Beauty of Seven Falls

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Parker Canyon Lake in the Coronado National Forest

Even under cloudy skies the lake is beautiful
This week's hike was Parker Canyon Lake which is located about 100 miles southeast of Tucson, AZ. in the Coronado National Forest. It is actually very close (about 6 or 7miles) from the Mexican border.

Ever have the feeling you're being watched?

It’s always interesting to get a view of "the blimp".  It makes for great conversation while hiking around the lake, but here is the skinny on it...  

In the summer of 2012, the U.S. military started bringing back dozens of surveillance blimps from the battlefields of Afghanistan. The 72-foot-long, unmanned surveillance blimp—sometimes called "the floating eye" when used to spot insurgents in Afghanistan—can help find drug runners and people trying to cross illegally into the U.S. We had extremely good views of the blimp from the lake.  

Parker Canyon Lake doesn't look very big, but it has a number of side canyons, inlets and coves that create a surprising amount of shoreline.

Our group of 8 hikers arrived at about 10:00 a.m. The weather was perfect – moderately warm temperatures, about 60 degrees with light breezes. The hike is approximately 5 miles and most hikers consider it to be easy to moderate. 

Our arrival

....and we're off

The trail around the lake is a fairly level dirt pathway that, for the most part, stays within a few yards of the water. There are a couple of places, however, where the route climbs rather steeply over high rocky bluffs and the trail becomes a slightly exposed, narrow passage 50 or 60 feet above the lake's surface.  Those of us who had done this hike several times have noticed that the trails have become overgrown and in some cases difficult to locate.  We joked that we were becoming bushwhackers, but I don’t imagine this is really a joking matter.  I think that many budget woes have caused a cutback in services in the national parks – including upkeep of the trails.  

Break time - LaNeta staying hydrated

Enjoying the views
Trails pretty overgrown with weeds
This hike is always a lighthearted beautiful hike.  We still have trouble identifying some of the plants and trees without George along but tried to do the best we could.  Some were pretty easy – the juniper and manzanita to name a few.  We were rewarded with multiply views of blue heron in the area.  It must have been nesting time at the lake and they sure made enough noise when we got too close to let us know we were not welcome.  

Dying Manzanita
Even in near death this is a beautiful shrub

One of the many herons spotted at the lake
There is a little picnic ground with table halfway around the lake where we always stop to eat our lunch. The bench is underneath a huge cypress tree and evidence of nesting birds was very present on the tabletop and seating – further indication that the area is being unattended.  Thank goodness it had gotten warm enough out where some of us could sit on our sweaters or jackets.  

Huge cyprus 

Gordy, JoAnn, Chun and LaNeta
Barb, Linda and Kirk
Everyone....except me.  :-(
The second half of the hike was as enjoyable as the first.  The views of the lake and waterfowl are just spectacular.  This is always a beautiful and calming hike, but also exciting because of the close approximation to the Mexican border.  You never know what or who may be hiding in the brush! 

This stone with pink tones matched Barb's outfit!

Blue Heron in flight

We keep sharp eyes out for whatever or whoever may be hiding in dense brush.  Lots of bears down here and many illegals and drug smugglers use this corridor.

 Next stop - Kief-Joshua Vineyards for wine tasting! 

Another reason many of the hikers enjoy going on the Parker Canyon Lake hike is because JoAnn always combines it with a visit to one of the wineries in the area.  Who knew we had all these wineries right here in southern Arizona?  When we arrived some of us went in search of our big bloodhound friend, Dizzy Gillespie. He was inside sleeping.

Kief Josha serving up his creations

Joann, Linda, Kirk.....and a friend

Linda happy about her choice of wine

We had another wonderful day at the lake and the winery.  Also, another successful hike!

See you on the trails…….

Friday, January 17, 2014

Brown Mountain Trail in the Tucson Mountains

Beautiful desert mountain scenery
We hiked The Brown Mountain Trail this week.   There were 11 of us along for the hike, JoAnn, Jim, LaNeta, Gordy, Connie, Don, Nancy, Chun, Linda, Kirk, and myself.  The weather was warm and sunny…perfect for hiking, but promised to warm up considerably in the afternoon. We’ve been having warmer than normal temps for this time of year – usually 70’s every day, so we make sure we have plenty of water and Gatorade along.  

Jim cheesing
On our way....

LaNeta, Jim, Linda, Connie and Joann

Look at that sun!!!!
We came out of our jackets within the first 30 minutes!

Brown Mountain Trail is in the Tucson Mountains.  Many people think that it is called Brown Mountain because of the rich brown color of the rocks and boulders and rock walls along the way, but not so.  It was named for Cornelius B. Brown who was an agriculture agent in Pima County from 1920 to 1945 and is known as the “Father of Tucson Mountain Park”.   He was a strong proponent of land preservation in the Tucson Mountains.  In April 1928 Brown and Arizona Senator Carl Hayden were successful petitioning the U.S. Department of the Interior to set aside 28,988 acres of land to protect from homesteaders and mining.  This land was the creation of the Tucson Mountain Park.  

Decisions decisions.....

I know it's early, we haven't even made it to the trailhead, but am I wrong for thinking, "maybe we can just do lunch first"?

The trail is approximately 5 miles long round trip with a 350 ft. elevation gain.  The guidebooks always just give you the highest elevation gain on the trail that you will have to climb.  Sometimes you climb to that elevation more than once.  In the case of the Brown Mountain Trail, it reaches that height a total of 3 times.  It is listed in the guidebooks as a moderate hike and I would have to agree with that.  We climbed this trail last year, and as I progress as a hiker I have to say that I can tell that I am growing.  My whining was very minimal this time.  

Clear shot in the distance of the 3 rises we will have to climb
Even though we have done this trail before, what keep our hikes fresh and new and exciting are the people.  We welcomed 4 new hikers to the group Wednesday.  Welcome shouts out to Nancy, Linda, Kirk, and Chun!  It was wonderful visiting with them along the trail.  

Kirk, Don, Gordy, Jim, and Chun

Gordy and Kirk

Nancy and Linda

We got a chance to see many saguaro, prickly pear, and jumping cholla and ocotillo cactus.  I was actually able to get a shot of one lonely ocotillo blossom, which really stood out.  Not much color out there on the trails this time of year.  One of the best things about the Brown Mountain Trail is the surrounding views.  Everyone that is able should make the effort to take a hike in the mountains, even if it is one of the really easy trails.  You are able to get a completely different feel for the real beauty here.  

Can you say desert landscapes?
Deep brown against sandy background
First sighted ocotillo blossom....
Our hike moved along very well along the ridge on the way up the first elevation gain.  This area is home to Old Tucson, The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and Gilbert Ray Campground just to name a few spots of interest.  

Tucson Desert Museum at the bottom of the hill
I think we were all pretty happy to reach the picnic area.  We had a great view of the Tucson Desert Museum as we rested.  After about a 30 minute lunch break we headed back down.  We did the loop and followed a different trail on the way back.  This trail was filled with all types of cactus and this is where the mountain wanted to let us know that although we are allowed to hike, camp, hunt, bike, and just sometimes come up and watch the sunset – it is still wild.  

Heading back, another successful hike under our camelbacks.  

See you on the trails.....

Monday, January 13, 2014

Lower Sabino Trails in Sabino Canyon

Happy New Year Everyone!  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and is ready to hit the trails again.  We began the year with an easier hike because we have been pretty idle for a couple of weeks.  We hiked the lower Sabino Trails in Sabino Canyon.  We had a pretty good size group this week, 5 men and 5 women.  We hit the road heading to the canyon at 8:30 a.m. with beautiful blue skies and perfect hiking temperatures and arrived at the visitor’s center about 45 minutes later.

Starting out with JoAnn in the lead

Gina and LaNeta
JoAnn had mapped out a hike of interconnecting trails that would total approximately 3 miles with an elevation of about 100 feet.  Pretty easy – even for me….the Novice Hiker.

Unexpected friends along the way

We started on the Esperero Trail and traveled that for about a mile until we reached the Rattlesnake Trail.  From Rattlesnake Trail we traveled down a wash and over to the Sabino Tram road.  We stopped for a break at a beautiful little picnic area near a stream. 

Just drinking in the scenery 

Head 'em up!
We then followed the trails and tram road back to the visitor center.  We waited until we reached the visitor’s center to eat our lunch since the hike took such a short time.  

Jim, Ernie (who has also been absent) and Gordy
No matter how short or long the hikes we travel, they are each unique in their own way.  They are all equally beautiful and challenging.  

Saguaro growing out of a rock
We really appreciate the time and effort JoAnn puts into choosing just the right hikes for the group.  We had a bonus this week.  Our long MIA George returned for a hike.  We made fun of how we named plants in his absence because he is the hiker that usually knows about all the plants.  He knows the names of them, what the Native Americans used them for, and what we can actually use them for now.  We really missed him.

Yay George!!! The runaway....


Another thing we missed about George was his sense of humor.  We found this mound of rocks that sort of looked like how you would bury people in the old western movies, and of course George immediately stuck a trekking pole in the mound and stated that it was a hiker that didn’t make it.  

It was a short hike, but a beautiful one and I will leave you with a few scenic shots to prove it!

See you on the trails......

Selfie of me and LaNeta