Douglas Springs - Winterlude 2021 - CycleBlaze

January 1, 2022

Douglas Springs

We ring in the new year in the same way we rang out the old, with us sitting indoors trying to keep warm while it’s cold, windy and raining outside.  We’re going over the planned itinerary for the Spring component of our planned 9 month tour, the ride from Nice to Calais.  This is the first time we’ve really gone over together the candidate route I’ve layed out, and we’re looking for weaknesses and discussing alternatives.  

Do we really want to arrive in Nice, perhaps somewhat out of shape at the end of winter, and immediately start climbing into the interior?  Wouldn’t it be wiser to start out by biking along the coast for the first week while we work ourselves back into shape?

And do we really want to pass through the scenic Lot and Dordogne valleys so quickly?  Couldn’t we cut short the time we spend up in the flat, boring Loire and stay down in these beautiful gorges longer?

Excellent points, both.  We’ll adjust the plan accordingly and revisit it later.  In the meantime though, the rains have stopped and the sky is clearing.  It’s too cold and windy for a bike ride to sound appealing, so we decide to take a hike in the national park.  It sounds like an ideal way to start the new year.

And it is an ideal way start to the year.  It’s cold at first, but a fantastic day to take a hike through the desert.  We take the same route we first walked two years ago: starting from the Douglas Springs trailhead at the end of Speedway, it’s a six mile roughly triangular loop that stitches together parts of the Garwood, Carrillo and Douglas Springs trails.  There’s some climbing involved - not too strenuous or technical, but enough that at the high point of the hike we’ll get an outstanding view across the saguaro forest below to the newly snow-capped Catalina Mountains and the Tucson Mountains beyond Tucson to the west.

And it’s an exceptional time to be out here, for us at least.  We’ve never hiked in the desert so soon after the rains before today.  It has a much different feel.  It’s an unexpected delight to hear the rushing of water through normally bone dry washes and to walk around pools of water on the trail that will likely have dried out by the end of the day.  

The sky is just opening up as we begin our walk, and with the sun still behind the clouds it’s quite chilly; but within about a half hour it will break through and gradually warm up the day.  We’ll find quite a few hikers on the trail on our way out in midafternoon, but for the first half of the hike there’s almost no one out here but ourselves and a chatty cactus wren.

What better way to start a new chapter in our vagabond lives?  Happy New Year!

The view west to the Catalinas. At the beginning of the hike the peaks are still under clouds.
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A trickle of water runs through normally dry Badaja Wash today.
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It’s the Garwood Trail crested saguaro! We saw this guy on our first hike here two winters ago. It was the first of these we’d ever seen and we were stunned by it, not knowing what it was.
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We’ve seen five crested saguaros by now, but this one is still our favorite.
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A short detour to scramble up Badaja Wash for a closer look.
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Looking back toward the Catalinas across a sea of saguaros. There must be thousands of them in this frame.
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Such a distinctive shape (on the cactus, of course). Looking back, I see we took a photo of it two years ago also.
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We were startled by a sound at first, and then realized it was the sound of rushing water and small waterfalls.
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There is an abundance of water rushing through Wildhorse Canyon today - much more than when we were here two years ago. A passing hiker said it was bone dry here just a few days earlier.
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Image not found :(
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Cactus wren! I hadn’t realized what a bold creature this species is until reading up on it later. Like that curve-billed thrasher I saw last year, this guy wasn’t much troubled by my presence just a few saguaros away.
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An Arizona fishook (Mammaria grahamii), I think. I wonder how responsive they are to water events. Could this budding have been precipitated by the rains of just the last few days?
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Bill ShaneyfeltThose are fruits that developed from last summer's monsoons.

https://www.americansouthwest.net/plants/cacti/mammillaria-grahamii7_l.html
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3 weeks ago
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Looking toward the Catalinas from the high point of the hike.
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At the end of the hike, looking back from the road at Mica Mountain in the Rincon range. It was still wrapped in clouds when we started out and then after that we were too close on its slope to see its higher elevation. We only saw that it receives snow as we were driving away,
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Bill ShaneyfeltWonderful pictures!
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3 weeks ago