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.

Lightning, Sawmill, Bears, Mountain Lions, Volunteers – 7/20/2016

Lightning over the west side of the Santa Catalina Mountains. July 2016.
Lightning over the west side of the Santa Catalina Mountains – Table Mountain on the far right of the picture. July 2016.

There have been a number of Bear sightings reported recently – mainly near Summerhaven and Organization Ridge. So far “None of these encounters have been dangerous, as nobody has reported any kind of aggressiveness”. AZGF spokesman Mark Hart does not want visitors to “feel alarmed but to be “bear aware” by taking measures to prevent encounters” – some Safety in Black Bear Country information. Bears sighted 15 times on Mount Lemmon since May; officials urge caution –, Mt. Lemmon sees spike in bear sightings – TucsonNewsNow

Towards the end of June Mountain Lion sightings in Sabino Canyon ‘spiked’, but there were no aggressive encounters and AZGF representative Mark Hart points out that with a healthy Mountain Lion population in Sabino Canyon “If you go there a lot and you haven’t seen a mountain lion, one has probably seen you.” Mountain Lion information including what to do if you encounter a Mountain Lion from AZGF. Recent mountain lion encounters in Sabino Canyon prompt new warnings –

100 years ago in Tucson July 26: Mount Lemmon – Includes two great articles from the 1916 Arizona Daily Star about the Santa Catalina Mountains:

  • “SAWMILL NO MENACE TO TIMBER SUPPLY” – Forest Supervisor Don P. Johnson assures the public that the new sawmill in the Summerhaven area “is for the purpose of cutting timber for the erection of bungalows and houses for residents on the Webber homestead” and that “the timber will be used only in the district”. In 1916 the sawmill was owned by Jim Westfall – it had been laboriously hauled up to the Summerhaven area and, as the 1916 article predicted, provided a key resource for construction on the mountain. A second sawmill, brought to the mountain by Tony Zimmerman, would later stand in the same spot.
  • “Luncheon Club to Hear Of Mount Lemmon Road”: Forest Supervisor Don P. Johnson “will give information in regard to the proposed road to Mount Lemmon and will answer any questions put to him with regard to the proposed government aid for highways” – in 1916 the completion of the Control Road from Oracle was still 4 years away, but perhaps more unexpected in 1916 would have been that it would take another 35 years to complete a highway up the south side of the mountain!

A hiker coming back from Hutch’s Pool was separated from his hiking companions – he missed the Sabino Canyon Trail junction and continued up the East Fork Trail, eventually he went up Bear Canyon because he could see the highway and yelled to people at the Seven Cataracts Vista Point for help. The hiker was taken to the hospital for heat related illness. Missing Tucson hiker found in Sabino Canyon –, UPDATE: Missing hiker in Sabino Canyon found safe – TucsonNewsNow, Missing hiker found in Sabino Canyon – KGUN9.

No plans for Tucson to have hiking ban during extreme heat – KGUN9 – Several weeks ago the high temperatures were a factor in a number of deaths in Southern Arizona – one result was that the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board considered a ban on hiking in extreme heat (which was not approved) – according to the article no such ban is being considered in Tucson.

The cover of the August Issue of The Desert Leaf features a lovely picture of Sabino Canyon and calls out the article ‘Caring for the Coronado’. The articles talks about the important work that volunteers have done in the Coronado National Forest, often putting in significant hours and effort to accomplish meaningful tasks that seem unlikely to receive official funding anytime in the near future. It was great to see so many groups that have contributed time, labor, knowledge and resources to the Coronado National Forest mentioned in the article  – Sky Island Alliance, Santa Catalina Volunteer Patrol, Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists, Sabino Stewards, Arizona Master Watershed Naturalists, Friends of Sabino Canyon, Tucson Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy.

Summerhaven had their July 4th Parade again this year – a good excuse to head up the mountain to cooler temperatures – probably the highest altitude July 4th Parade in the state! Mt. Lemmon parade patrons spend Independence Day away from heat –

Hittin’ the Trails 4 You: Mt. Lemmon’s Box Camp Trail – a short piece on the Box Camp Trail.

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

  • Oracle Ridge Trail 6/3/2016 – A hiker was unable to continue up the trail, she was assisted out.
  • 7 Falls Tail 6/17/2016 – Hikers without lights were unable to continue after sunset – they were found by a team with lights and fluids and able to hike out.
  • 7 Falls Trail 6/19/2016 – Hikers ran out of water and called for assistance – they were given hydration and were able to continue.
  • Agua Caliente Canyon 7/1/2016 – A knee injury while USFS and AZGF personnel were in Agua Caliente Canyon checking fish necessitated a litter carry out.
  • Romero Canyon Trail 7/3/2016 – An exhausted hiker a short distance up the trail is assisted and walked out.
  • Lemmon Rock Trail 7/9/2016 – A group of hikers were doing a loop on the top of the mountain – Mount Lemmon Trail, Wilderness of Rock, Lemmon Rock Trail – one member was exhausted and unable to continue the climb back up to the top. A team provided supplies and company and helped the group continue up the trail.
  • Pontatoc Canyon 7/10/2016 – A hiker was reported missing but made it out before assistance arrived.
  • Aspen Trail 7/12/2016 – Hip injury on the Aspen Trail.
  • Rose Canyon Lake 7/16/2016 – A person medical issues near the dam was transported out of the area.
  •  Ventana Canyon Trail 7/16/2016 – A hiker, familiar with the area, was unexpectedly out overnight. He was and found and assisted the next day. He had reportedly headed up to The Window with only a bottle of water.
  • 7 Falls Trail 7/18/2016 – A hiker with asthma problems was assisted out, first on foot and then on horseback.
  • West Fork Trail 7/23/2016 – Two hikers set off for 7 Falls, but didn’t recognize it and continued all the way to the junction of the Cathedral Rock and West Fork Trails – at the junction they climbed up the Cathedral Rock Trail and were eventually able to get cell service and call for help. A rescuer was flown into Romero Pass and assisted the hikers down to the Hutch’s Pool area where they were helicoptered out.
Lightning over Samaniego Ridge on the west side of the Santa Catalina Mountains - taken from the Golder Ranch area. July 2016.
Lightning over Samaniego Ridge on the west side of the Santa Catalina Mountains – taken from the Golder Ranch area. July 2016.

Lambs, Lions, Death – 3/25/2016

The Santa Catalina Bighorn Sheep Reintroduction Project update for the period ending March 23rd was released this evening:

  • 22 lambs have been observed this season!
  • Ewe #37454 died on March 17 – the cause of death was mountain lion predation and state of the carcass indicated that multiple mountain lions fed on the ewe. The mountain lions were pursued and a subadult mountain lion was killed – a female and another subadult mountain lion were subsequently unsuccessfully pursued.
  • The update mentions that “The last mountain lion removal occurred just over two years ago, and this was the fourth lion removed as part of this bighorn sheep reintroduction effort.” (Note that 
  • The update puts the “total potential population” at 89 bighorn sheep, but obviously with just under half the population without collars it is difficult to know the exact number.

Snow, Color, Cleanup, Bighorn Deaths, Grand Canyon National Park Backcountry Management Plan – 12/22/2015

A snowy hillside - taken from the ridge south east of Bear Canyon. Tucson and Mount Wrightson in the background. December 2015.
A snowy hillside – taken from the ridge south east of Bear Canyon. Tucson and Mount Wrightson in the background. December 2015.

In places the snow has melted – but there is still plenty of snow on the mountain to enjoy!


There were two Bighorn Deaths in the first part of December. Initial lab tests confirm that Ewe #37448 died of pneumonia. Ewe #37441 was killed by a mountain lion. The latest project updated noted that:

A subcontractor to the project used a drone to monitor his dogs during pursuit of the lion that preyed upon Ewe #37441. The Department routinely uses low-level fixed wing and helicopter flights in connection with wildlife management projects. The pursuit was terminated upon the Department learning of use of the drone as the Department has not completed ongoing evaluation of how to best use such technology consistent with all applicable rules and regulations.

The Friends of Redington Pass held a cleanup with 50 volunteers on December 12th – pictures and a great summary are posted on their Facebook Page – the work included hauling away a burned out mini-van! Group looking for volunteers for Redington Pass cleanup – Tucson News Now.

Molino Basin puts on an autumn color show – Arizona Daily Star, Find autumn color on a Sabino Canyon hike – Arizona Daily Star: Two articles pointing out the beautiful fall colors in Molino and Sabino Canyons, the Cottonwoods and Sycamores in these – and other canyons – are a great source of late fall/winter color.

Catch comet Catalina on its way out of the solar system – Astronomy Magazine: Pictures of Comet Catalina with two tails! Comet Catalina is notable both for being currently visible in the sky and for being named after the Santa Catalina Mountains!  Comet Catalina showing two tails – Tucson News Now.

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

  • Romero Pools – 11/1: Hiker missed the first crossing, descended the canyon and was accompanied out after reaching the Canyon Loop.
  • Blacketts Ridge – 11/5: Hiker with chest pains lifted out
  • Windy Point – 11/11: Fall
  • Agua Caliente Canyon – 11/22: Ankle injury while coming down the canyon
  • Marshall Gulch – 11/27: 30′ Fall


Grand Canyon National Park Backcountry Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement – Open for Comment: This site is focused on the Santa Catalina Mountains, but Grand Canyon National Park is probably of interest to almost anyone in Arizona who loves the outdoors… The comment period is currently open on a new Backcountry Management Plan – if you care about the Grand Canyon it is worth reading. This plan is mentioned here in part because the current Preferred Alternative includes seasonal permits and fees for day hiking to the Colorado River on the major corridor trails and notes the potential for future daily use limits, year round permits and similar policies for other trails. This would be a huge change for hiking in the Grand Canyon – please consider commenting. From the plan:

  • Implemented on [Backcountry Management Plan] Adoption
    • Day use permits required seasonally for [the North Kaibab Trail below the Manzanita Resthouse, South Kaibab Trail below the Tip Off and the Bright Angel Trail below the junction with the Tonto Trail]
    • Expected cost of day use permit at least $5 per person per day
    • Outreach and user education
    • User monitoring and data gathering
    • Protocols for Special Use Permits
  • Potential Adaptive Management
    • For [the North Kaibab Trail below Manzanita Resthouse, South Kaibab Trail below the Tip Off and the Bright Angel Trail below the junction with the Tonto Trail]
      • Implement group size limits (e.g., 30); adjust limits as research determines
      • Daily use limits (e.g., 250); adjust limits as research determines
      • Designated days for group or individual events
      • Day use permits required year-round
    • Policy for other trails


Snow on the Bug Spring Trail above Bear Canyon. December 2015.
Snow on the Bug Spring Trail above Bear Canyon. December 2015.

Bighorn Pneumonia, No UFOs, LWCF, Weather – 10/6/2015

On 9/21 the carcass of Bighorn ewe ID 37442 was found in the Santa Catalina Mountains – a field necropsy showed signs of pneumonia. This is the 5th recent death – none of which have been attributed to predators – 3 of which have been linked to pneumonia in laboratory tests. While earlier deaths prompted AZGF to take a “take a wait and see attitude” about a November release of Bighorn in the Santa Catalina Mountains (source) it now appears that the pneumonia has been assessed as  “limited” and the November release is still planned. AZGF is “looking at bringing animals from a herd with prior exposure to pneumonia.” The latest updates from the project are available here – also see Another bighorn dies in Catalinas — apparently of pneumonia – Arizona Daily Star.

Storms result in rescue, outages, closures, evacuation – Tucson News Now: The article mentions rocks on the highway up the mountain in the recent storms – note that in almost every wet storm some rocks – perhaps small – will be on the highway, they are usually cleared remarkably quickly but in wet weather some extra caution is advised.

Tucson’s UFO Mystery Revealed – Huffpost Weird News: The recent UFO Videos shot from the Sabino Canyon area have been debunked – the lights appear to have been from human activity on the mountain…

Hittin’ the Trails 4 You: National Public Lands Day on September 26th – Every year National Public Lands Day often features waived fees and good opportunities to volunteer!

Congress must renew the Land & Water Conservation Fund – Arizona Daily Star: A letter about the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Established in 1965 and primarily funded by royalties on offshore oil and gas drilling the fund provides money for the acquisition of land for recreation and protection. Unfortunately this fund was not reauthorized (as of 10/6/2015) (The Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition and Congress Lets Sun Set on Land and Water Conservation Fund) – while it is possible it will be reauthorized it seems like it will be more difficult now…

Cloud Road named for family with long Tucson history – Arizona Daily Star: Some great historic details about the Cloud Family who purchased property along Sabino Canyon in 1910.

Hittin’ the Trails 4 You: Mount Lemmon’s Wilderness of Rock Trail – Video and commentary on the Wilderness of Rocks Trail.

Monsoon brings greenery, flowing streams, wildflowers – Arizona Daily Star: A great quote from Frank Rose – “This has been one of the best monsoons I have seen in 33 years of hiking the Catalinas — bringing a great variety and quantity of flowers, some into their second bloom of the year”.

Highway up Mt Lemmon back open following crash – Tucson News Now: A vehicle/motorcycle crash.

Canyon View Elementary placed on brief lockdown due to mountain lion sighting – the school across from the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center has a mountain lion sighting.

Four figures in the fog — hiking Arizona’s Mt. Lemmon – The Spectrum: A nice write up of a hike on the Marshall Gulch Trail and Aspen Trail on a stormy day.

AZ Game and Fish: Reward offered in poaching of two javelinas – Tucson News Now: Two javelina were found in Tucson – NW of Grant and Swan and near Cloud and Sabino – both shot by an arrow. AZGF said: “There is no archery javelina hunt open at this time, so we are investigating these incidents as illegal take of wildlife.”


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