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Jack Mountain Loop
13 Photosets

mini location map2014-07-20
7 by photographer avatarneilends
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Jack Mountain LoopTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jul 20 2014
Hiking7.50 Miles 2,070 AEG
Hiking7.50 Miles
2,070 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
No such thing as a routine hike! This one involved a bear sighting and my coming to the aid of a German tourist.

My route was to go up the Baldy Trail to the Josephine Saddle. There was a hikers' traffic jam up there, including one particularly rude group from another country that I won't name that was blaring bad music from a cheap stereo during their hike. I love the country; not such a fan of that specific group. Anyway, the crowd and their absurd noise completely disappeared once I headed west on the Agua Caliente. The description is accurate in referring to the beauty of Caliente. It was a bit narrow at times, and steep, by my standards. A misstep wouldn't have meant death, but it definitely would have meant a fatigue-drawing, scratched-up scramble back up to the trail.

From the Caliente, I connected with the Old Vault Mine Trail and started heading back to the trailhead. With about 1 mile to go, I heard a human voice yelling out from somewhere behind me. This was the first sign of another person I'd seen since the Josephine Saddle. I initially guessed from the tone that it was just someone calling out to a friend. But I then heard the yelling increase in urgency, and there were no responses, so I decided to call back. A man with a European accent yelled something to me about "a bear." Through more yelling back and forth, I tried asking him some questions: was he okay, which trail was he on, what direction was he heading, where did he spot the bear, and what direction was it headed?

He wasn't sure of some of the answers, and I detected some anxiety in his voice. So, I suggested to him that he should simply walk back to the trailhead, and he and I would keep within voice contact of each other. I guessed that he was on the Carrie Nation trail, patting myself on the back for having properly studied the area topos for my pre-hike due diligence. I was right. I soon spotted him as the Old Vault and Carrie trails converged. I bushwhacked for just a minute or two and joined him. He was relieved and glad to see me, and frankly so was I because I didn't want a bear encounter while solo.

My German friend had been taking photographs of lizards, while wearing flip-flops and armed only with his camera. Suddenly, a bear with brownish fur, that I assured him was probably nonetheless a black bear, startled him from about 10 yards away. From his description, the bear seemed curious for a moment, and then took off running in the opposite direction. So, no real danger. But in my opinion he was absolutely correct to follow his fear instincts. He was hiking alone, with no bear spray and no weapons.

We enjoyed a good chat during the walk back to the parking area. What amazed both of us were the reactions of other hikers (well, so close to the trailhead they were mostly “walkers”) to our warnings of a bear sighting just half a mile away. Maybe my bear "training" from Denali and the months I spent in Alaska have put an irrational, irreversible fear of bears into my veins, to abnormal levels? But I stand by my position: if a bear is spotted in the area, you must leave the area immediately. That means cancellation your planned hike if there's only one direction to walk in. But of the approximately 10 hikers we warned, only one couple seemed remotely concerned and expressed an desire to be cautious and not proceed much further. The others ranged from apathetic, to cocky, to confused why we were even bothering telling them. "I see bears out here all the time. Not a big deal," one said.

We had a bear fatality in Arizona within the last couple of years, if I remember correctly. A perfectly pleasant urban stroll by a 60-year-old woman walking her dog resulted in the unprovoked fatal attack. Bears sit on TOP of the food chain when we are in the wilderness, unless arguably we arm ourselves with bear spray or a high caliber handgun. But even that requires immediate access to the spray and/or expert gun handling skills that most gun owners don't have. Otherwise: Bear v. Human = bear wins. Am I missing something here? Am I the weird one?

Spotted: a horned toad, many colorful lizards of a species I'll figure out soon, birds with blue feathers, and a big scary bear.
Parry's Primrose
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Wildflowers Observation Light
"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." --John Adams

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