Yesterday (Sunday) my housemate's twin sister showed up a little after
11, and the two of us boarded the Maroon U-Boat, and drove towards the
Santa Catalinas.  Up and up Mt. Lemmon highway we drove.  Was that
snow I saw up in the Rincon Mts. to the east?  Indeed it was!  Ca. 7,000'
and above there was snow everywhere.  Not much, at most a few inches
in a few sheltered spots, but sticking nonetheless.

'Twas a bit chillier than anticipated, so I loaned Christine my long
underwear and wool socks, and traded my shorts for fleece pants.  After
applying prophylactic duct tape to my heels (the leather liners of my
beloved Meindels are wearing out at the heel, alas, alack) we were ready
to hit the trail

The plan was to ascend the Carter Canyon Trail (0.8 miles) to the Aspen
Trail, whence we would hike 0.9 miles to Marshall Saddle.  There we
would pick up the Wilderness of the Rocks Trail, and do a 4.8 mile loop
back to Carter Canyon.  Well, as it happened we took the Mint Trail
instead of the Carter Canyon Trail.  The only trailhead at the parking lot
was that of the former, and since it was not on my map, I assumed that it
had two names (not unheard of 'round here).  We climbed up to a ridge
and came to a junction.  The map indicated that we should bear left,
which we did.  After a moment struggling to find the trail under the snow
(blazes are an anathema out here, I have quickly learned) I sighted a
cairn, and we descended off the ridge.

But then, to my surprise, we came to a road.  At first I thought we had
somehow gotten confused at the junction and mistakenly taken the
Marshall Gulch Trail, but as we trudged down to the picnic area I began to
suspect my map.  But while my guidebook revealed that the Mint Trail was
different from the Carter Canyon Trail, it did not show our trail, either.

So, we changed plans a bit, and headed up the Aspen Trail, which would
take us to Marshall Saddle.  From there we would head up the Radio
Ridge-Marshall Saddle Trail, and hang a right down the Carter Canyon

On the way up the Aspen Trail we enjoyed beautiful views of the snowy
upper reaches of Sabino Canyon, and old, thick-barked ponderosa pines.
We passed a Killer Bee hive, but they were napping.  After Marshall
Saddle other human footprints ceased.  We had "first tracks" up the Radio
Ridge-Marshall Saddle Trail.  Well, not quite.  Giant cat prints lead up the
trail and meandered through the woods around us.  A mountain lion had
been on the prowl here within the last 12 hr.s!

Well, we missed the junction with the Carter Canyon Trail, and found
ourselves atop the Mt. Lemmon Ski Area.  I peered over the precipice,
down the trail beneath the lift.  Interesting double fall lines beneath the
double chair, but it would be a while before there was enough snow for
the place to open.  After watering a few pines, I took stock of our situation.
The sun was descending, and the most sensible option seemed to be to
retrace our steps back towards Marshall Saddle.  Hopefully we would
spot the junction we had missed, but if not, we would be able to pick up
the Mint Trail at Marshall Saddle.  Retracing our steps, we spooked a
rabbit, who bounded off through the forest.  After about a third of a mile of
steep switchbacks I sighted a tiny cairn, and by jove there did seem to be
hints of a trail beneath the snow descending down a drainage to our left.
That must be it!  Carter Canyon was a beautiful, quiet, densely forested
ravine that quickly returned us to my car.

Lessons learned?  Don't expect trail signs or blazes.  Keep your plans
flexible.  Don't trust the map.  The guidebook is a little better, but there
exist trails found in neither book nor map.  Keep your head up and
scanning whenever there might be a junction approaching.  It may not be
marked, and may be difficult to sight, especially after a snowfall.
Appreciate the GMC and AMC for their trails, at the same time enjoy the
adventure of Southern Arizona's less defined and developed trails.

Finally, after finishing our hike we stopped in the mountain hamlet of
Summerhaven for reebs.  Cool bar.  Fireplace, cozy, but not touristy.
Walls and ceilings papered with Washingtons.

Still not enough snow to ski, but a great hike.  These mountains hold

El Scorpion

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