Our original Saturday plans got canceled, so that made room for an impromptu hike! We buckled the kids in their car seats and were on the road shortly after 6am. We had an hour drive to Oracle State Park on the northwest side of the Santa Catalina Mountains. I drove the mini van with the kids, and Heather followed in the Forester. She parked it at the north park boundary along highway 77 and jumped in the van to head to the park’s south boundary near Webb Road. We gobbled up some hard boiled eggs and coated the kiddos with sunscreen. From the road, we walked on the trail for a few hundred yards before reaching the park gate.
The hike we chose is a 5.3 mile segment of passage 13 of the AZT, and it was almost 80 degrees when we started. The forecast called for another triple digit day in Tucson, but at 1,600 ft higher in elevation, we were going to enjoy a high of 95. The sky was blue and spotted with cotton ball clouds, and we passed wild beds of purple and gold flowers as we descended down the mountain’s foothills. Although it passed through Oracle State Park, we weren’t required to pay the entrance fee as long as we stayed on the Arizona Trail.
We ran into a southbound hiker shortly after passing the Manzanita Trail junction. Kahleen, a trail volunteer, does trail maintenance for the park and offered to take our picture.
Maddie then asked if she could walk, and I took no hesitation to lessen the weight of my pack! We were so happy and proud to witness her first steps on the AZT!
The monsoon season made everything green, and the grasses had grown pretty tall. We kept an eye (and ear!) out for snakes, but instead kicked up grasshoppers, locusts, and butterflies. There weren’t many trees on the trail except for the mesquites that gathered in the washes, but there were plenty of yucca and barrel, prickly pear, and cholla cactii.
A little past the half-way point, we made it to a windmill at Kannally Wash. Dry and sandy, we cris-crossed it twice before climbing out of the wash and heading up the only hill of the day.
We marched up at a good pace and broke a healthy sweat that was no match for my new AZT bandanna. We passed a park bench that was dedicated to a park volunteer. It offered great views of the San Manuel Valley below, but we continued on without resting.
Shortly after 11 we arrived at the end of the trail. We signed the register, inspected the water cache, and walked through the culvert to get to the other side of the 77. Heather had no problem walking upright, but I had to hunch over!
We got to the Subaru, turned on the AC, and shuttled ourselves back to the van. We decided to pay the $7 park admission and have a picnic in the park. We took one vehicle, leaving the other other outside the park, and headed to the visitor center, the Kannally Ranch House. Paintings and other items from the family and ranch were on exhibit, and we enjoyed a quick self-guided tour. We found a shaded table on the main patio under an Emery Oak and enjoyed our lunch…a perfect ending to an unexpected family outing.
We’re very proud of Maddie and her determination to get better at hiking! She hiked about 3/4 mile, and she got right back up after having a fall that left her with nasty scratches on her knee! Morgan is a trooper too! He couldn’t fall asleep like he wanted to, but he was content the whole way riding on Mommy’s sweaty back!
Date: September 15, 2018
AZT miles logged: 5.3