Marshall Gulch

July 22,2007

We knew this hike was "doomed" from the outset, setting out at dawn under a brooding sky with the Catalinas cloaked in an indigo blanket. But after six years in the Sonoran Desert, it's impossible to view a sudden rainstorm as "bad" weather. So off we went to explore the popular Marshall Gulch Trail at +8000 feet in Tucson's Santa Catalina Mountains.

I have avoided this area since 2003, when the Aspen Fire burned nearly 85,000 acres in the Coronado National Forest north of Tucson. I was surprised to find that while there were plenty of blackened timbers, Ponderosa Pine still provide an impressive canopy and the forest floor is lush with new growth.

We wandered through waist-high summer wildflowers, including yellow columbine, Indian paintbrush, golden beard penstemon, common sunflowers and fleabane.

Mount Lemmon Drops - a trailside treat!

We followed Marshall Gulch Trail and then continued a couple of miles into Wilderness of Rocks. But as we dropped into Lemmon Canyon, a rain cloud rose up to meet us.

Our ponchos quickly soaked through, and with the temperature hovering around 60°, it was, well, almost COLD! Click the arrow above for a short video.

Back in Tucson and 98° heat, and waiting for a monsoon that can't quite get off the starting block, walking through a lush green forest in a gentle rain is one of the sweetest memories of this summer's adventures.

Lemmon Lookout, looking like a New England lighthouse in the fog.

P.S. Visitors to Mount Lemmon would be well-advised to pack a lunch. The only restaurant in Summerhaven has an $8.00 per person minimum (which is actually fairly easy to achieve with $7.50 for a cup of soup, $5.00 for a beer and a mandatory 18% tip).