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Sabino Canyon Adventure

Updated on August 20, 2014

Haps and Mishaps in Sabino Canyon

All about my haps and mishaps in this wonderful canyon.

Sabino Canyon is a gorgeous area located in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of the older part of Tucson, Arizona. It is closed to vehicular traffic, so for a person who cannot hike long distances, it can be an interesting experience trying to access what you want to see. My momentary limit is 2 miles total in a day.

I hadn't been to Sabino Canyon in a number of years, so I decided recently to pay a visit. These days, I can take the tram ($8) up to the top and walk down. It's about 3.7 miles total one way. Unfortunately, being a serious night person, I have trouble making it there in time to get the last tram back after I have hiked 2 miles. But I do my best. As a result of this limitation, I ended up making a total of three trips in the recent past.

The first trip was in April or May, if I recall correctly. I went up to see the wildflowers, and whatever birds I could find. That was the occasion that cost me a lot more than $8, as I shall explain.

Then I went up twice less than a week apart, because the first time, I only walked 1.4 miles before I had to stop to get the last tram. The next time, I got off where I had left off, and walked the rest of the way to bus stop 1, because I wasn't going to walk UPHILL another mile to get back to the parking lot. Fortunately, I did have enough energy left to walk part of the way around a loop trail nearby, and will also show something of that little walk.

The third time I went up there, I had a totally uncalled-for adventure because the 2 year old in the people's house is throwing a temper tantrum, and it had a personal impact on me.

All photos are mine. The one on the left shows two saguaros. The shorter one is a crestate saguaro. A genetic defect causes the crown of the cactus to take on a bizarre shape.

Spring Trips

In my other lens about Sabino Canyon, I described how I ran into problems, starting with losing my cell phone. You can read about that here:

Off I Go!

That was adventure enough to last me awhile. But as I said before, adventures never stop. An adventure is whenever things don't go according to plan, and you end up having to think on your feet, get out of tight situations, and so forth.

But the "best" was yet to come. In September, I made one trip up into Sabino Canyon, and since I didn't get finished, I went back a second time in October.

The first gallery is photos from my late September trip. Then I talk about the October trip, and present a gallery of shots from that trip.

September Trip

In late September, I decided to go see what I could find while there was still water in the canyon, well, at least flowing water. Some pools may last until the next rainy season, but you never know. The tram driver on one of my trips made note of the fact that the Gila Chub (Gila intermedia), a type of minnow, rarely grow beyond 4 to 6" because the pools dry up. They are able to reproduce because the eggs will endure dry conditions until there is water again. In having this trait, they join with certain toads that live in the desert. This year, she said, they grew larger because some of the pools didn't dry up. It is said the only place they can find to live year round in water is in Cienega Creek.

This time, because it was so late, I started out at Bus Stop 8 and walked down to Bus Stop 6, where I picked up the tram to return to the parking lot.

On my last trip, I was able to photograph the Gila Chub, though none of my pictures are anything to write home about. They like to hide in shady spots where getting a good picture is difficult. So you will be prepared for the photos later on, take a look at the video below.

Gila Chub

Yep, that's what they looked like. But this video is better than my photos.

September Photos in Sabino Canyon, Arizona

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Beautiful rocks and cloudsDatura meteloides ready to bloom. Jimson weed is poisonous and blooms at night. Beautiful trumpet-shaped white flower.Grasses.Rocks and saguaro cactus. Carnegiea gigantea.Ornate Tree Lizard. Urosaurus ornatus.Desert Mallow. Sphaeralcea ambigua. Just a few hardy flowers left.Side Oats Grama. Bouteloua curtipendula, I think. A native grass, which is foraged.Peaceful oasis with water.Palo Verde flowers. Just a few left. Cercidium microphyllum.Distant bird. Too far to identify. There was a Belted Kingfisher sounding off there, but this wasn't him.Beautiful rocks and trees with saguaro.Cool oasis.Roiling water. Small waterfalls carried water under the low bridges.Nice gneiss.They say mountain lions like to sit on top of these rocks and watch. They make a big deal about the mountain lions.At the visitor's center: mountains, saguaros, trees, and clouds.Desert Cotton. Gossypium thurberi. Still blooming, a little.Desert Marigold. Baileya multiradiata. There was a huge patch at the end of the road. I didn't see any anyplace else.This was from my next trip: crestate saguaro. From a little trail near the visitor's center. Not enough room in the next gallery.What I saw on my way home. Oops! Some people had a worse day than I did.
Beautiful rocks and clouds
Beautiful rocks and clouds
Datura meteloides ready to bloom. Jimson weed is poisonous and blooms at night. Beautiful trumpet-shaped white flower.
Datura meteloides ready to bloom. Jimson weed is poisonous and blooms at night. Beautiful trumpet-shaped white flower.
Grasses.
Grasses.
Rocks and saguaro cactus. Carnegiea gigantea.
Rocks and saguaro cactus. Carnegiea gigantea.
Ornate Tree Lizard. Urosaurus ornatus.
Ornate Tree Lizard. Urosaurus ornatus.
Desert Mallow. Sphaeralcea ambigua. Just a few hardy flowers left.
Desert Mallow. Sphaeralcea ambigua. Just a few hardy flowers left.
Side Oats Grama. Bouteloua curtipendula, I think. A native grass, which is foraged.
Side Oats Grama. Bouteloua curtipendula, I think. A native grass, which is foraged.
Peaceful oasis with water.
Peaceful oasis with water.
Palo Verde flowers. Just a few left. Cercidium microphyllum.
Palo Verde flowers. Just a few left. Cercidium microphyllum.
Distant bird. Too far to identify. There was a Belted Kingfisher sounding off there, but this wasn't him.
Distant bird. Too far to identify. There was a Belted Kingfisher sounding off there, but this wasn't him.
Beautiful rocks and trees with saguaro.
Beautiful rocks and trees with saguaro.
Cool oasis.
Cool oasis.
Roiling water. Small waterfalls carried water under the low bridges.
Roiling water. Small waterfalls carried water under the low bridges.
Nice gneiss.
Nice gneiss.
They say mountain lions like to sit on top of these rocks and watch. They make a big deal about the mountain lions.
They say mountain lions like to sit on top of these rocks and watch. They make a big deal about the mountain lions.
At the visitor's center: mountains, saguaros, trees, and clouds.
At the visitor's center: mountains, saguaros, trees, and clouds.
Desert Cotton. Gossypium thurberi. Still blooming, a little.
Desert Cotton. Gossypium thurberi. Still blooming, a little.
Desert Marigold. Baileya multiradiata. There was a huge patch at the end of the road. I didn't see any anyplace else.
Desert Marigold. Baileya multiradiata. There was a huge patch at the end of the road. I didn't see any anyplace else.
This was from my next trip: crestate saguaro. From a little trail near the visitor's center. Not enough room in the next gallery.
This was from my next trip: crestate saguaro. From a little trail near the visitor's center. Not enough room in the next gallery.
What I saw on my way home. Oops! Some people had a worse day than I did.
What I saw on my way home. Oops! Some people had a worse day than I did.

My Latest Adventure

On October 1, I decided if I wanted to go into Sabino Canyon (and I did), one more time before the government shut down, I better do it that day. So I went.

I'll show you some of the photos I got.

I called to make sure the tram was running and they said it was, so I went on down and bought a ticket, and got on the tram, and rode it up to Bus Stop 6, where I had ended my hike last time, and I started to walk down. Very quickly, I heard what I think was a Northern Waterthrush (and I think I caught a glimpse of him). The Northern Waterthrush is a rare bird around here, so that makes me evey more anxious to get a good look at one. I've been trying to get a picture, so I slowed down and spent some time sitting and looking, to no avail. I went down a bit further. The tram driver said all the restrooms were locked. Thank goodness I never needed to use one! I saw that indeed they were closed, and there was a sign in front of one of them, saying it was locked. I'll show you the sign. Hmmm. Why did they have these signs ready in the first place? I smell a conspiracy!

So I wandered on down, and got down to stop 4, I think, and the tram was coming again, and since it was early, I decided to ride it to the end of the loop and back down, which was very enjoyable, and got off at stop 4 again. The tram driver talked about the chub in the pools, and I saw some, and got some pictures, though none were great. And I got a few other pictures. I didn't see a huge bunch of birds. I did hear another Northern Waterthrush (or was it the same one?) and got a little better picture, but still not good enough. I had to be satisfied with that.

On my way down, I saw a woman with a camera, and asked her what she was photographing. I couldn't see from a distance. She had a tiny lizard. I don't think she got but one photo of him. I asked her if she had seen any interesting birds. She hadn't been paying attention. She said she photographs lizards for a living. After that, she left, and I saw the Ornate Tree Lizard I will show you. I wouldn't be surprised if I saw more lizards that day than she did. I photographed three.

And I hiked own down to Bus Stop 1, and hung around there, just enjoying and taking pictures. I caught the tram again to finish the day, and on the way asked about the little side trail where they said there was a crestate saguaro, and I decided I would go on and find that, because I still felt energetic.

We got to the end of the line, and there was a fellow standing there with a camera and tripod (it absolutely amazes me how SMALL these commercial video cameras have become!) and so I asked him what he was taping, and he said he was doing a story about the shutdown. So I told him I saw the restrooms were locked, and he asked me for an interview, so I agreed, and gave him one. And then I went and found the crestate saguaro, and went home. As I was going through the gate, I saw they had yellow police tape across the entrance. That means either tear down the tape, go across and get your tires punctured on the exit, or don't go in.

I went on home, and at the proper time, I went to the web site to see the news report. We don't have TV. And I never did find it, but later, a friend told one of our sons that she had seen me on TV.

Here's an idea for ya:

Nature Conservancy

Why don't we turn the management of our national park system over to the Nature Conservancy? I think they'd do a much better job of managing it than the government does!

The people who work at the Nature Conservancy work there because they love their work. And if I ask one of them, where have people been seeing the Neck-throated Thingama-birdie, they can tell me, or if I show them a picture, they can say, Oh yes! That is a Neck-throated Thingama-birdie!

I only know of one instance where they closed down one of their preserves for a few days. There was a mountain lion loose in the area, and they didn't want anybody encountering him. Makes sense to me.

On the other hand, keeping people who spent who knows how much money to travel from some distant country from going into the Grand Canyon, now come on! Most of these facilities don't cost anything to manage. You can close down the gift shops, and just let the people drive or walk through. The outhouses are unattended. It cost them MORE money to go through and lock them than it would have cost them to leave them alone.

This government shutdown is the kind of adventure I do NOT need, and do NOT welcome! It's ridiculous.

To get what you want, you inconvenience as many people as possible. You commit extortion. How very big of you, sir! Who died and made you king?

Managing the National Parks of the United States

Who should manage the National Parks?

See results

Latest Adventure Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Gila Chub. Gila intermedia. I TOLD you the video was better! :)Gila Chub.Lots of Gila Chub in the shade.Large Gila Chub vertical in the photo. I think the orange horizontal is a Gila Chub, too.Tree with rocks and green hillside.Another oasis. Lots in the canyon.Sunlight sparkling on the water makes stars in my lens.Rocks and cactus.Nice shady place to rest.A real beach with water!Gnarly old tree.Neat view through tree at cactus and rocks.Young grasshopper in the road. Haven't figured out what kind.The thorns on the saguaros look like halos when you look toward the sun.Nasty sign informing us we can't use the outhouse.Saguaros and rocks.Refreshingly beautiful green tree. Lots in the canyon.More saguaros and rocks.Butterfly. Not sure what kind. Pretty on the top side, but she didn't cooperate for a picture.Still more rocks and saguaros.Ornate Tree Lizard.Roiling water.Ornate Tree Lizard. A different one.Mountain lion rocks. The shady hole is said to provide shelter for them.Probably a Zebra-tailed Lizard. Callisaurus draconoides.
Gila Chub. Gila intermedia. I TOLD you the video was better! :)
Gila Chub. Gila intermedia. I TOLD you the video was better! :)
Gila Chub.
Gila Chub.
Lots of Gila Chub in the shade.
Lots of Gila Chub in the shade.
Large Gila Chub vertical in the photo. I think the orange horizontal is a Gila Chub, too.
Large Gila Chub vertical in the photo. I think the orange horizontal is a Gila Chub, too.
Tree with rocks and green hillside.
Tree with rocks and green hillside.
Another oasis. Lots in the canyon.
Another oasis. Lots in the canyon.
Sunlight sparkling on the water makes stars in my lens.
Sunlight sparkling on the water makes stars in my lens.
Rocks and cactus.
Rocks and cactus.
Nice shady place to rest.
Nice shady place to rest.
A real beach with water!
A real beach with water!
Gnarly old tree.
Gnarly old tree.
Neat view through tree at cactus and rocks.
Neat view through tree at cactus and rocks.
Young grasshopper in the road. Haven't figured out what kind.
Young grasshopper in the road. Haven't figured out what kind.
The thorns on the saguaros look like halos when you look toward the sun.
The thorns on the saguaros look like halos when you look toward the sun.
Nasty sign informing us we can't use the outhouse.
Nasty sign informing us we can't use the outhouse.
Saguaros and rocks.
Saguaros and rocks.
Refreshingly beautiful green tree. Lots in the canyon.
Refreshingly beautiful green tree. Lots in the canyon.
More saguaros and rocks.
More saguaros and rocks.
Butterfly. Not sure what kind. Pretty on the top side, but she didn't cooperate for a picture.
Butterfly. Not sure what kind. Pretty on the top side, but she didn't cooperate for a picture.
Still more rocks and saguaros.
Still more rocks and saguaros.
Ornate Tree Lizard.
Ornate Tree Lizard.
Roiling water.
Roiling water.
Ornate Tree Lizard. A different one.
Ornate Tree Lizard. A different one.
Mountain lion rocks. The shady hole is said to provide shelter for them.
Mountain lion rocks. The shady hole is said to provide shelter for them.
Probably a Zebra-tailed Lizard. Callisaurus draconoides.
Probably a Zebra-tailed Lizard. Callisaurus draconoides .

More about Sabino Canyon

Amphibians, Reptiles, and Their Habitats at Sabino Canyon (The Southwest Center Series)

by David W. Lazaroff, Philip C. Rosen, Charles H. Jr. Lowe

Sabino Canyon, Field Guide to: Pocket Naturalist Guide (Pocket Naturalist Guide Series)

by James Kavanagh

Sabino Canyon: The Life of a Southwestern Oasis

by David Wentworth Lazaroff

A Guide to the Geology of Sabino Canyon and the Catalina Highway: Coronado National Forest

by John V. Bezy

Please Leave Your Other Thoughts - I promise to give them back.

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    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 3 years ago from Shanghai, China

      Sounds like a fun place. I am from places that have no desert or anything like that... would like to visit some day.

    • girlfriendfactory profile image

      girlfriendfactory 3 years ago

      Wow, who knew so many different flowers existed in that part of the desert! You captured them beautifully! Loved the lizard, too!!! :-)

    • Pat Goltz profile image
      Author

      Pat Goltz 3 years ago

      @Jo-Jackson: Ta heaps!

    • Jo-Jackson profile image

      Jo-Jackson 3 years ago

      I enjoyed sharing your adventure.

    • Aladdins Cave profile image

      Aladdins Cave 3 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Hi Pat,

      sorry, not 100% into bird watching. Although I was a member of a Bird Club when I was younger.

      I glad I finally came across your lens, after looking at 5 previous lens's that were not Adventure Lens's at all. This Quest should have simple but I have seen lens's with so many likes and they don't belong in this Quest. Enough bla bla from Me. I'm giving you thumbs up. You have some nice photo's and I like your story.

      Cheers from DOWNUNDER

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 3 years ago

      This is something I've never done, but never say never! It could be in my future!

    • profile image

      sybil watson 3 years ago

      I haven't been to the desert for years and you've reminded me how much I miss it. Your pictures are just stunning!

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 3 years ago

      Sounds like an interesting place. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 3 years ago

      I've been to Sabino Canyon, about 20 years ago when I was a teenager. I loved the entire area including Saguaro National Park, the Desert Museum, and the city of Tucson.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 3 years ago

      I totally agree with you that the government needs to get their head out of the sand and turn park management over to those who really care. Yes, the Nature Conservancy would do a much better job! Love your photos of the Canyon!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 3 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I visited Sabino Canyon once but it was so hot I didn't walk far. It wore me out. Now that I live in Arizona, I could go farther. It's a beautiful place!