Lately Ed and I have been confining our weekly hikes to the desert around Tucson but last Wednesday both of us felt a desire to drive up into the Catalina Mountains. Since it was 40 degrees in the valley when I woke up, and the mountain temperatures are usually 20 or 30 degrees cooler than the valley, I worried a little about being too cold. My worries were unfounded. We drove up the mountain, stopping first at Molino Canyon Vista, where we saw fleabane, trixis, tufted evening primrose and a few other species in bloom. We continued up the mountain to Marshall Gulch at about 8000 feet. It was a sunny day with a light cloud cover. We hiked along the stream (Sabino Creek), and were sure we would not see any flowers in bloom this time of the year. The air was clear and the woods beautiful in the winter sunlight and we were in bliss. We noticed the beautiful ripple patterns of foam on the stream in certain spots (see the pictures).
The first picture looks like a skeleton but it is a row of foam spreading out from a tiny waterfall.
The last two pictures show ice along the stream.
There were small patches of snow were here and there in the woods, and many of the rocks along the stream were covered in ice. We joked about getting a special prize if we saw any flowers in bloom. Then, on the way back, we almost stepped on a flower in the middle of the trail. Well, it wasn’t exactly a flower, but the the tip of a Ponderosa Pine Branch, evidently broken off by a squirrel, with a cluster of female flower cones on it. This tree was blooming way out of season.
We enjoyed the soft blue color of these Ponderosa female flower cones.
The parts of the trail nearest the creek were chilly, since cold air tends to gather in low places, but not drastically cold. By the time we got near the car park we were ready to take off our jackets. In less than a week Marshall Gulch will be closed for the winter, so we were especially pleased to have such a pleasant walk this deep into December.