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Lemmon Not-a-Loop, AZ
mini location map2021-05-14
19 by photographer avatarandrewp
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Lemmon Not-a-Loop, AZ 
Lemmon Not-a-Loop, AZ
Hiking avatar May 14 2021
Hiking15.25 Miles 3,640 AEG
Hiking15.25 Miles   7 Hrs   59 Mns   2.45 mph
3,640 ft AEG   1 Hour   45 Mns Break
1st trip

With the valley temps finally breaking 100 I thought it was time to choose a hike that started at elevation. Decided that I wanted to go check out Lemmon Pools, but wanted a little more AEG than that hike offered. Original plan was to do a CCW loop of Aspen :next: Meadow :next: Lemmon Rock :next: W.O.R but the Bighorn closures got in the way of that plan!
After following two Trico Electric cherry pickers up the mountain at an infuriating 28 MPH I finally made it to Marshall Gulch around 7am. Shouldered my pack and hit the trail. First time I’ve started at elevation in a long time and could really feel the altitude.

Marshall Gulch was beautiful with good stream flow and lots of green and critters. Best of all there were absolutely no people to disturb the sounds of nature.

After reaching the saddle I started up Aspen. The lower section is more or less as I remember, but the upper section after gaining the ridge top is a wasteland -- the entire south side of the ridge has been destroyed. Construction of the fire line obliterated the switchbacks at the top so it took a bit of extra effort to find and follow them. Exposure was 100% so this is one I wouldn’t want to be doing in the heat of the afternoon.

Walked the roads up top and made my way through Lemmon Park. Stopped there for breakfast and took a few moments to admire the views. Continued on and really enjoyed the narrow stretch of forest in the latter part of the Meadow Trail which hasn’t burned. Sadly it seems like most Catalina hikes are going to be to visit narrow sections of unburned forest surrounded by scorched earth.

Took a left on the Mt Lemmon Trail (road) and headed toward the turnoff for the lookout. Passed Quartzite Spring and was surprised to find it bone dry. There was a little seep from the rock above the pump house, but nothing out of the pipe and no sign of recent flow.

Reached the Lemmon Rock trailhead and came to a closed and locked gate just past the wilderness sign. This is one of the new steel gates that I’ve seen popping up at a number of the Catalina trailheads. No posting of why the gate was locked. I figured that Lemmon Rock would be like the other trails where there was no field indication of the closure, but in this case it would appear that the Forest Service really doesn’t want people on the trail. What’s funny is that the fence extends about 10ft to either side of the gate and then stops so it’s not like the gate is a real obstacle. Plus that detour would put me off-trail which wouldn’t be in violation of anything! Decided not to tempt fate and headed back to and down the Aspen trail.

Once in the W.O.R. my spirits lifted and I enjoyed making my way down into the valley. Fire damage is intermittent with most of the forest in the upper section looking OK, but I swear there are more trees dead or close to dead than there were when I was through here last in November. About halfway between the first creek crossing (where the trail heads south) and the intersection of the Lemmon Rock trail I started seeing some water in the creek. 4 or 5 of the crossings had some water flowing.

Below the Lemmon Rock trail things started looking more and more singed, then outright burnt. This made the trail even more exposed than it had been and it was starting to get warm out there. The ponderosa stands near the last crossing were more or less intact, but a lot of the smaller brush and ground cover was taken out by the fire.

Having never been to the pools I downloaded a GPS track and that would have been great if it weren’t for the fact that my app had a brain fart and all I ended up with was a waypoint. Knowing that the approach was well before the stream crossing I looked for an obvious trail, but couldn’t find anything. There was a cairn on the trail but I couldn’t see an obvious way through the brush. I went a little farther on and then over some rocks into the area above the upper pools. Found a couple of makeshift campsites and eventually found the trail. Checked out the campsite above the main pool then made my way down.

There was a small amount of water over the falls but the flow was slow enough that the pool was starting to look a bit stale. Was going to take a dip, but realized that I forgot to put sunblock in my pack. Knowing the exposure I was facing on the way out I decided to forego the dip in favor of not being rendered extra crispy on the hike out. Next time I’ll be sure to pack sunblock and a pool floaty!

Did some extra scrambling on the way out and then followed what I could find of the use trail back to the main trail. Ended up pushing through the brush right next to the cairn that I passed earlier.

The hike out was a total slog. The temperatures were in the 90s at this point and shade was almost nonexistent until well after the Lemmon Rock intersection. Add in a constant swarm of gnats around my head and I was loving life. Conditions were better above 7500’ but I was beat and really dragging. Fortunately, the last 1.5 miles or so were all downhill!

On the drive out I stopped by Bear Wallow to check on water availability for a backpack I’m planning. Totally dry.
Named place
Named place
Quartzite Spring

dry Bear Wallow Spring Dry Dry
Observed from the road. Didn't inspect up close, but there were no signs of recent water.

dry Cascade Spring Dry Dry
Not even a damp spot

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Lemmon Creek @ WOR #44 Light flow Light flow
Decent trickle upstream as well at 4 or 5 of the crossings. Flow was definitely light but water was clear and could be collected easily if needed.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Lemmon Pools 76-100% full 76-100% full
I honestly don't know what 100% full looks like. There was very light flow in and out, which suggests some degree of fullness. Water was clear enough to see the bottom rather than the black sludge that's been common after the fire.

dry Quartzite Spring Dry Dry
A little moist under the rock, but I challenge anyone to get water out of that. Pipe was dry and no sign of recent water flow.
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