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Tucson, Arizona - 2017

backpack up the west branch of Sabino creek - part 1

Our Crazy Post Retirement Wanderings Hiking and Triking

backpack up the west branch of Sabino creek - part 1

This was the first time I have backpacked up west branch of Sabino creek.

Back in early December of 2017, Jason and I had backpacked DOWN sabino creek, but this was the first time going up the west branch.

The elevation of the trail goes from about 3,300 feet up to about 5,300 feet, and so thin air was not a consideration. The trail gains about 2,000 feet, so it makes for a decent workout, especially with a 35 pound pack on my back.

The purpose of this 3 day trip, of which this was day 1, is to hike up Cathedral Rock trail to the saddle, and get pictures from that elevated platform.

The air was perfect on that day, and it wasn't too hot, which is not always the case, as many times haze or cloudiness in spring happens quite often.

The previous time we had hiked on the west branch trail, water in the creeks, or a shortage of it was an issue, and a concern. By hiking up the creek, and being able to see plenty of water in the creek was helpful to know that at some points along the creek or all points along the creek, there would be available water to filter.

As we progressed up the mountain, we noticed that there were sections of trail where the water didn't stay up on the surface of the creek, but rather flowed below the surface with the creek showing a dry creekbed, but further down the creek, then the water would surface again and flow in the creek bed normally as one expect.

The day that we decided to take on this hike, it was warm but not really hot for this time of the year down in the valley, and there a good breeze, pretty much perfect for hiking.

Along the way we were starting to get fatigued hiking up the mountain, and so we discussed various options about how we went about picking a place to camp the night. Originally we had planned on camping at the junction trail at cathedral rock.

But when we thought about it, it seemed like it made sense to minimize the distance where we were lugging the heavier backpack, and maximizing the distance we hiked with the much lighter daypack. Of course in the limit that means doing cathedral rock as a dayhike, which some people do. The drawback of that approach is that it's a 20 mile dayhike, which is on the extreme long side for a dayhike.

But if one backed off from the limit, and instead made the first day hike a little shorter, and the second day dayhike a little longer, that maybe that would be a better solution. As we hiked, we ran into a really nice campsite at about 1.7 miles before when we were going to arrive at the junction campsite. There was surface running water, so we decided then and there to stop for the night.

By stopping there that meant that our first day hike with backpacks was about 7.4 miles, which seemed like a reasonable distance to hike on the first day out.

The trail wasn't too bad after the first three mile section, where there were quite a few steps up and down which were sort of hard on the knees. Overall, we were tired and ready to stop for the night when I pitched my tent and he readied his sleeping arrangements. As it turns out, to save weight in his pack, Jason decided to pitch his sleeping bag on the ground, on top of his sleeping bag ground pad.

Normally that would not seem like a good decision, however at the time of our backpacking trip, it was still in the time when the bugs and animals were still dormant. Now, one could not say that for a trip in April, when the animals are coming out of their winter retreat into caves or under the ground. But this was March, and all was still quiet.

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