Saturday, January 11, 2020

Douglas Spring Trailhead -> Bridal Wreath Falls -> Douglas Spring Trail -> Three Tanks Trail -> WIld Horse Trail -> Garwood Trail -> Douglas Spring Trailhead Loop

Tradition. Our family does not really have traditions. We celebrate Thanksgiving but that is really as far as we go. But over the last several years we have ended our visits to Tucson with this hike so perhaps it qualifies as a tradition for us. It is our hike to Bridal Wreath with a little extra thrown in that may or may not make it tougher.

The sun was bright in the clear blue sky at 09:20 and the air temperature was 43F and warming up fast. It was enough to bring on the layers but once we began ascending the just over 1,000 feet, after a level stretch, along switchbacks layers came off. We have always found going up the switchbacks preferable to descending them. The ground is hard dirt with plenty of stone steps thrown in and occasional rocky bits so it feels like a lot of work especially going down. It is for this reason we go back a different way (which may not be easier as far as steepness goes at times but might feel that way).

The trail winds its way into the mountains and we have always seen people on it. Today was something special: near hordes. Several dozen people at least including one large group of young children out on a program sponsored by the National Park. When you have lots of people sharing the trail, all speaking with carrying voices, it affects how you feel about your journey. For me it detracts from the hike. Perhaps this was happening because we were hiking on the weekend. I’ve not checked back in time to see what day of the week we visited before. I am sure we have never seen so many people.

Maybe that press of people was what caused us to put our heads down and climb up the three stretches of switchbacks that compose the bulk of the ascent in at most 2 miles. We crossed a bit of flowing water (a first for that spot) and found one of our favorite spots on some slanting slickrock that drops down to where water frequently flows loudly but in small amounts. A fine place for a break even though a group of 4 was down by the water talking too loud.

We crossed a few more bit of standing water before reaching the side trail that leads to Bridal Wreath Falls. One year ago when we were here the stream was flowing well, as usual, but we also saw substantial patches of snow. No snow this year; but much more flowing water. When the waterfall came into view we could see three streams flowing off the cliff. Most times we see one stream and sometimes that stream is a weak one. The water that pours down the falls works its way through the rocks towards a water course where the stream is. This year we saw far more water than we usually do and it was pretty to see. Of course, it affects everything around. Grasses were more aboundant and the trees seemed fuller. Some grasses were even flowering.

We did not stay that long. Often we have lunch at the falls but we figured the hordes of people that we had left behind would catch up and we did not want to be part of that scene. Our return trip would retrace our steps for the first half mile or so to the Three Tanks Trail junction. This is a trail that see far less traffic than Douglas Spring Trail. It is narrower, has foilage that is well on its way to encrouching on the trail, and probably actually has more loose rocks though the footing is still quite good. For the next 0.5 miles we wound our way, gradually climbing, into the desert scrub leaving the highway of Douglas Spring Trail behind. Quiet except for the sounds we made, and the buzz of cactus wren, the caw of a raven, descended upon us. We found a nice place for lunch with an excellent view and settled in to enjoy ourselves.

It is at this point that I sometimes wonder if we are making our lives tougher. The trail descended for about a mile dropping about 500 feet before reaching the Steel Tank. While it doesn’t have the big steps and switchbacks of Douglas Spring Trail it does have rocks. It feels like a slow going route though people with normal vision can zoom down without much trouble. This trail passes Steel Tank (which I have photographed before) and eventually two other dug-out cattle tanks that I am not sure I have ever seen. We paused again at Steel Tank and noted that the wash still had water flowing in it but there seemed to be less water than there was several days earlier.

After we leave the Steel Tank the trail continues to descend but the steepness moderates quite a bit. You drop about 250 feet over the next 0.7 miles. The rocks ease off too. Along the way we encountered two people coming up trail on horseback. I wonder if that is an easier way to travel. I am sure you get warm wearing all the clothing you must when riding a horse. On the other hand, beyond working your legs to stay on the horse it seems like it should be less demanding. But I bet I am wrong.

Turning on to the WIld Horse Trail we continued to gently descend towards the desert floor where we would eventually pick up the Garwood Dam to return to the Doughlas Spring Trail. Here it is easy going on the desert floor for the last mile or so back to the trailhead. A lovely day.


Photo  taken January 11, 2020 at 11:20:21

Bridal Wreath Falls is flowing really well this time.

--January 11, 2020 at 11:20:21. Vail, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 11, 2020 at 11:43:08

On January 4, 2019 there was a sizable patch of snow here. However, while snow was present Mom and Dad were actually dressed pretty much as you see them here. Mom was wearing one layer less: shirt sleeves.

--January 11, 2020 at 11:43:08. Vail, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 11, 2020 at 12:12:56

Lunch time. We have about one mile to go to the Steel Tank and it will be all downhill from here: about 500 feet.

--January 11, 2020 at 12:12:56. Vail, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 11, 2020 at 14:19:08

This staghorn is bearing fruit. At least I think that is what the yellow parts are.

--January 11, 2020 at 14:19:08. Tucson, AZ, United States


Total Time: 5 hours 25 minutes with 52 minutes in breaks including a nice 20 minute lunch.
Tital Distance: 7.3 miles with 1,100 feet of ascent and 1,100 feet of descent. The footing is good but on Douglas Spring Trail you climb switchbacks with large steps and some rocks. On Three Tanks Trail it is rockier but probably even at the worst less steep though it does not feel that way at times.
Weather: Sunny (what else). Started out around 43F but rose to an air temperature in the low 60s with a baking-in-the-sun temperature around 74F.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Two Short Hikes

Today we were expecting our coldest weather of the trip: a high around 55F with clear skies later in the morning and on. Instead of doing one lengthy hike which would keep us out in the potentially “almost cold” we decided two shorter hikes with a nice restaurant-style lunch between them would be the way to spend the day. It was a great decision on our part.

Hike 1: Canyon Loop Trail, Catalina State Park

The skies wre mixed-up clouds and some sunshine. At 09:20 when we hoisted our packs in the parking lot of Catalina State Park the clouds dominated but they were far from impressive. The air temperature was around 44F and some of us bundled up as much as it was possible to bundle up. We crossed to the start of the trail and right away found something different from our last (and I think first) hike from a year ago: flowing water. A nice set of stepping stone spanned the water and we all made it across without any real incidents of water invasion. At this point the trail turns south and then northeast quickly ascending a hard packed, easily trod, path. When you gain the top you can look down and see the wash full of water. Lovely.

As we walked the clouds moved across the sky and the sun made appearances warming us as it became visible. This is a lovely trail and with the dramatic sky and lush foliage it is well worth the visit. We are clearly in an area with plenty of water resulting in a rich floral (not at this time of year) environment. In time the trail turns towards the rushing water below, an actual stream, and you can take either the step-free horse trail or follow at least 70 steps down towards the water. We took the steps.

I think the water was prettier this year than last year. But I am sure that is because the sun was glinting off it from time to time. I suppose we had as much trouble with the stream crossings, all 3 to come, this time as last year but it may have been a tad tougher as I think the water was higher. It isn’t really hard as such; just watch your step as you go from stepping stone to stepping stone. Perhaps dogs are smarter than we are; they just walk right across and get their feet wet without a backward glance. We saw at least a dozen dogs on the hike. I wonder if the really tiny ones get carried across. One small black one with nasty sounding breathing issues surely would be nearly submerged had it crossed on foot.

By the time we returned to the car the temperature had risen several degrees and the sun was definitely taking over much more of the sky. It felt comfortable. It was a lovely way to end the hike. We saw a lot, heard plenty, and enjoyed the easy loop hike.


Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 09:22:51

Last year when we hiked the Canyon Loop Trail this wash was free of water. This is right at the start of the trail (actually I suppose it may technically be before the trail actually starts). Mom is making her way across on this mid-40s F mostly cloudy morning.

--January 10, 2020 at 09:22:51. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 09:23:43

It is my turn to make the flowing water crossing. While Mom and Dad are bundled up in most all of their layers I am wearing just my shirt and windshirt and am pretty comfortable. I did suffer a very slight water invasion at the end of my crossing but it is hardly worth mentioning.

--January 10, 2020 at 09:23:43. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 09:50:04

The clouds are slowly giving way to the sun. Mom and Dad are heading down the trail towards its eastern-most point where we will descend down to a stream via at least 70 steps.

--January 10, 2020 at 09:50:04. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 09:52:41

Just a bit further down the trail. How many shades of purple can you see in this photo?

--January 10, 2020 at 09:52:41. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 10:03:35

Mom and Dad at what I suspect must be a seasonal stream.

--January 10, 2020 at 10:03:35. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 10:06:01

Ken at the same seasonal stream. As you can see the clouds have moved away, that is east, from here. Photo by Judith.

--January 10, 2020 at 10:06:01. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 10:19:09

I believe this is our final stream crossing.

--January 10, 2020 at 10:19:09. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 10:24:49

Saguaro cactus can be truly majestic and when the sky co-operates the visual appeal skyrockets.

--January 10, 2020 at 10:24:49. Tucson, AZ, United States


Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes with 19 minutes in breaks
Total Distance: 2.3 miles (loop) with 165 feet ascent and 165 feet descent. Much of the ascent , if going counterclockwise, happens near the start; the descent on the rough steps down to the seasonal stream. Footing is superb.
Weather: The air temperature was in the mid 40s to start and rose to over 50 by the end of the hike. When the sun was shining upon us it felt warmer.

Hike 2: Cam-Boh Trail -> Ironwood Forest Trail -> Picture Rocks Wash -> Ringtail Trail Loop in Sagauro National Park (west)

After a lovely lunch at First Watch we headed out to Saguaro National Park Western Mountain District to explore a new set of trails in Betty Leavengood’s Hiking Tucson guidebook (we have the the fourth edition). It was 12:50 and the clouds had vanished from the sky (almost anyway). But with the steady breeze we didn’t quite feel comfortable removing some layers. The trail system is on the other side of the road: a busy road with a curve by the parking lot. Crossing is not the most enjoyable thing (and coming back is worse).

The first half-mile or so is on deep sandy ground. You will get sand in your shoes unless you are wearing gaiters. Deal with it. We did. We hiked through high desert scrub. Unlike many of our hikes this one seemed to have a larger number of birds, many of the same species, singing across the land. I wish I could say what the birds were.

We left the sandy ground for firmer surfaces of dark ground and rocks. Sometimes this type of terain reminded me of what we found on volcanic lands in the Canary Islands. I’m sure there really is no similarity it just felt that way at times as I skirted through pointed rocks. In due time that terrain would change again and we found ourselves leaving the Ironwood Forest Trail, which does have Ironwood trees growing along it, to enter another sandy wash.

Picture Rocks wash supposedly has some colorful rocks and while a hint of pink appears now and then I can’t say I really noticed it. Sadly we all failed to spy the petroglyphs but based on what we read later in the guidebook they may be hard to spot even if you know where to look. A half mile later we found the cairn that marked the Ringtail Trail. The park has done a good job with trail signs but they don’t have any marking the Ringtail Trail or the Ironwood Forest Trail. It would not be hard to miss your turn.

Climbing out of the wash we returned to the top (such as it is) and wound our way through the last 0.5 or so miles of trail hearing the road grow ever louder. In time we dropped down into another sandy stretch to complete the last couple tenths of a mile of the loop back where we began. It may not be the most exciting hike we have done but it appears that the park has created numerous trails in this area so we have plenty to explore.


Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 13:29:23

I think Picture Rocks mountain is the prominent one you can see in the center. Perhaps when the light is right it is more picture-esque.

--January 10, 2020 at 13:29:23. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 14:19:44

We spent a good half a mile in this wash. Off to the east are the remaining puffy clouds.

--January 10, 2020 at 14:19:44. Tucson, AZ, United States


Total TIme: 2 hours and 10 minutes with about 10 minutes in breaks though I thought it was more than that.
Total Distance: 3.5 mile loop hike with200 feet of ascent and 200 feet descent. The beginning 0.5 or so miles is on sandy ground as are the last 0.3 or so miles. The 0.5 or so miles of Picture Rocks Wash are, of course, sandy too. Everything else is hard dirt with some rocks strewn here and there.
Weather: Sunny with cumulus clouds hanging out way far to the east. The air temperature was probably in the mid-50s but it felt a bit warmer than that when the wind was not blowing.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Sarasota Trailhead -> David Yetman Trail -> Starr Pass Trail Loop

We decided to return to the network of trails we have visited a couple times before this trip. Once again we would focus on the region south and east of Golden Gate Pass. There are even more trails in this area than the map signs suggest according to some mountain bikers we met so this is a region we can explore quite a bit more before ever repeating ourselves.

We dawdled a bit this morning and so did not set foot on the trails until 09:39. Today we were treated to mostly cloudy skies, a first for the trip, and cooler temperatures. It was about 54F at the start and we had a light breeze cooling us off enough that we had our various shell layers on. We quickly began a moderate climb that took us quickly away from the sounds of the town below. As we moved into the desert the shrubs grew in height and leafiness. The climbing also grew quite a bit gentler and the footing remained quite good.

We would eventually leave the Sarasota Trail and join the David Yetman Trail. This is the trail Mom and I walked yesterday heading towards Golden Gate Mountain. Today we would travel the other direction. This gives you a different perspective on the valley and that was a nice treat. As we moved along, layers came off even though the sun really did not break through the clouds except for a minute here and a minute there. Temperatures did rise as the morning progressed.

After about 3.5 miles we came to the spot where we had lunch the previous day and deemed it a fine place for lunch once more. At this point we could have, we believe, shortened our loop by taking the Little Cat Trail but we wanted to go for a longer hike so continued along the David Yetman Trail to the intersection with the Starr Pass Trail. It is possible that many years ago we hiked this part of the Starr Pass Trail. Years ago I had a nasty fall just beyond a gully that I thought was on Starr Pass Trail. While we worked our way around a large rock formation at times it seemed familiar and then it did not. However, it seemed like a new area and that made it worthwhile. We even got more hints of sunshine as a breeze picked up as we neared the end of the trail and the Sarasota Trailhead.


Photo  taken January 09, 2020 at 20:29:34

Perhaps you can come up with a name for this rock. We worked our way around it as the morning wore on.

--January 09, 2020 at 20:29:34. , ,

Photo  taken January 09, 2020 at 10:00:22

A light breeze is blowing and the air temperature is 55F with no sun to bathe us in a warm radiant glow. Bundle up!

--January 09, 2020 at 10:00:22. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 09, 2020 at 10:48:45

While you can see many low shrubs here the plants to take note of are the lighter green ones. Those are cholla cactus. They look enticingly cute but don’t get too close because it takes almost nothing for a cholla to release a slew of spines into you: spines that are painful going in and coming out when removed.

--January 09, 2020 at 10:48:45. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 09, 2020 at 13:01:41

These Saguaro cactus are bracketing the Starr Pass Trail. We actually have had a few glimpses of sunshine by now and , as you can see, hints of blue sky are growing. It also warmed up several degress so layers could be removed.

--January 09, 2020 at 13:01:41. Tucson, AZ, United States


Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes with 41 minutes in breaks including lunch
Total Distance: 5.7 miles with 340 feet ascent and 340 feet descent. The trail undulates with no particularly great climbs up or down except a quick one on the Sarasota Trail at the start.
Weather: Overcast. Started out around 54F and would eventually reach about 64F. The clouds did break up a bit later in the morning but we only had hints of sunshine every now and then.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

David Yetman Trail (Camino de Oeste to David Yetman West Trailhead)

Yesterday was a day off. We visited Tohono Chul Gardens and Gallery. It is a lovely little garden in the middle of Tucson. They have a variety of sections that focus on different plants based on the amounts of water required. For example, the riparian section has a stream flowing through it and is full of larger shurbs, cottonwoods, Arizona Sycamore and more. The Sin Agua section is a garden with virtually no water and so has numerous types of cactus. Other sections are present too. It is an easy place to stroll around and I am sure people take time to just sit on the numerous benches and absorb the scene. When you decide you have had enough of the flora you can step into the gallery which has some lovely artwork. We were particularly taken by what are called mono-acrylic prints of landscapes that seem to me to mix what is real with a sense of surrealism (think that’s the word I want) to create some lovely scenes.

We also visited the Tucson Museum of Art which is a yearly favorite of ours. This time they had a collection of stunning landscapes of the desert southwest and west ranging from paintings to photography. Paintings dated back to iconic works by Thmoas Moran but also to , we think, commissioned works created in 2019. Photography definitely included images you would recognize by Ansel Adams. While some works did little for me many were superb. The museum also had other works to show including its permanent collection and we usually find something to catch our eyes.

Dad decided today to rest his legs and ```do more things around town today (Wednesday). He dropped Mom and me off at the David Yetman Trailhead on Camino de Oeste (eastern trailhead). It was 09:20 and the temperature was in the mid-40s and it felt like it especially when we strode into a shady zone with a modest breeze blowing. Our speed picked up as we hustled over the undulating occassonally rocky ground towards the sunshine we could see in the distance. The trail started out the way we remembered but at a wash we zigged when we should have zagged a bit more and made a modest error. But with the aid of both the paper map on the USGS map/GaiaaGPS app we identified our error. When we reached the old stone home (remains) of Sherry and Ruby Bowen I still felt as if we had come at it in a different way. Just proves how fallible memory is. The Bowens built this home around 1931 and in time expanded the homestead to 2,000 acres. Ruby kept a diary of their time in the mountains noting how much wildlife - deer, javalina, goats, even mountain lion now and then - would come into the valley. The Bowens moved to Tucson in the late 1920s in the hopes of improving Ruby’s heath. Shery eventually became the city editor for the Daily Arizona newspaper. THey remained in the Tucson mountains until their daughter was born in 1943 ((I think) so I suppose her health improved (learn more here). We actually encountered a couple people with two dogs. I am pretty sure that is a first at the old stone home.

We left the homestead and continued walking at a good clip. We also continued to notice that the plants in this area of the Tucson Mountains seemed to be far more leafy than those west of our location and on the other side of Golden Gate Pass. I suppose somehow in the space of just a few miles the amount of water retained by the land is considerably higher. On we went. Tucson Mountain Parks has done a lot of work in this region installing directional signs and map signs at strategic locations. It is very helpful especially in this area where many trails and washes intersect. It also points out that we have more places to explore in this region than we have yet done.

In time we came to where we ended our hike from Golden Gate Pass in 2019 and deemed it a good place for lunch. By this point we had encountered several more hikers and quite a few mountain bikers. My guess is many are coming from Tucson Estates and other trailheads east of there (Explorer Trailhad, 36th Street Trailhead). But some must come from the same place we did as that parking lot was remarkably full of cars.

The trail rolled on. The tread is sometimes strewn with loose stones but generally the footing is quite good usually on pretty firm ground. We worked our way along the edge of a valley noticing the plants becoming more low-shurbs and cactus and less tall shrubs and more leafy. Along the side of a mountain with a western facing slop there were a forest of Saguaro Cactus marching up the slope. It was a special sight.

When we had one mile to go we discovered a failing of the GaiaGPS. The app had ceased recording data. I think the results I have are a solid 0.5 miles short. After a fine clemetine break we made our push up and over Golden Gate Pass. We thought it would take 40 minutes to make this last push and that turned out to be about right. It is an easier ascent for a while but does get a little tougher near the top. The descent to the parking lot is pretty good with some annoying steps to slow me down but people with normal vision and capabilities won’t be bothered much. All in all we had a lovely hike.


Photo  taken January 08, 2020 at 10:24:16

Mom looks good in the remains of the old Bowen stone house. Sherry and Ruby Bowen lived in this house for at least ten years. I think when it was whole it was probably pretty nice for a couple.

--January 08, 2020 at 10:24:16. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 08, 2020 at 12:03:00

The Tucson Mountain Park has been, with help as you can see, placing these map signs throughout the area. The signs show many more trails than our paper map depicts (bought in 2015 but the map could have been created well before then). And, sadly, my USGS Topo overlays on GaiaGPS don’t show the trails at all (if you know one that does I would love to know). What is clear here is that even in this valley many options exist for hikes of varying difficulty and lengths.

--January 08, 2020 at 12:03:00. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 08, 2020 at 12:23:52

This wall of cactuses marching up this west facing slope is really quite a sight.

--January 08, 2020 at 12:23:52. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 08, 2020 at 12:32:41

Fruiting staghorn. I managed to not get stuck by any thorns today.

--January 08, 2020 at 12:32:41. Tucson, AZ, United States


Total TIme: This is approximate (well they are all rounded a bit) but I think we were out for about 4 hours 45 minutes and took 58 minutes in breaks.
Total Distance: Because I lost some data I am sure this number is a bit off but I think we hiked a good 6.5 miles with 700 feet ascent and 400 feet descent. The bulk of both must be on the climb over the Golden Gate Pass but the trail undulates through the valley.
Weather: Sunny. When we started it was in the mid-40s and felt it when we had a breeze and were in the shade. Once in the sun we warmed right up and though the reported high was around 66F I am sure it was warmer than that under the sun.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Kings Canyon / Gould Mine Trailhead -> Gould Mine Trail -> Esperanza Trail -> Hugh Norris -> Sweetwater Trail -> Kings Canyon Trail -> Mahagah Picnic Area ->Kings Canyon Wash -> Out

We wanted to up our game and spend more of the day out. We did both admirably. We drove to the edge of Saguaro National Park’s western mountain district (somewhat beyond, but not by a lot, Tucson Mountain Park) and reached the trailhead around 09:20. This morning it actually felt like the recorded temperature. The air was cool and a breeze was blowing. It was enough to cause even me to put on a windshirt. Within a half-mile or so we were all shedding a layer as we had warmed up and the wind wasn’t really a factor on hte southern facing slopes (think that is right) we were gradually ascending.

The Gould Mine Trail takes us past the remnants of the Gould Mine. The mine was started in 1906 by H. Gould and though it remained open for nearly fifty years the H. Gould Mining company went bankrupt after only extracting 45,000 pounds of copper valued at $9,000 which was far less than the cost to run the mine and search for ore (learn more here). We gradually climbed the Gould Trail along its moderately stony tread.In the distance we could see what we think was an old air shaft. I understand the mine extended for a couple of miles at least 200 feet underground so I expect there are more air shafts than we saw.

We left the Gould Trail and the climbing got steeper as we began our trek on the Esperanza Trail. The views are spectacular but stark. The mountains are shades of brown with enough green to notice but not so much to ever cause you to confuse them with lush forests of places that get more than a few scant inches of rain per year. Here it is Saguaro Cactus marching across the slopes, mixed in are occotillo, pallo verde, prickly pear, cholla, staghorn, and no doubt much more. Today the staghorn would prove my nemesis. They look harmless enough, dark and low and woody but bunches of thorns grow on the branches and they are sharp. It is easy to brush by them and get poked and if unlucky impaled by a thorn that I am pretty sure has a barb to keep it in place under your skin. No joy. But the views are great.

We climbed steadily along a stony path past remains of what is referred to as a powder house. All that remains are some parts of walls. This is where miners would store dynamite. A little further on we came to the main shaft. It is now covered with a great steel grate cemented into the ground and surrounded by fencing. We paused for a break and to chat with a couple people before moving on and ever upward.

When we finally reached the intersection with the Hugh Norris Trail it was definitely time for a longer break. Views on both sides of the mountains were expansive and the spot we chose to sit was out of the wind which was nice. Once we left our spot we quickly noticed that wind striking the norhtern slopes were were now ascending. I won’t go as far as to say it was chilly but it was cool. Up we went. THe footing was sandy and therefore gentler on our feet. Along the way we came upon a five-person trail crew (3 women, two men) who I believe were working to improve erosion control features including drains and water bars. Hard work to be sure.

By 12:30 we reached the junction with the 0.3 mile trail that leads out to the nob of stone (over a couple other bumps) that is Wasson Peak. We have been there before and did not feel any need to visit to the peak this time. We settled in for a leisurely lunch in a slightly sheltered spot amongst the rocks just off the trail. As we ate several hikers and a couple of trail runners passed on by.

I had a suspicion that the initial climb from the trail junction of our lunch spot to the next trail junction would be a pain. It was. Mom zoomed on ahead while Dad and I plodded down the Sweetwater (I think) Trail. It is stony, full of steps, and steep. The switchbacks certainly help but it took close on 50 minutes (with some breaks) for Dad and I to descend the 0.9 miles dropping about 700 feet in elevation. Along the way we met a second trail crew working to improve the trail. When we finally caught up to Mom we learned she had been waiting for a good 15-20 minutes. What a slog. The views are great but it is hard going.

We continued along the Kings Canyon Trail. The stones did not abate but the number of great steps did, so going was certainly better. Not great, just less tiresome. Now and then relief in the form of a level stretch perhaps through a wash would buoy ur spirits but it never lasted long. Proper relief came when we reached the Mahagah Picnic Area. We lacked the desire and energy to walk the 0.1 miles uphill to the pavilion where tables and benches await the weary hiker. THe boulders we settled upon were good enough for a break. It was here we made the daring, for us, decision to strike out along the desert wash for the parking lot. We had heard from others that this was a viable option and we decided to take it.

Two years ago we had started to take the wash and when we reached a set of imposing rocks that dropped down many feet in a series of huge steps we turned back and took the Kings Canyon Trail out. This time we pushed on ahead. We all sat down and scooted ahead. Some of those steps were certainly of the sit-down-and-lower-yourself type. How the trail runner zipped through them so fast I do not know. I guess he just jumped down. No way. By this time we had attracted a group of other day hikers who had done shorter loops and while Mom and I forged ahead Dad stayed with them learning that two of them were from North Dakota. They were in the region for several weeks. Must feel incredibly warm compared to a typical North Dakotan winter.

The wash was easy going excpet when an occassional set of sometimes large rock ledges required us to work harder to get down. What a lovely change underfoot. I don’t know exactly how long it took us to navigate the final 0.7 miles but it sure felt fast compared to what we had been doing. It was a great way to end the loop and the hike.


Photo  taken January 06, 2020 at 10:11:50

Dad is standing in what remains of the powder house for the Gould Mine. The powder house is where miners stored dynamite.

--January 06, 2020 at 10:11:50. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 06, 2020 at 10:14:43

Ken. Stadning by the main shaft (not shown) of the Gould Mine. Photo by Jonathan.

--January 06, 2020 at 10:14:43. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 06, 2020 at 10:20:43

A typical view of of the mountains and valley below. Looking generally southwest.

--January 06, 2020 at 10:20:43. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 06, 2020 at 12:28:20

Just before lunch. Mom is a bit ahead checking out a possibly better spot for lunch that wouldn’t pan out.

--January 06, 2020 at 12:28:20. Tucson, AZ, United States


Total TIme: 6 hours and 32 minutes with 1 hour 22 minutes in breaks including a 30 minute lunch.
Total Distance: 7.25 miles with 1,660 feet of ascent and descent. The first 0.7 to 1.0 miles is pretty gentle and then the climbing gets steeper. The steepest descent happens in the first 0.9 miles from the lunch spot and the last 0.9 miles or so was in the wash so very gradual. The footing is stony especially on the Sweetwater and Kings Canyon Trails.
Weather: Sunny and clear. I think we had a high around 72 at the top but it felt quite pleassant. As we descended it got warmer but whether that was because it was warmer or the sun was baking us with pretty still air I can’t say.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Golden Gate Trail -> Chaparral Trail -> Connector trail -> Golden Gate Trail Loop

If I were to go back and check our notes from last year I suspect I would discover that the weather was considerably colder and the skies wholly overcast. Today the high was predicted to be 72F and the skies were free of any clouds. We arrived at the Golden gate Pass parking lot at 09:00 and I expect the temperature was alredy well over 40F. By the time I checked my thermometer, generally basking in the sun, it was registering 74F around 11:00.

This hike starts off with an ascent to the pass. You gain a couple hundred feet over 0.4 miles. It’s a gentle ascent with few annoying big steps or loose stones to contend with. Just a few hundred feet above the desert floor and we noticed that the flora seemed to be more leafy. Cactus were plentiful but other plants seemed to be present too. After reaching the pass you turn towards Golden Gate Mountain and begin a mile-long descent along its flank on a stony trail with occassional big steps down to the desert floor. It was during this part of the hike we could hear voices of people. Sometimes close and sometimes farther away. Voices carry well. Of course, some voices are just plain loud. Two gentlemen caught up to us and one of them was expounding loudly about something-or-other political. I don’t mind if people talk while hiking but “inside voices” is fine more more than just when inside.

Once you reach the desert floor you have several choices. In the past we have had to pay careful attention to our notes and any maps our guidebook had. Sometime during the past year the folks who run Tucson Mountain Park put up numerous signs including map signs. They have done a very good job too and I am wiling to bet everyone who uses the trail appreciates the effort. We confirmed what we thought was so and decided to take a different route than we usually do. The main reason: to avoid hearing the loud voices. We marched out on to the desert floor under the baking sun along the Chaparral Trail. Usually we return via this trail. It is a flat, perhaps gently - very gently - descending trail that seems to run pretty straight across the desert floor towards South Kinney Road. It is an asy walk. Now and then a bird would serenade us, the roar of a motorcycle engine or other vehicle would impinge on our ears, and accompanying it all a seemingly constant beat of booms of gunfire from a gun range somewhere in the distance. It is, even so, remarkably tranquil. It must be remarkably hot in the summer.

We were happy to snag a bit of shade for lunch just before reaching the connector (new) trail that would take us to Golden Gate Trail. In the shade it is noticeably cooler. The dirt and gravel ground is actually a bit cold. But if you feel cool just shift a few feet into the sun and you will warm up in no time.

Our return walk along the Golden Gate Trail was a bit different. While the outbound desert floor hike was notable for its ease our trek back seemed a bit more stony and full of undulations that trended upward. It wasn’t hard, just different. When we reached the start of the loop once more Dad decided to head up a wash to walk along the road to the car. Mom and I would retrace our route back up the side of Golden Gate Mountain and back down to the parking lot. Our walk would be about 1 mile longer with perhaps an extra 200 feet of ascent and descent. Slow and steady climbing saw us to the pass within 30 minutes; 15 or so more minutes more saw us back at the car where Dad had been for perhaps 20 minutes. Everyone has had a good day


Photo  taken January 05, 2020 at 11:36:51

Mom and Dad at the western end of Golden Gate Trail. The Pallo Verde and tiny Saguaro Cactus keep them company.

--January 05, 2020 at 11:36:51. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 05, 2020 at 11:47:11

--January 05, 2020 at 11:47:11. Tucson, AZ, United States


Total Time: 4 hours 34 minutes with 41 minutes in breaks
Total Distance: 5.9 miles with 750 feet of ascent and 750 feet of descnet. The bulk of the climbing takes place at the start of end of the hike with the ascent to and from Golden Gate Pass from the parking lot and the desert floor.You spend about 2.6 miles on the desert floor; the remainder of the climbs (up and down) to the pass.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Douglas Springs Trailhead -> Garwood Trail -> Three Tanks Trail -> Steel Tank - and Back

For a variety of reasons we did not get on to the hiking trails until 12:00. By then the sun was blasting heat down and it certainly felt warmer than the stated 61F. Yes, I know in the shade it probably is that cool and the air would be that cool but the body feels what it feels. We took layers off and put sunscreen on. We strode out across the desert floor.

The parking lot at the trailhead was full. It is a good sized lot. We quickly passed by many small groups of people coming from the foothills. I expect most were going to the Three Tanks and were now on their way back. Some would have visited Bridal Veil Falls and taken the longer but less steep route via the Steel Tank back. Others were, no doubt, doing something entirely different. Many others. We saw plenty of signs of horses in left-behind poop but no horses and riders today. On we walked along the gently rising desert trail avoidng rocks and poop as the need arose.

About 1.3 miles in we came to our first real glimpse of more surging water. We had heard the rushing sound for a bit but until we looked out across a wash we did not see the flow. A little further on the trail (and up) we got a view of the waterfall. To me it looked like a single stream jetting off a ledge. It is a shame neither the photo I have or video really do it justice.

We ascended the rocky trail feeling the heat beat down upon us. It is tiresome but slowly and steadily we gained the plateau where the aging steel tank sits in a dip. This time we found a modest stream flowing through the wash. We think there is a trail where the stream is flowing but we couldn’t tell. That was a shame because we had wanted to return via the WIld Horse Trail and do another lollypop-type hike. Instead we decided to retrace our steps. Descending from the Steel Tank was certainly quicker. At least it felt quicker. If my photos are to be believed, and they are, we zipped down and back to the trailhead in a little over an hour. We took much more time on the outward bound leg of the hike even when you consider the vast majority of our breaks were taken then.

A bit past 15:00 we returned to the car. Gratefully shed our packs and headed for dessert. The milkshakes we had at Cold Stone Creamery were disappointing. Way too thin even if they were loaded with ample ice cream. Oh well.


Photo  taken January 04, 2020 at 13:07:30

--January 04, 2020 at 13:07:30.

Photo  taken January 04, 2020 at 13:44:05

The Steel Tank isn’t visible but the star is the stream in the wash. I am confident saying we have never seen this before in this location.

--January 04, 2020 at 13:44:05. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 04, 2020 at 13:51:14

The Steel Tank.

--January 04, 2020 at 13:51:14. Tucson, AZ, United States


Total Time: 3 hours 19 minutes with 36 minutes in breaks mostly on the outbound leg and mostly for lunch
Distance: 4.5 miles out and back with 560 feet gain and loss (all up one way; down the other). The bulk of the climbing is in about 1.3 miles
Weather: Sunny and clear with a few wispy clouds. The reported temperature was 61F at the start but I am sure it was pushing 80F in the sun certainly by the time we finished around 15:10.