TBT: Molino Basin Camp & Hike

My first edition of throw-back Thursdays takes us to the last hike we did before we got married.  It was March 3, 2012, and after I got off work early we headed up the Catalina Highway.  Destination:  General Hitchcock or Bear Wallow would do.  The goal was to enjoy a nice night of camping and hit the trail in the morning.  Blue, Harley, and Abby came along.  Maverick hadn’t been born yet.  We were making good time up the mountain highway and were going to beat the sunset to camp.

Problem was all the campsites were full.  March is the perfect time to camp because the nights aren’t too chilly and the days aren’t too hot.  We obviously weren’t the only ones with the idea, and certainly not the first.  Fortunately, there are quite a few developed campgrounds on the mountain, so we were able to find one just before dusk in the Molino Basin campground, a 5-mile drive from (and 1,500-foot elevation below) our original destination.

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We quickly got our tent set up and got settled in around our picnic table and fire ring.  We stopped at Subway back in town and enjoyed our sandwiches and quiet time around the campfire.

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In the morning we packed up camp and hit the Molino Basin trail.  It was a no-breeze kind of morning, and the sun was out early.  We quickly worked up a sweat as the first half mile or so had us climbing some mild switchbacks that eventually had us heading west, parallel to the highway.  From there it wasn’t much effort.

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The trail is a small 2.3-mile segment of passage 10 of the Arizona Trail, and on this day we found ourselves in full sun.  The Arizona, Blue, and Emory oak trees that dotted the grass-covered hills provided little shade, though the dogs did make the most of the occasional shadows, dashing from one to wait for us at the next.

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In less than an hour we made it to Gordon Hirabayashi campground, an old Japanese prison camp that is now a historic interpretive site.  After exploring the ruins, we headed back to camp.  On the way we stepped aside to allow for 2 mountain bikers to pass.  Next thing we knew we were back in Tucson in the drive-through at Dairy Queen…a Mitchell post-hike tradition!

Molino CG to Prison Camp topo trail map

Miles hiked: 4.6

AZT miles logged: 2.3

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