After my wonderful stay in Tucson with trail angels Dale and Gloria (and their 4 dogs) it was time to tackle the last snow of the trail around Mt. Lemmon. Mt. Lemmon is actually a ski area and there was supposed to be a lot of snow left there. Luckily I had a look at my maps before I left and realised that the actual AZT route over the top of Mt. Lemmon is not recommended anymore due to a devastating forest fire and the damage it has done to the trail. I thought that the snow could not be that bad then... but I was wrong again.
The hike up Mt. Lemmon took forever. The scenery was incredible beautiful and a lot of water, but it took forever. It took that long that I realised I would not make it to my planned camping spot - I decided to camp on the next pass instead. I arrived at the pass at 6 pm only to realise that it was totally exposed. Not that there was a thunderstorm to be expected, but I wanted to be cautious.... My guidebook said that there was a rocky, steep climb ahead that will SOON peak out at a stand of ponderosa pine. That sounded like a wonderful camping spot - ponderosa pine. SOON could not be very long - maybe another 15 minute hike? I ended up hiking another hour doing almost 1,000 ft elevation gain on a climb from hell when I realised that SOON is a relative word. No stand of ponderosa pine in sight and the daylight already fading... but then I found a little flat spot - totally exposed of course but by now I was too tired to care and just pitched my tent. Luckily no wind or storm that night...
Wilderness of Rocks
Early next morning I hit the snow at 7,000 ft - and stayed in it for almost the rest of the day. I was hiking the "Wilderness of Rocks" Trail, the officially recommended detour due to the forest fire. Well, if this trail is recommended because the other one is so bad, I don't want to see the other one. My Wilderness of Rocks trail turned out to be real wilderness (read: no trail built and no trail blazes - you just have to guess where the trail might go.... that is what female intuition is for!). Things got really bad when this trail started climbing and I really hit the snow. I was alternating between knee deep snow, huge blowdowns and a lot of trail guessing. I scratched up my legs pretty badly, ended up with a very wet butt due to unintended glissading and wondered what the Forest Service people are doing the whole day long with American tax money. Apparently they don't do any trail maintenance. But I made it through and will longingly think back of all that snow when I'll hike in the desert.