Mt Lemmon Volkswalk
Topic: Walking through the world
After two years of being cancelled due to fire, once again the Mt Lemmon Volkswalk
occured. I was holding my breath because we've been getting "moisture" and all the Tucson weather people have been telling us, with bated breath, that we're almost into the monsoons, which means lightning, which means fire on the mountain, but the monsoon held off, the lighting didn't happen and Friday evening I got my rental car and drove up Mt Lemmon.
I wanted to camp at least one night and thought maybe two just to get away from the heat. I started up about 7:00 and it was after dark when I got to Rose Canyon Campgrounds. The road is actually in pretty good shape most of the way but there is a long section from below General Hitchcock to past San Pedro Vista where it is really torn up. One section you had to wait for a traffic light to turn green which took quite a while as it's one lane for a long way. You could tell who was used to this as they drove up, turned off their engine and got out to stretch their legs. I sat there for several minutes before I turned off my engine. It was already so much cooler than Tucson so I didn't mind the wait. Green light and off we went. I did not recognize Windy Point even though I knew we were there. Wow, there's a lot of work being done. During the week you can only come up or down during certain times, about hourly during the day but only at 4:00 am at night. Starting this week they will be working all night which is, I'm sure much cooler and it's good no one lives close by.
I had reserved a campsite since I didn't know how crowded it would be and knew I would be getting there late. It's been a while since I camped at Rose Canyon but they don't take reservations for Spencer Canyon, where we usually camp, and I guessed wrong and picked a really sucky site. There was no table, just a flat piece of ground. I got there after dark and left before 7:30 am so I didn't spend much time there. I would have been just as well off camping at one of the primitive camp areas except that it did have a pit toilet and I just hate having to wander off in the woods since you know other people are doing the same thing and it's dark and ...
Anyway, Saturday morning I drove up to a picnic area and heated some water for tea. Boiled eggs, some fruit and almonds, and I felt much better. Gotta have my caffeine and I recently read an article that caffeine is good for altzheimers and such. Yeah!!! After breakfast I drove up to Summerhaven with a brief detour up to Ski Valley. From the road it didn't look too bad as there is quite a bit of green but through the gaps you could see the devastated areas.
Summerhaven is so sad. There are gaping holes where homes used to be but there is also quite a bit of new building. Most of the new building is log cabin style and the new logs are so shine and bright. It was good to see that people are building again but most of the trees are black and dead.
The volkswalk started at 8:30 and I was there at 8:00 so I walked down to the general store, which is rebuilt and open, though not till 10:00. The cafe is still there and in business and the real estate office escaped the fire, go figure. You can't go down to Marshall Gulch which is where the fire probably started and the Marshall Gulch and Aspen trails are still closed. I understand there is a hefty fine if you are caught on the closed trails, which is good.
The volkswalk started in Summerhaven, but unlike the previous ones which went up to the top of Mt Lemmon, which is closed, we walked up the road, past the entrance to Ski Valley and turned off on the road that goes by the fire station and down to the trailhead for the Oracle Ridge Trail. This side, towards San Manuel and Oracle, was heavily hit by the fire but the trail mainly goes above the trees most of the way so I assume it's safer than the others that goes through the trees.
The first part of the walk was fairly level and through the blackened, dead trees but the flowers during the whole walk were absolutely beautiful. This is the plus side of a fire when the other plants grow exuberantly. In one area there was a forest of little shrubs and I kept thinking the leaves looked like oak leaves, and duh, they were oak leaves on little one and two feet tall oak trees. They were so cute. I kept thinking that all they needed were tiny fairies and dwarves riding through the "forest".
After the level section there was a series of ups and downs, mostly down, in a fairly open area. It was such a nice walk even though the view was burnt trees everywhere with an occasional area that had escaped. The volkswalk is only 10K so we didn't go down the entire trail which is about 12 miles and ends up in Oracle on the north side of the Catalinas. We turned around at the checkpoint and walked back with lots of rest stops. Going up was hard and the altitude bothers me plus it was very warm, even at 8000 feet, and we had no shade most of the way. I thought I could not go on a couple times but I just took a rest and then did. This is one thing I like about volkswalks as I can go at my own pace.
At the trailhead they had checked us going in and checked us coming out. When I came out a fire fighter was helping out by checking us off. I asked why since usually we just get checked at the turn around point. He said they wanted to make sure everyone got out. This is new but I guess they worry about who is out there since we are deep into fire season already and everything is very dry.
Back to Summerhaven and resting. I did the 10K in 2 1/2 hours which is pretty good for me, especially for such a difficult walk. The award was a very nice ceramic tile with pine trees and birds on it. Very nice. I have several of these from other walks around Tucson. I went through three bottles of water and didn't need to pee during the walk. I sat down to take off my boots and put on tevas and realized that I had soot up to my knees. I suppose it's on all the plants and we brush it off as we walk by. My shorts and shirt, which of course were light colored, also had soot on them. I imagine people who live on Mt Lemmon are very tired of soot on everything.
I just wanted to sit for a while and then have a nice shower so I decided to not stay and camp, though I had already decided that if I did stay I was getting a different campsite. I drove down Mt Lemmon seeing more of the construction in the daylight. Windy Point still has the viewing platform on the big rock but on the other side they've totally wiped out the parking area. When I got home it was a shock to get out and feel the heat hit me. Woooh! It was so good to get home and have a cool shower and feel clean. I even took a nice nap.Mt Lemmon Volkswalk
Posted by rachela
at 10:18 AM MDT