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Sabino Canyon: Esperero Trail Hike

August 30, 2003

Esperero Trail Hike
Round-trip distance: 10.6 miles

I met Ross as planned and we had some smoothies for lunch. I still was not hungry at all after last night’s meal. We began talking and asking about each other’s lives, and we would not really stop talking the rest of the day. I rode with him on his motorcycle, first to Wal Mart to get some water and Gatorade, then at Jamie’s place. We asked her about directions to Sabino Canyon and talked to her for a short time. She and Ross aren’t engaged or going out anymore, but they are still friends. They just don’t feel they are meant to be together yet.

From there Ross took me on his motorcycle out to Sabino Canyon. We looked at a 3-D map of the mountains and all the trails. We wanted one with elevation, but since it was already 1500, we didn’t want to go for too long a hike. We did good on the elevation part of the hike, but it turned into a long hike as well.

We walked up the paved road for about half a mile (where we saw and photographed a small doe) until we came to Esperero Trail. We followed this to the left and it was pretty level for awhile. The trail was interesting, as it was solid rock for much of the beginning of the hike. When we did go uphill our elevation changed rapidly, and it wasn’t long before we were looking down on Tucson. We ended up going up and over and winding around many small hills and ridges before we began our actual ascent.

The trail turned uphill on the side of a deep and steep gorge or ravine, and it followed along that the whole way up to its crest. It was somewhere along here Jamie called to let us know there was a thunderstorm warning in the area. We had been drizzled on lightly a couple times, but the sun was always visible and it was nothing but refreshing. We heard some thunder and saw some clouds starting to boil up on the other side of the huge mountains, but they never amounted to anything, and we continued on.

The scenery was spectacular, especially as we finally neared the apex of the ridge we were climbing. A saddle at the top, we found this area had all been burnt during the Aspen fire. In fact, these exact peaks were on fire when I was up there with the Baranowskes July 4th. Now it is barren land with singed saguaros dotting the landscape. Recent heavy rains flooded the canyons, leaving behind huge amounts of sand and ash in certain places. It was a unique kind of place. By the way, according to the Internet, our hike to this point was 4.8 miles, and we still would go on for at least another half mile one-way.

When we reached the top of the trail, we looked to the left and saw a large “pile” of boulders stretching up to a higher peak. We climbed that one for a great view of Tucson, and on the other side of us a huge hollow falling hundreds of feet below us. We could see water flowing in the bottom of this area, and huge green trees resided there as well. Following the line of trees upward with our eyes, we noticed they turned brown at the levels where the Aspen fire had done its damage.

Ross pointed to a peak beyond where we had come to the top of the trail. This was much farther and higher and a good distance from where we were standing, but it looked like a reasonable challenge. It was in fact, the second highest peak in the whole area. As we continued across to get to that peak, we found some tracks of deer, but never saw any more animals during our hike.

We never did quite make it to that peak, as it was getting very close to dark. We did, however, come to another huge pile of boulders forming another peak not too far in front of it. We climbed to the top of these boulders, and were standing a good 25 feet above the highest ground around us.

The clouds were just changing color and the lights were beginning to come on in the city. We sat upon the boulder and enjoyed the view as the city became entirely lit and our surroundings turned to complete darkness. The weather cooled slightly and it felt great. Ross and I sat and talked for a long time about everything as we watched the ever-changing scenery. It was a neat time.

Now a few thousand feet above the city and having hiked for many miles, it was time to return. We went out basically the same way we came in, only in total darkness this time. Ross had a flashlight but we didn’t use it because our eyes were well-adjusted to the dark. I twisted my ankle once and it was an annoyance the rest of the way, but we made it fine. The scenery remained beautiful with the lights of Tucson and the silhouettes of the saguaros as we continued out of the mountains. I took a couple pictures of this and hope they will come out.

Even though we had been drinking water and Gatorade the whole time during the hike, we were still thirsty and each downed another bottle of water when we reached his bike. It was 2230, and we had been hiking for a good seven hours. Looking back, that was one of the most enjoyable hikes I’ve ever done.

External Links:
Esperero Trail
Cathedral Rock via Esperero Trail