the mountain showed a nice layer of snow but at 6 AM ‘Closed’ signs blocked the drive up the mountain – instead I drove Redington Road hoping the snow might have made it far enough down the mountain to photograph from one of the view points near the Italian Spring Trailhead, low clouds and a high snow line meant that the lovely sunrise scene didn’t include any snow – but closer to town it was easy to see the first good snow of the winter blanketing the top of the mountain!
Bigelow Prescribed Fire on Mt. Lemmon, Coronado National Forest: On Monday, November 4th, “if conditions such as temperature, wind speed and direction, relative humidity and fuel moistures are favorable” fire managers will burn a 200-acre area around Mount Bigelow. The fire could cause road and trail closures in the area – the Kellogg Trail, Butterfly Trail and dirt roads in the vicinity seem the most likely to be impacted. From the Forest Service News Release “Prescribed fires are among the most effective tools available to resource managers to restore fire-adapted ecosystems. They mimic natural fires by reducing forest fuels, recycling nutrients and increasing habitat diversity.”
Fuelwood Permits (for personal use only) are available for Mt. Lemmon at the Ranger District Office, 5700 N. Sabino Canyon Road from 11/1 to 12/16 for the 11/1 to 4/16 cutting season. Permits are $20, 1 per household, and “will authorize collection on Mt. Lemmon and in the Oracle area of dry, dead-and-down and dead standing wood (no live branches) less than eight inches in diameter at breast height. Cutting area maps and program regulations will be provided with permits upon request. Permit holders may collect and remove only dry wood from the collection areas.”
Update 5/17/2016: What looks like the end of the Montrose Fire – from InciWeb:
No smoke has not been observed over the Montrose Fire for two days. Fire managers will continue monitoring the fire area over the next several weeks. This will be the last update for the Montrose Fire unless circumstances change.
Update 5/15/2016, 4:30PM: The Montrose Fire continues to be listed as 80% contained, from a recent update:
The Montrose Fire, first discovered May 12, on the Coronado National Forest Catalina District, remains 80% contained. It is located near Box Spring 3 miles northwest of Rose Canyon Lake. One hotshot crew remains on the incident. With high winds in the Santa Catalina Mountains, their diligence is intended to prevent the fire from again becoming active. No smoke has been detected today. The crew will spend the remainder of the day and this evening monitoring the fire to ensure the perimeter is secure.
Rose Canyon Lake has been reopened for recreationists. Rose Canyon Campground is also open.
The Montrose Fire started on 5/12/2016 and, unlike the Finger Rock Fire in 2015 that was allowed to burn, there was a very prompt effort to suppress the fire – undoubtedly due to it’s proximity to homes and infrastructure on the mountain.
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.
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!
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.
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.