Fees, Tram, Lions, Floods – 11/20/2017

A sun dog to the right - looking over Tucson from the Pontatoc Canyon Trail. November 2017.
A sun dog to the right – looking over Tucson from the Pontatoc Canyon Trail. November 2017.

A long overdue news catch-up! 

The Forest Service held meetings earlier this year about the restructuring of the Developed Recreation Program (which has a tremendous budget gap) and is now moving forward with a proposal to increase some fees – Forest Fees May Go Up For Some Camping, Day-Use Sites – Arizona Public Media, Coronado Forest officials seek comment on proposed recreation fee increase – Arizona Daily Star, Coronado National Forest – News & Events – Coronado National Forest

Fall always brings color to the mountain – but it can be easy to miss with the color confined to beautiful, but limited areas – this article has some pictures and good suggestions on places to go and some notes about the color lingering into November – Don’t miss this: Autumn is showing its colors in Tucson’s Catalina Mountains – Arizona Daily Star, Fall finale: Autumn color lingers in Catalina Mountains – Arizona Daily Star

The long-running process of permitting the Sabino Canyon Tram continues – in early November the Forest Service issued a final decision that appears to clear the way for upgrades to the shuttle program. Current tram operator takes aim at proposed Sabino shuttle changes – Arizona Daily Star, Letter: Sabino Canyon tours need to upgrade – Arizona Daily Star

Arizona State Parks system wins a prized gold medal – Arizona Daily Star: Arizona State Parks have received a 2017 Gold Medal Award Recipient in the category of ‘State Park Systems’ from the National Recreation and Park Association whose mission is ‘To advance parks, recreation and environmental conservation efforts that enhance the quality of life for all people.’

Oracle State Park: Hiking trails, home tour – The Arizona Republic: It has been great to have Oracle State Park open full-time again – this article gives a nice overview of the park, points out this is the only state park that the Arizona Trail runs thru and includes a short history of the Kannally family whose ranch house is a major part of the park. With the weather cooling off this is a great time of year to visit!

County puts limits on exploding target use – Green Valley News: The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve an ordinance which bans the sale, possession or use of any target with a mixture of chemicals that will explode after being hit by a bullet. Note that there are a number of exceptions to in the ordinance. Exploding targets are believed to have caused the Sawmill fire.

National Public Lands Day on Coronado National Forest – Tucson News Now,  Visit any of Arizona’s state parks for free on Black Friday – Arizona Daily Star: With some effort there are many ways to visit public lands that don’t require a fee – but there are many – often very popular and well known areas – that you can only visit by paying a fee – thankfully each year many fee areas have select days where access is free!

Three mountain lions – a mother and 2 yearlings – were caught on film near the Sabino Canyon Tram road and there was a possible mountain lion attack on a dog in the Tucson Mountain area (unconfirmed but AZGF notes an increase in mountain lion reports in residential areas this monsoon season). The articles states that photos/video of mountain lions close to the Sabino Canyon tram road are rare but both incidents are good reminders that there are mountain lions in many areas around Tucson. Mountain lion sightings in the Santa Catalina Mountains are relatively rare, and there have been few negative mountain lion/human interactions, but it is important to be aware of these beautiful animals! Female mountain lion, yearlings caught on camera at Sabino Canyo – KVOA.com, Mountain lions spotted not far from Sabino Canyon tram road – Tucson News Now, Dog dies in possible mountain lion attack on west side of Tucson – Tucson News Now

New Oro Valley trail aims at hikers, cyclists, horses – Arizona Daily Star: Planning is going forward on a new trail! The current plan is for a new trailhead off Rancho Vistoso Boulevard and a 1.2 mile earthen path extending northeast along Big Wash. For me the most exciting part of this project is the indication that at some point it may connect the CDO to the Tortolita Mountain Park!!! “The second phase will go from Tangerine Road to Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, and the third phase will be from the Cañada del Oro Wash to Tangerine Road.”

Interesting to see Bighorn Sheep back in the news: continued money to study the sheep in the Santa Catalina Mountains, 32 of the tracking collars are still functional and there was a September 30th aerial survey that should result in a population estimate after photos from the survey are analyzed. Bighorn sheep thrive in mountains near Tucson – The Daily Courier, Hunter Legacy Fund grant allows AZGFD and SCI to continue desert bighorn study – goHUNT

 

The Mount Lemmon Marathon took place recently – news coverage seemed to focus more on the closure of the highway – but to me it was inspiring to see the pictures runners, rather than cars, taking up the entire road and ascending the mountain Mt. Lemmon Marathon this weekend – KVOA.com, Traffic restricted on Mt. Lemmon Highway Sunday morning – Arizona Daily Star, Despite road delays, business still flowed on Mt. Lemmon on Marathon Day – KGUN9

Forests of the Catalinas: Unburned and beautiful | Recreation | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star: The Burro Fire largely burned in areas that are no longer covered by the trail system in the Santa Catalina Mountains – this article points out a few of the beautiful places not impacted by the recent fire.

Local coffee roaster adds Arizona Trail Blend – Copper Area News: Sky Island Roasters, located in Oracle, is selling an AZ Trail Coffee blend and donating a portion of every purchase to the Arizona Trail Association!

Critical water tanks on Mount Lemmon are full, thanks to monsoon – Arizona Daily Star: Good news from the mountain and always great to see a positive story about water in southern Arizona.

An extended season for Rose Canyon Lake! Good news for Tucson anglers and campers: Season extended at Rose Canyon Lake – Arizona Daily Star

Firewood permits are available – Coronado National Forest – News & Events – Coronado National Forest

In late August the Molino Basin restrooms were vandalized with offensive graffiti – Vandals graffiti popular Mt. Lemmon campground – KGUN9, Popular Mt. Lemmon campground vandalized with graffiti – Tucson News Now

It was a fun wildflower season this summer and according to Mark Dimmitt (a wildflower expert and retired director of natural history at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum) this summer was one of the best summers since 1990 for well-spaced frequent wildflower friendly storms. Urban wildflower color abounds in this rain-washed summer – Arizona Daily Star, Tucson deserts burst into summer bloom thanks to abundant monsoon rains | Recreation | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star

I know that our American landscape has value beyond ‘dollars’ to many citizens – but in today’s America I think that even those of us who would rather spend our time talking passionately about the intrinsic value of our public land should be aware and able to talk about public lands as an important part of our economy – Tourists visiting Arizona spent a record $21.2 billion last year | Business News | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star

Looking down on the San Pedro River from a flight out of Tucson - from this angle the Santa Catalina Mountains look strangely small... November 2017.
Looking down on the San Pedro River from a flight out of Tucson – from this angle the Santa Catalina Mountains look strangely small… November 2017.

Today in Arizona History – U.S.News: For September 10, 1936: “on this date, Tucson and Pima County applied to the federal government for permission to construct a 250-foot (76-meter) high dam in Sabino Canyon.” – thankfully that dam was never built!

Neto’s Tucson: Son’s memoir honors mother who raised 6 children on her own – Arizona Daily Star: Published several years ago Jesus Loreto’s The Tortilla Maker: A Social and Historic Mexican American Narrative tells the tale of his family starting with his grandmother who came to Bisbee, AZ from Sonora, Mexico in 1957 and eventually moved to Tucson. In addition to being what looks like a very interesting personal narrative from the Southern Arizona area this book is mentioned here because Loreto’s mother worked on a dude ranch in the Sabino Canyon area.

Tucson time lapse: What do you see? – Arizona Daily Star: This page contains an interesting time lapse view of Tucson – it is not really focused on the Santa Catalina Mountains, but you can see in the time lapse the growth of Tucson which has impacted access to the mountains is creating a situation where the Santa Catalina Mountains are isolated from other mountain ranges – an important concern for hikers, hunters and wildlife.

Throwback Thursday Video: Fall at Sabino Canyon – City of Tucson: A video from 20 years ago about Sabino Canyon.

Tales from the Morgue: Assault in Sabino Canyon | Tucson history and Stories from the Star’s archives – Arizona Daily Star: A strange altercation from the past…

Find spectacular stone arches along Tucson’s Catalina Highway – Arizona Daily Star: The Santa Catalina Mountains don’t have the massive and stunning arches that you can find in southern Utah – but we do have a number of smaller arches and windows – including a number of interesting ones that you can see from the highway!

Hundreds of butterflies add a dash of color to Tucson’s Catalina Mountains | Recreation | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star: A interesting article about the butterflies – in particular the painted lady butterflies, that have been notable on mountain this year.

Why the Catalinas glow pink at sunset – KVOA.com, What’s with those streaky clouds? – KVOA.com: Two quick and interesting articles with the ‘whys’ of some of the beauty in the sky.

Live on the mountain and want to help record data for the National Weather Service? Wanted: Mt. Lemmon snow observer – KVOA.com, NWS Tucson looking for volunteer snowfall observers on Mt. Lemmon – Arizona Daily Star

Bus-sized asteroid 2017 SX17 gives Earth a close shave – Skymania: 2017 SX17 – ‘an asteroid the size of a bus’ – passed within 55k miles of the earth and was first detected by a telescope in the Santa Catalina Mountains that is part of the Catalina Sky Survey.

Wildfire season threatened several telescopes on Mount Graham, Mount Lemmon – Arizona Daily Star: The telescopes on the top of the mountain and near Mount Bigelow were closed during the Burro Fire but thankfully none were seriously threatened by the fire.

Eww! Invasion of the caterpillars in Tucson pool – azfamily.com: Caterpillar invasion! White-lined Sphinx Moth Catepillars invade a neighborhood near Catalina State Park!Man facing charges after holding bobcat captive – KVOA.com: In August a man was charged for holding a bobcat in captivity in the Sabino Canyon and Snyder Roads area – it is suspected that the man was trying to help the animal when it was injured. If you are concerned about an injured wild animal consider contacting the Tucson Wildlife Center.

Hikes and Events:

Summer flash floods and the rescue of stranded hikers were major news items – flash flood related rescues, and sometimes injuries and deaths, are in the news every year, but this year featured larger groups of people stranded than I remember in previous years. While the various discussions about potentially closing resources, how to inform the public and rescues are interesting (and complicated – Star Opinion: Time for a ‘stupid hiker’ rule for some rescues? – Arizona Daily Star) probably the most valuable action you can take is to learn more about flash floods and Tim Stellar wrote an article for the Arizona Daily Star this summer that is a good start – Steller: You can lower flood risk at canyon swimming holes – Arizona Daily Star. Other flood related articles:

Other rescues:

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

  • 7/1/107 Butterfly Trail: New boots caused blisters until he was unable to continue – hoisted out.
  • 7/1/2017 Seven Falls Trail: An exhausted family is met by SARA after reaching the road.
  • 7/1/2017 Green Mountain Trail: A group was helped after a member injured their ankle.
  • 7/4/2017 Seven Falls Trail: Exhausted hiker at Seven Falls is hoisted out.
  • 7/25/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: Exhausted hiker hoisted out.
  • 8/12/2017 Butterfly Trail: An exhausted hiker (partly due to medication) was helped on the trail and able to hike out.
  • 8/16/2017 Sabino Basin: A group became separated and was eventually able to ask for help via cell phone – the lost group was helped with directions.
  • 8/19/2017 Anderson Dam: Ankle injury carried out.
  • 9/4/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: Hikers were unable to find the trail at dusk and called for help – helped by other hikers.
  • 9/6/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: Exhausted hikers.
  • 9/6/2017 Butterfly Trail: Ankle injury – the group tried to continue but eventually called for help – the hiker was hoisted out.
  • 9/10/2017 Sabino Canyon Trail: A hiker with a head laceration is met just above the road in Sabino Canyon.
  • 9/10/2017 Romero Canyon: A hiker missed the trail crossing at Romero Pools, continued downstream, injured his knee and had a history of diabetes – the hiker was hoisted out.
  • 9/10/2017 Bear Canyon: An exhausted hiker is assisted with hydration and helped out.
  • 9/23/2017 Aspen Draw Trail: A hiker with injured ribs is treated and walked out.
  • 9/23/2017 Romero Pools: A hiker with an ankle injury is hoisted out.
  • 10/9/2017 Palisades Trail: Hikers miss the trail below Mud Spring – they were located, helped back to the trail and assisted out.
  • 10/14/2017 Ventana Canyon Trail: A hiker intending to turn around got confused and continued to the junction below The Window – met on trail and assisted out.
  • 10/14/2017 Sycamore Canyon Trail: Hikers who came down Pine Canyon became exhausted hiking out to Prison Camp – one of the hikers went to get water for the other and they were assisted out by campers.
  • 10/15/2017 Golder Ranch Trails: Mountain Bikers coming down from the top of the mountain via the CDO were separated, exhausted – after a 911 call they were all eventually found – two in the Golder Ranch Area and two on the Charouleau Gap Road.
  • 10/21/2017 Pima Canyon Trail: A hiker is treated and assisted out after a fall.
  • 10/21/2017 Brush Corral Trail: A hiker was unable follow the trail below the junction with the Brush Corral Shortcut Trail and was helped back up the mountain.

Fire, Fire, Fire, Horses, Tram – 4/22/2017

Sunset from the Pontatoc Canyon Trail. March 2017.
Sunset from the Pontatoc Canyon Trail. March 2017.

The Molino Fire started on April 4th in the Molino Basin area – the fire was quickly contained and limited to 50 acres. The Forest Service has suggested that the fire was caused by recreational shooting and is seeking information on a ‘person of interest’  – “a tall, white man of husky build wearing a light-colored hat, gray shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes. Witnesses saw him move toward a forest green, mid-1990s Ford Explorer parked in the area.” If you have any information please report it to the Coronado National Forest Supervisor’s Office at (520) 388-8300.

The Shovel fire started on April 8th near the summit of the mountain and was quickly extinguished.

Redington Road was temporarily closed due to a fire near Milepost 6. 

With 3 fires noted above it probably goes without saying the there is a notable wildfire danger this year and there have been several recent news articles about the subject: Wildfire Risk Goes Beyond Hottest Months, Officials Say – Arizona Public Media, State forester: Abundant grass could spell busy fire season in Southern Arizona – Arizona Daily Star, Tinder-dry vegetation sets the stage for wildfires in Catalina Mountains north of Tucson – Arizona Daily Star

Hikers: Commercial horseback rides are damaging popular Oro Valley trail – Arizona Daily Star: Last month I mentioned a letter in the Arizona Daily Star that was critical of the condition of the Linda Vista Trails since the Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort began offering guided horseback rides on the trails about 6 months ago. There is now a petition that has been given to the Forest Service asking that the renewal of their permit for commercial use of the trails be denied. The Forest Service commented that “an evaluation of the condition of the trail will be completed before a decision is made on renewal of the use permit in May” and a representative from the El Conquistador said that “said the guides leading the rides “want to make sure (the trail) looks good for anybody who visits the area. From a cleanup standpoint, they do quite a lot of cleanup.”

April Snow!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mt. Lemmon snow, no foolin’ – KVOA.com

In mid-March a notable amount of tree fall caused damage at the Boy and Girl Scout Camps and kept several roads closed while trees were cleared. Treefalls in Catalinas close roads, strike Scout buildings – Arizona Daily Star

Trail reports on the Pontatoc Canyon Trail and La Milagrosa Trail – Hittin’ the Trails 4 You: Pontatoc Canyon Trail – KVOA.com, Find a miraculous experience on this trail – Arizona Daily Star

The Coronado National Forest continues to hold meetings about the budget gap they are facing and the restructuring of the Developed Recreation Program – see this page for more informationNational Forest ask for input on funding gap – Green Valley News, Coronado National Forest officials considering budget cuts – KVOA.com, CNF seeks input on changes at recreation areas – Nogales International.

Community members continue to push for improvements to the Sabino Canyon Tram including electric vehicles, credit card payments and an alternative to the current loud narration – an article by Tim Stellar for the Arizona Daily Star contains a number of interesting details including information from an interview with Sabino Canyon Tours owner Donn Ricketts, well worth reading – Pressure increases to get new Sabino tram operator | Latest Tim Steller columns | tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star, Letter: Sabino Canyon needs a new tram – Arizona Daily Star

Arizona Daily Star weekly outdoor ‘Things to Do’:

Rescues from the Pima Canyon near the trailhead, near Mount Kimball and from the Butterfly Trail:

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

  • 3/4/2017 Pima Canyon Trail: Exhausted hiker helped out
  • 3/6/2017 Pima Canyon Trail: Ankle injury results in a carry out
  • 3/10/2017 Bug Spring Trail: Head Injury
  • 3/10/2017 Seven Falls Trail: Exhausted hiker – walked and then ridden out by horse
  • 3/11/2017 Romero Canyon Trail: 4 hikers assisted out
  • 3/11/2017 Aspen Trail: Lost hikers found and assisted out
  • 3/11/2017 Sycamore Canyon: A group of 8 descending the canyon – they separated into several groups – 1 hiker was unable to follow the Sycamore Reservoir Trail and turned up Bear Canyon (found and helped) – three exhausted hikers were given water/food and gear to spend the night and then short-hauled out the next day.
  • 3/12/2017 Seven Falls: Injury results in a short-haul out
  • 3/13/2017 Bear Canyon: Ankle injury is assisted out on foot and horseback
  • 3/13/2017 Pima Canyon Trail: Ill and unresponsive hiker flown out
  • 3/14/2017 Butterfly Trail: A head injury in the Novio Spring area eventually results in a hiker being flown out
  • 3/16/2017 Bellota Trail near La Milagrosa Canyon: Chest pains reported by a hiker via Personal Locator – hiker flown out
  • 3/18/2017 Palisades Canyon: Rockfall injury during a canyoneering descent – two party members flown out, two assisted out on foot
  • 3/19/2017 Willow Canyon: Hikers became lost in the Rose Canyon Lake area and are assisted out after ending up in the Seven Cataracts drainage
  • 3/20/2017 Window Peak: Hikers become lost when they take the trail up to Window Peak rather than heading down – hoisted out the next morning
  • 3/21/2017 Bear Canyon Trail: An exhausted hiker with medical complications and ankle injury are assisted out
  • 3/25/2017 Seven Falls Trail: A fall on the trail results in a hiker being unresponsive for several minutes – carried and flown out
  • 3/29/2017 Romero Pools: A fall results in a head injury – injured hiker was flown out
Sunset from the Pontatoc Canyon Trail. March 2017.
Sunset from the Pontatoc Canyon Trail. March 2017.

Storm – 6/30/2015

Rain! Warm summer rain fell for the first mile of my short loop, just long enough for me to gain some elevation and find a spot to sit and watch the lightning – flashes in the clouds to the south and bright bolts to the west – a beautiful summer storm over the desert!

1506 Lightning from the Phoneline Trail
Looking west into lightning and clouds – from the Phoneline Trail. June 2015.
1506 Night in Sabino Canyon
Heading down to the road – lights from a night-time tram visible below – lightning in the background. June 2015.

Sabino Canyon Tram Contract

Tim Steller: Send in quieter, less-polluting trams – Sabino Canyon Tours Inc. has a contract that ends 2013/12/31 and the Forest Service appears to be looking for alternatives to the current shuttle system. A couple of details from the article that are interesting “It cost 85 cents in 1978” and “The shuttles began operating in June 1978. Before that, until 1973, the road up the canyon was open to private vehicles”.