A Change in Season

On February 13, 2018, 11 students from Miami High School in Miami, Arizona made the very long journey to our side of the Santa Catalina Mountains. We went to the tip top of Mt. Lemmon to hike and explore the amazing Sky Islands. This was their second trip with Seeds of Stewardship. We hiked about 5 miles round trip via the Aspen Trail and the Marshall Gulch Trail. Our main goals for this expedition were hiking and getting out into the wilderness!

I must applaud the ambitious teacher and students for making the epic drive from Miami, AZ to the east side of Tucson! That is true dedication to outdoor and experiential learning. We met in the early morning to work out vehicle logistics, and then headed up Mt. Lemmon without haste. Some might think that driving to go hiking is a waste of time, but when you’re driving the Mt. Lemmon highway, you get to enjoy views the whole way!

It was a quiet morning on the mountain. As we climbed higher and higher, the temperature dropped. By the time we reached the trailhead, the thermometer read a chilly 34 degrees Fahrenheit! This would not deter the adventurous students, but only motivate them to hike further. To be honest, there should have been multiple feet of snow on the ground and temperatures in the low twenties. We have had a mild winter, and it finally felt like real winter once we were up at 9,000 feet. It was a welcome change in seasons!

We bounded off from the Aspen Trailhead toward Marshall Peak. The students hiked at a quick but leisurely pace and enjoyed the amazing views of Tucson, the Santa Rita’s, and beyond. They hiked through Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Golden/Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) as we headed toward a north – facing saddle. This amazing place is where we would lunch and recuperate from our hike. The students took their own time to explore around the area. They checked out cool rock formations, rested in the sunshine, drew pictures of the surrounding environment, and inspected pinecones.

After a good rest, we headed back via the Marshall Gulch trail.  This trail, besides connecting our trip into a loop hike, allowed us to explore along a drainage and experience running water. From my personal experience, there appeared to be less water now than there was in October 2017. Although I’m not surprised, this is a dismal discovery. We enjoyed what water there was, and even found a frozen ice block in one of the pools!

Unfortunately, we had to head back down the mountain so the students could begin their long drive back to Miami. We departed at the base of the mountain and expressed our happiness with the trip. The fun thing about these outings is that they’re full of surprises. We were surprised by the chillier than expected temperatures and road closures. The students were surprised by their hiking abilities and how much they had accomplished. This is why I love leading trips in our local public lands! As a group, we get to learn something new about our environment and about ourselves.

Thanks to Resolution Copper for their support of this outing!