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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Mountain lions and waterfalls

Saguaro National Park, Rincon Mountain District
Bridal Wreath Falls: Feb. 1, 2013

Douglas Spring Trail
Sometimes, timing is everything.  This is particularly true in the desert where spectacular waterfalls appear like raging liquid phantoms after periods of rain, only to dissolve into trickles and knat-loving muddy drop pools within days.  One of the most accessible transient water shows happens in Saguaro National Park East.  Almost anybody with a pair of decent hiking shoes, a few liters of drinking water and a spare afternoon can marvel at the wonder of an ephemeral desert water chute by way of the Douglas Spring Trail to Bridal Wreath Falls.  Because it's so easy to access, the trailhead is a busy place, especially on weekends.  A shaded kiosk marks the trail gateway into a sunny land of cactus and scrub backed with views of Tucson’s Rincon and Santa Catalina Mountains, which tower to over 8,000 feet.  The route is tantamount to a 2.5-mile staircase. It’s a constant and sometime steep climb through a landscape that morphs from classic desert into a massive grassland with the feel of an African savannah.  Although there are no wildebeasts or giraffes roaming these plains, it’s prime habitat for mountain lions.  A sign posted at the trailhead warns of numerous recent mountain lion sightings and as of January 30, 2013, the Three Tanks Trail, which connects with Douglas Springs, is closed due to their high activity in that area.  In addition to the big cats, javalina, rabbits, and deer share the wilds with gila monsters, raptors and desert tortoises.  The turn off for the short hike to the falls shows up at the 2.3-mile point. Here, surrounded by miles of shadeless, mesquite-dotted prairie, the only clue that a waterfall is nearby is the park service sign pointing the way.  A mild descent leads to a grotto of polished stone where a mild boulder scramble is required to get to the 50-foot cascade plunging over bare rock like a wind blown ribbon.  Alas, the falls were more like a dripping faucet on our February 1, 2013 visit, however, they are known to rage like a white water river after heavy rains and during high snow-melt season.
Snow on the Rincon Mountains

LENGTH:  5.2 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2745' - 3827'
DOGS: sadly, canine hikers are not allowed on Saguaro NP trails.
FEE: no fee at this trailhead
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX:  137 miles one way
From Phoenix, travel south on I10 to Tucson.  Take exit 257 at Speedway Blvd and head east (go left).  Follow Speedway Blvd 17.5 miles to where it dead-ends at the Douglas Spring Trailhead.  Roads are paved all the way.
INFO & MAP: Saguaro National Park

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