Monday, December 8, 2014

Hiking in the Tortolita Mountains

Saturday, December 6, 2014
Hiking in the Tortolita Mountain range

We planned to do this hike the week before leaving for Supai - we needed something else to look forward to once that adventure was over! Even though we were planning on hiking 12+ miles, we still let ourselves sleep in and took our time getting ready. Only 12 miles? Last Saturday we did 20. Ha!

Facing South/Southwest. The mountain range in the distance on the left is the Santa Ritas; the closer one on the right is Tucson Mountain park.

The Tortolita Mountains are in Marana, Northwest of Tucson. We had never done any hiking in this area, but we had been warned to not attempt in the warmer months. Out here, if the sun is shining, it will beat down on you wherever you are - there is no shade! As you can see from all my pictures, it was very overcast most of the day. Thankfully it never rained, but it was quite chilly when we left. Once we started hiking, we were able to stay quite warm though, even without jackets!

Facing North, halfway to our destination
The trails all begin around the same area on the Wild Burro Trail, which follows a wash through a canyon for 1 ½ miles then branches off in all directions. We chose which trails we'd be taking by where the letterboxes were, and set off on the Upper Javelina trail. This one took us up a hill and over some ridges for about a mile. The hardest parts on this trail were these large rocks that we had to climb over or get around. Sometimes we had to stop and look for where the trail was going. I wondered if they actually made the trails around the boulders, or if there was a large rockfall recently! 

We would say that this wasn't strenuous at all - but now I have to wonder how difficult it would be if we hadn't just done Havasupai last week. It's hard for me to accurately describe these trails when comparing them to the more difficult things I've done. Throughout this whole hike, we had less than 1000 feet in elevation change, so I think it's okay to say it's one of the easier areas to hike in the area.

Oh, and we especially appreciated that these trails are dog-friendly! Charlotte did so good and walked almost the entire way. I think she enjoys hopping up and over rocks. If she had the choice to walk on the flat trail or on top of the rocks that lined the trails, she always chose the rocks. Always. Then she would decide to stop on one and just stare out at the view, taking it all in. While it was a tad annoying because we wanted to keep walking, we couldn't help but let her have her moment - it was just adorable. :)

Near the end - the white thing on the right is the second bathtub we've come across while hiking.

After the Upper Javelina Trail, we followed the Wild Mustang Trail for ½ a mile before getting on the Cochie Spring Trail for the last 3 miles. It really didn't feel too long because for most of that, we were walking along a mostly-flat ridge. We ended up hiking 6 miles in less than 3 hours. We probably could have gone much faster if it weren't for Charlie...but where's the fun in that? ;)

Curtis and Charlie, letterboxing!

We had a chilly lunch sitting on the dam, being creeped out by the old windmill creeeeaakingg as the wind blew. The only one not afraid of it was Charlie...once we reached the end, she started smelling around and checking out the area. The only way we could get her back was with peanut butter.

Charlie with the creepy windmill!

Just the two of us...

...And now with our small dog!

She makes taking selfies fun :)

Facing Northeast, somewhere in the Tortolitas

After having a quick lunch and practically freezing to death, we began hiking back. Curtis helped Charlie down or over a few rocky spots, and carried her when she was being stubborn, but she did well with keeping up with us. We only saw 3 groups of people all day, which Charlie loved, and the only wildlife spotted was a stink bug, which we did not let Charlie meet.

On the way back, we took some different side trails to get another box. At this point, I knew Charlie was getting tired, so I thought it'd be best if she stayed with me while Curtis went after the box, but Charlie decided that she wanted to show how loyal she was by following Curtis at his quick pace. She would go chasing after him, whimpering the whole way, while I tried to keep up with her. When Curtis stopped to take a break and appreciate her efforts to keep up, she laid down and fell asleep almost right away. I then decided to sit with her and make sure she got some rest while Curtis went on to grab the box, and then came back to meet us. 

After this, Curtis carried Charlie until we reached the wash and the Wild Burro trail. She really seems to enjoy walking through sand or loose dirt and kicking it up as she goes. We made it back to our truck around 4 - making our total for today 14 miles in 6.5 hours. Not too bad, but not as impressive as last week. :)

One example of the large rocky bits that the trail went...around? through? Who knows!

We finished by grabbing one more box and going to Culvers for dinner. Once we got home, I carried our exhausted Charlie into our apartment and laid her down on our bed, where she stayed from 6 that night... until 8 the next morning. :)

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