|Hiking the Catalina’s
Now, some may suggest that “hiking the Catalina’s” is the same as “hiking the Catalina range”, but from my perspective, they’re different in the context of this hikers pen.
Romero Canyon and Pools
This was an attempt at killing two birds – maybe three – with one stone. Seems Catalina State Park offers a First Saturday concert series, in which, as the name implies, musicians come in to the park on the first Saturday and perform – not just for those in the campground, but the general public is invited, so long as you’re willing to pay the day use entrance fee. Well, this Romero Canyon trail looked interesting, especially since there might be water pools to visit – which is certainly different than we might experience in the NW. Most of the time, there may be a couple small landlocked pools of water in a streambed, but in this case, there was an actual flowing stream, due to the recent rains. Anyone coming in to the park for day hiking had to pay the $7.00 day use pass as well, so……. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone by coming in for a hike in the morning and staying for the 4 pm performance.
Ok, so I’m cheap. With that in mind, here’s the third bird: A couple days earlier, I had stopped in to pay the daily fee in order to take a shower. Understand that by this time I’d been dry camping for roughly a week, and was conserving water in the trailer, so….well, just use your imagination. In approaching the entry booth on that day, I was informed I’d have to pay the full overnight non-electric fee of $15.00 – even though they were full – just to take a shower! Did I say I’m cheap? Sorry, no shower. You backpacking folks out there who have been on the trail for several days can relate to my current bodily state. But I was NOT paying $15. In a couple more days I’d be moving on anyway and could remove all those cooties then. This brings me to the hike/concert day. Seems the parking lot for the concert was the same as that for the trail head, but was removed from the group and general camping areas by a few hundred yards – maybe even a half mile to the general camping area. Connecting all of these was a horse trail – they called it a bridal trail, which was off in the brush, separated from the roadway. Getting the picture? Bet you’re way ahead of me.
So, the general idea was to finish the hike by early afternoon, leave the truck in the day use parking area and simply walk by way of the horse trail to either the group camp or general campground and – yes – wander in for a shower, with plenty of time to get back for the concert. Seemed flawless. Although I was beginning to feel a bit guilty, as I was attempting to fly under the radar, so to speak. The group camp area was closest, so that was my first target…. er, option. In approaching the area from the trail, I could see the doorways to the shower building were facing AWAY from the camping area. So far so good. But wouldn’t you know it…..this was the time the camp host HAD to clean the building, and they pulled their little cleaning cart right up to the door! Right in the middle of my shower time, no less! Damn. Well, after waiting around a few minutes for them to finish, and realizing they might be awhile, I opted to head to the campground.
Now, keep in mind I’m still dressed in my hiking clothes and carrying a small backpack, which I strategically outfitted with soap, shampoo and a towel, and even a clean pair of skivvies. Not what one might expect to see sauntering through the campground. In approaching the doorway to the restroom/shower a very prominent sign reads: “Shower facility for registered campers only”. Understand that I was already feeling a bit criminal, by attempting to bypass the $15.00 shower fee – which in this case would have only been an additional $8.00 because of the day use fee I’d already paid for the hike – but still! So, I was already a bit hesitant when actually attempting to pull this off. This was also in the middle of the afternoon, when most people would be on a trail somewhere, or napping. But no, there had to be someone in there! A witness! Damn again. So, I wandered around the campground for a few minutes to allow this person to clear out, and when re-entering the room……well……I just couldn’t do it. Go ahead. Call me a chicken, wuss, no-guts, or whatever, but unfortunately I’m one of those people who would break into a cold sweat if taking a stick of chewing gum out of a store without paying for it, or feeling guilty testing a grape. So, I left, and when I was about 50 feet away from the building, a little green cart pulls up, driven by a park employee, who proceeded to the same doorway I had just left. Whew, that was close! No jail time for theft of services! So, back to the parking lot I went, conscience cleared, heartrate down and breathing normal again, and in passing the group camping area, noticed the little cleaning cart was still there too.
By the way, the hike was great, the musician not so great.
Oracle Ridge Trail
First, I opted to leave the camera behind this time, so only have phone photos. Since I’d been hiking canyons the past couple days, I thought a little higher hike would be nice for a change, so found this Oracle Ridge trail towards the northern end of the Catalina Range. This was a multi-use trail for bikes and horses as well, so didn’t have the stair-step affect and was admittedly, rather a blah trail. However, it did find its’ way to a ridge line and at one point, intersected the Arizona State Trail, which is the equivalent of the PCT in Oregon. A couple positive experiences: the direction of sight from this trail was to the north and west, away from the Tucson metro area, so the views were quite enjoyable; and this was well removed from the more popular trails of the Catalina’s, so even though this was a weekend day, I only encountered three other groups or individuals.
The Arizona Trail was appealing, as I had googled this trail before coming to Arizona, and was aware of its’ existence, so managed a short detour along its’ path. Found a nice spot in the shade with a view and headed back after a bite to eat, but not before soaking up the peacefulness, the gentle quiet breeze, the sound of birds singing, bugs buzzing and simply enjoying the moment.
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like falling leaves”. -- John Muir