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Sabino - Bear Canyon Loop
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mini location map2011-10-09
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Sabino - Bear Canyon LoopTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 09 2011
Hiking13.50 Miles 2,252 AEG
Hiking13.50 Miles   9 Hrs   10 Mns   2.19 mph
2,252 ft AEG   3 Hrs    Break
1st trip
I have no idea how this trip report got so long but nonetheless, here it is:

Your Mission if you choose to hike it:
"Come to Wendy's on Saturday nite, we'll hike somewhere on Sunday".

Hmmm. Well surely Wendy wouldn't lead me astray but why was she being so mysterious as to the WHERE :scared: ? I kind of had a tough ascent the weekend before so she knew my ego was bruised. Would she make my ego feel better or worse? With Wendy, I had a feeling it would be the former soooo I agreed to the mission and deleted the email. This would be my third trip to hike in the southern AZ ranges in the last 4 weeks. Tonto was beginning to think we should just move to Tucson ;) .

I drove down Sat nite to hang out with Mr. and Mrs. Wendy. No hints from Wendy as to our destination other than it was going to be an all day hike, probably more than 12 miles. :o as I drank some more of my bloody mary beer. A little after 6 AM the next day, we rise and shine, pack our gear and start driving toward the Catalinas. I've hiked in the Catalinas twice and both times the ascent just about put an end to my hiking desire :lol: . What on earth was she thinking? Wendy assured me over and over this was one of those that would be not nearly as hard as I thought. However, she was smart to not let me do my normal research before hand so that I could psych myself out.

It was a beautiful morning and other than leaving my keys in the restroom (fortunately someone would let me know before we got on the trail), the hike started out just wonderful and never let up. We would not be hiking on the road but on the trail. The morning light was incredible and the scenery even more so :y: . Wendy warned me that tibbermode would not be allowed :--: as we had ground to cover. I politely accepted the challenge... you know, all part of The Mission. But even Wendy had to give way to catch some of the beauty of the trail by pulling out her camera sooner and more often than expected.

I loved this warm-up part of the hike which was quite long before we hit any kind of elevation. Fortunately, there weren't the throngs of people on this trail that one can encounter on a weekend. 1 1/2 miles later we arrived at the junction where the trail sign said we had 7 miles to the East Fork Junction. Essentially by the time we got to the Junction, we would have done the same mileage we had done two weeks prior in the Cochise Stronghold. And from there it would be another 5 miles or so to catch the shuttle, IF we made it on time. Wendy wasn't sure what time the shuttles ran.

The hike is even more fabulous the moment you hit the mouth of Bear Canyon. And then, OMG, Seven Falls... We climbed up a couple of the switchbacks on the Bear Canyon Trail past the Falls and our views were even better :DANCE: . The light of the Fall sun was just nice enough not to overexpose the rock base of the Falls. There was another area prior to that where Wendy pointed out how the debris had come so fast down the mountain it had rubbed the dirt all the way down to the bedrock. I presume, upon additional reading when I got home, that this too was caused from the 2006 flood.

As switchbacks go, these were absolutely the bomb. It looks like there had been about 1 mile and 1/2 of new trail work done just recently so we got the pleasure of a clear trail. This had already been a great trail on a great day (altho we did have to go around one recent rock slide in the canyon). :thanx: to whatever crews had done this wonderful trail work for our hike. We stopped at a spring fed waterfall area that was pretty dry for the moment to have our second snack break of the day. This was about the 5 mile mark. We had great views from here and were able to really stretch out for a short time.

Next we headed out on the mostly level trail around a couple corners above the canyon and then next to and above the Seven Falls. We encountered a couple along with some teenagers and young boys who were heading on home after a weekend of backpacking. We would only see about 3 or 4 other people the rest of the day. Soon, our nice trail went back to a normal trail; it made the traverse go a tad slower. We were glad the backpacking party had laid down some of the grass from their walking so we could find the trail easier. There was only one area where we zigged and zagged a little to try to get to the cairns we spotted in a rockier area.

The canyon below us had lots of water too. Wendy said she was surprised at the amount of water this late in the season. And as you know, being able to hear water on your hike just makes it that more pleasant :D . We also enjoyed the various grasses along the way along with the coral bean and Arizona cotton that were starting to turn color :FG: . There was also a "bee" plant that was blooming prolificly and smelled great!

Soon we made it down to where the trail crosses the creek. Someone had painted a blue line across the rocks so we wouldn't get lost. I actually don't quite understand that since there were limited choices as to how to get across the mostly dry creek anyway. We stopped here at the 6.5 mile mark to enjoy the creek and grab another snack before heading up the switchbacks to the saddle another 2 miles away.

There was some great scenery coming up the switchbacks that crossed the south side of the mountain before swinging north and then switchbacking a few times before you're pretty far up on the side of the canyon! You know you have to eventually change directions, and after trying to get some pics of a deer Wendy had spotted, I said we must have to switchback and up from here not realizing we were standing ON the switchback :lol: . So we continued switchbacking up where we were treated to some spectacular views of Bear Canyon and the grassy mountainsides with oak trees scattered about. In the far distance, you could even see Wrightson and some of the Santa Ritas.

One time when we were walking on the east side of the mountain, it was like the cool and hot winds were having an argument around us :oplz: . It was the strangest thing. The warm seemed to win out as we got on the south side of the mountain before hitting the saddle. Here is where we talked with another hiker for a few minutes before heading toward the pass to the junction. I was also trying to get a sense of where we were based on looking from below so I wanted to double check our route so I could remember where to look in the pictures.

Once again we encounter our last hiker of the day. In short order, although I thot it was further than the 3/10ths the hiker at the Saddle said the Pass was from the Saddle, we come to the first pass but it is not THE pass with the junction. THE pass would be down further.

We decided it was time for lunch so we tried to find some shade. Well we found a piece of shade just big enough for the two of us and all the little bugs decided they would have lunch too :( . So we barely stayed long enough to finish our shared sandwich and a couple swedish fish before gearing back up and seeing if we could find a better place to take a little longer break before the last part of our trek through Sabino Canyon. Wendy did point out the Sycamore Basin and the location of the Reservoir and the trails above it that we could see from here.

We finally made the Junction. Scout showed the mileage as being 9 miles. The views from here were truly awesome :y: . It's as if you were in the center of the Catalinas as you could see so many landmarks such as Cathedral Rocks, Romero Pass, Wilderness of the Rocks, Sabino and Sycamore Basins and so much more. It was just beautiful.

Now on to Sabino. It seems quite the long descent down this east side though it only clocks in at a mile to Wendy's "zen" area :FG: . She was kind enough to share it with me. We were hoping to take a longer break here but the bugs forced us on our way after about 15 minutes. It was nice to hike in the basin area as the topography changed once again. We were having such a great day that even the clouds were doing a "wendy" 8) (be sure to see the photo when I post it).

Now we would slowly move up and out of the basin and change our direction to the south. The views were just non-stop fun to see. The shadows from the trees on one of the north facing hills was so interesting but hard to photograph. The grasses continued to be fabulous. Before you knew it, you were way above the Canyon :o . What? How the pumpkin did that happen so quickly that I hardly noticed?!

This last two miles of the hike seemed to take a long time. However, it was nice to see so much of this area that Wendy knew so well and had spent so much time hiking and backpacking and camping. I always like when I get to see in person where some of you hang out. We were going to take a little break but I thot we should try and see if we could catch the 5 o'clock shuttle, mostly because I still had a long drive home so wanted to save the time.

The hike also got toasty from time to time in this area but it seemed just when you would get a bit bothered by the heat, a breeze would come up to cool your jets. Eventually we came to the trail sign just before you drop down to the road. High above you is the infamous Blackett's Ridge I've heard about. That looks like a grueling ascent to me :sweat: . About 1/2 way down this last 1/2 mile we see the shuttle. How 'bout that. Nothing like perfect timing to finish off our nearly perfect BEARBINO hike. :thanx: Wendy!

Oh and lest I forget, we didn't have any money so the driver would not let us get on until he had some collateral like a camera :o . I looked at Wendy as there was no way I was giving up my camera :sl: . At the end of the ride we pay the man and then head to Tonto. As we start to leave Wendy realizes she doesn't have her wallet. She had left it in the restroom. Somewhat of a fitting ending since I had left my keys there in the AM only to be told that before we started hiking out by another patron.

3 videos:
to our lunch spot at the other side of 7 Falls: (the first song you will hear is by Alice Tatum, an acquaintance of mine and a local singer from Phoenix
from our lunch spot to the Saddle above Bear Canyon:
from Bear Canyon Saddle to and thru Sabino Canyon:

To Wendy (it loses a word in translation): Einer dieser Tage kann ein gut aussehender, gut aussehenden Deutschen am Ende des Weges, um Sie bei einer Massage sorgen.
Throwing a Wendy
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Named place
Pusch Ridge Wilderness
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated
For me, sometimes it's just as much about the journey as the destination.
Oh, and once in awhile, don't forget to look back at the trail you've traveled.
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