Monday, May 16, 2011

Mount Lemmon Lookout Trail

Lemmon Lookout Trail
Santa Catalina Mountains
Length: 5 miles round trip
Change in elevation: 1800 ft.
Time it took us: 5 hours (including breaks)

After last week's adventure and this week's rising temperatures, I thought it would be nice to escape the heat for a bit and ascend Mount Lemmon. It was a little bit of a problem though finding a trail that looked easy enough for us to venture on and not be out all day. Last night I finally found this trail which is just under 5 miles. Cool!

We started a little later than usual. David "slept in" until 6:40 and we were out the door by 7 thanks to my super-organized packing and loading last night. We made a quick stop at Starbucks and then made the long trek up the mountain. We were slowed a bit by the Mount Lemmon bike time trials, but it was really cool to see all the bikers out there cranking it up the hill.

We reached the trailhead at 8:30. The car's temperature gauge read a chilly 54 degrees! It was a beautiful day - nice breeze, fresh pine air, & lots of sunshine.
Lemmon Trail trailhead
The journey begins...

I brought my binoculars this week, so was able to do a little birding. In the parking lot we were greeted by several Yellow-eyed juncos. Those guys always seem a little creepy to me - I think it's the eyes. Shortly after we started hiking, we saw (rather I saw since DC was fighting with his camera) a Hairy Woodpecker, Hermit Thrush, and American Robin. It's always nice to see those robins :)

About 0.4 miles into the hike, we turned onto the Lookout trail and started heading downhill. For those of you who haven't hiked Mount Lemmon, it seems almost all the hikes start by going downhill and end uphill. So we went down and down and down and down! And not at a gentle grade either, no way, this sucker goes tippy toe downhill. All I could think about was how hard it was gonna be to get back up! Yikes! As we descended it also got warmer, but never too warm to be really uncomfortable.
Sign at the head of Lemmon Rock Lookout trail
Some interesting dried flowers
We had beautiful views
Still lots of evidence of the Aspen fire 6 years ago

We met this little guy about halfway down the trail
One spot had lots of marble rock
Some of it inlayed
After 2 hours of going downhill, we reached a little pool of water. We crossed it and the trail continued on, but it continued on without us. We looked at each other and decided that since it might take us at least twice as long to get back up and since DC still had school work to do, we really should turn around and head back up even though we could see the terminus of the trail "just over there."
Here's the pool near the end of the trail.

So we sat by the stream and had our snacks (carrots, crackers, grapes, and a Lara bar for me & Nutter Butter cookies, grapes, and a Power bar for DC). We were visited by several Red-faced Warblers which is a great treat! It was hard to get good pictures. They kept moving around, but leave it to DC, he got one that looks great.

One of the many Red-faced Warblers we saw in the area

Then we started the long walk uphill. We climbed past this huge rock. I saw something large moving on it and for a second I thought it was a large mammal, maybe a big horn sheep or a mountain lion, but when I put my binoculars on it, it was a rock climber. He moved too quickly from our side of the rock to the other that we couldn't get pictures of him :(

As I said before, we thought it might take up to twice as long to go back uphill. Honestly, it was a slog and DC was feeling the altitude, but we did make it eventually and it only took us 2 hours! Back at the 0.4 mile mark, we took a tiny detour that leads to the Lemmon Rock Lookout and the one-room cabin occupied by the fire service lookout.

I'm still smiling

Stairs up to the lookout
Lookout cabin
Views from the top of Mount Lemmon!
Another view of the lookout cabin.

A small manmade pool. A bath tub? A horse waterer?
DC wants everyone to know that he is NOT smiling at the end of this hike! This was all the smile he could manage.
Back at the car, it was still a cool 66 degrees at 1:30pm. Ahhhhhh! Afterward, we took the obligatory cookie and pizza trip to the Cookie Cabin in Summerhaven and enjoyed the fresh air, cool breezes, and sunshine a little more. Then we made our way down the mountain where it was MUCH warmer.

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