Saturday, May 8, 1999
I went on a hike today from Molino Basin to the saddle above the Sycamore Dam. It's about 6.5 miles and 500 ft climb. There were nine of us and it was a nice, slow, leisurely hike. It got a bit warm before we were done. The campground is already closed for the summer as it will soon be too hot to camp there.
It's just past the pay station and fairly low, with nice campgrounds. We walked through the campground on our way out and then joined the Arizona Trail as it headed up to the Old Prison Camp. The Arizona Trail goes from the Mexican to the Utah border. It's still in process but uses as many of the currently existing trails as it can.
We can see the Catalina Highway to our left across a small valley. This is all low chaparral and cactus and the sky is a clear blue against the mountains. The Old Prison Camp is 1.7 miles away. This was the prison for the workers who built the first road up the Catalinas. There are just a few foundations and walls left. They are working on a campgrounds but ran out of fund after putting in the drivethroughs and there are no grills or bathrooms. There were a few people camping there, though.
We walked through the campgrounds and did a little side trip to see some grinding stones in a wash. Then we rejoined the Arizona Trail and followed an old jeep road which soon started to climb up to the saddle. It got a bit steep and we were breathing hard but with some water breaks and taking it slow we reached the top in good shape.
There's a large Arizona Trail sign at the saddle showing the route throught the Catalinas and across Arizona. We found a bit of shade to eat in and relaxed nicely. Below us, though we couldn't see it, was the Sycamore Dam and we could see some stone work a short distance down from us.
We returned the same way except to take the Arizona Trail around the campgrounds, instead of going through them. There was quite a few lilac verbena and thistle flowers and some red penstemon and indian paintbrush. The special surprise was to find several McDougall cactus in bloom. These are very flat, low cactus that look like half buried rocks as they blend in with the earth. They each had a circle of pale, waxy flowers. It's hard to even see them and none of us had seen them in bloom so it was a nice surprise.
The guide had an ice chest of soft drinks which were very welcome. It had gotten quite hot on our way back and we had taken quite a few water stops. The advantage of the return trip is that you are carrying so much less water. After that it was back down the mountain and then home. A good starting hike for the summer hikes, but it'll be too hot to hike for the rest of the summer.
Hiked - 6.5 miles
Biked - 1 mile