Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Olympic National Park - Sunset Pictures

We had an amazing time visiting and hiking in Olympic National Park last weekend.  You couldn't have asked for better weather.  While the park was pretty crowded earlier in the day almost everyone left well before sunset and we mostly had our hike to our selves.  The wildflowers seemed to be in full bloom which just added to the picturesque scenery.  We just did the Hurricane Ridge trail due to time constraints but can't wait to get back and hike on some of the others.

Here are a few pictures from our sunset hike at Olympic National Park in Washington State.  More photos coming soon!

Olympic National Park Hiking Picture
Trail to our self just before sunset.
Sunset at Olympic National Park
The Olympic park snow covered peaks in the distance as we watch the sun set.
mt olympus at sunset picture
Looking west towards the Pacific over the Olympic range
Olympic National Park Wildflowers
All of the wildflowers were in full bloom
Picture of a Marmot at Olympic National Park
The Marmots were not very camera shy!

Photo of a Blacktail Deer at Olympic National Park
Black tail deer getting close for a nice picture.
Katie enjoying the evening.  Probably one of my favorite photos all time.

Olympic National Park wildflowers on Hurricane Ridge
Sunset in the background and wildflowers in the foreground.
Katie hiking through a field of wildflowers.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Aspen Trail - Mt. Lemmon, Tucson, AZ

Aspen Trail Tucson AZ
Views early on from the Aspen Trail
The Aspen Trail is another great starting hike that connects with a number of other trails at the Marshall Gulch Saddle in the Catalina Mountains. All of the trails in the area are dog friendly.  In the summer it seems everyone out hiking has their dog with them!  It is a 2.5 mile hike to the Saddle on the Aspen Trail.  The Aspen Trail starts at the Marshall Gulch trail head at the very end of Catalina Highway.  This trail begins just behind the parking lot and has a sign as it begins.

fall foliage aspen trail
Fall foliage on the Aspen Trail
The Aspen trail ascends fairly quickly up through the pine forest and you are quickly rewarded with great views of the area. It's pretty tough as it begins especially with it being high in elevation but it eventually levels off.  As you continue to ascend you'll go through a couple of Aspen groves.  In the fall they usually have some great colors and make for a very scenic hike.

As you continue past the Aspen you'll eventually hike up to a ridge area.  From here the trail levels off.  The trail climbs and descends with the ridge in the area but nothing as steep as it was at the beginning of the trail.  Eventually the trail connects with a number of other trails at Marshall Saddle.  Taking the Marshall Gulch trail back down to the parking lot makes for a 2 hour 4 mile hike through the area.

Check out some more pics off the Aspen Trail in the fall.

Marshall Gulch Hiking - Mt. Lemmon, Tucson, AZ

Marshall Gulch - Fall Foliage on Mt Lemmon
Marshall Gulch - Fall Foliage
The Marshall Gulch hike is by far our favorite place to start in the Catalina Mountains. It starts from the very end of Catalina Highway and winds up a creek through the pine forest. Outside of mid winter when Marshall Gulch is generally covered in snow this is a great trail for all seasons. Marshall Gulch also connects up with a number of other trails in the area.  It's a great starting point.  Be careful in the summer as parking is fairly limited and it fills up quick!  We especially enjoy bringing our dog on this trail as it offers plenty of water, shade and cool temperatures year round. Marshall Gulch also usually has some great fall foliage starting in late September.  A lot of the area here is still covered by dense forest without too much effect from the fires years back.  

There are 2 different spots where you can start the Marshall Gulch hike.  The official trail heads straight up hill to get started.  You can also take the lower trail straight behind the restrooms that stays along the creek.  Both trails eventually intersect with each other a little ways in so you'll end up at the same point either way.  We normally choose to stay near the creek so the dog always has a good water source!

Another fall shot at Marshall Gulch
The trail intersects with quite a few others about 1.2 miles in at Marshall Saddle. From the saddle you can take the Aspen Trail back to the Marshall Gulch parking lot, head deep into the Catalinas with the Wilderness of Rocks trail and eventually to the summit of Mt. Lemmon. We normally head about a mile down on Wilderness of Rocks to seem fairly deep pools of water to let the dog swim before heading back. There are some nice deep pools here especially in the summer during Monsoon season. Watch out for the little frogs that like to nap along the rocks. You won't be able to see them until they are jumping on you.

Heading back down to the parking lot through the Aspen trail provides some different scenery. In the fall the Aspen groves are sure to offer some great colors. This trail is a bit longer than the Marshall Gulch trail and offers a bit more elevation change and in turn burns off a few extra calories too.

Hiking Reports:  Marshall Gulch Hiking July 2011  and Fall Foliage on Mt. Lemmon

Friday, July 6, 2012

Escape the Summer Heat in Tucson on Mt Lemmon

It's seems that so far this summer the heat has been even hotter than usual in Tucson.  I don't remember the temperatures being over 105 so consistently in June before.  Where there's a problem there is always a solution.  Thank fully Mt. Lemmon never fails to deliver a nice escape from the heat of the desert summer.

At the summit Mt. Lemmon towers over 9,000 feet in elevation.  About 7,000 feet higher that Tucson temperatures are usually about 25 degrees cooler at the top.  From the drive, hiking trails and shops in Summerhaven there are endless activities for everyone.

One of my favorite parts of the trip is the drive up Catalina Highway.  Also known as General Hitchcock highway Catalina Highway climbs over 6000 ft from the desert to forest over 27 miles.  An endless route of panoramic views from highway pull offs you can see the entire area without much effort.  The road itself is in great condition, has wide bike lanes and plenty of pull offs for slower vehicles.  For those of you who like a twisty road Catalina Highway is somewhat of a holy grail.  I haven't found a road more fun to take the Porsche on anywhere near Tucson.

There are numerous hiking trails the entire way up.  From desert hikes covered with Saguaro cacti to Pine covered trails there is always a perfect trail regardless of the weather in the valley.  Here are some of our favorite hiking trails on Mt. Lemmon:

Marshall GulchEasy1.2 miles600ft gain
Aspen TrailModerate2.5 miles1800ft gain
Upper/Lower Green MountainModerateVaries
Rose Canyon LakeModerateVaries

Quick Mt Lemmon Hiking Video

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tucson / Oro Valley Flash Flood - July 4th, 2012

We got over 3 inches of rain in about an hour today in Tucson and Oro Valley.  This is the first time I have seen flash floods happen so quickly in town!  The washes instantly turned into rivers and flash floods even in our neighborhood in Oro Valley.  Here is a picture of the wash that runs through our neighborhood Copper Creek and a video as well:

Flash flood in wash in Oro Valley.  This is normally a nice little path we walk the dogs through!

Flash flood video July 4th, 2012 in Tucson / Oro Valley

Another video of the monsoon flooding in Oro Valley July 2012

Oracle State Park Hike

Tossed the dog into the Porsche and headed out for a hike.  Yes, we can fit the dog in the Porsche!  We made the quick trip up to Oracle State Park in Oracle, AZ.  This state park had been closed due to AZ state budget cuts.  It recently reopened in Feb 2012 and is currently only open on Saturdays.  If you haven’t been there you should really check it out.  It definitely is a bit quieter than most of the other state parks in the area.  It houses a 4,000 acre wildlife refuge with oak woodland and desert grassland; views of the Catalinas, the San Pedro River Valley, and the Galiuro Mountains; a historic ranch house; and 15 miles of trail for hikers and bikers.

Dog hiking in Oracle State Park AZ
Max hiking at Oracle State Park

We hiked mid spring and really enjoyed the area.  It is dog friendly and our pup did well.  The trails weren't too challenging to hike but there is some elevation change and some amazing views back towards the Galiuro mountains to the east.  Most importantly we had most of Oracle State Park to ourselves!