Mt. Wrightson

This is one of the most scenic and interesting hikes in the Tucson area, with constantly changing views and vegetation the whole way.  The Old Baldy Trail and Super Trail up to Mt Wrightson are probably the busiest trails in the Santa Ritas, with anywhere from several to over a dozen groups encountered on any given weekend.  If you're trying to get to the summit quickly then take the Old Baldy Trail the whole way since it's much more direct and no less scenic.

Circa 1997
I think this was my second hike up and I don't even remember if JJ and I summited or just explored the crest ridge.

 
Looking up at the cliffs of the crest ridge with Wrightson on the right.  This area was partially burned by the Florida Fire in '05.  The switchbacks ascend up to Baldy Saddle through the widest and lowest notch in the second photo.


This is the view north along the crest from one of the high points north of Baldy Saddle and just off the trail.  Either the point we're standing on or the one we're looking at is called Mt. Ian and it was difficult to tell which is higher.  Another group at the time was hiking to both to figure it out.


Looking back south from the same point to the saddle and Mt. Wrightson.  Most of the trees around the saddle were later burned up by the Florida Fire.


December 29, 2005
JJ and Matt came down to visit and we decided to attempt Wrightson, though we didn't get as early a start as hoped.  This was in the winter immediately following the Florida Fire, so the smell of smoke and damage was still fresh.  The trail was closed soon after we were there due to hazards related to the burn damage.  It took over a year to open again but for some reason it hadn't been closed yet when we were there.


Taking a quick break at Josephine Saddle under the oaks and pines.


There was no snow on the ground but it was a cold enough for it and the summit was breezy as usual.  The cliffs in the background are painted red by the fire retardant dropped during the fire.  The Catalinas and Rincons are to the north with Tucson at their base.


Almost full 360 pan from the summit from east to southeast.  Damage from the fire is visible as either black charred areas or reddish brown dead forest, most of which isn't visible from this perspective.  I also created a labeled pan.


Matt dropping into the Baldy Saddle with the sun starting to get low.  We took the Super Trail back from Josephine Saddle because I erroneously remembered Old Baldy being steep and loose, so as a result we got back to the trailhead just as it started getting really dark.


May 2, 2009
Another trip up, this time with Michael during a weekend that was cooler as a result of a front that was also bringing high winds.  We had to be a little careful on the summit since if you weren't paying attention a bad gust could push you over.  These photos were all taken on the way back down.


Looking southeast towards Nogales down Josephine Canyon from the switchbacks that are just below the summit.  The Santa Cruz flows through the valley in the background and is mostly apparent on the right due to the orchards lining its banks.  The whole area of low dry hills in the middleground is private land that was a large ranch and has been converted to a housing development, so this view could change in following years.


Looking to the east at the grassy plains of Sonoita with Gardner Canyon running fairly straight on the left and Big Casa Blanca Canyon on the right.  The dark patch on the left is a recent burn that is common for the grasslands, or at least it should be.  The "grazing prevents blazing" sign along the highway down in the valley is a frustrating proclamation of ignorance, pretending as though it's not about keeping subsidies in place.  Images of cattle as a solution to anything rather than a destructive force is bizarre, especially considering that regular occurences of fire are a required constituent of the landscape to keep it healthy.  Besides, even the premise is stupid, it's a bit overkill to remove the grass from hundreds of square miles when all you need is a 100' fuel free perimeter.


View of the badly burned area of Baldy Saddle and upper Gardner Canyon which contrasts from earlier photos in that the rains have since washed out much of the black charring and red fire retardant, as well as a considerable portion of top soil unfortunately.


Looking down the other set of steep switchbacks into extensive burn of upper Gardner Canyon.  At bottom center, Mike is about to have a fit as hikers coming up the trail warn him of a rattlesnake they just saw on the trail.


Look back from Baldy Saddle amid the stubby wind battered Southwestern White Pines.