Tales from the Trails


Late December and January 2017 brought a bounty of water and snow to the Catalinas.  The water has been surging over Sabino Dam for several weeks now bringing hope for a great wildflower season starting in February (if the heat holds off). Right now, as of January 28, Esperero is the only major trail that is accessible from the Visitor Center without having to step into the waters of Sabino Creek. Minor trails such as the Bluff Trail, Creek Trail and Rattlesnake are not affected.  Access to Bear Creek and 7 Falls is still possible if you drive to the Bear Canyon Trailhead, or take the Bear Canyon Shuttle. Since there are 7 stream crossings in Bear Canyon before ascending to 7 Falls, you will likely get your feet wet anyway unless you are very adept at rock hopping. The heavy snowpack above 7000 feet will assure a good flow into our streams for months.

The flow rate from USGS gauges for Sabino Creek is about 25 ft/sec with a gauge height at approximately 1.25 ft. The good news is that the decline rate is very slow, for now, even without new precipitation over the past 4 days.


The Phoneline Trail and People

In Sabino Canyon, as on most trails, people are usually more open, welcoming and engaging a mile or more after the crowds are left behind.  The Phoneline Trail (#27), is a good example. This trail peels off from the Bear Canyon Trail (#29) and ascends with a modest grade until it gains the often shaded west facing wall on the east side of Sabino Canyon.  Once in the shade, below and visible along the entire ≈4 miles is the Tram Road and the creek.  The cool shade makes it the perfect walk on a spring morning. In the desert, shade, water, and a stunning view, seems to lift spirits and open mouths. Phoneline has them all.

Almost any morning hike along the Phoneline Trail will find a dozen or more people. Friends with friends, friends with visitors, solo hikers, and trail runners are among the most common wildlife sightings.  Most people will open up with a simple hello, or hi where are you from? You’ll find couples visiting from Michigan who are 3 weeks into an extended vacation, seasonal residents with a second home in Tucson who start their days with a Sabino hike, German triathletes, British families. One group of locals were encountered while stopped for a rest at a turnaround point before a rueful dash to the airport to deposit a family visitor back to Seattle.

What is that plant – Ocotillo? Is that musky smell from Javelinas? Will I see a Mountain Lion? Where is the turnoff to Blackett’s Ridge? The Sabino Canyon Volunteer Patrol (SCVP) frequently get questions of these kind.  Many SCVP rangers get a little lift from trail users who let them know their presence on the trails is appreciated.