Beauty of Seven Falls

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pima Canyon Trail in the Santa Catalina Mountains

Okay, so if you’ve been following the blog weekly, you know that I admit to being a novice hiker – thus the title of the blog.  I have been fortunate enough to keep up with the rest of the hikers pretty well every week.  Last week I was even talked into taking the more difficult of two hikes and was able to do it.  That being said….I was lulled into a false sense of security and thought the hike of Pima Canyon Trail this week would be a piece of cake.  NOTHING COULD HAVE BEEN FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!!!  I was told it was an easy to moderate hike.  We were to hike about 6 miles round trip with about a 700 ft. elevation gain.   

Our group was 10 strong this week.  We headed out at 8:30 a.m. from the community center, our usual time.  It only took a short time to reach our destination, maybe 30 minutes or so.  Our group leader Joanne always gives us information on the hike as far as how hard, how long, etc. so I felt pretty good starting out.  The Pima Canyon trail is a beautiful and easily assessible trail.... so assessible it suffers from overuse.  The Pima trail ascends a V-shaped notch carved along the south face of Pusch Ridge.  Views down the canyon get better as you climb.  The riparian area on the floor of the canyon are ecologically diverse and may be home to a wide range of plants, insects and amphibians that make them ideal for different species of birds.  This provides an excellent birdwatching opportunity for resident and migratory birds.  

Well, after nearly 2 hours I started  wondering why it seemed to be taking us so long to reach the dam, which was the turnaround point for us.  It should only have been about 3 miles right?  3 miles shouldn't take so long should it?  I'm new, but I know I was really feeling the burn in my legs after a while.  As we passed hikers on their way back down we would inquire as to how much further and was always told with a smile…not much further.  We were given approximations like another 30 minutes, or ¾ of a mile, or right around the next bend you climb a little and then down. 

Crested Sahuaro
Well, let me digress a little bit….I seem to be whining a little more than usual....  I have to admit that the weather was great.  Sunny and a little on the cool side, which is wonderful for hiking.  The scenery, resplendent with wildflowers, cacti and trees, was beautiful and the trail was clearly marked.  We hiked through cottonwood trees and along a streambed (which was mostly dry) and we crossed it several times.  When we finally reached the dam where we would turn around, I was pretty tired and hungry.  We ate our lunch at this point and rested a little for the hike back down. 

Indentation left by Native Americans grinding meal
There are grinding rocks near the dam that the Hohokam Indians used to grind their mesquite pods into flour.  This was especially interesting for me.  I mean it really brings it home that this area was inhabited by Native Americans that walked, and lived and hunted through these mountains hundreds of years ago.  I took pictures of the grinding area, and could imagine the women there working with children playing in the streams.  Wonderful…..

George & Jim having lunch

Now, the trip back down….RATTLESNAKE!  Yes, I big diamondback rattler decided the middle of the trail on the rocks was a wonderful place to sun itself.  I am so glad the men went ahead of us on the way back down and were able to pick it up with their walking sticks and place it on the side of the trail (or should I label this a trial) in the brush.  This is the first large snake I have seen since I moved to Arizona, and I was amazed at how calm, cool, and collected everyone was.  I wanted to scream!  I wanted to run!  I wanted I wanted…I wanted to take its picture, but they had put it in a position where I couldn’t safely do so.  Oh well.  I was able to get a picture of the next best thing.  We had our very own Sasquatch sighting and I got a picture of it's feet! 
Sasquatch Mike's feet
We made it safely back to the trailhead and one of the guys who had an altimeter (I am the only novice hiker in the group, so these guys have all the tools of the hiking trade with them when we go out) which showed that this hike had in fact been a 1,000 ft. elevation gain just like the one last week to Romero Pools.  That is why it seemed so hard (to some of us) and why it seemed to take longer than a 6 miles hike should take. 

I can say I made it and I am happy I was able to make it.  It is possible I would have had second thoughts if I had known it was another 1,000 ft. elevation gain so soon.  I’m glad I didn’t know when we started out.  Another successful hike under my fanny pack! 

Dog-tired dogs - mine!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Romero Pools - Catalina State Park

On Wednesday, Feb. 29th we hiked in beautiful Catalina State Park in the Santa Catalina Mountains.  Our fearless leader Joanne gave us a choice between two trails. The reason for this was because of the difference in the difficulties of the trails.
Hike A was an easy hike of a total of a little more than three miles.  The Canyon Loop Trail was 2.3 miles with an elevation gain of 100ft.  This was combined with the Ruins Interpretive Trail of 3/4 of a mile.
 Hike B was The Romero Pools Trail. This hike is considered a moderate plus trail.   It is a total of five miles long – 2.5 miles up with an elevation gain of 1000 feet and then 2.5 miles back down.  WHEW!
Of the two choices and I had decided waaaayyyy last week that I felt more comfortable following the first hike, the easier hike.  After all, I am still a novice at this.  This would just be my 5th hike.
Don't let this innocent smile fool you

The blog title indicates trails and trials….well, I think you know where I’m going with this one, and this one was a bit of a trial.  As we gathered in the parking lot of the community center, I allowed one of the seasoned hikers, Ernie a seemingly nice guy with an honest enough face to talk me into Hike B.  He told me he was SURE I could do it.  And yes, you guessed it, I fell for it. 
Our group of 13 hikers headed off to Catalina State Park at 8:30 a.m. with confidence high and arrived approximately 30 minutes later. Today, as in previous hikes – the weather was gorgeous.
Peeling off layers as the sun warms

This trail is very popular because of the beautiful scenery, it’s not too hard, and leads to the natural waterpark of Romero Pools.
The first 15 or 20 minutes of the trail is over the desert floor, but then it gets very rocky and starts climbing steeply up the north side of Montrose Canyon. About 45 minutes in from the trailhead you get to the top of the ridge between Romero and Montrose canyons, and then head up canyon near the top of the ridge. This area on the top of the ridge is very beautiful, since it has rock formations, great views, and it takes some work to get up there.
 The trail winds through the rocks at the top of the ridge for about 20 minutes, generally climbing, but with some short descents, until you drop down to the stream crossing at Romero Pools. There are pools and waterfalls up and down the stream from this point. To return, you just retrace your route back to the trailhead.

The Fork

Both trailheads started at the same place and our group divided in two.  One group of 5 took the trail to the nature trail to the left and the other group of 8 took the fork to Romero Pools.  This would be my last chance to change my mind and go on the easier hike….I didn’t.  I believed in my ability (and Ernie) and I wanted to try it. 
The wildflowers were spectacular! We saw poppies, foxgloves, brittle bush (I have since purchased several of these for my yard), fairy dusters, daisies, and more.  I am sorry I could not take photos of these beauties, because if just wasn’t that type of hike.  I had to keep my eyes on the trail and on my feet and the person ahead of me.  I just was too whimpy to try to take pictures while I hiked. 
The pictures I was able to snap of scenery were mostly when we stopped for a quick drink or at our lunch break. 

One of the things that kept me going and from complaining too much was a young man on the trail with his four, yes I said four children.  One was in a child carrier on his back and the others were probably ages 4, 7 and 10.  These ages are approximations but the skill of these kids was amazing.  I refused to be beaten by this group of super-humans! 
Reaching the pools
 I have to say once we got back down and were walking back to the parking lot, I felt a great sense of accomplishment.  I am glad I took the high road. 
People dive off the rocks into this pool-CRAZY!

Heading back down

Until next time…keep tumbling along like tumbling tumbleweed.