We started at Molino Basin because that is where we ended on a previous day hike from Redington Road on passage 10. I'll add that link for the mileage once I finish the first part of that passage, but it added 2.5 miles to this trip. My hiking partner (Jamie) and I drove down from Phoenix the night before so we could get an early start on Friday since we thought it might be hot in the lower elevations of this passage. Thankfully the weather cooperated by being one of the cooler Memorial Day weekends - and of course the breeze helped too. I remember passage 10 being really windy when we did that one, and this time the wind started off as a gentle breeze but soon got gusty especially near Sycamore Canyon. Jamie was hiking ahead of me and I stopped to take my trekking umbrella down after a gust of wind inverted it (and distracted me on an area of the trail where it drops off on the right side! No bueno - so I stopped to put it away!) Anyway, I was hiking along after that and started heading east for what I thought was too long for a typical switchback, and could not see that the trail went down to where I needed to go. I could not see Jamie anywhere and thought maybe I missed a turn somewhere, so I backtracked a little but didn't see any other trail that would take me where I needed to go.
Damn! Stay calm. . . look at your map - OH! It was just a really long switchback above Palisade TJ where I couldn't see the trail below. I felt stupid when I finally caught up to Jamie at the junction and had to explain why it took me so long to get there!
Initially we planned to stop for the night at Hutch's Pool, but since we got an early start we got to Hutch's way too soon to camp. But we did take a much needed long break there to cool off in the water and filter some of that lovely water to take with us. It would have been a great place to camp for the night - another time maybe.
And then the climbing began. . . and the light was starting to fade, so we camped just a couple miles away somewhere along the west fork of the canyon. The temps that night were great for camping, and it was so quiet. A great nights sleep and up early to climb some more, and into passage 12.
I was worried about Romero Pass (especially carrying a backpack), and it was a long climb, but not as bad as I had imagined, and the views. . . the views were so worth it! I loved looking out at the wilderness side (as opposed to looking out toward Tucson) and seeing nothing but wild as far as you can see. It was hazy (maybe from a wildfire north of Sonoita?) but still some great views up there! We took another nice long lunch break in the pines at the top before heading into the Wilderness of the Rocks area. It just kept getting better. I loved all the strange and wonderful rock formations. And now that we were at a higher elevation the temperature was more comfortable than the previous day down in the canyon.
Our next stop was Lemmon Creek. We had originally planned to camp there the second night - but since we got farther the first day, and didn't take as long to hike up Romero Pass. . . we got there too early to stop for the day, but again took a leisurely break to soak our feet in the creek and have a snack. This was one of our favorite places so far on this already spectacular passage. It was so lush and cooling. The ferns, some yellow columbines, the clear creek, a frog, soft pine needles to rest on - what's not to like. By the way, there was plenty of good water all along this section - and we had filtered more water before we got here, but this would have been a really good source. We also started seeing more people as we got up to this area (it was a Saturday on a holiday weekend - so we expected to see more people out, but still there was plenty of solitude the whole trip).
We ended up camping tucked next to some giant rock formation before the Marshall Gulch trail junction, and it was the perfect spot. It was still very windy, and much colder up there, so the rocks made for a nice wind break (but it was a cold nights sleep). That left a very short but sweet hike the next day through the pines and along Marshall Gulch. Really pretty area!
We had left a car at the Oracle Ridge Trailhead - and I guess if I had really done my homework I would have left it at the Marshall Gulch Trailhead instead. I could have done without the road walk up through Summerhaven. But we finished early in the morning and retrieved the other car on the way down the mountain and made our way back to Phoenix. No celebratory beer this time since it was only 9:30am (but I guess it was 5:00 somewhere?!) Still, a great way to spend a few days on the trail. Loved all the variety of terrain in this area.