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Butterfly Trail #16 - Catalina
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mini location map2021-08-05
19 by photographer avatarkingsnake
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Butterfly Trail #16 - CatalinaTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Aug 05 2021
kingsnake
Hiking6.27 Miles 1,740 AEG
Hiking6.27 Miles
1,740 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
My plan was to hike Butterfly Trail #16 and, if I was making good time and not too sore, check out the observatories and antenna farms on Mount Bigelow.

It took my wife & I as much time to drive from I-10 across Tucson, and up Mount Lemmon, as it did for us to drive to Tucson. At least there was no construction on Grant Rd., and no looky-loos on the Catalina Highway. I started hiking from the Bigelow Trailhead at 9:30 a.m., with plans for my wife to meet me three hours later at the Butterfly Trailhead, to see if I would complete the loop, or call it a day.

At 8,280 ft., the Mount Bigelow-Kellogg Mountain saddle is the high point of Butterfly Trail #16. The saddle is where the expansive views start: The Galiuro Mountains are easily visible 22 miles east, across the San Pedro River valley, and even beyond that, 50 miles to the Pinaleno Mountains. The town on the left side of the valley is San Manuel. The Catalina Mountains' foothills were bright green. ☘️

There were not many flowers on the climb to the Mount Bigelow-Kellogg Mountain saddle, but they began in earnest on the descent from it.

There was a fair amount of growth along the well-groomed trail. I turned a corner of the first switchback down, bumping into an older pair of trail maintenance volunteers. They told me the growth got much worse ahead. They were not kidding!

Overgrowth often obscures pitfalls caused by Bighorn Fire-damaged trees’ uprooted root bulbs. The overgrowth is waist high. There are prickler vines, but at least no cat claw. Mind your footing. When the trail is visible, it’s in good shape.

I found the best flowers — particularly dense patches of yellow columbine and pink thicket / Fendler’s globemallow -- the second mile of the trail, as it heads north along the east slope of Mount Bigelow. 🤗

After descending 560 ft. in a mile from the Mount Bigelow-Kellogg Mountain saddle, Butterfly Trail #16 reaches a second saddle on the north slope of Mount Bigelow, separating it from Westfall Knob. Novio Spring, the falls, and the F-86 wreck site are in the canyon on the left.

From the north end of Westfall Knob, the trail descends 800 ft. in a mile. The signed junction with Davis Spring Trail #31 is two-thirds of the way down. The descent is actually the longest stretch of good trail I experienced.

… Which was quickly followed by the worst section of Butterfly Trail #16. The vegetation was so dense, I wandered off trail, and could not spot where it was I had gone wrong. I battered about for a bit, then considered my options. Not wanting to repeat my experience at the bottom of Willow Springs Canyon last year ( [ photoset ] ), I decided to bail. ↩️

It was a long, slow, trudge back up Butterfly Trail #16. I took breathers every 100 ft. up, and even several 10 minute sit down breaks. On my break back at the Davis Spring Trail #31 junction, I went to call my wife about the change in plans, only to realize I had left my phone in the car. (If there is reception anywhere on this hike, it would be near Westfall Knob, with line-of-sight to Mount Lemmon.)

A little over a mile out from Bigelow Trailhead, about 2:00 p.m., I bumped into a mom and her son hiking northbound. She said some time previously, they had hiked southbound, and had to turn around due to overgrowth. Now, they were trying the opposite way. That did not seem wise. Personally, I was exhausted.

Covered in leaf stains, pollen and soot, I arrived at the Bigelow Trailhead just after 3:00 p.m. — only to see my Acura RDX drive off. Argh! Thankfully, there were some very kind folks there who offered to drive me up to Butterfly Trailhead to reconnect with my wife. (She’d been alternating trailheads every 15 minutes, looking for my late 🎃.)

I cramped several times on the way back down the Catalina Highway. We ate dinner at La Hacienda in Oro Valley. All told, after my hike, I drank a V8, three waters, a Gatorade, and two beers before I peed after dinner for the first time in seven hours. Think I was dehydrated? 😆

**** For the flowers.

Hike Video: https://vimeo.com/584915839
Named place
Named place
Kellogg Mountain Westfall Knob
Meteorology
Meteorology
Fire Burn Area & Recovery
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Substantial
Several dense patches of yellow columbine. A half mile stretch of many prolific thicket / Fendler's globemallow. (Pink ones!) Plenty of scarlet penstemon. Several varieties of paintbrush. Vervain represented. Also Arizona thistle, western yarrow, western dayflower, fleabane, Richardson's geranium, alpine false spring parsley, raspberry, red and yellow pea, Wright's goldenrod, flowering wild / Virginia strawberry, American vetch, skyrocket (some pink!), Lemon beebalm, and pineywoods geranium. Mullein and primrose by the Bigelow Trailhead.
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