AZT – Passage 26 – Hardscrabble Mesa

  • Distance – 11.54 miles / 18.57 kilometers
  • Elevation Gain – 1319 feet / 402 meters
  • Elevation Loss – 1841 feet / 561 meters
  • Average Temperature – 91.6° F / 33.1° C
  • Total Mileage – 115 miles / 185.98 kilometers

We drove to The Cabins on Strawberry Hill on Friday in order to get an early start on Passage 26 Saturday morning.  DSCN1835_1352Gale Force has joined the merry band of WWW (Wild Wilderness Women, or Wild Wacky Women, or maybe Weary Wilderness Women) and will be coming along on future AZT adventures.  Sandy is another AZT hiker who was kind enough to join us to leap-frog vehicles at the trailheads.

The WWW  Bear-O-Ness, Scree Slider, Gale Force, Sandy (left to right)

Bear-O-Ness, Scree Slider, Gale Force, Sandy (left to right)

We all drove to the Pine trailhead and then drove back to FR194 and the Twin Buttes trailhead.  Sandy was hiking Passage 25 SOBO and the rest of us were hiking Passage 26 NOBO.  Lova’s (Scree Slider) truck was at the Pine trailhead and we would drive to the Doll Baby Trailhead to pick up Sandy when we complete the Passage.DSCN1855_1372We unloaded our gear at the beginning of Passage 26 and Sandy parked up  the road at the SOBO trailhead.

The Passage Profile will give you an idea of the terrain we would be hiking.  Passage 26 ProfileHere we are, at the beginning climb standing by the Carsonite Marker for Passage 26.DSCN1858_1375Hardscrabble Mesa lives up to its name.  Most of the trail, probably about 80%, was on loose volcanic rock.DSCN1869_1386 DSCN1878_1395We continued climbing and every once in a while we would be rewarded with a small portion of less rocky terrain.DSCN1897_1414We stopped for lunch in a tree covered spot at 10 in the morning, you surely do need to eat often on the trail to keep your energy up.DSCN1882_1399We had to open and close many gates along the way.  One in particular, took all the strength Gale Force and I could muster.DSCN1859_1376DSCN1872_1389IMG_20150829_075322

DSCN1905_1422There were some incredible vistas of the Mogollon Rim as we hiked along the trail.DSCN1866_1383Finally we were coming to the end of the hike.  Almost at the trailhead there was a water cache for AZT hikers.  It was metal and sitting in the sun, we tried to open it to see its contents but it was too hot to be able to open the hooks that held it closed.  Makes you wonder about the contents sitting in the sun cooking all day long.DSCN1910_1427When we arrived at the Pine trailhead, Sandy was sitting in her car under a tree waiting for us.  She had to abort her hike as the trail was so covered with growth and a few times she got off trail – Sandy is a smart hiker and chose to turn around rather than to continue hiking and be out in the open on trail during the heat of the day.  Whiterock Mesa has almost no cover and is 15 miles long.

Unfortunately for us That Brewery was packed solid and the wait time was about 30 minutes.  As we were exhausted and hungry we decided to drive on to a local bar in Strawberry for lunch.

That evening we went to the StrawBEARy Bear Steakhouse for dinner.  Not one of us had steak!  DSCN1917_1434

Passage 26,Hardscrabble Mesa is now checked off our list of completed passages.  It was a great day to be on trail.




AZT – Passage 11a – Pusch Ridge Wilderness Bypass – San Pedro Vista to Green Mountain/Bug Springs

  • Distance – 5.13 miles / 8.25 kilometers
  • Elevation Gain – 669 feet / 204 meters
  • Elevation Loss – 2041 feet / 1845 meters
  • Average Temperature – 89.6° F / 32° C
  • Total Mileage – 104.05 miles / 167.41 kilometers

It was a fabulous Sunday to be on the trail.  It had rained the night before and everything was lush and fragrant.  As usual, we were happy to be on the AZT again!   DSCN1776_1293It always seems even though we have chosen to hike this passage SOBO we must climb the mountain right out the gate.But as usual after we climb, the reward is an incredible vista.DSCN1774_1291DSCN1777_1294At one point during the hike we stopped to eat a snack and Adam appeared on his mountain bike.  Passage 11a is a famous mountain biking trail – we oftentimes step off the trail for cyclists.  We chatted for a bit, believe it or not, about the Camino, naturally I gave him a couple of my business cards.  He said his parents are very interested in the Camino.DSCN1801_1318We finished our snacks and hiked onwards.  Sometimes the rock formations appeared as though they were purposely placed.DSCN1802_1319DSCN1817_1334DSCN1806_1323And there were always absolutely beautiful views.  DSCN1804_1321

It was a beautiful day and a wonderful hike on yet another small section of the Arizona National Scenic Trail.  Yes, we are so lucky to have such wondrous trails right in our backyards.DSCN1834_1351

Arizona Trail – Passage 11a – Part 2

  • Distance – 3.94 miles / 6.33 kilometers
  • Elevation Gain – 669 feet / 204 meters
  • Elevation Loss – 1214 feet / 370 meters
  • Average Temperature – 84.7° F / 29.3° C
  • Total Mileage – 98.92 miles / 159.16 kilometers

Yes, it was short!  But there was a reason – I am the founding member of the Old Pueblo Chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino and I was chairing the monthly meeting in the early afternoon.

The hike was lovely, again the vistas were incredible.  Passage 11a traverses the backside (or so it is called) of the Santa Catalina Mountains.  Lova and I met up on the mountain at 6:30, we left my car at the San Pedro Vista parking lot and her truck at the Bigelow trailhead.  DSCN1712_1229We climbed for a short distance up to the AZT trail marker and then hiked downhill.  It is so lovely to be outdoors and to be on such a uncrowded trail.  Later in the day these trails are quite well used.DSCN1721_1238At several points we found ourselves having to search for trail markers.  Unfortunately, so far the sections of the AZT we have hiked are not well-marked at all.  We almost always get off course every hike.  It should be noted if not for Garmin’s new fenix 3, we still may be lost on the trail.DSCN1726_1243After searching around for the trail, we finally got back on course.  Thank you Garmin!DSCN1718_1235Yikes we found ourselves off course again, we turned around and thankfully Lova sighted another trail marker off the path, and we were headed back on course once again.DSCN1726_1243It is so beautiful up on the mountain, here is a 360° view of a portion of the  trail.  Please bear with the shakiness of the camera, I was on a rocky ledge and was unsure of my footing.  You will also notice remaining evidence of the Aspen Fire.

We marveled at the steepness of the descent as well as the ingenious use of mother nature in creating these trails.DSCN1745_1262Finally we came to the end of our hike at the San Pedro Vista and decided to drive up to the Saw Mill Run for another breakfast.DSCN1761_1278




A Walk After A Summer Storm

On Wednesday mornings I walk the Sabino Canyon tram road with my friend and AZT companion hiker Lova.  Sabino Canyon is doable during the summer months because the mountain shields the road from the rising sun until about 8:30.  We generally begin our walk up the Canyon at 6:30.

On Tuesday night, Tucson had a very slow-moving monsoon over the Rincon and Santa Catalina Mountain ranges.  I enjoyed watching the lightning show from my living room.

The following morning I woke up to the alarm, quickly ate breakfast and drank the absolutely necessary mug of coffee, dressed and filled my hydration bladder.  The sky looked a little dark, as though it may rain, but since I hadn’t heard otherwise from Lova, I drove to Sabino Canyon.

We started walking up the Canyon at about 6:25.  It rained on us a bit at the beginning of the walk, but it wasn’t pouring and we didn’t hear thunder or see lightning, we continued onward and upward.

Curiously we saw many people returning and commented to each other wondering what time they must have begun their walk.

There are seven bridges on the trail that cross stream/creek beds flowing down the mountain.  Once we arrived at the first bridge we understood why we saw so many people finishing their walk.  The stream was flowing quickly over the tram road.

There was an US Parks Department Employee and a gentleman standing there asking us if we were going to attempt to cross.  “Of course we are!” both Lova and I said at the same time.  We then removed our shoes and socks and proceeded to walk barefoot through the rushing waters.

It is hard to believe Sabino Canyon is in the middle of the Sonoran Desert because of all the water.  But the water only flows in the Spring time when the snows melt high up on the mountains or during summer monsoon season.

At all seven bridges water was rushing across the road.  We repeated the procedure of removing our shoes and then sitting on the side of the road, drying our feet and putting our shoes back on a total of 14 times that day.

It was the best training walk I have ever had in Sabino Canyon.  Both of us felt like little girls again carefree and splashing in the water!


Arizona Trail – Pusch Ridge Wilderness Bypass – Passage 11a

  • Distance – 9.35 miles / 15.05 kilometers
  • Elevation Gain – 1627 feet / 496 meters
  • Elevation Loss – 1614 feet / 492 meters
  • Average Temperature – 86° F / 30° C
  • Total Mileage – 94.98 miles / 152.83 kilometers

We were finally able to get back on the trail this past Sunday.  Knowing the passage is reported as being 21.5 miles / 31.6 kilometers, we decided to break it into more manageable sections.  Luckily on this passage, we are able to get on and off the AZT at different trailheads along the Catalina Highway playing leap-frog with our vehicles.Passage 11a profileWe planned to hike from the end of the passage downhill to the beginning.  Summertime in the desert is too hot to safely hike unless it is done in the early morning or dusk hours.  Neither of us wished to be on any trail on the mountain during those hours because of the wildlife, so we decided to begin at the highest elevation where the temperatures are much cooler.

Our planned hike was from the Control Road on top of Mt. Lemmon to the intersection of the Butterfly Trail.  At the Butterfly Trail we would walk the 1.4 miles / 2.25 kilometers to the trailhead where my vehicle was parked and waiting for us.  Looking at the trail profile, we figured the hike to the Butterfly Trail would be mostly downhill.  (Remember we are hiking from the end to the beginning or right to left on the profile.)Pusch Wilderness Bypass Profile MapWe parked Lova’s truck at the end of the Passage and began walking down the Control Road to the Crystal Spring Trailhead; a 3 mile / 4.83 kilometer hike.  The vistas were fabulous all along the way.DSCN1672_1189At the Crystal Spring Trailhead we attempted taking our usual AZT Selfie, but could not capture the little trail marker and us in a single shot (arms simply were not long enough; neither one of us has one of those annoying Selfie Sticks).DSCN1674_1191 DSCN1673_1190We hiked, no, let me correct that, we climbed the Crystal Spring Trail.  What we thought would be downhill was turning into a slow slog uphill.  It appears both Lova and I should attend a class on Profile Reading.

At about mile 3.5 into the Passage pretty close to the beginning of the trail, we passed some fresh (but thankfully not steaming) bear scat right on the trail.  I pointed it out to Lova.

I wear a whistle around my neck while hiking and so asked along with making ourselves look big should we encounter a bear, were we supposed to make noise or remain quiet.  Neither of us knew what we should do – but now we do.  I have also ordered a can of bear spray to carry with me on future hikes in the mountains as well.


After the scat sighting, we continued to climb and at about mile 5 when we thought we were approaching the Butterfly Trail intersection we came upon two young hikers going in the opposite direction.  They looked fresh as though they had just begun hiking.  We asked how far the Butterfly trailhead was and they told us about 3 miles to the turnoff for the trail and then another 1.5 to the trailhead.

Not possible we both thought, my Garmin fenix3 reported we had already hiked 5 miles.  By this time I was dragging, the day was getting quite warm and my legs were beginning to feel the lactic acid buildup.  We managed to get ourselves off trail and began bushwhacking through a section of burned out felled trees.  Both of us got our legs all cut up in this section.

Even though the fenix3 navigation did not show us off course, we knew something was wrong, we could not see the trail anywhere.  So we headed back to where we came from and there it was as clear as could be – a very defined trail!  We were never far off the trail which is why the navigation didn’t show us off course.

The only explanation for missing the trail was in parts it was obscured by much overgrowth.  Possibly upon entering the area of burnt felled trees we were not paying attention to the trail.

Well, we made it to the Butterfly Trailhead finally, stripped off our packs and gave each other a high-five!  I was exhausted, my legs felt like someone had tied concrete blocks to them and I was dripping wet from perspiration.  DSCN1702_1219

I was very happy to change my shirt and to finally be able to sit down at the Saw Mill Run (on their patio) back on the top of the mountain in Summerhaven for a nice cold Dark and Stormy along with a grilled vegetable wrap.  Lova had an IPA with her grilled vegetable wrap.

According to the official Green Trails Map of the Santa Catalina Mountains, our total hike should have been 6.6 miles – as you can see from the stats listed at the top of the blog, the actual hike was approximately 50% longer!


Arizona Trail – Passage 26 – Hardscrabble Mesa

  • Distance – 13.39 miles / 21.55 kilometers
  • Elevation Gain – 738 feet / 224.94 meters
  • Elevation Loss – 765 feet / 233.17 meters
  • Average Temperature – 89° F / 31.66° C
  • Total Mileage – 85.63 miles / 137.78 kilometers

We drove up to the central part of the State for this hike.  The temperatures in the desert are just too hot to do any serious day hiking.  The only way we can hike in the desert is to be on the trail before the sun comes up over the mountains – around 4:30 in the morning.  So for the summer we must drive up north to hike the AZT.

The drive was long, we stopped in an old-fashioned luncheonette in Payson, AZ and ordered lunch.  The luncheonette had many plaques on the wall, actually it set the tone for the country we were about to hike through.DSCN1584_1101 DSCN1585_1102

Parked outside the luncheonette

Parked outside the luncheonette

After lunch we continued to Strawberry where we would spend the night.  The motel we choose reminded us of the Bates Motel, so instead of checking in we decided to have a beer in the Sportsman’s Chalet Bar & Grill to think our options over.IMG_20150711_145007We asked the bartender if she could recommend a place, she suggested the ‘Up the Creek’ Bed and Breakfast.  We decided to ride back into Pine (the northern access to the Hardscrabble Trail) to find a place to stay as Pine was a larger town.  Both Strawberry and Pine are considered Gateway Communities for the AZT.

There wasn’t anything available in Pine, but a kind B&B owner telephoned the owner of the ‘Up the Creek’ and we secured ourselves a place to sleep for the night.  Once we settled into the B&B we changed into our hiking clothing and head back to Pine to check out the trail from that direction.  As we only took one vehicle up north, we knew this passage would have to be accomplished in two sections as out and back hikes.DSCN1591_1108 DSCN1592_1109 It was a great hike, we both were so happy to be back on the trail again.  We didn’t go far because it was late in the day, but we did manage to hike 3.75 miles.  We made it to the parking lot and shortly after we arrived the sun began to set.DSCN1605_1122On our way back to the B&B we saw two elk, such a fantastic sighting!  Sorry the picture is not that great, but the elk was that close, I actually initially thought it was a statue on the side of the road.DSCN1611_1128The next morning we drove to the Twin Buttes trailhead right near our B&B and began our hike in.  It was a lovely day, the passage is appropriately named because of all the loose rock that must be traversed on the way up to the pine forest.DSCN1635_1152There were some incredible views of what we think was the Mogollon Rim as we walked up to the forest.DSCN1657_1174We had a javelina encounter as well as some black cows that frightened me (remember a while back a cow chased me on a section of Passage 10).  The hike was great, it ended too soon, but we had to drive back home to Tucson.

Here’s a little video of the place we decided to have lunch while on the trail.



Two Special Days on the Camino

This time when I walked the Camino I had a special intention to leave a marker for my recently deceased brother as well as another for my older sister, a sister I never was privileged to know.

I walked for several days with a heart-shaped rock with Tom’s name, birth and death dates written on it tucked into my pack alongside a smaller rock for my sister.

On the first day of I had gone slightly off the Camino when I found a beautiful church.  I thought that would be the proper place for Tom’s stone.  Ah, but he had a different idea, when I looked for the stone, I could not find it.  I searched all through my pack to no avail.  My thought at the time was, he did not like that particular place for his marker.


I continued walking each day until on the fourth day I came upon the perfect place to leave his stone.  It was in a garden of wild calla lilies somewhere in the middle of the forest during the fourth stage of the Camino.DSCN1214

On the side of the path was a large rock sitting atop another rock.  The two rocks formed a sort of sacred cave. DSCN1212This made the perfect place for me to leave my tribute to my brother.

I reached inside my pack and immediately my hand wrapped around the rock.  I placed it inside the little cave and took a picture for remembrance.DSCN1210

On the sixth day of the pilgrimage, I found the perfect place to leave the rock for my sister.  It was a little shrine inside the wall of a home on the path going up the steepest slope on the Camino Portugués.storage_emulated_0_Nikon_WU_Card_D05302015_001_100NIKON_DSCN1278storage_emulated_0_Nikon_WU_Card_D05302015_001_100NIKON_DSCN1281