Mike Breiding's Epic Road Trips: December 2021

Hiking the Desperado Loop

Sweetwater Preserve

Tucson Mountain Park

Friday, December the 10th: A Rain Ramble

This past (2021) summer the Tucson area had the third wettest monsoon on record.
July saw 6.8 inches of rain fall in the Tucson area and August dumped 8.00 inches. The rain could not have been better timed. When we left Tucson in April it was crispy dry, drab and desperate looking - the result of record heat and draught the summer of 2020 followed by a dry winter.
Because of this the experts were predicting mortality of young Saguaros and those which were old and weakened. Unless rain came soon.

Then the rains came and when we arrived in Tucson in October it was so green looking it was hard to believe. And evidence of lush, one might say luxuriant growth was everywhere. Vast expanses of grasses covered the lower mountain slopes, we saw impenetrable stands of amaranth and areas where small mesquite, acacia and wolfberry were completly coverd by a thick growth of canyon morning glory. Of course all that greenery is now various shades of brown and tan but it is still beautiful as they all have interesting seed "heads".

Ok, back to the record monsoon of 2021. As expected, the rains diminished by September and then stopped altogether by October.
July 6.8"
August 8.0"
Sept .50"
Oct 0.0"
Nov 0.0"

Even though there were 3 months of nearly no rain and temps were above average there was still some water in Sabino and Bear Creeks in the Catalina Mountains and Madera Creek and some of the small tributaries in Madera Canyon were still watered.
And for the first time in the 10 years I have been visiting King Canyon in the Tucson Mountains I saw running water. Not much, but it was enough to keep small pools with tadpoles in them watered. When I saw the tadpoles back in October I wondered: "Will they have enough water to make it to maturity?".

And then last night after months of no rain and above average temps the rain returned. As of 9:00 am (12/10/2021) a local Tucson Estates rain gauge is registering .55 inches.
That may not sound like much but it will certainly keep green and re - green the desert and Sky Islands and may push the brittle bush, globe mallow and other wildflowers into bloom as well as green up the ocotillo with a new set of leaves.
The rain has deminished now and is moving off to the east and there is the promise of sunshine and blue skies for this afternoon and a hikin' we will go.

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09 December 2021
Hiking the Desperado Loop
Sweetwater Preserve in Tucson Mountain Park

Some background.

The Sweetwater Preserve is a 880+ acre preserve located in the eastern foothills of the Tucson Mountains of Southern Arizona, west of Tucson. Within approximately one-half mile of the Preserve are Saguaro National Park’s Tucson Mountain District, and a biological research preserve owned by the University of Arizona. Tucson Mountain Park is also located a short distance to the south.

The lands that comprise the Sweetwater Preserve were acquired using monies from the 2004 Open Space Bond measure. The community strongly supported acquisition of this property and worked diligently to realize the establishment of this preserve.

County crews and volunteers have built 15 miles of trails in the preserve, which was ranked #4 in the nation in Singletracks.com, an online mountain bicycling magazine. While the trails are enjoyed by equestrians, hikers, dog walkers and trail runners, it is highly popular with mountain bikers, both local and visitors. Trails are suitable for beginner and intermediate level riders.

Source: Pima County Parks and Recreation


Click on the photos below for a larger image.

Route to Sweetwater Preserve from Rancho Relaxo

We are a scenic and easy 40 minute drive to Sweetwater Preserve.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Sweetwater Preserve lies in the northwest corner of the Tucson basin in the Tucson Mountains.
It is just a stone's throw from the boundary line of Saguaro National Park West in the Red Hills district. There are plans to connect Sweetwater Preserve to Saguaro NP.


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Sweetwater Preserve is surrounded on 3 sides by residential development and is just 4 miles from busy I-10, El Camino Del Cerro ramp.


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

If you look at the contour lines you will see this 4 mile hike is a gentle up and down stroll more than a hike. The total elevation gain is about 265'.


Click on the photos to view a larger image.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

This is the very first sign one sees upon going through the trailhead gate.
The problems with this sign is many dog owners cannot read.


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Pima County Parks and Recreation does a stellar job of developing and placing historical interpretive signage.

Most of Sweetwater Preserve was homesteaded and owned by Joseph Conrad Fraps from 1927 until his death in 1963.
Per the Homestead Act of 1862 President Hoover issued a land patent for section 26 in Township 13 South of Range 12 East of the Gila and Salt meridian to Mr Fraps on March 25, 1932.
To fulfill requirements of the ACT Mr Fraps dug a well, built and lived in a one room wooden shack with a metal roof, raised goats on the land and paid $18 in fees and commissions.
Born in 1873 in Raleigh North Carolina Mr Frap came to Arizona territory in 1908 as a machinist for the Arizona and New Mexico railway

Source: Pima County Parks and Recreation


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Just in case the first one was not understood.


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

This is a really nice chunk of open desert with some nice views of the primary peaks of the Tucson Mountains. In about the middle of the range is Wasson Peak. It is the tallest in the Tucsons at 4688' and is a very popular hiking destination.


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

The trails here are quite circuitous and each turn gave us a new view.


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

As we gained a bit of elevation we looked down on a lovely Saguaro forest.


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

My lovely hiking companion.

We had originally planned to hike with Krista's MeetUp group but changed our minds so as to avoid hiking with a dog.


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Oh, boy - was there some yummy scenery on this hike!


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Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

A cactus jumble.


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This being a loop we thought we might meet up (ha ha) with Krista's group.


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Some of the Saguaros made faces at us as we walked by.


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We saw some nice clumps of Christmas cholla (Cylindropuntia leptocaulis) still loaded with fruits.


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

I know, I know - enough already! But I just couldn't keep my finger off the shutter button.


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

We found a number of Christmas gifts which had been left by dog owners.


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Such nice gift wrapping!


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By the time we returned to the trailhead the parking lot was close to full. And that is on a weekday! It must be a zoo on the weekends.



See you next time...
Mike and Betsy


~~~~~~~~~~ BONUS Photo ~~~~~~~~~~

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Beth organized a hike for Liane and I so we could all ooh and aww over this amazing crested Saguaro. The jumbo is just off the Coyote Wash Trail in the Rincon Valley.


 

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