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15 triplogs
Aug 06 2021
andrewp
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 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

male
 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
White Mountains Tour, AZ 
White Mountains Tour, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Aug 06 2021
andrewp
Hiking55.74 Miles 6,888 AEG
Hiking55.74 Miles2 Days   8 Hrs   50 Mns   
6,888 ft AEG   5 Hrs    Break
 
1st trip
I had originally planned a long (5+ day) backpacking trip in the Greer area for early July, but the forest closures ended up cancelling that. In looking for a replacement trip I ended up deciding to do the Tahoe Rim Trail in September. The prep for that trip includes some new gear and new packing discipline along with the physical challenge of the trail itself (180 miles in 11 days). I decided to modify my original plan for the White Mountains and use it as a shakedown for the Tahoe trip.

Day 1 - 17 miles - Greer to West Fork of the Black River
This day started out at the Government Springs trailhead around 7:00am. I was a bit concerned about the condition of the trail as I couldn't find a lot of information on it. I was pleasantly surprised to find a fairly well-traveled trail which looks to be somewhat actively maintained (i.e. deadfall has been cut and cleared). There were some overgrown spots where I was concerned about stepping into something I couldn't see, but aside from from water and mud there weren't any issues.

I continued following the river up to Sheeps Crossing where I got onto the West Baldy trail which I followed to its intersection with the Baldy Crossover trail.

The crossover trail was a nice change after the muddy river walk, but the dry trail only lasted for so long. After the first mile the skies opened up and out came the rain gear. The rain was never hard and it only lasted for 30 minutes or so. A new item on this trip was a rain kilt and as ridiculous as it looks I have to say that it's sooo much better than rain pants.

After the crossover trail ended I headed up the East Baldy trail for a bit. The intention here was to replicate a route posted by @Oregon_Hiker which followed the West Fork of the Black River to connect the East Baldy trail with the Thompson trail. I was able to find the headwaters of the Black River without too much trouble, but the condition of the canyon had changed significantly since he posted his triplog last year.

From his photos I expected a reasonably straightforward trek through a sparsely forested canyon. What I encountered was an overgrown mess which made it very difficult to find footing. On top of that there was an incredible amount of deadfall which looked like some jumbo-sized game of pickup sticks. I tried following the canyon a bit above the river and had better luck but it was still slow going. I eventually found the reservation boundary fence but it was in every orientation but vertical and mostly pinned down under massive deadfall. This was very different from last year's photos and description.

Then the thunder and lightning started.
Then it started raining again.
Then it started hailing.

After the storm I started moving again only to be slowed down by even more rain then stopped by more impressive thunder and even bigger hail. This trip was quickly running the risk of transitioning from type 2 to type 3 fun.

While waiting out the storm I decided to abandon the river walk and cut over to FR402D. Once the storm stopped I made my way over to the road and followed it to the point where it diverged from the stream. From there I stuck with the stream and made my way through the meadow to FR116 which I followed to the Thompson trail.

The Thompson trail was beautiful and similar in overall theme to the Government Springs trail at the beginning of the day. There were a lot of marshy sections and a lot of mud. While I had hoped to keep my feet from getting any wetter that just wasn't in the cards.

My intent was to camp near the intersection of the Thompson and West Fork trails, but when I got there I couldn't find a good spot. As the clouds in the sky were getting more ominous looking I decided to backtrack to a site I saw about 0.5 miles prior.

The weather was quickly turning and once I got to the site I raced to get my tent setup. This was comical as it was a new tent and although I had set it up in my yard a few times I had never done so in the wild under duress of an impending storm. Somehow I managed to get the tent pitched, my gear sheltered, and myself into the tent before the skies opened up again. This time it rained hard for over an hour. Fortunately my new tent kept me and my stuff dry.

After the rain stopped I got my stuff better organized, had some dinner, and hit the sack. As I fell asleep a thunderstorm raged several miles to the west. Two hours later and every two hours after that I was awakened by my air mattress having deflated enough to put some part of my body in contact with the ground.

Day 2 - 18 miles - West Fork of the Black River to East Baldy Overlook
I awoke to 46 degrees and 100% humidity. It was actually a very nice morning if it weren't for all of the condensation all over everything. Fortunately, I stayed dry overnight and by some sort of miracle (and a well-designed tent) didn't end up with any moisture on my quilt.

After taking care of my morning routine and packing up a very wet tent (inside and out) I headed back down the Thompson trail to the West Fork trail. I crossed the river and headed up the canyon wall to the plateau above. Everything was wet and muddy. Not just muddy, but suck the shoe off your foot muddy. I don't have much to say about the West Fork trail as it was pretty unremarkable. I'm sure it was much more interesting before the fire, but now it's just a lot of exposure.

From the West Fork trail I took FR68 north to FR249C which roughly parallels the canyon edge. Not much to report from these roads other than the fact that they were rutted and muddy messes in places. Lots of sun exposure and slow going in spots. I had planned a stop a Deadman Spring to get some water and dry my tent, but upon arrival I found a pond with what appeared to be a pretty healthy bloom of blue green algae. Not wanting to test my theory I backtracked a bit to a flowing spring I had passed by earlier and took my break there. In retrospect perhaps Deadman Spring had that name for a reason :)

After my break I continued my walk through the mud bog that was FR249C. Eventually I made it to FR249E, the FR116, then 402 then 8037 which I followed over Burro Mountain to AZ273. This section featured some great views from Burro Mountain, but was otherwise a long and tough slog. The sun was blazing and having learned my lesson descending the Rincons in May I was carrying a sun umbrella which I attached to my pack for some portable shade. This turned out to be a lifesaver as there's nothing worse than broiling your brain in the sun.

After cutting through the Gabaldon campsite I got onto the East Baldy trail and started making my way up the hill. Knowing that I would have a dry camp I grabbed water at the last possible spot before the trail started ascending. The Easy Baldy trail is beautiful and although I was tired I was loving the scenery.

I made it to the overlook about midway up the trail and found a perfect spot to pitch my tent between a couple of boulders. Took in the views, made some dinner, and hit the sack early. As I didn't have time to track down the leak in my mattress I went through the same cycle of interrupted sleep.

Day 3 - 20 miles - East Baldy overlook back to Greer
I woke up early and had just enough time to make some coffee before the sun came up. Enjoyed the display and then got on with my day.

The remainder of the East Baldy trail was beautiful and in retrospect one of my favorite parts of the trip. There was some deadfall to deal with, but nothing too bad. I stopped at the spring near the plane wreck to camel up and continued on. The area around the wreck was completely overgrown with ferns and cornlilly to the point that the tail section was barely visible.

Made it to the junction with the West Baldy trail and took a side trip up to the accessible summit. The views were great, but there was some haze in the air which limited visibility.

From the summit I started down and once I got to the shallower grade in the last 4 - 5 miles I hauled a** to the trailhead. I was feeling great and making great time so, stupid me, thought that the last 7 miles would be a fast walk back into town. I should have known better as the West Fork trail was a nightmare.

Once I found the West Fork trail I was treated to 4 miles of rutted and muddy terrain with nearly zero redeeming qualities. I'm guessing that without the mud it would have been more enjoyable, but in its current state I was really regretting my decision to take this trail. Fortunately the last 2 miles were through a beautifully forested area which almost made up for the prior pain.

Once at the trailhead I was ready for my day to be over, but I still had a 1.75 mile road walk through Greer to get to my truck. What energy I had left was sapped out of me by that walk. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday afternoon and the restaurants I passed were all either closed or not serving. I had been looking forward to a celebratory piece of pie, but that wasn't meant to be.
While quite different than my original plan of a leisurely stroll through the area I think that the fast approach that I took was more appropriate. The overall area is beautiful, but the beauty is punctuated by burned areas and, in the case of this trip, a lot of mud. I imagine that I would have gotten rather bored and frustrated if I had spread it out over any more days. In the future I may make another trip to focus more on the Mount Baldy Wilderness and unburned sections of Burro Mountain but I think I've had my fill of the area SW of Big Lake.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Buckshot Spring Gallon per minute Gallon per minute
This may have been the highlight of my day. Clean and clear flow out of the pipe.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Burro Creek Medium flow Medium flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Clear Cut Spring Gallon per minute Gallon per minute

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Deadman Spring Gallon per minute Gallon per minute
Hard to tell actual flow, but there was a lot of water in the pool. Film of what was likely and algae bloom on top so gathered drinking water from the spring a 1/2 mile south on the road.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 East Fork Little Colorado River Heavy flow Heavy flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Government Spring Gallon per minute Gallon per minute

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Mount Baldy Spring Gallon + per minute Gallon + per minute

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Neck Tank 76-100% full 76-100% full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Potatoe Hollow Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Trail Spring Gallon + per minute Gallon + per minute

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Trail Spring Tank 76-100% full 76-100% full


water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 West Fork Little Colorado River Heavy flow Heavy flow
Jul 29 2021
andrewp
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 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

male
 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
Pontatoc Ridge Trail #411Tucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jul 29 2021
andrewp
Hiking4.25 Miles 1,568 AEG
Hiking4.25 Miles   1 Hour   59 Mns   2.24 mph
1,568 ft AEG      5 Mns Break
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Time to get back on the trail after a long hiatus. Chose Pontatoc Ridge as its close to home and provides the combo of a nice workout, great views, and a reasonably short round-trip. Haven't been here in months and, wow, it's amazing what some rain will do!

Even though the major rains were several days ago water was still the overall theme of this hike. I've never seen this area so wet. Water was easily heard from the canyon bottom all the way up the ridge.

Flowing water was present in all three drainages. Never more than 5 - 6 inches deep with clear and strong flow. What was more interesting was the amount of water emanating from various nooks and crannies along the trail on the ridge. I counted at least 4 - 5 natural springs which were either actively flowing across the trail or at least turning it into a mud bog.


Needless to say the vegetation has taken off and the area has changed from a tan on brown color scheme to shades of vibrant green (on brown). At this point its a novelty, but I'm guessing that it's going to become an overgrown mess of thorny things in the coming weeks.

Trail is in great shape even with the heavy rains. No wash outs and no spots where the mud made things difficult.

I've never had a desire to hike up Pontatoc Canyon, but I'm curious to try it with water in the drainage.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Finger Rock Canyon Light flow Light flow
Not a huge amount of water, but more than I've seen in this drainage in a long time.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Pontatoc Canyon Light flow Light flow
Nice consistent flow could be heard from multiple spots in the canyon when up on the ridge.
Jun 04 2021
andrewp
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 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

male
 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
Cabin Loop de Loop, AZ 
Cabin Loop de Loop, AZ
 
Backpack avatar Jun 04 2021
andrewp
Backpack36.45 Miles 4,620 AEG
Backpack36.45 Miles2 Days   21 Hrs   6 Mns   
4,620 ft AEG
 
1st trip
I came up with a combination on-trail / off-trail approach to the Cabin Loop area as I suspected that the real treasures of were in the canyons. I'm really happy I did it this way as the trails, while beautiful, didn't begin to show off what the area has to offer.

I wanted to do at least 3 days and knew that I wouldn't want to be making the 5 hour drive back to Tucson after a full day of hiking so I added a 4th day and made it purposefully short. This ended up being a smart move as the drive home was taxing enough on a Monday morning, so I can't imagine it on a Sunday night after a full day of hiking.

Day 1 - Pinchot Cabin to Coyote Spring
VERY early start from Tucson and took the back way up through Globe and along Roosevelt Lake rather than the route through Phoenix that Google really wanted me to take. Uneventful drive up, parked on FR139A at the Fred Haught trail intersection, and was ready to start hiking around 11am. Spent a few minutes at the Pinchot cabin and waited for another hiker to get going on the U-Bar trail so that we weren't right on top of each other. We ended up leapfrogging each other all day. Chatted a bit at Dane Spring... nice guy. Pointed him here as he was looking to abandon Alltrails app.

U-Bar trail starts out a bit ho-hum, but improves in terrain and scenery on the approach to Barbershop Canyon. Steep descent and climb out ended up being a workout that I wasn't expecting. Stopped in the canyon bottom for lunch and continued on to Dane Spring. I had originally planned on camping at Dane, but ended up continuing on as there was still some daylight to burn and there was already a group camped there.

Finished off the U-Bar trail and ended up making a campsite for myself on the hill above Coyote Spring. On the way down to the spring to get some water I found the skeletal remains of what appeared to be an elk and this was a little offputting. There only appeared to be remains of one animal so I assumed that this wasn't a popular dinner spot and hoped that I didn't have a visitor overnight. I didn't.

Day 2 - Coyote Spring > Merritt Draw > Camp Grasshopper #2 > Barbershop Canyon (upper-middle??)


Broke camp early and continued on Barbershop trail to Barbershop Spring where I refilled my bottles. After a bit of route finding I found FR139C which I followed a bit to a drainage that dropped into the head of Merritt Draw. Once into the draw I was treated to a really pleasant meadow walk for a mile or so. The riparian exclusion zones erected by the Forest Service appear to have gotten larger from those shown in previous photos and they take up almost the entire width of the draw. They also enclose the springs so pulling water with the current flow levels wasn't possible.

After the open meadow I continued on the abandoned FR9735P which is now a grade which is slowly going back to nature. This area is beautiful and it was interesting to watch the open meadow of Merritt Draw turn into a deep canyon. I continued walking the road around the nose of the ridge and to its intersection with FR139C. I stopped at Camp Grasshopper #2 for a quick lunch and then found the elk trail down the ridge into Barbershop Canyon. The trail was fairly easy to follow, but having the GPS track was definitely nice.

Where the elk trail dropped me, Barbershop was a deep and narrow drainage with a small, dry creek at the bottom. I started upstream in the creek bed and came to some pools within a few hundred yards. The water came and went for the rest of the journey. The canyon remained narrow with hardly any room for a consistent use trail and what little trail was there crossed the stream constantly. This area was beautiful and although there were a number of forest roads about 300ft above I felt like I was miles from civilization.

My intended stop for the night was one of the primitive campsites identified by @Grasshopper , but upon reaching the planned site I realized that it wasn't going to work for me. I was hammock camping and the tree arrangement was such that my hammock would have to span over the use trail. I imagined being awoken in the middle of the night by an elk colliding with me suspended in mid-air. I continued on and after a short distance the canyon opened up a bit and after about 1/2 mile I found an excellent spot on a high bench overlooking the stream.

Made camp, had some dinner, and hit the sack early.

Day 3 - Barbershop Canyon upstream to Rim > Houston Bros > Aspen Spring

I had been awake for about 15 minutes when a crash to my right alerted me to an incoming elk making her way down the ridge. She saw me (or my hammock) and froze. As I reached for my phone to get a photo she bolted back up the hill and from the sound of it she was stepping on every piece of downed wood she came upon!

Broke camp and headed up Barbershop Canyon with the intent of continuing all the way to the rim. This was the highlight of the trip by far as the upper section of Barbershop is absolutely beautiful. From my campsite this was an easy hike and once I reached the head of the canyon it was an easy walk across FR300 to take in the view off the edge of the rim. Spent some time here soaking it up and also took advantage of the cellular coverage to share the view with my wife via FaceTime.

Set off with the intent of following the General Crook trail to Houston Bros and although I was successful for a stretch I eventually lost the blazes and just hiked cross country in the approximate direction. I completely missed the trail and overshot it a bit then in backtracking got turned around. A quick check of GPS put me back on track, but it was an entertaining couple of minutes while I walked in circles.

The initial section of Houston Bros is quite pretty and the broadleaf trees in the drainages were a nice change from all of the pine and fir that I had been seeing for days. There were some good ups and downs in the first half of this trail and it was a bit more of a workout than I was expecting.

Once into Houston Draw the character changes and I was treated to alternating forest and meadow sections. This was easily one of the more enjoyable trail sections of the entire trip and I loved every minute of it. My intention was to camp at McFarland Spring, but after inspecting the area I decided that the area was too overgrown with too much deadfall to make for a pleasant evening.

I continued on and found an excellent site at Aspen Spring just east of the meadow in the side drainage. Nice site with some nice scenery. Setup camp, relaxed a bit, had some dinner, and then hit the sack.

Day 4 - Hike out and drive home

Very early start with a quick hike out to Pinchot cabin and my waiting truck. I was ready to hit the road a little after 8:30 and was very pleased that I had structured the trip this way. The drive home was long and tiring which was made worse by the closures due to the fire. Ended up taking AZ87 to the Bush Hwy and then picking up US60 in east Mesa and finally the straight line of AZ79 back to Oracle junction. Made it home by 1:30, which wasn't too bad at all.

Parting Thoughts

This was my first time in the area and I honestly wasn't sure what to expect. I knew that the trails were heavily forested and feared that the lack of views would get to be a drag after a while. That was absolutely the case and I'm so glad that I planned in the off-trail sections. If I had only done a trail hike I might not have a strong desire to go back, but after this experience I'll gladly make the drive again to explore more of the canyons.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Aspen Spring Dripping Dripping
Very light flow, but enough to create some shallow pools in drainage. MSR pump filter had no issues, but other methods might require some creativity.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Barbershop canyon creek Light flow Light flow
Fair amount of water at the U-Bar trail crossing. Light flow with large pools.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Barbershop Spring Dripping Dripping
Very, very shallow trickle with some small pools. Was able to draw with my MSR filter, but other filters would have trouble. Nearby Barbershop Canyon had large pools and light flow.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Coyote Spring Dripping Dripping
Hard to tell actual flow as it's just a large pool with a trickle down slope. Water was crystal clear which suggests a reasonably consistent flow.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Dane Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Strong flow. Easily qt/min, probably more.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Houston Draw Head Quart per minute Quart per minute
Light flow but created fair amount of surface water in drainage.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max McFarland Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Good flow with pools to draw from

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Pinchot Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Good flow. Lots of pools downstream
7 archives
May 28 2021
andrewp
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 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

male
 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
Old Baldy Trail #372 to Wrightson SummitTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar May 28 2021
andrewp
Hiking11.16 Miles 4,096 AEG
Hiking11.16 Miles   5 Hrs   15 Mns   2.53 mph
4,096 ft AEG      50 Mns Break
 
no photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Looking for a good AEG workout and decided to head up Wrightson using the short route out and back via Old Baldy trail. Got a bit of a late start and had to take a couple of breaks while on the trail due to work stuff, but otherwise it was a nice out and back workout.

Warm day and for once it wasn't especially windy anywhere on the mountain. Had the summit to myself and the lack of wind was nice, but without wind the flies had taken over. Had a snack, enjoyed the view, and then headed back down.

Not much to note on this trip other than the fact that Bellows Spring was flowing again. It was a very light trickle and there was clear water in the basin as well as some leakage onto and across the trail. This is a far cry from last Saturday when the pipe was dry and the basin was barely moist.

In an attempt to get home at a reasonable time I didn't pause anywhere on the way down other than to address a foot issue about 1.5 miles from the trailhead.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Bellows Spring Dripping Dripping
Less than a week later it's dripping again. Clear water in the basin and some mud on the trail.
May 22 2021
andrewp
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 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

male
 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
Four Springs / Santa Rita Crest Loop, AZ 
Four Springs / Santa Rita Crest Loop, AZ
 
Hiking avatar May 22 2021
andrewp
Hiking12.16 Miles 4,152 AEG
Hiking12.16 Miles   6 Hrs   18 Mns   2.53 mph
4,152 ft AEG   1 Hour   30 Mns Break
 
1st trip
I've wanted to do the Santa Rita crest for ages and was also looking for a good AEG hike that wasn't an out-and-back. Combining the crest with the Four Springs trail seemed like the perfect solution.

Was at the trailhead before 7am after an 1:15 drive from home. Set off on the Super Trail and took the turnoff to the Pipeline trail. Followed the Pipeline to its connection with the Kent Spring trail and followed that up to its terminus.

The area around the Kent Springs trail is beautiful and although there's usually a lot of traffic through here I was pleased to encounter no one. Passed Sylvester Spring (full and flowing) then slogged up the trail to Kent Spring. The spring basin was dry, but there was a little bit of flow in the adjacent creek.

Took a quick break at Kent Spring then took the very obvious pathway leading up the ridge that starts behind the trail junction sign.

This was my first trip on the Four Springs trail and it did leave me scratching my head a bit. This is an obvious, well-thought out, and well-constructed trail that seems to have been erased from every map. It's still marked on the 2016 USFS map as #940, but there's no reference to it anywhere else. I have a few Santa Rita trail guides that date back into the early '80s and it's not mentioned in any of them. Regardless, it's a good path which appears to be well-maintained (at least up to Shovel Saddle).

I really enjoyed the first half of Four Springs (up to Shovel Saddle) and found it to be similarly peaceful and beautiful to Augua Caliente. Stopped at Shovel Saddle for a snack and to take in all of the views then continued on.

Sadly the second half of the trail isn't nearly as pleasant as the first. It's a former burn area that's a bit overgrown and the tread is falling apart in some places. Not horrible or dangerous but a section to be endured rather than enjoyed.

Amour Spring was nothing more than a faint trickle. You could use a stick to redirect some water into a container, but the flow rate would be on the order of many minutes per quart. The trail here is overgrown at ankle level but completely exposed above (so it's hot and scratchy).

The Crest trail was better in terms of tread, but still overgrown in spots and continued through the charred remains of the forest after the Florida fire. There is one section of old growth remaining just beyond Pine Saddle, but otherwise it's all grass and scrub. Going toward Wrightson the Crest trail gains about 1000' in 2 miles. It's not steep but does get to be a slog in the mid-day sun.

Glad to have done the crest trail, but glad to be done with it as well. Next time I'm going to try it in the other direction to see if my opinion improves or scramble up to the actual ridge and walk that instead.

First sight of people at Baldy Saddle. Quick break, then down Old Baldy toward Josephine Saddle. Encountered a number of people coming up the hill and was happy to be into the downhill section of this hike. Passed Bellows Spring (dry), blew through Josephine Saddle, then hauled ass down to the car.

Really nice hike and a good alternative to just heading up Wrightson and back down. The first section up to Shovel Saddle was shaded and (almost) chilly, but after that I was dealing with almost constant sun exposure all the way down to the parking lot. Next time I might reverse the route to get the exposed sections and AEG over earlier in the morning.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Armour Spring Dripping Dripping
Barely a trickle. Could be diverted into a container with a stick, but would take a long time to draw any amount of water.

dry Bellows Spring Dry Dry
No flow from the pipe and just a damp spot in the basin.

dry Kent Spring Dry Dry
Light flow in the adjacent creek.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Sylvester Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Basin was full of clear water with significant flow out of the pipe.
May 14 2021
andrewp
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 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

male
 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
Lemmon Not-a-Loop, AZ 
Lemmon Not-a-Loop, AZ
 
Hiking avatar May 14 2021
andrewp
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.
May 01 2021
andrewp
avatar

 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

male
 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
Rincon Tour, AZ 
Rincon Tour, AZ
 
Backpack avatar May 01 2021
andrewp
Backpack41.29 Miles 10,633 AEG
Backpack41.29 Miles3 Days   7 Hrs   1 Min   
10,633 ft AEG
 
1st trip
I’ve wanted to do a multi-day tour of the Rincons since I was a teenager, but interest, fitness, and proximity never seemed to line up. Fortunately for me that alignment finally happened and I had a great (and sometimes challenging) trip.

The overall plan called for a four day / three night trip that included a visit to the summits of both Rincon Peak and Mica Mountain.

Day 1 — Going up!
The plan for the first day was to hike to Happy Valley camp via Miller Creek and drop the bulk of my gear there. I’d then take a day pack to Rincon Peak and return to camp for the night. Since it appeared that water wasn’t available anywhere near Happy Valley I had to carry all that I would need for the first two days. In case you’re wondering that ended up being 11 liters of water (at 2.2lb per liter it made for a heavy pack).

After an especially brutal 4:00am alarm I was on the road and heading for the trailhead before dawn. I arrived at Miller Creek around 6:30am and upon opening the rear hatch of the truck found my pack in a puddle of water! Not an auspicious start. As best I could tell the pack rolled over onto the hydration bladder mouthpiece and the bladder drained outside the pack. Fortunately something told me that I should put an “emergency” gallon of water into the truck the day before so all I had to do was refill out of that. I was extremely lucky that the leak was external to the pack. Although my entire sleep system was in a dry bag it would have sucked to have the rest of my gear get wet.

I was intent on getting to Happy Valley as quickly as I possibly could. Not only did I want to ensure that I had plenty of time to make it up and down Rincon Peak I knew Happy Valley was fully booked and I wanted to ensure that I got one of the two “good” sites there. I pushed hard up the Miller Creek trail with only a few brief stops.

Lesson learned — never race up a steep trail while carrying a heavy pack! By the time I got to Happy Valley I was absolutely spent. I had never pushed myself that hard on a hike and I was feeling it. The entire campsite was empty so I snagged site 3 for myself, hung my hammock, and got my daypack setup.

After a quick break I set off for Rincon Peak and was marveling at how much better I felt with such a lightweight pack. Then the trail started climbing and my morning adventure really started taking its toll. Getting up Rincon Peak was hard. My legs were spent and my energy reserves were depleted. On top of that I was concerned about water. I knew that I had plenty, but was a bit concerned that this day’s hiking was going to have a heavy impact on the water I had available for myself tomorrow.

After a lot of stops to take pictures and give my legs a break I arrived at the peak. The views were outstanding as expected, but the wind made it really hard to enjoy. I snapped some photos and took shelter behind the remnants of the giant cairn to have a snack.

The hike down was mostly uneventful, but due to the steepness of the grade and my overall exhaustion I was getting concerned that I would end up rolling an ankle. Ultimately, I made it down without any injuries and returned to camp.

The evening was relaxing and the campsite never did fill up. After dinner I read a bit and turned in really early.
Day 2 — Moving to Mica Mountain
Although I got over 9 hours of sleep I was still up before dawn. The plan was to break camp and hike Heartbreak Ridge to cross over to Manning Camp, which would be my home for the next two nights. Knowing that part of this hike was exposed I wanted to be sure to get an early start. I had a quick breakfast, broke camp, and was on the trail by 7:20. I have to say that switching to a hammock has made camp setup and breakdown sooo much easier.

The hike was mostly uneventful. Knowing that I really overstressed myself the day prior I made an effort to keep my overall exertion level in check. I didn’t want to risk overdoing it again as that would be a surefire way to injure myself.

I made a stop at the Happy Valley lookout (the hantavirus hotel) and found it completely locked down. The views were stunning, but the wind was just as bad as the day before so I didn’t stay too long.

After the climb to the lookout the rest of the hike was nice and easy. I routed via Devil’s Bathtub and was bummed to find that there was barely a trickle of water over the falls. I took another break here, but not for long due to the wind.

With a little more climbing I made it to Manning Camp and found the place completely empty. At first I though that the cabin was open, but that was only the door to the breezeway. The kitchen was setup out back and it looked like it had been recently occupied, but there wasn’t a ranger in sight. I didn’t see one the entire time I was there.

I walked through the camp and ended up selecting site 3 (farthest from the cabin). Found some trees for my hammock, cleaned myself up, and took a little nap. After that it was dinner and another early night.

I have to say that Manning camp is a bit spooky after dark when there’s no one else there. It’s kind of like the summer camp setting from a bad horror movie. As I was reading in my hammock I swear I saw a headlamp coming up the trail and later some spillover light from the direction of the cabin on the trees above me. I didn’t think much of it as I assumed that it was a late arrival (it was only about 8:30pm at this point).

Day 3 — Touring Mica Mountain
I had another very restful night (loving this hammock thing) and used the fact that it was 33 degrees to lounge in my quilt for an hour. My view was of Rincon Peak and I spent the time watching the change of colors on the mountain as the sun rose while listening to the forest wake up and get on with its day. I can’t imagine a more peaceful way to start a day.

After getting up I walked around manning camp expecting to see the owner of last night’s light, but found no one. None of the campsites were disturbed and there was still no sign of life at the cabin. Spooky…

I had a lazy morning and eventually hit the trail with a day pack. My intention was to hike as many of the Mica Complex trails as I could. I set off on a counter-clockwise walk of the Fire Loop trail and went off trail on several occasions to take in the view from a rock outcropping or to investigate the forest around the trail. The views from Reef Rock were outstanding and as luck would have it the wind wasn’t too bad so I was able to soak in those views for a bit longer than at prior stops. One thing that caught my eye was a stand of aspens on the hillside below me. At the time I didn’t realize that they were adjacent to the Spud Rock campground which I would end up visiting on my way out.

I continued on the Fire Loop and ran into a pack of 5 or 6 Coatimundi just a little bit past Reef Rock. Based on other trip reports this appears to be a popular spot for them. I always enjoy a Coati sighting as they always appear to be having so much fun.

Shortly after the Coati I started getting a very uneasy feeling as if I was being watched. I stopped several times to look around and saw no one and nothing. I kept moving and the feeling subsided, but I do wonder if I had caught the eye of a bear or mountain lion. It was all very unnerving to say the least.

Throughout this hike I was struck by the overall health of the forest. Sure there was evidence of recent fire, but it wasn’t the scorched earth that I’ve grown accustomed to in the Catalinas and Santa Ritas. I don’t know if it’s a difference in how the NPS manages the land or just pure luck, but I was thrilled to be able to experience it. This is what Mt Lemmon used to be like when I was growing up.

I continued on the Fire Loop and made a stop at the Mica summit then took a detour to scramble up to the top of Spud Rock. This was another impressive view and I had to chuckle to myself that even the most mundane lookout points had stunning vistas and I was becoming a bit jaded. Unfortunately, the wind had picked up again to I didn’t stay longer than a few minutes to take it all in and have a snack.

At this point I was debating on doing the North Slope trail or heading back to camp. It was still early but I also wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with what some trip reports had described as an exhausting bushwhack. Ultimately my stubbornness won out and I dropped down to check it out. I promised myself that if the trail got too sketchy I would turn back. Of course but the time I hit the bad sections I felt I was too far in to turn back.

If you’re not familiar with the North Slope trail it generally parallels the NW Fire Loop, but does it 200 - 300 ft down slope. In 2003 this area was hit HARD by the Helen’s 2 fire and it still hasn’t recovered. This was a hot fire and is one of the few spots on the mountain where it is truly scorched earth. Very few trees are left standing, but most of what has fallen has been cleared from the trail. There were still some rather large obstacles to climb over, but it wasn’t one tree after another as I had feared.

Overall the trail wasn’t too bad and some of the reports either exaggerated its state or were of very different conditions. The trail did simply disappear in several places, but most times I was able to find a blaze to get me back on track. In the times that a blaze wasn’t available I realized that there was a certain method to the madness of these trails and I could generally predict where it should go if the pattern held. I never had to backtrack and always ended up back on the trail so it wasn’t too bad. The biggest issue was overgrowth of thorny bushes (fortunately no cat’s claw) but those areas were limited and easily pushed through.

There were a couple of unburned areas in the middle of the overall carnage and they provided a picture of what the forest had been like. This was a beautiful stand of Douglas Fir with some Ponderosa Pine mixed in. As mentioned by @ShatteredArm the trees that are still there are enormous (especially by AZ standards). The most impressive healthy section was at the NE end of the trail near Italian Spring. The trees were amazing in this area as was the view from a large granite outcrop.

Once I hit Italian Spring I hung a right on the AZT and took that all the way back to Manning Camp.

Upon arrival I met my new camp neighbors who had a clogged water filter. After filtering some water for them I settled in for a relaxing evening.

Day 4 — Going down
I was greeted with another chilly morning, but knowing the stats of the hike ahead of me I knew I had to hit the trail as early as possible. The cold was slowing me down as I wasn’t packed up and on the trail until 8:30. This was a little later than I had hoped.

The plan was to follow Fire Loop trail :next: Heartbreak Ridge :next: Switchback Trail :next: East Slope :next: Spud Rock CG :next: Dear Head Spring Trail :next: Turkey Creek Trail :next: Road walk :next: Miller Creek TH. That’s about 3 miles of trail before I hit Turkey Creek and started descending in earnest.

The first part of this hike was beautiful and I was making good time. While the Switchback Trail is an apt name, I do think that a better one would be the ‘Overgrown Thornbushes with Ankle-Rolling Rocks’ Trail. I was glad to be done with it.

I wanted to stop by Spud Rock campground in order to see what it was like and decide whether or not I would want to stay there on a future trip. Upon arrival I passed through the aspen grove that I had spotted from Reef Rock and it really was a beautiful sight up close. The campground was nice, but I’m not sure I would want to make it a destination. I really appreciated the solitude, but feared that it might be a bit far from everything to be a good place to stay. The spring was bone dry and that further underlined the disadvantage of this site.

Once on the Turkey Creek trail I was making reasonably good time, but was slowed down in spots by the steepness of the trail. Add in some really annoying gnats swarming my head and I was not enjoying myself at all. Fortunately, I had brought along a head net or I would have been truly miserable.

Roughly halfway into the hike I had to stop in order to attend to a hotspot on one of my toes. This was a bit of a shock to me as I haven’t had a blister in decades, but something wasn’t right. Turns out that my big toe was rubbing in a small gap between the edge of my orthotic insole and the upper. Apparently the descent had made the geometry just right to form the start of what looked to be a pretty nasty blister. Out came the Leukotape and after wrapping my toe I was able to stand and walk without pain so I pressed on.

Soon after the steep descent stopped and the trail transitioned into a combination of shrub and grassland. The tree I stopped under to attend to my toe was one of the last spots of shade that I had until I hit the bottom of the road. While I was thankful for the gentler trail tread I was cursing the exposure. I could make good time on this trail, but with the temps already in the high 80s and the sun directly overhead I had to manage my exertion very carefully.

Fortunately, I had plenty of water and was able to maintain a sensible pace, but I wouldn’t want to be on this trail at all if it were any warmer. After about a mile I completely understood the benefit of an umbrella for hiking and made plans to acquire one as soon as possible. Hell, had I run across a pop-up umbrella stand on the trail I likely would have paid a premium for anything that would provide shade.

Aside from the brutal conditions the trek to the trailhead and then down the road was uneventful. Once I hit the campsites near the junction with FR35 I stopped and took a much-needed break in the shade. Continued on and found my truck just where I left it. Fired it up, cranked the A/C, had some lunch, and then started the drive home.

All in all this was a fantastic trip and I have tons of great memories and photos to serve as a reminder of the challenge and sense of accomplishment. Most importantly I learned a lot about myself and some of the stupid things that I end up talking myself into (like rushing up Miller Creek). This experience pushed me outside my comfort zone on many occasions and will definitely impact choices that I make on future trips.

The Rincons really are a special place and I definitely want to spend more time exploring Mica Mountain (off trail) as well as the area around Happy Valley and Rincon Creek. The forest is beautiful and since it requires so much effort to reach you are unlikely to see many people. I saw a total of 7 people over the course of the entire trip and that isolation made it much easier to enjoy nature. There weren’t any noisy people over the ridge disturbing the wildlife nor were there the constant reminders of human presence that you see on so many other trails.

I have to say that I’m somewhat in awe of the people who manage to do a similar loop as a day hike / run. That’s a level of strength and fitness that I can’t really fathom right now. On the other hand I couldn’t fathom doing the trip I did 6 months ago so my perspective will likely change. Even if I get to the point where I could do this in a day I’m not sure that I would want to give up the overnight part of the experience. This forest is truly magical in the early morning and that’s something that can only really be appreciated when you wake up in the middle of it.
Flora
Flora
Douglas-Fir


water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Devils Bathtub Dripping Dripping
Very slight trickle over the falls to a very shallow pool below.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Italian Spring Dripping Dripping
Small pool of algae soup.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Manning Camp Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Reasonable flow over the falls to decent sized pools below. Saw deer browsing inside the fenced area so this water really should be filtered, treated, or boiled before use.

dry Miller Canyon Dry Dry
One damp spot just up from the trailhead.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Mud Hole Spring - Mica Dripping Dripping
Very small amount of water dripping down from the spring.


dry Turkey Creek Dry Dry
Apr 22 2021
andrewp
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 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

male
 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
The Window via VentanaTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 22 2021
andrewp
Hiking13.48 Miles 4,395 AEG
Hiking13.48 Miles   7 Hrs   43 Mns   2.00 mph
4,395 ft AEG      58 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
My schedule aligned with the weather and provided me with a free day to enjoy a hike in slightly more mild weather. Decided to head to the Window via Ventana Canyon.

Got an early start before 6:30 and proceeded up the canyon. I was out here a few weeks ago and there was water through most of the stream crossings once past the forest boundary, but now it's down to a meager trickle. Mostly just damp sand in spots.

First stop was Maiden Pools where I took a quick rest and enjoyed a snack. Also noticed that the winds were extremely strong here which didn't bode well for conditions on the ridge.

After my stop I continued up the canyon and am happy to report that although the fire did impact some parts of the canyon the streambed is still very green and that most of the trees will survive. The really pleasant section between the pools and the switchbacks at the top of the canyon was much greener than I expected, and could almost be called lush (for the Catalina front range).

On the downside it would appear that poison ivy is moving in to the shaded sections and setting up residence adjacent to the trail in several spots. Either that or I misidentified (see photo). I was surprised as I haven't seen any prior reports in this canyon.

The final climb out of the canyon is steep and the trail is falling apart in spots, but it's still better than Finger Rock.

The top of the ridge is scorched earth in most spots with very little plant life still alive. Not as bad as the Pima Canyon trail on the way to Kimball, but similar. On the bright side this may be the one place where the Esperero trail isn't overgrown :)

Stopped at the window, but didn't stay long as the wind gusts must have been well over 40mph. I clocked a couple at 30mph, but there were several much stronger once I put my anemometer back in my pack. Although still a warm day it was actually chilly up there with the wind.

Took shelter behind the wall and had lunch then headed back down the way I came. Overall a nice day and likely the last time I'll be able to do one of the front range AEG hikes before the fall.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Ventana Canyon Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Little bit of a trickle at various points up the canyon
Apr 16 2021
andrewp
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 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

male
 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
Old Baldy - Super Trail LoopTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 16 2021
andrewp
Hiking13.85 Miles 4,105 AEG
Hiking13.85 Miles   6 Hrs   49 Mns   2.33 mph
4,105 ft AEG      53 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
I've done pieces of these trails, but never the complete route and never to the Wrightson summit.

Got an early start with a 6:30am arrival at the trailhead. The weather did not disappoint with mild temps the entire day and overcast skies most of the time. The first half of the hike was actually a bit chilly and I'm glad I decided to bring a lightweight fleece top at the last minute.

Going up was a workout, but the payoff at the summit made it all worthwhile. The views were outstanding in all directions and I was there early enough that I had it all to myself for about 15 minutes. The high winds of the day before had subsided and the dust in the air had settled enough to provide good visibility. Had a nice break and decided to head down when the third group of people showed up.

I took the Super Trail on the way down primarily to save my knees, but also to get some more experience with the trail. I can sum it up with one word -- long. The views in the section from Baldy Saddle to Josephine Saddle were outstanding, but that section took forever. Although the tread is in great shape the trail is getting overgrown in spots.

Although I really wanted to take Old Baldy down from Josephine Saddle to save time I had made the commitment to do the Super Trail and stuck with it. Fortunately, it's an easy descent which meant that I could haul a** down to the parking lot.

I absolutely loved the ascent on this hike, but felt like the descent took way too long. Next time I'm likely going to skip the Super Trail and stick with Old Baldy both up and down.

dry Baldy Spring Dry Dry
water report recorded in the field on our app Route Scout

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Bellows Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
water report recorded in the field on our app Route Scout Maybe a qt/min. Basin is full and clear.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Sprung Spring Dripping Dripping
water report recorded in the field on our app Route Scout Full basin

1 archive
Apr 09 2021
andrewp
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 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

male
 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
Mount Kimball via Finger RockTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 09 2021
andrewp
Hiking10.61 Miles 4,270 AEG
Hiking10.61 Miles   7 Hrs   6 Mns   1.84 mph
4,270 ft AEG   1 Hour   20 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Last time I did this hike it was in a different millennium and back then it was just a matter of "going for a hike." No preparation, no question about fitness, just hit the trail. Now I'm old and slow... and missing those days.

My recollection of this trail was that it was silly-steep, but relatively manageable. I don't know if its the fact that my knees are now twice as old, I'm more risk-averse, or the trail has suffered, but I found this to be a nightmare to descend. I actually enjoyed the hike up, but the trip down was truly painful. Considering trying to exit via Ventana next time I do this one.

Started around 6:30 AM and made quick work of the flat section. Slowed down a bit on the climb up to Linda Vista, but it wasn't too bad. Once I got to Linda Vista I was already dreading the descent. Stopped for 20 minutes or so for a snack and to take in the view then continued up. Hit the first major burned area a bit after Linda Vista and then I was in and out of burned areas.

The area on the Pima Canyon trail was pretty well roasted and the trail became really fuzzy in spots. There's been enough traffic up there to figure it out, but I did end up following someone else's footprints to closely and overshot the trail a couple of times.

View from the Kimball overlook was spectacular and I spent quite a bit of time there enjoying the view and the company of a truly fearless chipmunk. I stepped away from my pack for a moment to take a picture and when I turned around he was trying to find his way into the main compartment!! There was also a blackhawk making the rounds and every time he was airborne the chipmunk vanished and once the hawk returned to his perch the chipmunk emerged.

Backtracked the way I came and as I feared the descent was painful. In addition to being ridiculously steep, the dirt sections of the trail are extremely soft and the rock sections are slick with runoff from the dirt sections. Heading down was really slow and by the time I was in the last mile I couldn't get to the car fast enough.


I really enjoyed the ascent and destination, but need to figure out a better way down.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Finger Rock Spring Dripping Dripping
'Moist' would be a better descriptor, but there was a very small amount of activity. Could see several pools in the canyon from above.
Apr 05 2021
andrewp
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 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

male
 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
Sabino Canyon Lower LoopTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 05 2021
andrewp
Hiking13.71 Miles 2,180 AEG
Hiking13.71 Miles   7 Hrs   48 Mns   2.00 mph
2,180 ft AEG      56 Mns Break
 
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Had so much fun the last time that I wanted to be sure to get this one in at least one more time before it got too hot. This time I decided to enter via the West Fork to see how much different that approach is from the East Fork.

Given the projected high temps for the day and the fact that a wetsuit might get a bit toasty when out of the water I decided to get an early start (6:30am) and walk the tram road rather than wait for the 9:00am tram start. Ultimately this got me to the stream entry point about two hours earlier, but the cost was an extra 7 miles of walking.

Once into Sabino Basin I took the West Fork trail toward Hutch's Pool. After approximately 1/2 mile you'll reach a point where the West Fork is in view and you can see a small sloped meadow on the other side. Immediately after crossing a small drainage look for a reasonably obvious use trail heading down to the stream. I chose this spot to enter as the stretch from here to Hutch's Pool is relatively flat and boring. This is the spot where the deeper pools start.

Once I reached the streambed I found an area to change into my wetsuit and stowed the rest of my gear into my dry pack. As I was a bit concerned about overheating I used a lighter suit (2mm fullsuit with short sleeves) and this was just about perfect.

The stretch to the confluence on the West Fork is similar to the same stretch on the East Fork. After a short walk I encountered the first pool and from there spent most of my time in deep water until I reached the confluence where the canyon widens and the stream gets shallow. Although these pools were large and deep they weren't nearly as fun as those on the East Fork which is most likely due to the East Fork being a bit steeper from the trail crossing to the confluence. The east side is a lot more scrambling and downclimbing with deep, high-walled pools whereas the west side is a bunch of long, calm, and deep pools.

From the confluence the rest of the trip was much as I remembered from a month ago. After injuring my arm in a solid rock collision and almost getting stuck in a hole on the last trip I was a little more conservative this time around. The three spots that provided significant challenges last time ended up being reasonably easy to bypass after looking around a bit more carefully.

Once I got to the area below tram stop 9 I decided to continue on to the point where the stream crosses the road just below stop 8. This ended up adding some effort as the stream bed is very rocky in spots and those rocks are very slippery. I was tired at that point and getting clumsy. There are a couple of nice pools in this area and one in particular was an excellent swimming (and cannonball-jumping) swimming hole. In the end I appreciated not having to climb up the hill to stop 9 just to give up that gain on the walk back to the car.

Parked myself on the slickrock just before the last bridge, changed, had a snack and walked back to the car. This was the perfect way to wrap up a four day weekend (and one of those times I really appreciate working for a company that gives me the US and UK holidays :D )

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max East Fork Sabino Canyon Light flow Light flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Sabino Canyon Light flow Light flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max West Fork Sabino Canyon Light flow Light flow
Mar 30 2021
andrewp
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 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

male
 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
Aravaipa CanyonGlobe, AZ
Globe, AZ
Backpack avatar Mar 30 2021
andrewp
Backpack11.00 Miles 1,600 AEG
Backpack11.00 Miles3 Days         
1,600 ft AEG
 
no photosets
Partners none no partners
This was my second trip to Aravaipa this month and this time it was with the purpose of taking my nephew on his first backpacking trip. I couldn't believe the number of people we ran into, especially on the first day!

Day 1

We started from the west trailhead around 9:00am and proceeded to find our way up the creek. My nephew insisted on wearing a heavy pair of boots so we ended up looking for land routes rather than pushing through the water. Overall the hike in went fine and although this was his first experience hiking with any real weight he's a strong kid and did really well.

We encountered a couple of groups on the way in who appeared to be culling the non-native fish population. These crews were a common encounter throughout the trip and although we only saw then a few times it seemed like we could always hear the beeping of the equipment they were using to shock the fish.

The plan was to setup camp at one of the sites near Horse Camp and then spend the rest of the afternoon exploring in the area. The problem was that all three of those sites were taken. After the disappointment at Horse Camp we continued upstream with the intention of snagging one of the sites near Booger Canyon. Got to the first site and someone was already camped there. Found someone at the second site and chatted with him for a bit. His group ran into the same issue that we did and he and his buddy were scouting ahead for a larger group of 4 or 5 people. He was sitting on this camp while his buddy fetched the rest of the group.

I could tell that my nephew was running out of steam and I was starting to get concerned. I knew of a couple more sites further upstream, but that would put is in a crappy place for the exploring that we wanted to do the next day, plus it would make the hike out that much longer. We found a place to park and I went looking for a spot in the area.

I eventually found a "meh" site a little farther upstream and went back to fetch my nephew. As we started upstream something caught my eye on the north bank and I ran across to investigate. Ended up finding a nice secluded site just east of the entrance to Booger Canyon. As a bonus it was very sheltered from the wind which was really picking up. Finally dropped our packs and setup camp.

Day 2

Woke up with the sun after my first-ever night in a hammock and felt more rested than I ever have after a night outdoors. This hammock thing may be a game-changer for me. We eased into the day with some breakfast and prepared to check out Booger Canyon.

Our original agenda was to do Horse Camp and Virgus, but being right next door to Booger caused us to change up our plans. Booger was a great spot for some scrambling and boulder-hopping with each level higher more interesting and beautiful than the one below. We got about 3/4 mile in and hit a wall (literally). I knew it was possible to go farther, but I was concerned that after getting up over the waterfall we would have trouble getting back down. Not wanting to have to explain to my sister how things went bad I decided to call it before we ran out of talent. We were bummed to turn around but that quickly faded when we had a bit of trouble finding a path down an obstacle. Ultimately, we made it out without incident, but it underlined how going down can present a completely different set of challenges than climbing up.

In the afternoon we trekked downstream to Horse Camp and explored the canyon up to the horse shoe-shaped pool and fall. There was no way we were going to get any farther, but the journey up to that point was incredible. I couldn't believe how the canyon had been completely washed free of all debris and imagined the force of water required to do that. This was much easier to navigate than Booger and made for a fun afternoon.

Day 3

The wind really started blowing around 4 am and stayed with us for the rest of the day. It made breaking camp a pretty annoying process but we took it slow and managed to be back on the trail around 10:30am. The trip back to the trailhead was uneventful and we stopped a lot to appreciate the canyon and take more photos. Back to the car by 2pm and home just before 4pm.


I was honestly surprised at how much greener the canyon was compared to a couple of weeks ago. I was hoping to see a bit more wildlife but I think that all of the activity in the canyon caused a lot of the fauna to lay low. Between the fish crew and other hikers I think I counted 30 people the first day and most of them were making a lot of noise.

Ultimately, we did see a large flock of water birds (not sure what) near Horse Camp. I startled pack of coati on Tuesday when looking for a campsite and a single straggler visited us in camp on Wednesday. We encountered a number of tree frogs in Booger and could hear them in the evening from our campsite. On the way out we saw a pair of white-tailed deer as well. The creatures that we encountered most were caterpillars. They were everywhere - from massive nests on the trees to individuals on what seemed like every surface. I can't imaging what butterfly season looks like in the canyon.

I doubt that I'll make it back to Aravaipa this summer, but I'm looking forward to planning a trip in the fall.

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Mar 10 2021
andrewp
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 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

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 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
Aravaipa CanyonGlobe, AZ
Globe, AZ
Backpack avatar Mar 10 2021
andrewp
Backpack31.86 Miles 1,603 AEG
Backpack31.86 Miles2 Days   3 Hrs   57 Mns   
1,603 ft AEG
 
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I've wanted to backpack Aravaipa for a long time and the planets finally aligned for me to be able to go. This is an amazing place and even though I spent three days there I only saw a fraction of it. Fortunately, I'm heading back in a couple of weeks to take my nephew there on his first backpacking trip :)

Hiked in from the west trailhead and after a while decided that I'd much rather walk in the stream then navigate the overgrown trails. I never had to navigate water more than knee deep and still managed to make pretty good time.

My plan was to camp in the area between Virgus and Horse Camp, but since I got to the area earlier than expected I continued on to see what else I could see between Horse Camp and Booger. Found a couple of nice campsites near Booger, but the constant hum of bees made me a bit concerned. Headed back to the Horse Camp area and took one of the sites there.

The second day I hiked back upstream to explore into Hell Hole Canyon. What an incredible place! I couldn't believe how different it was from the main canyon. After passing several seeps and springs I found one where it would be possible to top off my bottles so I stopped there and took a little break. After some trail math I realized that I should probably head back if I wanted to make it back to camp by 5:00. As much as the canyon was calling me to continue I forced myself to turn around at the ~2mile mark and head back.

The third day was supposed to be spent exploring Virgus Canyon on the way out, but the weather was getting progressively more and more ugly. In the span of 30 minutes it went from breezy and pleasant to cold cold and windy with dark clouds moving in. I cut my exploration of Virgus short (and in the process gave the palm of my hand a nasty cut). After a bit of first aid I shouldered my pack and made for the trailhead. Got a little bit of rain on the way back, but the weather got better the farther west I got.

Overall a great trip and I can't wait to return. I saw a lot more people than I had expected and ended up between two occupied campsites on the first night. Everyone was pleasant and respectful, but I was expecting a lot more solitude. Instead I counted at least 25 people!!

I was also disappointed that I didn't see much in terms of wildlife. Aside from a few deer near my camp and a couple of Blue Heron near the west entrance I didn't see much of any fauna. I also didn't see many tracks nor scat. I wonder if it was still a bit early in the season or if the number of people in the canyon were causing the animals to lay low. I'm hoping that I have a different experience on my next trip.

When I take my nephew I plan to devote the second day to exploring Virgus, Horse Camp, and maybe Booger rather than trekking all the way to Hell Hole. That was an awesome experience, but it was a bit of a slog. I think we'll have a lot more fun just exploring with no real plan or destination in mind.

Also, based on all of the descriptions that I read in advance of the trip I fully expected to prefer the east side of the canyon to the west. That wasn't the case at all. In fact I loved the stretch from Painted Cave Canyon to Virgus as I preferred the more closed-in feeling of the narrower canyon. In this stretch it seemed like there was something different around every corner whereas the stretch from Horse Camp to Hell Hole seemed to be a lot more of the same. In the future I think I'll do a trip in from the east side to see how the experience is different.

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Feb 28 2021
andrewp
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 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

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 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
Sabino Canyon Lower LoopTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Canyoneering avatar Feb 28 2021
andrewp
Canyoneering6.20 Miles 1,239 AEG
Canyoneering6.20 Miles   5 Hrs   1 Min   1.46 mph
1,239 ft AEG      47 Mns Break
 
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The last time I hiked Sabino Canyon trail #23 I could hear the sound of rushing water down below and developed an insatiable need to explore this nearly invisible part of Sabino Canyon. After reading a few tidbits on this site and others (including the 2010 triplog from @Vaporman) I decided to, quite literally, take the plunge.

After sourcing some gear (waterproof dry pack and wetsuit) it became apparent that my only opportunity to do this trip was going to be Feb 28 or wait several weeks. Although the weather wasn't ideal (forecast in the 50s and very windy) I decided that I could always bail out if things got ugly.

Took the 9am tram to the last stop and powered through the 2.6mi to the intersection with the East Fork. Turned left and proceeded down the stream until I hit the first pool that would require wading. There was a nice clean slab of granite here so this was the perfect spot for a snack and to change into my wetsuit. After making sure that my $20 Amazon special dry backpack appeared to be air tight I sent a quick InReach note to my wife to wish me luck and set off.

Plotted a course through the center of the pool in front of me and proceeded down the East Fork. From here to the confluence with the West Fork I traversed a series of narrow pools with small falls on the outlets. Depth ranged from a few feet to a couple of spots where I couldn't easily find the bottom. This was primarily a swimming excursion at this point and it was an absolute blast.

The water was COLD . I took temperature measurements in a few different spots and depending on depth and sun exposure it was between 48 and 51 degrees. Fortunately, the 3/2 wetsuit I bought worked out perfectly and I never felt chilled in the water.

The confluence was a bit of a let down as I had expected something interesting to happen here, but it was nothing more than two streams coming together. Looking up the West Fork I saw what appeared to be a similar set of pools to what I had just traversed.

From the confluence to the narrows the stream bed opened up and I was mostly wading through small knee-deep sections and a lot of slippery rocks. Stream flow slowed enough in this area that there were several spots that were more like a marsh than a stream.

As I approached the narrows the stream tightened up and the terrain became more technical with larger boulders and deeper pools. There is a large pool in the center of the narrows which I've seen referred to as Miner's Pool. This is a very deep pool at the entry which makes for some fun jumping in off of the boulder choking the gap. There's even a very dodgy rope on the stream left side which may or may not be safe to pull yourself back up for another jump. If it weren't for the wind and its cooling effect on my wetsuit I would have spent some more time here.

Below the narrows things got quite a bit more technical and really started pushing the limits of my skills. In this stretch house and car-sized boulders create a series of stepped pools. Unfortunately in several places the drop from the upper pool to the lower one is significant and the pool below isn't nearly deep enough to support a jump.

In three spots I had a lot of trouble finding a route. In one of those I successfully navigated a safe path. In another I found a safe path, but slipped when trying to execute which made for a much less controlled descent than I would have liked. The third one was the one that really scared me and if it weren't for the lucky deposit of a piece of driftwood I'm not sure I would have made it through. I ended up finding a path by hiking up the side of the canyon to bypass the boulders which was reasonably easy, but through a forest of thorny plants. Once into the lower pool I realized that one of the more direct routes which I had initially dismissed would have been reasonably easy to execute. Hindsight is always 20/20...

Once out of the technical section is was a wading a rock-hopping exercise to pickup the trail that leads back up to the road. Once I had gotten to the exit point and changed out of my wetsuit I only had a few minutes to catch the tram. I started up the trail and could hear the tram approaching. Not certain that I would make it I jumped off the trail into the adjacent drainage and started boulder hopping up the side of the hill. Popped up at the guardrail, startled a number of people, and took a seat on the waiting tram.

This was, without a doubt, the most fun I've had in a long time. In retrospect I probably shouldn't have done this excursion alone, but with the exception of the technical spots toward the end it was all very manageable for someone with no prior experience.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max East Fork Sabino Canyon Medium flow Medium flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Sabino Canyon Medium flow Medium flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max West Fork Sabino Canyon Medium flow Medium flow
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Dec 05 2020
andrewp
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 Guides 3
 Routes 13
 Photos 231
 Triplogs 15

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 Joined Sep 27 2020
 Tucson, AZ
Mint Spring Trail #20Tucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 05 2020
andrewp
Hiking1.70 Miles 493 AEG
Hiking1.70 Miles
493 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
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Went for a quick overnight shake-down backpack trip and used the Mint Spring trail for access to the Marshall Saddle area. Thought people might like an update in the aftermath of the Bighorn Fire.

Post-apocalyptic...

Trail and vegetation are in good shape from the trailhead in Carter Canyon up to about the 0.3mi point. There you see a large stain of retardant and beyond that the vegetation is just gone. From this point up to the last couple hundred yards out from the saddle there's nothing. I realize that this area was hit pretty hard by the Aspen fire, but Bighorn simply wiped out whatever was left and what had managed to grow in the subsequent decade.

Fortunately the area around Marshall Saddle and into the WOR appears to have survived without major damage, but there's still a lot of burned trees in various stages of falling over.

It's going to be a long time before this area fully recovers and until vegetation takes hold there are going to be some major issues with erosion. So sad to see.
average hiking speed 2.15 mph

WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

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