11 April 2019: Sabino Canyon
More Wildflowers and Our Last MeetUp Hike
Fellow hike leader Roger leads and interesting, meandering hike through Lower Sabino Canyon for the The Tucson Hiking MeetUP Group just about every Wednesday. Getting to Sabino Canyon from our west side HillBillyHillton can take up to and hour, generally through thick traffic. That means we don't get over on the far east side of the Tucson Basin very often.
We arrived at the overflow parking lot of Sabino canyon after making a side trip to Bruegger's Bagels for a couple of Western bagel sandwiches split to feed us for both breakfast and lunch.
We arrived at the trail head in time for a leisurely breakfast with a windshield view of the beautiful Catalinas.
Eventually the hikers who had signed up for hike rolled in one by and one. When we were all there we chatted while waiting for Roger to arrive.
Roger is always on time so when he did not show by the hike start time I called him. It turned out he had scheduled a carpet cleaner on the same day of his hike. So, no Roger.
After some discussion about who was going to lead the hike we headed down the trail with Betsy in the lead.
A bit about this hike route. In the north west corner of the Sabino Canyon overflow parking lot an unsigned trail wanders off north into the desert. This unofficial trail goes through some gorgeous desert, past two old mines and then connects to the Esperero Trail a short distance from the Rattlesnake Canyon trail. the Rattlesnake Canyon trail end at Tram stop #1 where there are rest rooms and picnic tables.
The route then crosses Sabino Creek and wanders down the creek through a lush (at this time of year) forest of mesquite, willow, sycamore, cottonwood and hop bush.
We followed the creek past a number of beautiful pools and some faster flowing water which was lovely to see and here.
We then arrived at the old Sabino Lake dam which is now a nice waterfall because of all the back fill from many decades of flooding.
We then picked up the Sabino Lake Trail and followed it to the Bluff trail which took us to Sabino Canyon Road. We walked the road to the Overflow Parking connector which took us back to the cars.
It was a beautiful hike and the weather was perfect, breezy and in the high 60s. This felt wonderful after two days in the 90s.
Click on the photos below for a larger image.
Here Betsy leads the way and within 5 minutes of we were surrounded by wild flowers and trees with lush new growth. Here we see the yellow flowers of the Brittlebush along with mesquite and of course Saguaros on the distant bluff. I love this contrast of rugged cliffs and mountains and beautiful wild flowers. Ahhh... the Sonoran Desert!
There is lots to see and enjoy on this wonderful unofficial trail.
The obligatory group shot at the intersection with the Rattlesnake Canyon trail.
Betsy continues to take the lead along this narrow and now heavily foliaged trail. Everyone was being very cautious today as Rattlesnake season is now upon us.
This photo (actually none of them) does justice to all the flowers we saw. Like this mass of lupine and scorpion flower.
We saw a number of beautiful clumps of chicory.
What a surprise this was - water in Rattlesnake canyon! The heavy rain and mountain snows we had about month ago have kept the smaller streams well watered.
More scorpion flower, a lone poppy and an unknown white bloomer.
Everyone was enjoying this little creek.
Although not shown here there was lots of monkey flower (Erythranthe guttata) in bloom near and in the creek.
Brittlebush galore! It was just starting to wane after blooming all winter when March rain got it back into heavy bloom.
This bluff is at the out flow of Rattlesnake creek where it flows under the road and into Sabino Creek.
These folks were wandering down the creek bed instead of using the trail. This is a common practice in this short, open canyon.
After a snack and bathroom break at tram stop #1 we headed down to Sabino creek for our first crossing.
Note the pile of debris caught by a small cottonwood tree. During the summer monsoon storms turn this and many waterways into raging torrents.
Betsy the route finder!
It is always fun to watch people ever so carefully try to keep their feet dry.
Here we are at the second crossing.
Be careful... don't slip!
This gal doffed here shoes and socks and plunged in.
We weren't the only ones in the water. There is a nearby stable and this group was out for a "nose to tail" ride in Sabino. They had just had a group photo taken at the dam and were now heading back out on the trail.
Here is the Sabino dam.
During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Emergency Relief Administration (ERA) built Sabino Dam and nine bridges over Sabino Creek in an attempt to build a road to the top of Mount Lemmon. The road travels about 4.5 miles into the canyon, but was not completed due to the steep terrain at the end of the canyon.
Scenery like no other.
Note the cool saguaro skeleton in the background.
The Ocotillo were in full bloom and many had leaves.
This speciman was about 15 feet across and 12 feet tall.
I snagged a stem and Betsy held it so I could get a picture of the flowers.
The humming birds feed on the ocotillo and with all the trumpet shaped flowers it is perfect for them.
And that was my last shot and soon we were back at the parking lot. Another beautiful hike in the Sonoran desert.
See you next time...
Mike and Betsy