Sublime sky island swimming hole!
Yet another stop on my summer tour of places to take my innertube (aka "the floatie"). This was my first time to Lemmon Pools, and it was a perfect time of year to go. There was a small respite from the monsoon this week which made this trip very enjoyable. I drove up to Marshall Gulch and tried to hike away from the yelling crowds gathering at the picnic areas as quickly as possible. The first thing I noticed on the trail was the number and variety of fungi. I've never seen so many in this area. As I approached Marshall Saddle, there were two older gentlemen and one of them said, "You look familiar." I introduced myself. "That's it- we both read your blog!" they said. They rattled off a bunch of hikes I'd done recently and said that they enjoyed following along with my latest adventures. How nice to meet some of my readers!
I continued onto the Wilderness of Rock trail, one of my favorites, although I must say that the eastern part is not nearly as interesting as the western part. It's still dripping gorgeous, but it lacks the spectacular hoodoos that are west of the Lemmon Rock Tr. It was getting warm out, but I wasn't too worried about it, criss-crossing the stream made it easy for me to soak a couple of bandannas for my head and neck. After the turnoff for the route to the pools, I was shocked when I found myself in a familiar area. When I hiked through the Wilderness of Rock on my Arizona Trail hike, I had gotten really lost- here's a quote from my journal from that day (5-12-08):
I got to another stream crossing and promptly lost the trail. There was a couple of cairns, but I kept running into giant boulders with steep drop-offs into the creek or big, deep pools of water. It was so frustrating, I kept backtracking to the cairns and trying to figure out the route, but nothing became apparent. I thought- this is one of the most-traveled parts of the trail so far- how can I not be able to find the way? All the available routes looked too steep or sketchy for my liking. After much deliberation, I settled on an area that looked passable. I took a step onto the slope, and felt myself slip. I had stepped on what I thought was solid ground, but it in fact was only a thin, slippery layer of pine needles over a steep, sloping slab of rock. I grabbed onto the trunk of the pine tree nearby, hugging it for dear life, and my heart sank into my stomach. I regained my footing, sat down and butt-scooted the rest of the way down to the creek.
I now realized that I'd mistakenly turned off onto the route to the pools and that day I must have been really close to Lemmon Pools without even realizing it.
I got to my campsite, set up, and was at the top of the route down to the pools when a couple came hiking up, quite surprised to see anyone else. The route down to the pools is easier than it looks from the top, you can either take the ledges to the left and switchback down, or follow a chute that is to the right straight down to the creekbed. There is a large pool with a smaller, deep pool fed by a waterfall. You can scramble up on either side of the falls to see the upper pools and falls. Just a gorgeous setting for a relaxing afternoon.
Lower falls- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1ilNWJZDqc
Above the falls- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH6wR16VUaM
Upper falls- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBLUnbF4-jk
The couple relaxed at the pools for about an hour and a half, and then I was able to have the pools to myself for the duration of the afternoon for floating, exploring, and relaxing. I was really happy that I backpacked in and didn't have to hike out after my swim. The campsite above the pools is fantastic, with amazing views out toward Tucson and lots of rocks to scramble on.
View from the campsite: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9r9OpTgyhOg
There was only a 10% chance of rain for the evening, so I was able to sleep under the stars. I have had to use my tent for the last several trips and I really don't like the feeling of being in an enclosed space where you can't see out.
The next morning, I was making breakfast when I saw a bear across Lemmon Canyon! I watched it move among the rocky hoodoos above the canyon, but by the time I got my camera out, it had disappeared into some brush. The past months I have been in some very bear-heavy sky islands and not seen any, so it was so unexpected to see this one in the Catalinas. My hike out was uneventful, I took my time and dipped into several pools on the way to cool off. There were ripe raspberries on the Marshall Gulch Trail, and I was able to end my hike with a tasty snack. It's always so hard to make myself drive down from the pleasant 75 degree weather on top of the mountain into above 100-degree temps.