Thursday, December 27, 2012

Trail Review: Hugh Norris Trail

Today we hiked part of the Hugh Norris Trail.  The sign at the trail head tells us:
  • The Hugh Norris trail is long, difficult, and quite spectacular.  The trail, named after a former chief of the Tohono O'odham Indian Police, begins with a series of switchbacks to the top of a ridge overlooking the saguaro forest.  From there it ascends along the ridge, through areas with splendid views and unique rock formations, to the top of Wasson Peak.
All of the above is true, but what is not mentioned is the stairs.  About 10 years ago, steps were put in to control erosion.  They persist for about the first mile of the trail.  They're not too bad going up, but I found them to be painful on the knees going downhill.
It is a gorgeous hike.  The views from the heights are just spectacular.  See the blue squares off in the distance?  That's where the CAP water goes, and is allowed to percolate down to recharge the aquifer. 

More climbing, more stairs!

After you reach the big rock formations, the steps end, and the trail becomes a side hill goat track.  That's the trail on the right side of the photo.  In the distance is the trail heading up Wasson Peak.  We turned around here, because we'd decided we would do one hour out max.

This is taken from the saddle where many people stop to take in the view.  Is it not lovely?  The pointy peak on the left side is Cat Mountain.

This is a big boulder.

Look how dark the sky is getting in the far horizon.

At the bottom of the trail, it was becoming positively ominous.

Rain out in the desert.

By the time we got home, we had a full blown squall going through the park.  If I had been 30 seconds earlier, I would have had Jamie's basil in my hands before it blew over.  It's fine, no blood, no foul.

I don't know if we'll do this hike again.  The stairs are really a bear on the knees.  The heights and spacing are totally random, so you can't get a rhythm going with your stride. Once you're past the steps, it's not bad at all.  From the trail head to the top of Wasson Peak is 4.9 miles.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Trail Review: Explorer Trail

Yesterday we hiked the Explorer Trail.  To find this trail, park in the Fiesta area lot at the Kennedy Park on the west side of La Cholla, go towards the back of the park, then walk up the El Paso Natural Gas Company right of way towards 44th Street.  When you see the cluster of mobile homes, look to your left.

This is the start of the trail.  In my humble opinion, this is THE WORST TRAIL EVER.  We did see mountain bike tire tracks, but I personally can not conceive of riding over the rubble strewn trail.  For about 45 minutes we followed the trail under the power lines, hoping it would get better.

There is a connecting single track trail that goes to the Cat Mountain trail.  It is slightly more interesting than the power line section of trail, but only marginally so.

It winds its way through the saguaros for awhile.  It's not a ridge trail or side hill, it's mainly in a valley.

We reached the Cat Mountain trail, noticed we were close to Ajo, and then turned around to go home.  This is more of the rockiness that we experienced.

So, I say to you, hike somewhere else.  It's a slog through loose rocks and there is nothing really interesting to see.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day

Merry Christmas!  Santa is in the desert.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve at Saguaro Monument West.



Sunset on the mountains.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Road Riding & Life Improvement

This is a park model which is being renovated.  I don't understand the economics of this.  About all that is left is the metal frame underneath the right hand side, the floor and the wall studs.  The new roof trusses went on this week.  I've always wondered if it wouldn't be cheaper just to buy a new one.  Apparently not, since this is not the first total gut remodel we've seen in the park.

We rode up the Santa Cruz trail, to the Rillito trail, and then back down Mountain.  When we came to the main gate, this is what we saw.  University at Park is closed for a block, the road has been removed.  We're not sure what they're doing.  On the bright side, the rest of the streetcar wok on University is done, and they repaved down to 4th Avenue.  It is a delightful riding experience, however brief.

That was today, three days before Christmas and we were able to ride in shorts and jerseys.  Sometimes, it's just surreal being here when the weather is good.  Unfortunately, the GPNW keeps sending us their weather disturbances, so we'll enjoy it while we can.
Speaking of weather disturbances, if you're RVing where the nights are cold, and you are on shore power, get thee to the store and buy an electric blanket.  This thing has greatly improved life because it heats up the sheets.  It is beyond me why it took us 5 winters to buy one. No more cold sheets!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cat Mountain Trail

You probably can't see the screen on my phone, but it's Google maps, showing us standing on the intersection of Starr Pass Trail and Cat Mountain Trail.  How cool is that?  The internet knows about hiking trails in the Tucson Mountains.

The Cat Mountain Trail is really nice.  It runs along the side of Cat Mountain, heading generally towards Ajo Way.  We were hoping for a spur that would run back down into the "bowl" of the park, but that trail does not exist.  Cat Mountain eventually runs into Explorer, which ends up at JFK park.   In order to do all of it, one would either have to set up a car shuttle, or call a cab from the park.  I'm thinking I like the cab idea.  We'll try the whole thing when it warms up and the days get a little longer.

This is taken from a high point on the trail.  Is it not lovely?

These are happy cholla.  I love it when they're back lighted, they sort of glow.  Those are dangerous cactus, they jump, embed themselves in your flesh, and then laugh as you try to pull them out.


Twenty seven years ago today, Jim and I married.  My mother was horrified because we'd only dated for 6 months, but I assured her that all would be well; and I was right. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

King Tides & More Cold in the Desert

Last Monday the Seattle area experienced "king tides", which are very high tides, along with exceptionally low pressure and wind.  Cliff Mass discussed it on his excellent weather blog.  The result was water incursions into West Seattle and other low lying areas.  See the fence?  On this side of that fence is parking for the Mukilteo ferry terminal, except Monday when it was covered with water.

These are houses along the shore in West Seattle.  Probability is high that they took on some water.


Monday we were able to ride on the road, and we stopped to take a picture of a new shrine.  It's part way up A Mountain.  I would have liked to have seen them getting it up there, the blue part is concrete and has to be really heavy.

Here in the Old Pueblo, we're just cold and windy.  It's supposed to improve tomorrow, which can't be too soon for me.  We went out and bought an electric blanket today.  Last night we were really cold, and we decided it was time.  We have two bedroom slides, and when it's blowing, there is a draft.  So, that purchase should ensure a warming trend.
This was this afternoon.  We went for a short walk from the Genser trailhead.

I guess tomorrow is the end of the world, so maybe we'll have dessert tonight.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Exploring the Explorer Trail

Today dawned sunny and cold.  We decided to hike, rather than bike, to avoid excessive wind chill.  We parked out at Kennedy Park, looking for the Explorer Trail head.  There were signs for the trail head, there was a kiosk showing the trail system with a "you are here"; but nowhere was there an indicator that one should turn right on the gas pipeline right-of-way and then walk 3/4 of a mile to the actual trail.  No, no, nothing like that.  So, we headed up a steep hill which looked like it would be Explorer (but wasn't).  It gave us a spectacular view of the mountains and the city.  That is snow on the mountains.

We lost the trail after the overlook, so we walked back down, looked for the trail elsewhere, decided we were not where we should be, went back up the steep hill, and then bushwhacked up the hill some more. Here is Jim surveying all that he sees.
We walked up to the top of another hill and found this.  It's a memorial to Becky Porter, who lived from 1924 to 1999.  I can't find anything about her on the web.

Here is Jim, still looking for the trail.  Later we looked at Google maps some more and found that we were totally off the mark.

Then we decided to go look for the Cat Mountain trail head.  As it turned out, we'd been there before but didn't know it because there was no signage.  Here I am, navigating to the trail head with my phone.

This is Cat mountain.

More of the area.

So here we are in the Tucson Mountain Park, it's a beautiful piece of the desert.  However, some asshole has decided to dump empty containers of Honey Bee Cleaner.  It took effort to get these containers to this site.  It would have been easier just to put them in a dumpster in town.  Sometimes I really hate people.

It was a good day, we hiked a lot, there was much up down up down, but there was not any finding of trails in which we were interested. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Winter Storm the First

It rained today and it was cold!  I want my snowbird rebate.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Riding Robles and a Winter Storm

Yesterday we went out to the new trail system, which is called the Robles Trail System.  After my face plant out at Fantasy Island, I needed to get back on a mountain bike so as to not let the fear of falling turn me into a complete and total nutbag.  Here, again, is the trail map.  Last time we rode, we went up the Sunset Pass trail, down Bittersweet, and then off at Cascabel Trail and out Irvington.  This time we decided we'd take Bittersweet all the way back down to the Camaro Loop Trail.  It was terrible.  I ended up walking almost all of it.  It's rocky, sandy and side hill.  I can do two out of three, but not all.  It's unlikely that I will ever be good enough to ride that trail segment.

Long time readers know that I love a good bruise picture.  These are not great bruises, but they're ok.  The thigh is a deep muscle bruise from the face plant.  I splatted on to a bunch of rocks, which did that.  The calf is from Robles, yesterday.  Yesterday!  The ride to get me to not be a nutbag ended with me going down in another stupid benign wash after riding some pretty strenuous rocks with no issues.  My front wheel went sideways, the bike stopped and while I was able to step off the bike, it still had enough momentum to drive the nose of the seat into my calf.  The hematoma was casting a shadow within minutes.

This is at the top of the terrible Bittersweet trail.  Scary trails never look like much in pictures, I don't know why that is.

So that was yesterday.
Today the winds came as we had a frontal passage.  Two RVs that we can see from our site had their awnings damaged, as they had been left extended while the owners were gone.  Tonight it rained!  It's the first time since we have been back.  Hopefully the high pressure ridge will reassert itself in short order.
It's unclear what climate we will have tomorrow, which will determine what we're able to do. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hidden Trail to Stone House Out via Bowen

It was cold this morning, too cold for me to ride a bike.  Yes, I am that big of a wimp that I do not like to ride the bike when it's below 60.  We decided to hike.  Note to future self, when it is 56 degrees and the sun is out, wear shorts, short sleeved T and long sleeved over shirt.  The dark capris were too much.
We headed up the Hidden Trail and then out to see the Bowen stone house.  We were curious to see how much water had been running out there this summer.  Look at the plants next to the wash, see how they are laying on their sides and appear to be uprooted?  Rushing water did that.

These are the remains of the Bowen Homestead, it dates from the early 1930s.  A map and more info is available at this link

The house had two fireplaces and appears to have had running water.

They had spectacular views from every window.

On the way back, we saw mule deer.  Of course they would position themselves so I had to shoot into the sun.  There were an additional three later on.

It was a good hike.  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Gun Show and the Historic Barrio

Today was an interesting day.  We went to a gun show.  I've always wanted to go to one.  I am so disappointed that photography was forbidden.  Forbidden!  It was such a target rich environment for pictures and I could not capture the absolute bizarreness of the entire experience.  It was like being in another country.  There were tables lined up with hand guns, rifles, semi-automatics, really cheesy knives, camo, big flashlights, cheap jewelry; and everywhere there were men lusting over armament.  Due to Arizona's lax gun laws, many patrons were wearing their side arms on their belts.  Comfortingly, there were signs posted that said side arms had to be unloaded before entering the show.  No one, however, was verifying this.  So we wandered around for awhile, two west coast liberals, trying not to to make eye contact with anyone, and then we decided we'd had it so we left.  I am just sorry I could not bring you pictures.  You'll have to go to a gun show to see what I mean.
I read someone's blog recently talking about visiting the Old Town Artisans.  After the gun show, we decided we would go there.  Here is an apricot colored bougainvillea next to where we parked.  Is it not lovely?

The entrance to the shops.

There are about five connecting shops full of pots, art and etc.  This is a tree in one of the shops.

The Virgin of Guadalupe.  She's everywhere in Tucson.  The store was full of cool stuff.  We have a non-acquisition fatwa in place, so we bought nothing.

It's in a very cool part of town. We're ridden by it many times, but have never turned off and explored it.  It's gentrified barrio, part of what's left of the old neighborhood after it was demolished to build the convention center.  This is one of the walls of El Charro.

Refurbished adobe houses.

A tree with fuzzy yellow balls on it.  It smelled really sweet.

We were looking at this house, and the owner came out of the gate.  We were complimenting him on how beautiful it was, and he allowed as how during wedding season he frequently comes out of his door and finds wedding parties being photographed  by the gate.

Another attractive front door.

One of the old government buildings in Tucson.

It was a good day.  First we were beamed to another country, then we had a good walk in the historic barrio.  Tomorrow I think we'll get back on the road bikes.  I'm still working back up to mountain biking again.