I celebrate the new year by hiking to a waterfall in the desert. Douglas Springs Trail, on the northern edge of Saguaro National Park East, begins at the parking lot at the east end of Speedway in Tucson. We head into the rolling foothills of the Rincon Mountains, through saguaro cactus forests punctuated by cholla, prickly pear, and palo verde trees.
Two women on horses pass by on a switchback, amazingly sure-footed creatures on the rocky narrow trail.
Part of the trail.
A 9 am start this time of year normally means cooler weather, but I immediately regret the fleece sweatshirt and tie it around my waist. Off comes the winter "technical" long sleeve T-shirt and I'm happy in my power purple "Democracy Now" T-shirt. Thank you KXCI radio!
We're an hour in and it must be 75 degrees already! After climbing and sweating, my long pants come off--thank goodness I remembered to pack shorts. My wiser hiking companion Lisa opted for zip-off pants.
We come to a stream and Lisa soaks her feet for further natural cooling. I assure her that the climbing is almost done, much as I assured her "there's not much climbing in this hike," earlier. How the mind forgets.
Other hikers explore the slick rocks on the stream edge, with view of Tucson beyond:
After another 20 minutes or so along the stream drainage, the trail crosses a flattish meadow with beautiful views of the Catalnia Mountains.
We head south along the Bridal Wreath Falls spur trail, through shady sections of old mesquite and Mexican Oak. Shade, love the shade. A horse whinnies and soon we come upon the horses in the back country hitiching post--hikers only the rest of the way to the falls.
Soon, we're scrambling up streambed boulders with water gushing by. This is the most water I've ever seen here, thanks to early winter snow at higher elevations. We see one horsewoman sporting chaps and salt and pepper hair barely held back by her cowboy hat. Lisa tells her that the horses didn't seem too happy being tied up, they were talking. She replies: "We needed a rest. They're making us work too hard!"
We sit in the cool shade, drinking in wonder of the waterfall that seems to burst from the sun at the top of the 50-foot cliff.
Bridal Wreath Falls in video action.
Other hikers are there and explore the top of the falls, we can't drag ourselves from the lovely cove.
Hikers above the falls.
I crawl behind the waterfall and attempt a few photos, they turn out badly. But here's a view north from the falls:
I remember hikes out here with my cousin Jim before he passed away. Once to the falls with his partner Ellen when we devoured Clementines on a Christmas Day hike. Another time in the spring, we hiked toward Douglas Spring Campground until a surprise spring snowstorm turned us back.
Today, New Year's Day 2012, no chance of snow. It's so hot, I feel my forearms sizzling and I apply more sunscreen. Coming out of the waterfall cove, we pass streamside saguaro and ocotillo:
On the way back, I join Lisa for the foot soak in the glacial stream. My feet are hot, but too tender to handle the icy water for very long.
We see more and more hikers coming in as we descend through the ocean of saguaros.
We reach the car and devour cheese puffs, a post-hike reward that satisfies the salt craving.
Happy New Year from Tucson!