Dayhike New Years Eve day near Tucson

11:06 a.m. on January 3, 2012 (EST)
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On Saturday New Years Eve a friend and I went on a desert dayhike up Sabino Canyon and down the Phoneline Trail. We hiked about 9 miles total distance.


Beginning of hike started by following the Sabino Canyon Sate Park Road 3.7 miles from the parks parking area. My friend Ben ahead of me.


Fall colors in the Cottonwoods and Sycamores with Sagauro Cactus too along the lower areas of Sabino Creek Canyon.


The bridges over the creek are built low so in heavy flooding the water flows over. Here the water is all snow melt from the top of Mt Lemmon. There are 6 such crossings.


Thimble Peak (center) stands 5332 feet above sea level and 2000 feet above Sabino Canyon. Shot around 1030 am the winter sun is still behind the east side of the canyon.


More Cottonwoods and Sycamores along middle sabino Creek and Thimble Peak.


We finally reach the sun or it reaches us about halfway up the paved canyon road. The Sabino Canyon road is a shuttle road used by thousands of tourists every day. Temperture was around 75 this last day of 2011. Elevation around 3200 feet.


Now on the Phoneline trail looking down the Sabino Canyon Road back towards Tucson down canyon. The trail stays about 3300 feet for the next 4 miles. So called because it used to have a series of telephone lines strung down on steel pipe poles from Mt Lemmon.


Looking up the canyon from the trail towards Mt Lemmon. Rattlesnake Peak on left at 6653 feet. The top of Mt Lemmon is the lower ridge area in the center. Its 9157 feet above sea level. Theres a ski area there, an observatory and a place called Summerhaven where Tucson residents go to beat the heat in summer.


Looking back down canyon with various cacti, Prickly Pear (the round padlike one), Ocotillo the tall spindly one reaching out into the center sky, Yucca huddled in the prickly pear below it, and Mesquite trees around.


Close-up on a Ocotillo and young Saguaro Cacti. After a good rain the Ocotillo gets covered in green leaves and may have a red flowering stalk at the end of the branches.


Close to a Saguaro showing its ribs of needles at an high view point along the Phoneline Trail.


Prickly Pear and a multi-armed Saguaro above Sabino Canyon. The green tree's below are Palo Verde (Green Stick in Spanish).


A side canyon off the Phoneline Trail snakes its way down into Sabino Canyon. The southern Tucson Mountains are visable in lavendar and the Roskruge Mountains are on the horizon in light blue.


A tourist looks over into Sabino Canyon with a tall many armed Saguaro.


A mature Cholla (Jumping Cactus) leans out over a side canyon along the lower trail.


Looking back up Sabino Canyon, Thimble Peak to the right top from near th end of the trail.


Down canyon the shuttle road and Sabino Creek with Tucson and the Tucson Range beyond.


A couple Sabino Canyon Shuttles below on the road come to a bridge.


Couple of multi-armed Saguaro's show different ways arms grow. The closer one is riddled with holes made by Cactus Wrens and other desert birds that nest in the Saguaro.


Near the end of the Phoneline Trail the Sabino Canyon Park road stretches out into NE Tucson while the creek meanders off to the left.

2:14 p.m. on January 3, 2012 (EST)
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Look like you had a great hike, Gary :)

I the desert conditions are so foreign to me, It seems so odd to look at the photos and know it is winter there, LOL! 

7:33 p.m. on January 3, 2012 (EST)
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Cool trip Gary, thanks for all the photos and descriptions!

How long did it take you to learn all the names of the different Cacti?

The canyons look very inviting, I miss canyons haha.


Mike G.

11:14 a.m. on January 4, 2012 (EST)
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I spent about 9 winters here in Tucson from 1983-91 hiking every day I could. I guess it may have taken me about half that to learn the cactus names. I also have studied the different one's for their fruit and edible parts.



The Prickly Pear bears a red fruit and it probably the best used of all cacti. It has the flavor of a strawberry with the texture of a Kiwi. Many people make jelly and syrup from the fruit. I used to during hot days, make slushies. I would collect the fruit, burn off the hair needles , then pureify the fruit, strain the pulp and seeds, then add to crushed ice, with a banana and frozen lemon juice concentrate in a blender.

The new growth pads of the Prickly Pear itself can be eaten too. Again you have to burn the needles of, then cut the pads into strips.Eaten raw or cooked it tastes like something between a cucumber and a bell pepper (to me).


The Saguaro has fruit but is much harder to get as it grows on the top of the tall arms and main stalk. But studying the indians too around here I learned that they used the long ribs of a dead Saguaro to knock the fruit off. They also have a texture like a Kiwi or Pomigranite with many seeds. And the taste is like a raspberry. The Saguaro itself is not very good. The same long ribs tho make very good light hiking sticks.


Chainfruit Cholla tree


Cactus Wren and Cholla fruit

The Cholla, mainly the Chainfruit Cholla has very good fruit with to me tastes like lemon. And also the indians used to dig up the roots of the Cholla to eat raw and roast.


A Barrel cactus


Barrel catus fruit, look like minature Pineapples

Barrel cacti have fruit but are not edible to my knowledge.

11:36 a.m. on January 4, 2012 (EST)
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Looks like a good day Gary.

Ive eaten the Prickly Pear many times, very tastey. The fibers inside kinda get prickly on the tongue unless you heat the jam up to desolve it. Its not a big deal tho, doesnt hurt or anything like that, feeling goes away in a few minutes.

Ive never tried the Cholla fruit, not a big fan of lemons but will have to try anyhow. Have they got the fiber thing going on with them like the Prickly Pear?

12:50 p.m. on January 4, 2012 (EST)
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Even more so, the fruit is very pulpy more so than other cactus fruits I have eaten. Again they are better blended down and added to crushed ice. By thenselves they are not very delecible.

4:48 p.m. on January 4, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks for the reply and the additional photos Gary.

9:27 p.m. on January 4, 2012 (EST)
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awesome photos gary, looks like a nice way to ring in the new year!

2:32 p.m. on January 5, 2012 (EST)
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Another great post Gary. Your photo skills have always been good but seem to have gotten even better...

11:30 a.m. on January 6, 2012 (EST)
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Awwman said: Your photo skills have always been good but seem to have gotten even better...

Guess it depends on the camera I am using. I shot Canon 35mm cameras for 30 years , then went to a Canon Rebel EOS DSLR for 7 years till the fall of 2010, then sold it to save weight and packing size. Bought a small digital Sony Camera that takes as good shots as the DSLR did. I miss the longer telephoto lense's sometimes but otherwise get pretty good results.

4:24 a.m. on January 8, 2012 (EST)
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Hey Gary:

You are blowing our secret!  Most folks think the desert is a desiccated, unattractive wasteland, void of life.  So many are programmed to consider the stereotypical lake in a forest as the standard that defines natural beauty.  Stop publishing all these lovely pastoral views, else risk changing that perception, and find yourself crowded out of your little slice of un-crowded beauty:)


12:18 p.m. on January 8, 2012 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

Hey Gary:

You are blowing our secret!  Most folks think the desert is a desiccated, unattractive wasteland, void of life.  So many are programmed to consider the stereotypical lake in a forest as the standard that defines natural beauty.  Stop publishing all these lovely pastoral views, else risk changing that perception, and find yourself crowded out of your little slice of un-crowded beauty:)


 Isn't that the truth? So many people from back home (Western Washington) cannot understand why I like the desert. Don't get me wrong, I miss my PNW but the desert has soooo much to offer too!

10:16 p.m. on January 9, 2012 (EST)
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All we have to do is invite folks out for a visit in July.  Confirm their ideas so we can enjoy peace and serinity all winter long.

I love the deserts come winter time, curse the damn place all summer long!

Various health issues have kept me from getting out as much as I would like this winter but Im still hopefull for a big finish before the Fireball cranks it up again

6:02 a.m. on January 10, 2012 (EST)
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azrhino said:

..I love the deserts come winter time...

And Robert, your remarks were the subterfuge we need, except you blow it with the above noted quip.

Joshua Tree is an extremely popular So Cal destination, but most of the car camp sites are on a first come basis, and all walk-in camping requires hauling your own water.  I have several walk-in camps located in the park I use that are very remote: the ten dollar bills I post conspicuously at each site have never been claimed!  Despite the fact a half dozen of my companions have been to some of these sites more than a dozen times, I am the only one who knows the way to any of the sites.  I always try to bring an extra gallon of water on each trip to these site, stashing it for longer stays that require more water than is practical to carry.  The only time we ever see people is on the trail in or out of the general vicinity, or through binoculars from afar while surveying the vistas from atop the rock formations.


10:31 a.m. on January 10, 2012 (EST)
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Yes, I have friends who cherish NW Wyoming in the summer and always hate the winters, but when I ask them to come to southern Arizona for the winters as I have for almost 30 years, they find some excuse like its too hot for them down here, even in winter when daytime temps are in the 70s like a summer day in Jackson Hole, WY.

I heard a robin this morning on my way to the library singing in the spring. In Jackson Hole they don't come out till April to June.

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