Tanque Verde Ridge

Tanque Verde Ridge drops gradually from the rest of Mica Mountain and slides under Tucson into the valley fill, sort of like an exposed whale's back in my mind.  Even the longest hikers usually only go as far as Juniper Basin but some push it the full 9+ miles to get up to Tanque Verde Peak.  The gradual and somewhat constant grade can make for what seems like a very long return trip.  The western exposure of the ridge allows the Sonoran desert to rise up a ways before transitioning to open oak and Mexican Pinyon Pine grassland.  In Juniper Basin and above, the oak forest gets much denser and adds Alligator Juniper with a few other pine sprinkled in, though I don't remember which kind, probably Chihuahua.  Almost the entire northeast face of the ridge and northwest slope of Mica Mountain was burned by the Chiva Fire in '89.  This hike goes through some of the area burned by the Box Canyon Fire of '99 which covered much of the west half of Tanque Verde Ridge.  Some oaks survived only by their roots and have grown in quite a bit since, but it will be many years before this area appears as it formerly had.

Circa 1996

The view from Tanque Verde Peak east to the broad forested summit of Mica Mountain and southeast to the contrastingly pointy Rincon Peak.  

A wider view across Juniper Basin on Tanque Verde Ridge and all the way to the northwest towards the Catalinas.  Tucson spreads across the valley below right up to the foot of the mountains.  The prominent mountains on the distant center horizon are the Santa Ritas.

Jan 24, 2009
Kathryn and I wanted to do not too long a hike, and I hadn't been up Tanque Verde Ridge for a few years so we decided to go up as far as we felt like it.  We ended the hike at about 5 miles in where there's a good view up the ridge and headed back.

This rolling oak dotted grassland is typical of much of the ridge.  Visible in the Catalinas are the three main summits of Pusch Ridge; from left are Kimball (in the cloud's shadow), Window and Cathedral Peaks.  To their right is the summit ridge of Mt Lemmon and behind the burned out tree is Tucson.

Looking southeast to Rincon Peak with its very similar ridgeline dropping almost in parallel though steeper to the Tucson valley.  The cleft running across the photo is Box Canyon.

Looking back down closer to the trailhead at the upper edge of the Sonoran desert where Arizona Rosewood makes its appearance on the left and right edges.  The boundary of Saguaro National Park is the obvious line of houses which forms the far eastern limits of Tucson.  It's still a ways to the trailhead, distances can be deceptive on this trail.

March 18, 2009
I decided to do this hike again with the intention of getting up to at least Juniper Basin if not Tanque Verde Peak.  Unfortunately I wasn't feeling top notch on the way up so I cut the trip short about a mile or so from the peak.  It also heated up very quickly that day, especially considering that a couple nights earlier it was below freezing in Juniper Basin.

At left is the view up to the somewhat rocky summit of Tanque Verde Peak from Juniper Basin campground area.  It looked like the new campground restroom had been waiting to be built for a while by the looks of the weathering on the materials.  Coming across this helicopter drop was about as expected as seeing a large predator and had a similar effect for a brief instant until I recognized what it was.  The same scene appeared later on a hike through Happy Valley Saddle but that time I recognized it sooner, apparently I'm adaptive.

This is the view of Mica Mountain from about as far as I got when I decided not to push it to the summit.  Helen's Dome is on the left and what appears to be a double summit is really the two edges of the U-shaped ridge that forms a bowl at the top of the mountain.  Manning Camp sits just above the bottom lip of this bowl.

Saw these Coral Bells in a dry sunny spot adjacent to Amole Agave which is atypical of everywhere else I've seen them, but I guess underneath the rock was favorable enough a location.

Some sort of Mammillaria on the left I'm guessing, and a bumblebee visiting an Echinocereus, probably Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus.