Arizona Trail Passages 11 and 12 (partial): Santa Catalina Mountains - Gordon Hirabayashi TH to Marshall Gulch - May 16-17, 2015
Day 1

Added 11 December 2016

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Saturday, 16 May 2015, Arizona Trail Passages 11 and 12 (partial): Santa Catalina Mountains - Gordon Hirabayashi TH to Marshall Gulch

The journey started on a cold and misty morning . . . I was out the door pretty early this morning to head up Mount Lemmon to set up a shuttle for the latest installment of the Arizona Trail. Jerry, Andrea (Cheetah) and I would be doing Passage 11 and the first half of Passage 12. We did this seemingly strange arrangement because Passage 11 ends in the middle of nowhere and the the most logical place to access Passage 12 is in the middle of it, at Summerhaven. Why the passages are arranged the way they are, only the shadow knows. I drove up alone and met Jerry and Cheetah at Marshall Gulch trailhead. On the way up, despite being mid-May, it was actually snowing, though it wasn't cold enough to stick. I was there a little early, so I braved the cold and did a little birding while I waited.

A Red-faced Warbler (Cardellina rubrifrons) near the Marshall Gulch Trailhead. This little House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) wasn't phased by the weather as he sang his happy tune. A Yellow-eyed Junco (Junco phaeonotus) wearing some jewelry.

Jerry and Cheetah starting out on Passage 11. Woohoo!!  We've hiked 0.2 miles!!! When the Curless' arrived, I put all my stuff in their truck and we drove back down the mountain to the Gordon Hirabayashi trailhead. Cheetah and Jerry on Passage 11. The three of us then headed out to climb back up the mountain. Since the shuttle took a long time to set up, we didn't start hiking until late morning. The passage goes through a Bighorn Sheep recovery area, so Jerry and Cheetah had to leave their dogs at home on this one. Passage 11 starts out fairly mildly, with some ups and downs. It eventually descends into Sycamore Canyon, which had some really nice riparian habitat. We stopped there for lunch so got to enjoy the area but I would have loved to have stopped longer to do some birding.

A beautiful Santa Catalina Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja tenuiflora) in bloom. Cheetah and Jerry on Passage 11. An expansive view of the lower elevations of the Santa Catalina Mountains. I couldn't figure out the purpose of these large stone pillars.

A Fendler's Globemallow (Sphaeralcea fendleri) on AZT Passage 11. Jerry and Cheetah approaching Sycamore Reservoir. The descent into Sycamore Reservoir. A Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) waiting for lunch to come by.

A Western Wood Pewee (Contopus sordidulus) waiting for a much smaller lunch to come by. There were some beautiful, large trees at Sycamore Reservoir. A well fed Jerry and Cheetah continue up the trail after lunch. A beautiful Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) in bloom.

We had to keep moving though, and soon hit the trail again. The trail then ascended to a saddle before dropping into the upper Sabino Creek watershed. From the saddle we could see up the west fork of Sabino Creek.

Looking out towards the upper Sabino Creek watershed. Jerry and Cheetah hiking along. A Coralbean (Erythrina flabelliformis) starting to bloom. A Buck-horn Cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa) (I think) in bloom.

View of the lower Santa Catalina Mountains from our misadventure up the wrong trail.At a drainage down below we (ok, well, mainly me, really) stopped paying proper attention to where we were going, and we ended up starting up the Palisade Trail. Looking down Sabino Canyon. We probably went 3/4 of a mile and climbed about a thousand feet before we got suspicious enough to check the map. It was a moment worthy of a stern head shake and a disappointing glance, if not a smack on the forehead. Cheetah and Jerry in upper Sabino Canyon. Wasted time and wasted energy, but some great views! Once back on track, we crossed over upper Sabino Creek and hiked up the west fork of Sabino Creek to Hutch's Pool. Hutch's Pool is a pretty popular spot and it was there that we saw the most people, by far, other than the end at Marshall Gulch Trailhead.

Sabino Creek near Hutch's Pool. Hutch's Pool on Sabino Creek. Hutch's Pool on Sabino Creek. Sabino Creek near Hutch's Pool.

Filtering water near Hutch's Pool. An Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens) on AZT Passage 11. It seemed that most of the folks there were backpacking/camping rather than day hiking. There was some interest in camping there for the night, but the good spots were already taken, and it seemed to me that some of the folks there were going to be annoying to my curmudgeonly self, so we rested there for a while but decided to move further on up the trail to find a place to camp. Dinner time at our rocky camp on AZT Passage 11. We filtered some water at Hutch's Pool then headed onward and upward. As the mountain eclipsed the sun and the evening set in Cheetah was feeling pretty spent (thanks to the extra miles and elevation I tacked on earlier) and was ready to find camp, but the terrain was pretty steep and it took a while for us to find something where we could find flat enough ground to camp at. It was a borderline site, but we made it work well enough for our needs. Looking ahead there was some nice looking riparian vegetation that gave me a sneaking suspicion that a primo location lay a short distance ahead, but I didn't push for it. I found a flat spot amongst the bedrock that was large enough forme to throw my sleeping bag out on and then we used the ample boulders in camp for our kitchen.

We hiked about 8.5 miles today (10 miles with my error-induced detour).

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