Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tucson, AZ - On the Phone Line

One of our favorite trails in Tucson is what is known as the Phone line trail which climbs through Sabino Canyon and ends above the final stop of the tram line. The goal: hike the phone line trail, take the switchbacks down to the end of the tram line and then walk the road back to the Visitor’s Center.

But, let’s go back about 12 million years when this area went through a massive upheaval. Two magnificent canyons, Sabino Canyon and Bear Canyon next to it. A massive earthquake in 1887 dislodged enormous boulders which crashed down into the canyon. The Forest Service took over the canyon in 1905 and, when the Great Depression came, the US Government put people to work to build infrastructure in the canyon. The Sabino Dam as well as over 9 bridges were built during this time creating a 4.5 mile paved road through the canyon. Originally the plan was to continue the road all the way up the canyon to Mount Lemmon but - they ran out of money and the tram stops at 4.5 miles.
Sabino Canyon opened as a State Park in 1978 and today receives thousands of visitor annually: hikers, bikers, bird watchers, tourists who ride the tram up and down and school groups. It’s proximity to Tucson itself makes it a favorite among locals and visitors alike. We actually thought there were that many today. Actually, we chose a Friday to hike since we didn’t want to fight the crowds on the weekend. But, at 8:00, when we got there, we had to park at the back of the lot. We met a couple from Minnesota who were in Tucson for the week and walked with them to the VC.
The last time we hiked here we hiked both Sabino and Bean Canyons and got back after dark. We got back to the car and realized that the passenger door was open. Oh, no. And, you guessed it, the battery was dead. I put on my best ‘helpless’ female look, walked to one of the last 6 cars (count them - only 6) in the parking lot and described out plight using lots of hand motions since the 4 guys in the car spoke no English. But - they were a great help. What a great bunch of guys. And we got home - late.

The cool thing about the Phone line trail is that we get a birds eye view of the canyon, the tram climbing the road looking like a miniature train from our vantage point, the many walkers along the road looking like ants scurrying along and the stunning saguaros marching up the canyon walls. Could we have a more beautiful view than this?

We started out - looks like this trail is pretty popular wide enough for a marching band.
1/2 miles into the hike we realized that we had forgotten to bring some protein bars. Oops, we turned around and headed back to the car. Bars in our packs, we started out again but about 3/4 miles into the hike Gary said: ‘ I wonder if I locked the car.’ Hmmm.

        We’d better go back.

        No, who’s going to pick our car to rob?

        We’d better go back.

        No, we have nothing of value in it.

        Besides, remember last time - only nice people here in Sabino. (Ha, ha. We’re not that naive.)

And we continued down the trail. Pretty flowers along the way.
The trail itself, once the route of a no-longer operating telephone line, is etched along the side of the canyon for about 6 miles. We knew that the road would be packed with walkers and the trams filled with tourists. We didn’t think that the Phone Line trail would have so many on it and, sure enough, as we climbed higher and higher, we found our selves alone more and more.
The views were amazing.

Here’s the canyon with the tram road running right through it.
The trail has steep sections, level sections, rocky sections, smooth sections, wide sections, narrow sections, well, it has just about everything that makes it a good trail - variety. It starts out steep and, well continues that way for a while. When it levels off, it still climbs but not at such an angle - but it is never-endingly up.
Looks like they’re trying to keep the cliffs in place. As we walk under these - gee, I hope those bolts hold.
We were always in view of the road until the last mile or two when the trail cuts into the mountain, rises over a small ridge and then curves around the cliffs. Here we met our Minnesota friends again but they were in a hurry since they had just realized that they had left their dog in their RV and had forgotten to turn on the AC. We chatted a minute and went out separate ways. Then we thought: let’s ask them to lock our car. When we got back to the car, it was locked. Maybe we locked it in the beginning, maybe they locked it.

We finally hit the end of the trail, where the tram ends. Now, check out that cliff in front of the road, easy to see why the tram stopped. Straight up.
We hiked down the switchbacks at the end to the tram line and the road and began to walk down it following the trams. We waved at the people on the trams as they drove by - funny, seldom did they wave back at us. What gives? C’mon, people, get a life. Aren’t you having fun?
1/2 way down, we heard lots of kids screaming, adults laughing and saw a lot of people having lots of fun.
Oh, yeah. We took off our sweaty socks, out heavy boots and dangled our feet in the water. Until the pain set in. Boy, was that cold water.
There are lots of bridges built along the tram line over which the Sabino river flows. When we got to Tucson, we head that the water was hip-high on these bridges since they had just had quite a rainstorm. (We had gone through this same storm when it rained for 24 hours straight in San Diego.) We waited a few days and took off. Who cares? These are hiking boots, aren’t they?
Back on the road, we hiked on. The cruelest thing is that there is a long gradual climb up a hill right at the end of the road. Oh, the cruelty of it all. But we finally made it back, found a close Coldstone Creamery for a treat and headed home.

‘Oops. I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.’


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