Beauty of Seven Falls

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Garwood Dam Loop

Miles and miles of saguaro cactus
Our excursion this week took our merry group to the Saguaro National Park East in the Rincon Mountains.  Saguaro National Monument was created on March 1, 1933 by President Herbert Hoover.  On October 14, 1994, Congress elevated Saguaro to National Park status.

If you want to see cacti of every size, shape and age – this is the hike for you.  We saw thousands upon thousands of saguaro, prickly pear, barrel, and yes, even the dreaded jumping cholla cacti. 

One endangered animal, the Lesser Long-nosed Bat, lives in the park part of the year during its migration, together with one threatened species, the Mexican Spotted Owl. 

Safe distances from cactus.  lol
We started at the Broadway Trailhead and traveled several trails that made up the Garwood Dam Loop.  Many of the trails seem to intersect, more than once and can be very confusing to a novice hiker such as myself.  This is definitely one hike I would never attempt alone.  Thank goodness for our leader JoAnn and her ever-ready map.  She was always comparing her map to the markers along the trails and kept us on the straight and narrow.  The phrase straight and narrow is not being bandied about lightly.  Most of the trail was extremely narrow and was very rutted because of the horses that are ridden through the area.  We really got a workout because of the loose sand and gravel underfoot.  
Mountain views
Anyway, the day was beautiful; the blue skies and mountain views were breathtaking.  I am sure my photos never do the justice to the hikes.  I always try to imagine myself back in time, when Native Americans, or cowboys, or miners frequented the area.  When someone mentioned gold mining my imagination ran wild (as usual). 
Our group of 9 hikers made very good time considering the loose footing being so challenging.  We met several other groups along the way and got a chance to even chat with some volunteer rangers on horseback.  I realized that since I joined the group last winter,  this was the first time I had the pleasure to actually see rangers – volunteer or otherwise. 
I named the horse on the right below Sweetface, after the horse in the John Wayne movie The Searchers. I know, I know it was filmed in Monument Valley in the Chiricahuas, but it's what came to me when I saw her.  Doesn't she have a sweet face?

We made it to the Garwood Dam in just about 2 hours from the trailhead.  We rested and had our lunch (always one of my favorite times) at the dam.  This is where the history buff in me took over.  The area is dotted natural tanks that fill with water at different times of the year, but I still wasn’t aware of the history of the area we were hiking…but I was going to find out. 
Gordy at the dam
A little history of the area:
The Dam provided a steady supply of water for Nelson Garwood and his ranch in the 1950's before the area was part of the National Park system.  One of the trails used was named for natural tanks in the area – Wild Horse Trail.  We also traveled the Carrillo Trail so I did a little research on this name and discovered quite a bit of additional interesting history. 
In 1868, Don Emilio Carrillo built his Buena Vista Ranch.  He would later change the name to La Cebadilla, after the wild barley growing along the ranch’s creek. Carrillo had been living in the Tucson area since the age of 12, and, with some hard work, he built his ranch into a successful cattle operation.  Carrillo and other ranchers ran so many cattle in the foothills of the Rincons that vegetation was destroyed for generations to come. Lime kilns, operating in the 1880s, also seriously deforested the area. The remains of these kilns can be seen along the Cactus forest Trail.  We didn’t see any this trip, but I will be going back to the area to look for several of the things I now know about.  The kilns, the natural tanks, the airstrip used by the Garwood family, and the little room at the base of the dam that was used to store tools.
As with most history - there is good and bad.  In 1904, bandits seeking to cash in on some of Carrillo’s wealth ransacked the ranch in search of gold that they believed was buried on the property. The robbers hanged Carrillo by the neck from the rafters and tortured him—almost to death. Carrillo lasted another few years before passing away from complications from the attack.  Carrillo’s ranch changed hands several times eventually coming to be named the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch and is family owned and operated today and you can hang out by those deadly rafters in the ranch’s present-day card room.
The bits of history that I glean from the internet about the areas that we hike is what makes these weekly outings much more than just a hike in the desert for me.  We are walking trails where ranchers and miners eked out a living and maybe even a few hardened, desperate cowboy and bandito criminals hid out from the lawmen.  Take my word for it, not only does our hiking get my heart rate up, and my muscles stretched out, but it also captivates my imagination. 
Jim and Gordy checking out one of the natural tanks
As far as scenic views on our hikes, I would have to say this one doesn’t rate as highly as some of the others, but there is so much more to see – if you open your mind’s eye – besides cacti and sand and Arizona blue skies. 
We took a different trail on the trip back to the trailhead and it only took us about 1 ½ hours to return to the parking lot.  Total mileage for this hike was somewhere between 6 ½ to 7 miles.
One of the many saguaro along the trail
See you on the trails!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wild Burro Canyon in the Tortolita Mountains

Beautiful, ancient tree by the side of the trail
Our hike this week has to have been one of the most exciting so far.  Our group of 10 hikers met at the Community Center at 8:30 a.m. and once again we had beautiful blue skies and moderate temperatures .  Our destination was Dove Mountain, in Marana. Dove Mountain is a part of the Tortolita Mountain range boasting some 29 miles of trails, which includes classic Sonoran Desert terrain, rugged ridges, diverse wildlife, historic ruins and signs of prehistoric inhabitants.
We started at the Ritz Carlton Trailhead, and would be hiking in the Wild Burro Canyon.  And yes, this is the same Ritz Carlson which is playground for rich and famous pro golfers.  Each February, the top 64 players in the world compete on the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain.  
Getting started
We hiked the Picture Rocks area several weeks ago, but this area of the Tortolitas also has petroglyphs, or rock carvings, the work of Ancient Indians, known today as the Hohokam.  Their geometric designs and figures of animals and people onto rock surfaces endure today, but we didn’t find any on this hike.
Wikipedia picture
By all accounts this was a fantastic hike.  We were able to locate a few crested Saguaro cacti.  These are called crested because of a relatively rare condition of abnormal growth in which the growing tip becomes elongated vertically to the direction of growth, thus producing flattened, ribbon-like, crested, or elaborately contorted top.  I have included a picture of one so you get an idea of what they look like. 
We were able to identify tracks of jack rabbits, and possibly bobcats or coyotes.  Your imagination can really run wild in the desert…
After completing the Lower Javelina Loop, we stopped for a break at before heading back to the Wild Burro Trail and enjoyed climbing around and trough the ruins of a line shack.  A line shack was a small cabin built on the open range where cowboys could take shelter while tending cattle or other duties associated with working on a large ranch.  

Well, needless to say, everything was joy–joy, love-love, happiness- happiness, etc., etc., until we started back to the trail....
Calamity Me?
Lovebirds in an empty nest? LaNeta & Gordy
Yep, it was all fun and games until a jumping cholla cactus decided to join us, and I do mean JOIN us.  One decided to piggyback a ride with our group ON THE PALM OF MY HAND!!! 

This was possibly the worse continuous pain I have felt since getting a rose tattoo on my back in 2008.  It radiated pain from my palm, up my arm, and to every nerve ending I wasn’t using at that particular moment.  Horrid!  Thank God for level headed hiking members.  LaNeta had lovely, pink jeweled piece of medical equipment (her description) a utility knife with a pliers attachment and Jim took total control of the situation. 

With a cool head and steady hand (even with me pounding on his shoulder every time he yanked one of the spines free) he soon had me free of the offending hitchhiker.  JoAnn pulled out the bactine and with several pats on the back, and kisses to make it all better from fellow hikers, we were on our way.  I kept my hands directly in front of me for the rest of the trek down Wild Burro Trail to the trailhead. 
This was a pretty moderate hike, with the round trip probably a little over five miles with 150 feet elevation gain.  Not-withstanding the little hitch in our get-along with the cholla toward the end of the hike...a good time was had by all. 
Our protectors on the trail for this hike: George, Gordy, and Jim

Of course, there was a time or two they let their guard down...

Jim relaxing along the way
George taking five

JoAnn, our fearless leader

Until the next time....see you on the trails!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Picture Rocks Area Trails in the Tucson Mountains

Well, the long summer hiatus is over guys.  Back to the trails. 

This was actually our second hike of the season.  Our group was pretty good size - 12 strong.  We did a little over 5 miles of the Picture Rocks Area Trails on the eastern border of the north Tucson Mountain foothills.  The trails - Ironwood Forest, Brittlebush, Thunderbird, Canyon Cactus, Picture Rocks Wash, Prophecy Wash, Cam-Boh Trail Gila Monster and some other trails connect in a 10.7 mile loop. We did several of the trails - Picture Rocks Wash, Canyon Cactus, Gila Monster Trail, and maybe a part of another trail. 

Ernie leading the way with Connie a close 2nd
We were just following the amazing rocks with petroglyphs chipped into the surface.  Some are thought to be as old as 1,000 or more years and were created by the ancient Hohokam natives that lived in this area.  No one knows just what they mean.  The images of the sun, snakes, lizards, game animals and humans may have had religious or ceremonial significance.  We found many of the carvings quite by accident.  The group would stop to take a drink or a snack and there in front of us were markings.

Walt pulling cactus spines from his hand

The weather was perfect and it was a pretty moderate hike.  Some of us (myself included) found the loose gravel and sand in the washes pretty difficult to manuever.

 We even had one member of the group that slipped on some of the loose footing and fell right into a prickly pear cactus.  He was okay, but poor Walt was pulling the cactus spines out his hand for the rest of the hike.

 I actually had an encounter with a jumping cholla that attached itself to my boot and rode along for a couple of miles.  Didn't pierce that hard rubber sole though....

It's all fun and games until a jumping cholla attacks your foot.
We came across a few lone hikers, but I don't get the solitary bit.  We have such a good time with each other on the trails - talking, laughing, catching up with family news, and oh yes - eating lunch!

The 3 pictures below shows some of the group having lunch.  We all tried to find a shady spot and it ended up looking like a seek and find puzzle.  Can you find George, Bonnie, Walt, Jim and Justin?

Walt and JoAnn
George and Bonnie

Barb, Jim and Justin


Oh My Gosh!  I almost forgot!  Not only did we see plenty of cacti, petroglyphs, and a little wildlife, we also came upon an old - AND I MEAN OLD - Bonnie and Clyde type car in the wash.  It was very cool and totally riddled with bullet holes.  We couldn't resist a few pictures of that. 

Closer shot of car to show holes

That's me holding Walt at bay with my hiking pole.  lol
Well sports fans, that's all til next week.  
Happy trails to you!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chiricahua National Monument in the Coronado National Forest

Well sports fans - talk about saving the best til last - this was it!  Our hiking outings ended with a bang with us hiking several trails of the Chiricahua National Monument. 

Our group - consisting of Stan, Barbara, Jorge, Gina, Ernie and myself - starting out at 6:00 a.m. (I admit to being half asleep) with Stan behind the wheel.  It would be approximately a two hour trip from Tucson to the visitor's center.

As with most of the hikes I have been fortunate to be a part of, the weather was beautiful.  Blue skies and warm temperatures were the predictions for the day.  We were hoping to finish our hiking before the late afternoon heat.

From beginning to end the hike that had been hyped as magnificent by several fellow hikers during the winter and spring lived up to all the hype.  The towering rock formations were awe inspiring (although we didn't hike to Inspiration Point).  The rock pinnacles were called "standing up rocks" by the Chiricahua Apache who lived in the forests and lands surrounding the Chiricahua Mountains for hundreds of years.

We took the shuttle at the visitor's center in Bonita Canyon which took us up to the trail head.  The shuttle driver told us a lot of the history of the Monument, including how it was created.  27 million years ago eruptions from the Turkey Creek Caldera Volcano, which was one thousand times greater than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, laid down two thousand feet of highly silicious ash and pumice. This mixture fused into a rock called rhyolitic tuff and eventually eroded into the spires and fascinating rock formations of today. In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge set aside this wonderland to be preserved as the Chiricahua National Monument.

Cochise Head (see the nose pointing to the sky?)
The driver also talked about how it became the stronghold for the Apache leaders Cochise and Geronimo and their people.  If you are a history buff like myself, you can let your imagination run wild!  I had a tendency to blend history, John Wayne movies, and documentaries into one.  I could see Native Americans on horseback on ridges, or women and children in camps grinding corn.....until the food ran out and they eventually surrendered to Union soldiers in 1886.
Mushroom Rock
Big Balanced Rock

We were dropped off at Massai Point and began our descent via several connecting trails and loops.  Some of the trails were named after some of the famous rock formations.  We traveled on Mushroom Rock Trail and Big Balanced Rock Trail.  The elevation at the trailhead at Massai Point was 6,870 and we did a mostly gradual decline to 5,400 ft. at the visitor's center.  We made frequent stops along the trail for rest and water.  It is noticeably cooler in the Chiricahuas than in Tucson because of the elevation, but still very warm for hiking.  This was a truly enjoyable hike in almost every way.  The one very sad thing that was so striking was the devastation left behind from the wildfires in 2011. 

The Horseshoe 2 Fire began on May 8, 2011 in the Horseshoe Canyon area of the Chiricahua Mountains and burned nearly 223,000 acres, destroying 23 homes or buildings.  
Devastation the 2011 wildfires left behind
Investigators were unable to access the area immediately and unable to pinpoint the fire’s ignition point because of subsequent fire-fighting activities.It was heartbreaking to walk through burned out areas that were once plush forests. We agreed that we could have endured the pain a little easier if the fires had been from natural causes such as lightning strikes, but knowing they were of human origin made it harder.

I can only imagine how beautiful this tree was before......

Jorge made the observation of how you can find beauty everywhere if you look.  He then found this burned out tree from the fire and I realized what he meant.  This tree - even burned out and barren, was a thing of beauty.

Sadness at loss of vegetation and wildlife

We hiked a total of approximately 8 miles.  We started at Massai Point and traveled the Mushroom Rock Trail, Big Balanced Rock Trail, Heart of Rocks Loop, Sarah Deming Trail and finally the Lower Rhyolite Canyon Trail back to the visitor center.  We had a little welcoming committee waiting when we got back, a group of 3 white tail deer feeding near a campsite.  As our group approached they continued to feed on new vegetation, showing no fear of us.  Ahhh nature, you got to love it! 

White-tailed fawn having lunch

More random pics from an excellent hike!!!

Camel's Head
Formations at the Heart of Rocks Loop


Kissing Rock
Punch & Judy


Happiness is a PB&J sandwich

Jorge unloading his gear

Ernie always has the best sandwiches!

On the trail again.....

These look like sentries guarding the monument

I named this one Sly and the Family of Stone

Happy Trails to you, until we meet again!