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.

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