The Fam Camp Office monthly schedule had Sabino Canyon on for the 28th. It sounded like an interesting outing. The office shuttle bus would take us to Sabino Canyon and from there we took their Tram up the Canyon. The Tram had nine designated stopping areas. We could get off, hike up the road or trails and hop back on the Tram at any designated stop. I looked over their trail system and decided that going to the top of the road, at stop number nine, would be best for our hike. We needed to be back at the Visitor Center for 2pm for our ride back to the AFB.
The Trail Selections
Apparently, we weren’t the only ones with this plan. At stop number nine, 3/4 quarters of the people got off. Some just walked back down the paved highway. About 9 or 10 people started to climb the Sabino Canyon Trail. That was our direction also, but first, a couple of park volunteers started to talk to us. I initiated the talk about the Sabino Creek trail. They said, that this might not be interesting because the creek was nearly dry. “Ok”, I said, “What would you recommend with our limited time of 2pm.” Well a really nice scenic trail would be Phoneline trail. It was higher up on the side of the canyon, but not way up to the ridge. “Sounds good”, I replied. He went over the map with me. First, we would start the switchbacks on Sabino Canyon Trail to gain elevation. At a certain point, a fork would direct us to continue on the Sabino Canyon Trail, or take a right to the Phoneline Trail. Once on this trail, we could hike all the way back to the Visitor Center or take the Sabino Historic Trail back down to the canyon floor.
Alone on the Trail
The couple who were volunteers were very nice and we talked to them for a half hour. The subject was on 5th wheel campers. Anyhow, we left and the 9 or 10 hikers were out of sight. The very first part of the climb was steep and switched back and forth several times gaining elevation around 200 to 400 feet. A couple of times, the trail just petered out. Turning around, we obviously saw where the trail went into a different direction.
The Phoneline Trail
The direction clearly marked the Phoneline Trail. We could see across a large gully. The trail paralleling the ridge line, several hundred feet above, well that was the ridge several hundred feet above. The Phoneline Trail is rated moderate and rightly so. The first part of the trail had scary drop offs. Helen was a little apprehensive at first, but soon we had traversed these (moderate) spots! The view was now opening up. Sabino Canyon below was just starting to come out of the morning shadows. I must note that on the open air tram, it was cold! The temperature inversion was at its best. This was not the case as we climbed. The first leg of the trail was in the sun and perfect. The second leg wasn’t bad at all either. It was, I assumed, in the mid-sixties. The trail was still climbing. I had assured Helen that we would be heading down hill once we crossed the upcoming pinnacles! At last hikers coming the from the other direction! I was thinking that they were the 9 or 10 who started ahead of us, but no, they had hiked uphill from stop number 7. The last of the group, an elderly gentleman was red as a beet! My decision would prove correct as far as direction.
This section of the trail had good footing and was just a slight up grade. We stopped several times to trigger the camera. Both shooting uphill, straight on and down towards the Canyon floor, not to mention a few selfies! The pinnacles were getting closer, I had assumed that we would go around, but we would go right into the middle of them. Another younger couple walked towards us. I asked them if they’d seen the trail marker for the Sabino Historic Trail. They said it ‘s literally around this corner. “Thanks”, I said.
The pinnacles were very impressive! We hiked literally in the middle of these huge rock towers. It wasn’t a long distance and the trail dropped precipitously. The problem here was that there was a lot of loose gravel. One had to make sure that we had a sure footing before attempting the body weight shift to the other foot. I would go ahead and reach out to Helen for a secure hand hold, both for her and me. We should have had walking sticks, but they weren’t on our checklist or we just didn’t think we had the room to bring them in the truck camper. I have to mention that I was carrying my Nikon camera, along with its 18 to 300mm zoom lens. Extra care needed not bang these expensive pieces of camera equipment.
The Creek Crossing
At some point, on this part of the trail, we would have to cross a creek to descend to the valley floor! Glenn, our Fam Camp driver had mentioned that one of his relatives had died doing this very crossing! A question that was looming on our minds as we started our decent. Would this be a problem or a challenge? I’m just trying to build a little drama in the blog! Actually, it hadn’t rained in months and all the creeks were pretty dry, except for a few watering holes. It does present a major challenge when rain does occur close by, or for that matter several miles away. Our creek crossing was uneventful.
The Number Seven Tram Stop
Had we had more time before our Fam Camp pick up at 2pm, we might have been tempted to continue on the Phoneline Trail all the way to the Visitor Center. I am not a gambler and didn’t want to cut the timing so close that Glenn would have to wait or even comeback later for a pick up!
That is what we saw and did!