In what was to be a day of triumph, Nick and I finally made it out to Italian Spring. This hike is a Tucson classic, yet there were fewer than a handful of groups registered in the Park log for the month. When you tell people that you're hiking into Mica and Spud Rock, the first thing they always ask is: "Where are you going to camp" usually followed by a suggestion of Manning. You get a little smile when you respond with "We're turning it around in a day." The next question is usually one about how. Then they usually say something like: "Is that trail still even there?" This despite the fact that the Italian Spring trail is part of the AZ Trail. Since we're on the topic, it should be noted that Mica and Spud can be reached in a day from the east approaches, as well.
Some notes that we left out of the trail description (For the sake of brevity and impartiality):
Italian Spring trailhead can be reached by a two and a half mile segment of AZ Trail leaving a small parking area on Redington Pass road just after the turnoff to FR #37. The area is marked by AZ trail signs. Hiking this section instead of making the approach tot he trailhead will add a grueling, exposed walk through grass and catclaw, especially in the summer and during the return portion of your trip.
People who are new to the area probably don't know about FR #371, A.K.A. - Redington Pass road. This is a class I graded road that lives in infamy for most Tucsonans. It has been the site of countless ATV, mountain bike, and trail runner fatalities. It is that place where people shoot-up old refrigerators and leave them there; it's the place where degenerates shot someone's cattle. A posting on a forum about the AZ trail described a woman who came back to her car after doing the Bellota trail portion (which leaves from the same spot on Redington as Italian) only to find her back window shot out, presumably because of her leftward-leaning political stickers. Be careful leaving your car unattended on FR #371 and be even more careful when driving the road, especially on the weekends. People back in there are liable to speed, ignore trail etiquette, and just generally act like uncivilized barbarians. You've been warned...
FR #37 takes you from 371 down to a short spur trail (FR #95) that connects to the trailhead. FR #37 is a class III trail, requiring a modicum of 4WD experience. If you are unclear about how to choose lines through obstacles, walk the side trail instead. The road provides ample opportunities for beginners to destroy their vehicles. However, if you are experienced, you could easily negotiate the trail and get a stock vehicle in and out safely. The trail gets steep and tipsy in a few sections so I wouldn't suggest relying on street tires. A shovel is a must...just in case. FR #95 is a class II sandy path breeze. The only thing that makes it more than a dirt path is the fact that it's quite narrow in spots and sports a few deep gullies.
In closing, the view from Mica is unimpressive, but you're there; the view from Spud Rock is outrageous and unlike anything else in the mountains of Tucson. The autumn weather made it a great day and gave us a few shots of aspen and oak ablaze with leaves of gold and crimson. We even got a cloud to cooperate and block the sun during our final descent of the old jeep trail section back into the trailhead, which is completely exposed. Definitely a trip to remember!