Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sabino Canyon -Hiking the Phoneline Trail

For many years we have enjoyed coming to Sabino Canyon.

We have fond memories of hiking the Phoneline Trail many years ago in the spring when the hillsides were alive with yellow flowers and the cactus were in bloom.

We were here early, and already the parking lot was full of cars. They say that Sabino Canyon is the fourth most popular tourist attraction in Tucson... a million visitors come to this park every year.

The sky was clear and the air was crisp as we started on the wide and level road that leads to the Phoneline Trail... which we soon found to be neither wide nor level.

The Sabino Creek flows down the canyon... but today we crossed on a dry road.

I took this photo of Shirley crossing on a bridge in this canyon January 2010. There are eight bridges on the main road up the canyon, and every one of them had water flooding over the bridge decks. If you wish you can check out my blog from back then.

This was water coming over the Sabino Dam at that time.

As we headed up the trail the climb was pretty gradual... and views were spectacular.

There was always a pleasant mix of saguaros.

We were climbing on the left side of Blackett's Ridge.

The Phoneline trail follows along the Sabino Creek. A paved road also follows the creek along the floor of the canyon.

We wondered why this saguaro had a little beanie on top... maybe it was Jewish?

I had no idea what kind of flower this was when I took the photo... but in my Google search it turned out to be a flower of Acacia. It was nice to find a little colour along the trail.

This is the same flower that Shirley took at a recent visit to the Desert Museum... except this specimen has foliage that confirms the plant name. This one had the luxury of living in a place where it was watered and nurtured. What a great shot, Shirley!

Across the canyon is the Catalina Mountains...

and far up on the side of the mountain, in the very centre, is a house with a super view of the world.

What an absolutely incredible location.

Does anyone know the name of the mountain to the right of the cactus?

This saguaro looks like a dancer or a gymnast.

The first trams in Sabino Canyon began operating in 1978. From that point forward, access by cars was restricted to allow visitors to reach Upper Sabino Canyon by foot, bicycle or tram.

Walking in the sunshine was always nicer than walking in the shade today.

Being early in the day there were not very many people on the tram... but we went back on the weekend and the trams were totally full with people in line waiting.

Several workers put forth a lot of effort to build this trail along this side of the mountain... moving rocks and creating a ledge that was safe for hikers.

From this point we could see Thimble Peak to the east.

Taking photos on the shady side of the mountain has it's advantages. Look on the positive side... you can get some great silhouettes.

This prickly pear has been busy getting ready to have some blossoms and some fruit.

I loved the beautiful conical shape of this new arm... looks almost like a football. What a beautiful pattern!

As we were walking on the trail we were mostly looking at our feet... but when we came around a corner it was amazing to look up and discover this incredible sheer rock face looming above us... the Acropolis Wall.

I turned around and told Shirley to look up... it was a "wow" experience!

We all stopped here for a break and a snack... and then I asked the group to pose for a photo as I went over the edge to get low enough to capture them with the rock face behind.

They kept asking me to back up... just a little more!

Someone said, "Look up there... is that a plant growing up there?" Sure enough. It was an agave. Shirley liked her shot of this so much she is using it as her "cover photo" on her blog.  Check it out!

As we started back down the trail it was really chilly walking in the shadow of the ridge. I suggested that it would be great if we had a small hang glider kit... one that would fit into a backpack and we could just pull it out and jump over the edge to soar back to the parking lot.

I had no takers. Someone thought I might land in a cactus. I didn't get any orders for my little invention from this group... but I'm not discouraged.

Without exception we were all looking forward to getting back into the sunshine. We could see it around us... but we just couldn't feel it.

It was wonderful to finally break out around a corner and feel the warmth of the sunshine again.

Looking back into Tucson we could see in the distance a north-south road.  What was it?

At first glance we thought it might be Houghton Road... but upon further study of maps and a drive-by look see, I have no doubt that this is Camino Seco. The Tanque Verde Wash forces the end of Camino Seco at Wrightstown, where it is a narrow, little  two-way street to Speedway.  From there to the Pantano Wash it is a divided four lane road with turning lanes in the central boulevard, then it resumes from Golf Links south again to Irvington where it dead ends.

Looking south from Speedway intersection on Camino Seco.

North on Camino Seco where the road narrows... looking to the ridge where we first saw this street. If you blow up the photo you can see the ridge where we were hiking.

This is a pretty tall, old granddaddy saguaro.

And nearby was a younger saguaro having babies... starting a family!

There were more questions than answers when we saw this saguaro. Was this caused by a injury?

Both Shirley and I found heart-shaped paddles on a prickly pear cactus. Did someone take a bite out of the cookie?

We found a number of unusual saguaros. This little soldier was standing up as straight as possible.

But the most amazing to me was to see another Crested Saguaro. This one was located only a short distance from the beginning of the Bajada Loop Nature Trail, very close to the Visitor Center.

Just like with people, no two Crested Saguaros are the same. They all have their own personality.

It is most common to have the crested curls on the very top. But this one has grown several arms that exceed the top of the crown of this monarch. Very cool. Does this not look like a King with his crown and a Queen beside him?

It is always a good sign of spring to see new leaves come out on the ocotillo. These are the first ones we have seen this year. They are oh so tiny... but no stopping them now.

"The sun was warm,
But the wind was chill;
The hike was great,
And I got my fill."

The top two lines were Robert Frost... the last two lines were Sherwin Goerlitz!

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