Sunday, May 29, 2011

Samaniego Peak/Ridge Trail - 05/28/11

Samaniego Ridge Hike
Santa Catalina Mountains
Tucson, Arizona
Mileage - 11.96
Time - 5:32
AEG - 2800ft

Memorial Weekend came about so quickly, I felt pressured to plan something good with the extra time off of work. Typically I try to avoid lines, traffic, crowds, and every other headache that goes along with holiday weekends. So I sent out an invite to a group of friends for a day hike and car camp on Mount Lemmon, which is North of Tucson, AZ. I had a feeling this area would be a little less crowded than say Sedona or Flagstaff, the payoff is often much more rewarding in terms of scenery, and on top of that, the hikes tend to be more challenging.

Mark, Katie, and I made the drive from Chandler early Saturday morning past Tucson and up the scenic Catalina Highway (home of the Mount Lemmon Marathon), beyond Ski Valley to the summit at 9157ft. This is where our hike would begin, descending over 2000ft into the Pusch Ridge Wilderness on the way to Samaniego Peak. Everything was going fine, given the first half was cooler and all downhill. In order to reach the peak, we had to abandon the ridge trail and scramble the last half mile through dense manzanitas and other spiny shrubs. After roughly 30 minutes of fighting our way through the brush, and seemingly going nowhere, we decided the peak wasn't worth the effort of summiting. A quick break for lunch recharged the battery and away we went...uphill.

A tough climb, and several miles later, our complaining ceased as we took in the stunning views of this far underrated mountain range. There is so much to see in such a small area, it's quite overwhelming at first glance. Instead of calling it quits on the hike, we stopped at the Mount Lemmon fire tower and were treated to a tour and look into the life of a Forest Service watchman. Before returning to the site we found at Spencer Canyon to set up camp and cook dinner, the three of us stopped to take a look around the little village of Summerhaven. We all agreed this is a great area for a weekend get-a-way. There is an endless system of trails to hike, plenty of camping at different elevations, a lake to fish in, and views that rival anything in the state. We'll definitely be back for another excursion.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mt Wrightson via Florida Canyon 05/22/11

Florida Canyon/Crest Trail - Hike
Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona
Mileage - 15.8
Time - 6:45
AEG - 5500ft

Mark, Katie, Bob and I were looking to do a decent hike, so we set out to conquer Mt Wrightson, which is the high point of the Santa Rita range (SE of Tucson) standing at 9453ft. We chose to do the more strenuous, less traveled route up Florida Canyon trail (4.7) to the Santa Rita trail (2.3) and then connect to the Summit trail (.9) from the Baldy Saddle. The trek was nearly 16 miles round trip gaining over 5500ft, and yes, we definitely had to earn every mile. It was tough, it was hot, but it was totally worth it. We finally finished in roughly 6 hours and 45 minutes.

Mark, Katie, and I agreed that this was the toughest hike we've done since Cactus to Clouds last October. Even though we struggled with the heat, elevation and exposure, the four of us had a blast today on one of Arizona's most challenging hikes. There is something special about Mt Wrightson (and Madera Canyon) that continues to bring me back year after year, and I love sharing the experience with others, expecially for their first time.

Boone, Bob, and Mark just getting started, with the jokes that is...

Crest trail, looking east from Mt Wrightson Summit Trail

Monday, May 16, 2011

Marg's Draw Trail Run

Sedona, Arizona
Mileage - 14.07
Time - 2:08
AEG - 2206ft

On Sunday I woke to a perfect morning in Sedona, excited to hit the trails, I left the back entrance of our hotel (adjacent to Marg's Draw trailhead) where I would begin today's run. With no agenda other than taking in the stunning red rock scenery, I worked my way towards Oak Creek on the Huckaby trail. A few miles in, I was feeling pretty good, so rather than turning around here, I decided to press on and create a loop instead of an out and back.

The next section was familiar territory as I ran along the Jim Thompson trail. Soaking in the fresh air and warm sun, I really found a good rhythm after 8 miles or so. At the intersection of Jordon Road, I made a left turn and followed the pavement towards the center of Sedona. Sunday morning seems to be fairly quiet around town making this small section of road less chaotic to travel through. After crossing the new bridge over Oak Creek I headed up Schnebly Hill road and picked up Marg's Draw trail once again.

Sometimes the hardest part of trail running is not necessarily the rocks or roots or hills, it's having to call it quits. I was enjoying myself so much that I added an additional 1.5 - 2 miles onto the end of my trip.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Devil's Bridge - Sedona 05/14/11

Devils Bridge Hike
Sedona, Arizona
Mileage - 3
Time - 1:00
AEG - 320ft

Brittney and I drove up to Sedona on Saturday for a nice weekend of sight-seeing, hiking, exploring, dining, and relaxing by the pool. The first stop led us on a hike to Devil's Bridge, where an early start helped bypass the crowds, allowing us to enjoy the scenery, uninterrupted. Following lunch at my favorite place in Sedona (New Frontiers), we drove through town and took 89A for a nice glimpse of one of the most scenic roads in America. On the way back, we stopped at Slide Rock State Park for a little "spring break" action. Okay, it wasn't all that exciting. Brittney and I headed back to the resort for an afternoon by the pool to soak in the last bit of sunlight. Finally, dinner in downtown Sedona would put a nice end to an exceptional day in the red rocks.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pinal Peak 05/07/11

Icehouse Canyon Trails
Pinal Mountains
Globe, Arizona
Mileage - 13.27
Time - 4:34
AEG - 3770ft

Once again, Phoenix hit the 100 degree mark on Friday, so Bob and I threw some ideas together for Saturday to evade the heat and get in a challenging hike at the same time. As always, I love exploring new areas and occasionally hear from friends in the hiking world about how great these trails are, so it was time to see for myself.

Even though Pinal Peak sits at number 11 on the prominence list in Arizona at 7848ft, the trails themselves were the highlight of this trip. Four different routes including Kellner Canyon, Six Shooter, Icehouse Canyon, and Telephone Trail #192 begin in the high desert at 4500ft from roughly the same trailhead. They quickly ascend into a dense forest of manzanita bushes, which fades into the cover of tall pines and aspens. The higher we climbed, the more impressed I became with the terrain, plant life, and micro-climate that unfolded before us as we battled the steep hills.

Five miles later, and over 3,000ft of gain, Bob and I reached a road leading to our first summit (Signal Peak), and then past the recreation area to an end at Pinal Peak. If you're looking for solitude, don't expect to be alone near the peak. The recreation area and cabins draw numerous people looking to do the same thing as us, find cooler temperatures. Even with all the activity up top, the trails were barren, we did not see another hiker the entire day.