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.
Bridal Wreath Falls is flowing really well this time.
--January 11, 2020 at 11:20:21. Vail, AZ, United States
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
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
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.