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.

Bighorn, Crossing, Decapitation, Comet, Snow, App, Rescues – 11/15/2015

There are plans to release 30 bighorn sheep from near Yuma into the Santa Catalina Mountains during the third week of November. Pneumonia – identified as the cause in a number of recent deaths – is still a concern but the bighorn planned for the release “have been previously exposed to the illness and are therefore resistant to it.” More Bighorn Sheep Coming to Santa Catalinas Near Tucson – Arizona Public Media, More bighorns coming to Catalina Mountains next month – Arizona Daily Star.

Wildlife crossings pave the way for biodiversity in Sonoran Desert – Arizona Sonora News: There is an exciting project that is part of the widening of Oracle Road – two wildlife crossings that will help link the Tortolita and Santa Catalina Mountains! The Arizona Department of Transportation has a single sheet overview of the project that is quite informative. While the project is not finished it appears that a tortoise is the first documented user of the new crossing!

Decapitated deer found tied to tree on Mount Lemmon – Near Molino Basin a deer that had been shot and decapitated was found tied to a tree on Nov. 6 – there is a $2,000 reward for information (contact Operation Game Thief – 1-800-352-0700). A quote from the article: “This case is very troubling, given the nature of the crime scene. We are outraged by this, and expect that the general public will be as well” – Regional Supervisor Raul Vega of Game and Fish in Tucson.

Mt. Lemmon biz looking forward to El Nino winter – “General Manager [of the Sawmill Run Restaurant] Steven Sanders said the more snow, the more people come up and the more jobs there will be to go around.”

First snowfall of season on Mt. Lemmon brings out plenty of sightseers – Tucson News Now: First snow of the Season!

Catalina State Park: Blue skies, flowing water – Arizona Daily Star, Sabino Canyon gearing up for busy season – Tucson News Now: Two articles that are a great reminder that we are starting to have days with amazing weather for getting outside to the desert/lower elevation areas of the mountain!

Long Term Permit for Sabino Canyon Shuttle Services – USFS: This page contains information about the proposed 20-year special use permit for the shuttle system in Sabino Canyon. The SCRA Shuttle Scoping Letter has some interesting notes about the project including a list of design features that mentions minimizing conflicts between the shuttle/hikers/bikers and reducing ‘auditory impacts’ from the shuttle that seem to depend on ‘modernizing [the] existing 1970s era shuttle fleet’.

Space junk crashing toward Earth found by Mount Lemmon lab – Arizona Daily Star: Space debris – possibly an old rocket booster – that entered Earth’s atmosphere and splashed down in the Indian Ocean was first spotted by the Catalina Sky Survey!

Comet named after Catalina Mountains may soon be seen with naked eye – Tucson News Now: Comet Catalina will soon be at its closest to the sun and may be visible with the naked eye. The comet was discovered in 2013 by the Catalina Sky Survey. This post from has information on locating the comet in the sky.

Closure of shooting sites on Redington Pass extended – Arizona Daily Star: Three unofficial shooting areas off Redington Road that were closed for clean up will remain closed until next year while the Forest Service works on a management plan for the Redington Pass area.

Motorcyclist airlifted after Mt. Lemmon crash – Tucson News Now: non life-threatening injuries sustained in a crash near milepost 17.

UA College of Science Produces Mount Lemmon Audio Tour – UANews: The University of Arizona College of Science has produced a mobile app for Android and iPhone called ‘The Mount Lemmon Science Tour’. The app is largely a guided audio tour with great accessible science content (how the mountain formed, life zones, water, …) that is timed for a drive up the mountain.

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

  • Crystal Spring Trail – 10/25: Exhaustion results in a hiker carried out to the Control Road
  • Blackett’s Ridge – 10/7: Ankle injury, hiker carried out.
  • Seven Cataracts – 10/2: Hiker injured in a fall on the unofficial trail/route from the Seven Cataracts Overlook to the pools in Seven Cataracts – hoisted out and transferred to a medical helicopter.
  • Sutherland Trail – 9/23: Lost hiker calls for help after being unable to follow the trail – the current trail conditions plus attractiveness of this route continue to cause incidents.