This was an alternative to my original plan which was to do the Wrightson super loop as a quickie backpack. I didn't get any interest in the trip through the ABC, and with my back still tender, I figured that maybe a dayhike would be a better option. So, I invited my always-willing-for-punishment buddy Angela to head down to Tucson (yet again) and do a fun, challenging and rewarding hike. It seemed like a no brainer that the Bear-Sabino Loop was just want the Dr. ordered!
With the short burst of cool air we had over the weekend, it was indeed. We got started just before 8am, and the parking lot at Sabino was still pretty empty. Angela had no idea what she was in for - I hadn't given her a chance to do the research. I only told her it was over 12 miles when we were on our way to the actual trailhead! I kept telling her as we started out that the whole hike was easier than it sounded, hoping in my own head to make it true. It's been a tough spring and summer for me, and I'm just not in my best shape ever. This was going to be a challenge!
It was a great sign when there was water at the first crossing with Sabino Creek below the dam. Just past it, we saw a family of Javelina, including three babies crossing the creek. Another excellent sign! The temperature was perfect, the light delightful and the desert was lush and beautiful as it can only be after a healthy dose of monsoon moisture. This theme carried us on throughout the hike - perfect timing and perfect place!
There was much more water than I'd expected in both creeks - though I actually think Bear was doing better than Sabino. Seven Falls was just beautiful, and the light on it is always best early in the morning. There weren't many people on the trail, and the folks we did run into were friendly and thoroughly enjoying the day. We were above the switchbacks and looking down at the falls before we ever really even got warmed up!
The trail from the junction to the falls for about a mile and half up was freshly maintained. Lots of room, soft earth and newly trimmed bushes made walking that section like coasting on a highway. However, once we turned the corner into the upper canyon, the maintenance ended and we were back on an over grown track. It still wasn't bad, though, it just left more seeds in our socks and stuck to our pants. Ah...the grasses of early fall!
As I have always remembered, from the back of the canyon to the top of the ridge is a mystery route. I always look up and think "where the heck is this trail going?" - and then suddenly, there you are. I was functioning on one lung, so it was a bit of a slow climb - but we managed quite nicely. In fact, once we'd reached the high point, Angela had to confess that I was right and it wasn't nearly as hard as it sounded. We encountered our second group of hikers after leaving the falls right at this point and spend some time chatting and enjoying the view.
Well, to make a long story short (too late), we pushed up over the saddle to my favorite view in the Catalinas, then down the East Fork trail to my Zen place under the giant oak at the Palisades junction. Angela was still going strong and not even complaining of the heat that had come in late in the day as we rounded into the main Sabino Canyon. I always forget how LONG that stretch from the East Fork junction to the Tram Stop is - it's freaking eternal. Somehow each time I've hiked it, it's been completely erased from my memory. Hopefully by recording it here, I'll remember that there's a fair stretch of pretty trail through there.
As we decended to the road, we were certain we'd missed the final tram because there were no signs of life at the stop. However, just as we were polishing up the switchbacks, a tram appeared on the road below - just in time! We caught the last tram for the bottom (after some intense haggling with the driver to let us on sans tickets) and took the easy out on the last 3.8 miles. Not that we needed to, but it was nice to let someone else do the walking for a while!
||Autumn Foliage Observation Isolated
||Wildflowers Observation Isolated