Friday, February 11, 2011

Gates Pass,
Tucson Mountains,

Sonoran Desert,
Tucson, Arizona

Total Time: 2:00 min
Estimated Distance: 1.7 Miles

I was in Tucson for the big mineral show, and took a little break to do a hike. I was driving on Gates Pass Road west of the city towards Saguaro National Park, and while driving through Gates Pass was marveled by the scenery and decided that this is the place I will hike. I parked right before the road bends and goes back down the mountain. There is a well-defined trail that started climbing the mountain towards a ruin, and I started climbing up. For some strange reason the trail is not marked, yet it is a well-used trail and there were other people there. Continued climbing to the top, and was very impressed by the stunning scenery of the Sonoran Desert. On the top of the mountain were also some interesting rock formations and holes within the rock.

Since the trail was not marked, and I didn't have a map and am not familiar with the area, I decided instead of going further along the trail to take a bushwhack west down the mountain towards a trail I was able to see from the summit, and from there take the trail back to the parking area. This was a big mistake and I learned the hard way never to bushwhack in the Sonoran Desert.

While going down the steep terrain, I got viciously attacked by a Cholla Cactus. For those of you who don't know what a Cholla is, its a shedding cactus that drops its pieces all over the desert floor and are almost impossible to avoid. I started getting this on my shoes and they would poke right through my shoes and get stuck. Then they got stuck in my hand and I couldn't get them out. I had to tenaciously do my best at removing them and was getting extremely frustrating. And then I had to deal with bushwhacking down and very challenging steep cliff which I had not realized was so steep from the top part of the hike. When I finally reached the bottom, I took a dried stream bed which finally reached the trail. I cried a sigh of relief when I finally hit the trail. From there I took the well-defined trail up the mountain towards the pass and back to the car.

These pictures are taken with my cell phone camera as that is all I had, so the quality is not that great.

Map of the route.

At the start of the hike.
Looking towards Bushmaster Peak.
Starting the ascent. Looking towards a small peak flanking Gates Pass.

Sheer Cliff while climbing the mountain.
Looks a bit like an Indian's head.

Saguaro Cactus all over the place.
The peak at the top where I climbed to.
Rock formation hole in the peak.
Looking down from the peak towards Gates Pass Road.
The nefarious cholla cactus that attacked me.
Behind is the cliff face that I climbed down from.

Looking back at the peak I had climbed.

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