Thursday, February 11, 2010

Enjoying Madera Canyon in the Winter

February 6, 2010 - I wanted to see some snow. I knew Mt. Lemmon would have snow but I really am not a fan of crowds and the rumor was that Mt. Lemmon is packed after fresh snow falls. Option B - Madera Canyon. The parking lot at the trails is around 5000 feet and the snow level was close to 6500. No problem.

Madera canyon is an amazing place in the winter. The scenery is just gorgeous with the snow covered peaks in the background. And a big plus - pets are allowed on the trails here. We brought Max our chocolate lab who has never really climbed up any terrain like this before. I had no idea how well he would do. We ran into quite a few people with dogs while we were there.

We decided to start up Old Baldy trail and just climb until Max was worn out. It turns out he did great and never really wore out on us. He was always running ahead and then back to us. The trail jumps right in to some fairly steep paths winding uphill. Although at first the trail is wide and flat and pretty easy walking the terrain gets rockier and tougher pretty quick. As you climb the views of Mt. Wrightson are amazing:

We climbed for about an hour before we got into the thick snow. It was patchy in the shady areas but I would guess we were about 6000 feet up before it got fairly thick and was covering the ground. Fortunately other hikers had been there recently and we could easily follow their path. If we had been the first to arrive after a snow storm I can imagine it would have been really difficult to follow the trail.

Max was absolutely having a blast. He stayed well ahead of us, stopping at the corners so we didn't get out of sight. 4 legs were really a benefit on this day, he kept his footing a lot easier than we did.

We made it through the Old Baldy trail and decided to keep going towards Mt. Wrightson until we either got too tired or the trail was too difficult with all the snow and ice. Well we didn't make it too much further. There must have been at least a foot of snow on the ground. It was beautiful and just a ton of fun climbing. We probably went another mile but at the point the snow was so deep that Max had trouble with his footing. The path left by other hikers was great for us but he was having trouble with the deep holes his paws were slipping into. We turned around probably 3.3 miles of the 5 miles to the top.

We just had a great time. The canyon was awesome, the views were amazing and the weather perfect. If you plan on making it to the top I would highly suggest waiting a couple days after any serious snows unless you have snow shoes or something to trek in the snow with. A couple of walking poles makes the world of difference on the descent down to the bottom over the snow and the ice.

Anyone who hasn't been to Madera Canyon in the winter really is missing out!

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