Oracle Hill, First Winter Storm – 12/17/2017

A rainbow from the slopes below Oracle Hill. December 2017.
A rainbow from the slopes below Oracle Hill. December 2017.

With the first good winter storm dropping snow on the top of the mountain I thought there might be interesting views from the San Pedro Valley so I drove north from Benson along the river – the fall color in the river bed was beautiful – but views of the snow on the Santa Catalina Mountains were obscured by a grey wall of clouds – no photos from the valley today, but the drive was still beautiful.

In Oracle I parked at the Callas Drive Gap Road Parking and walked up the road. At the FR4487 and FR736 (which makes a rough 4WD journey across Charouleau Gap down to the west side of the mountain) junction I continue on FR4487 and take the small road that winds up the slopes of Oracle Hill.

Mine entrance near the end of the road up Oracle Hill. December 2017.
Mine entrance near the end of the road up Oracle Hill. December 2017.

From the end of the road I wander up to the top of Oracle Hill and then across the connected ridges and hillsides on cow paths and cross-country admiring the storm above, enjoying the constant wind and occasional rain before wandering back…

First significant storm - and snow - of the winter over Mount Lemmon. December 2017.
First significant storm – and snow – of the winter over Mount Lemmon. December 2017.
Ridges and sunlight. December 2017.
Ridges and sunlight. December 2017.

2017 – 1/1/2017

January 2017.
Light and clouds on the Mountains north of Catalina State Park. January 2017.

Dark pictures, but a happy start to 2017 – what a joy to be outside watching clouds hide and reveal the peaks in the Santa Catalina Mountains – eventually the flat grey of the rain is all around us and, with a smile, we make the short hike out.

Thank you to everyone who visited this site in 2016 – I hope you found it inspiring, useful and informative – I am looking forward to adding more posts and content in 2017!!!

January 2017.
The Cleaver. January 2017.
January 2017.
Rain slowly covering the Santa Catalina Mountains. January 2017.

Sunset and Storms, The Cordones – 8/13/2016

A beautiful Santa Catalina sunset from the The Cordones north of Catalina. August 2016.
A beautiful Santa Catalina sunset from the The Cordones north of Catalina. August 2016.
Sunset from The Cordones north of Catalina. August 2016.
Sunset from The Cordones north of Catalina. August 2016.

It took many years for me to realize that Arizona State Trust Land is an important portion of the lands that give Southern Arizona its character and feel – a glance at the Arizona State Trust Land Parcel Viewer shows (in blue) the large amount of Arizona State Trust Land around, at the border of and between Southern Arizona’s Sky Islands. The east side of the Santa Catalina Mountains would be a very different place without public access (for a fee) to the land that is currently owned by the State Trust.

A screen shot from the Arizona State Land Trust Parcel Viewer - the colored areas are Arizona State Trust Land. August 2016.
A screen shot from the Arizona State Land Trust Parcel Viewer – the colored areas are Arizona State Trust Land. August 2016.

North of Catalina, just past E. Saddlebrooke Blvd, a section of State Trust land covers an area labeled ‘The Cordones’. Several roads lead out into the area and in some spots the combinations of ridges, washes and hills conspire to hide many of the nearby roads and homes – occasionally making the area feel a bit more remote than it really is. I intended to catch the sunset – but being there for a storm was just good luck…

Lightning and storm over the Santa Catalina Mountains. August 2016.
Lightning and storm over the Santa Catalina Mountains. August 2016.
Lightning over the Santa Catalina Mountains. August 2016.
Lightning over the Santa Catalina Mountains. August 2016.

Pima County’s A-7 Ranch – 7/2/2016

A sign on Redington Road marking the boundary of Pima County's A-7 Ranch. July 2016.
A sign on Redington Road marking the boundary of Pima County’s A-7 Ranch. July 2016.

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.

A storm over the Santa Catalina Mountains - A-7 Ranch between Redington Road and the San Pedro River.
A storm over the Santa Catalina Mountains – taken from a road on the A-7 Ranch – between Redington Road and the San Pedro River. June 2016.

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.

Two of Pima County's open space purchases - the Six Bar Ranch (upper) and the A-7 Ranch (lower). Santa Catalina Mountains (upper left), Rincon Mountains (lower center) and the edge of the Galiuro Mountains (upper right). July 2016.
Two of Pima County’s open space purchases – the Six Bar Ranch (upper pin) and the A-7 Ranch (lower pin). Santa Catalina Mountains (upper left), Rincon Mountains (lower center) and the edge of the Galiuro Mountains (upper right). July 2016.

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.

Piety Hill, A-7 Ranch, Redington Road. July 2016.
Redington Road heading towards Piety Hill on the A-7 Ranch. July 2016.