Three of us (2 hikers and a dog)started off at the Marshall Gulch trailhead around 8:30 on Saturday morning. It was pretty dreary and drizzly all morning - not bad when your whole point was to escape the heat in town anyhow...We both forgot our trail maps, so we needed to stop in at the Visitor Center before we hit the trail, since I wasn't exactly sure which trails we'd need at the end of the trip. As you'll see, the stop wasn't terribly helpful, since we only picked up the very rudimentary, free map. Lessons learned.
Marshall Gulch, as always, was lush, green and beautiful. Columbines everywhere, more wildflowers than I could name or photograph. However, the trail was crawling with people, groups and dogs. We pretty much hauled up that section trying to escape the crowds on the Marshall/Aspen Loop. As I suspected, once we were past the intersection at Marshall Saddle, we had the trail practically to ourselves.
From there we headed down Wilderness of Rocks, with the sky sprinkling us with water on and off. There were some amazing thunder and lightning, but it was all pretty far off, so we weren't too worried. We seemed to stay ahead of the weather the whole trip. More amazingly lush greenery and wildflowers accompanied us the whole way.
Dropped our packs and set up camp at the 2nd crossing of Lemmon Creek - really a perfect campsite. Took a short break in the shade of the pines, enjoying the creek and a snack before we headed off to find Lemmon Pools. I hadn't been out there for like a decade, so it took a little bush whacking, but we finally found ourselves at our own private swimming hole complete with waterfall and fun bare-foot climbing area. Even the dog enjoyed exploring! Wish it had been warmer, to make the swim more refreshing - but it was a wonderful spot anyhow.
Hiked back, exploring more into the Wilderness area, scrambling on boulders and generally playing in the outdoors. Back at camp, we helped a troop of scouts find the route to the pools - I sure hope they all found it okay (or more importantly, their way out!) Wonderful night with a small campfire to dry the clothes, sky cleared late at night for a sparkling star show.
Hiked out next morning using the Lemmon Rock Trail up to the peak. This trail is GREATLY improved since my last trek out here in April. The fallen trees have all been cleared out of the way, and the eroded sections have been re-worked. It's still steep, but at least it's not such a nightmare anymore. Heat and humidity added to the fun - I went through a liter and a half of water on that climb! Popped into the lookout tower, but there was a fire in the vicinity, and we weren't allowed to socialize. Ran into a couple more HikeAZers above the tower - I was silly and didn't catch names, but it was nice to see you whoever you were
Parking lot at the top was a hoppin' social center. We had planned to hike down Aspen Draw to the Aspen trail, and back via Marshall Gulch. However, our crappy map and some confusion on the radio tower hilltop and we ended up following the powerline road all the way back into Summerhaven. Miserable pumpkin of a trail, if you ask me. Nothing but ankle-turner rocks on a steep slope in the hot sun. My penance for forgetting my map, I suppose. Walked out Carter Canyon and followed the road back into the (very very crowded) Marshall Gulch picnic area.
One more note on this very long hike description. I love hiking with my dog. Her little boots and pack get lots of comments and giggles, but she's become a very responsible, fun hiking partner. Wish responsible dog owners and well-trained pets were allowed on more trails around Tucson.