Redington Road had been closed since the start of July due to the Burro Fire – on the first day that it re-opened I drove out along the fire perimeter and hiked to the top of Piety Hill. The Burro Fire was stopped west of Piety Hill and in the sunset light it was hard tell where the Burro Fire burned – I am sure that there are areas that were heavily impacted by the fire but from Piety Hill I can still see green trees and grass below.
Piety Hill is located on Pima County’s A7 Ranch – at 4,714′ it is not stunning high (‘Hill’ is the right name) – but it is high enough to overlook the San Pedro Valley and offer great views of the surrounding terrain! There is no official trail to the top, but the terrain, while steep, is reasonably open and it is not hard to find a way to the top.
The rain is making streaks across my photos – I am half way up a small side canyon finishing a too-short loop in Buehman Canyon. Often I would welcome the weather – but today, parked on a dirt road I barely know and in a section of canyon I have never visited before, an early exit due to the weather seems like a smart decision and, reluctantly, I continue upwards.
Rather than the the traditional entrance to Buehman Canyon I started on Brush Corral Road – FR4407 – near Pink Tank. From here there are beautiful views of the Evans Mountain area – it is an easy walk to the edge of Buehman Canyon and stunning views of the canyon below.
The descent down a small drainage into the canyon is steep and unremarkable – but the bottom of the canyon is amazing! Interesting rock walls, carved water ways, flowing water, gorgeous colors – the first drops of rain signal an end too my visit much too quickly…
Pima County owns and protects much of the bottom of the canyon east of the forest boundary – the land was donated to The Nature Conservancy in 1996 and in 2011 was transferred to Pima County (who owns the nearby A7 and Six Bar ranches). In the last few miles down to the San Pedro River the canyon becomes a mix of Arizona State Trust Land and private land.
Buehman Canyon is named for Henry Buehman. Henry Buehman was born in Bremen, Germany, in 1851 and before setting off for the US in 1868 he spent 3 years as a photographer’s apprentice. After a short stay in New York Buehman traveled to California where he worked as a photographer for 4 years before selling his business in Visalia to fund mining ventures in Califonia, Utah and Nevada.
After becoming an American citizen Buehman crossed into in Arizona at Stone’s Ferry and equipped himself for a trip into Mexico in Prescott – but in Tucson he ended his journey and soon began working as a photoghaper and dentist.
Buehman made potraits, photographed events and traveled Southern Arizona creating photographs. His studio and photographic business were successful and he purchased 150 acres west of Redington and established a ranch. He lost the ranch after droughts in 1895 and 1896.
In addition to photography Buehman held a number of offices in Pima County and Tucson beginning in 1882 when he was elected as Public Administrator of Pima County and culminating with two consecutive terms as Mayor from 1895 to 1899.
Henry Buehman died in 1912 – but Buehman Studio continued to be run by Henry’s son Albert and grandson Remick. The studio closed in 1950 and in 1967 the Arizona Historical Society purchased the collection. The photos are available for the public to view thru the Arizona Historical Society and are featured in The Buehman Studio, Tucson in Focus.
Unusual weather makes Davis Mesa seem remote and lonely – just me and the cows today. Too many clouds to see much of the San Pedro Valley to the east or the Santa Catalina Mountains to the west. The east side of the Santa Catalina Mountains – where the hills and canyons tumble into the San Pedro River – is often a good escape if you have time for the drive and a vehicle that will handle the, often rough, dirt roads. In 2011 Nathan Sayre noted in A History of Land Use and Natural Resources in the Middle San Pedro Valley, Arizona that “The current population [of the Middle San Pedro Valley], estimated at 175 year-round residents, is less than was found in the area in the early twentieth century, and probably less than occurred during some prehistoric periods.” (Journal of the Southwest, Volume 53, Number 1, Spring 2011)
Davis Mesa sits between Alder and Edgar Canyons. The land is part of the Six Bar Ranch – purchased by Pima County in 2006. Cattle still graze here, as they probably have, at least periodically, for over a century. In a Pima County Conservation Report the section on the Six Bar Ranch notes that “This ranch is more remote and has limited access points so it does not get as much use as many of the other ranch properties” – certainly accurate, but considering the best case drive from Tucson probably a bit of an understatement…
The all-things-considered quickest access from Tucson that I am aware of is to drive thru Oracle, turn south onto Veterans Memorial Boulevard, pass San Manuel, continue on Black Hills Mine Road and eventually find a parking spot above the Ventana Windmill (probably 1.5 to 2 hours from Speedway and Campbell in Tucson) – from there it is a reasonable hike access across Alder Canyon up onto Davis Mesa…
A small sign on Redington Road announces the boundary of Pima County’s A-7 ranch – there is no welcoming trail map, list of rules, historic marker or dedications – just a simple sign, easy enough to miss, the land on either side looks the same.
The A-7 Ranch is owned by Pima County – it was purchased with funds from a voter approved 2004 Bond program that made $174 million dollars available for open-space purchases. The A-7 stretches from Buehman Canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains down to the North East corner of the Rincon Mountains – it is bordered on the east by the San Pedro River and helps to connect the Galiuro, Rincon and Santa Catalina Mountains.
Access information can be found here – don’t expect to find a network of established hiking trails… Some recent history from a Pima County Report:
The 41,000 acre A-7 Ranch lies northeast of Tucson along Redington Road, between the Catalina and Rincon Mountains and the San Pedro River. The County acquired the ranch from the City of Tucson in 2004. The City had purchased the ranch in 1999. Prior to the City’s purchase, the ranch was part of a larger ranch totaling about 96,000 acres known as the Bellota Ranch, which was owned and operated by the Riley-West Corporation for 20 years. The A-7 portion of the Bellota Ranch was sold to the City, while the Forest Service grazing permit was sold to the owners of the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch.
Climbing Costs: Should hikers pay the bill for stupidity? – Tucson News Now: An article about the cost of rescues that asks if hikers/climbers/etc. should be charged for rescues. While the article does include some information about rescues in the area there was very little information from rescuers and no background information about how rescue costs are handled in other areas – for me the most thought provoking part of the article was the quote from Jim Holmes of the Southern Arizona Rescue Association: “We don’t want to do anything that would discourage the public from calling for help, if they delay because they’re afraid there’s going to be an expense associated with the rescue, it makes our job harder.”