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Monday, February 17, 2014


Tortolita Mountains, Marana

A beautifully landscaped drive through groomed communities surrounding the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain resort sets the tone for this posh hike in the Tortolita Mountains north of Tucson. The elegant Wild Burro trailhead is wrapped in colorful plantings and features white-glove clean restrooms, a shaded picnic table and a map kiosk.  Two enormous granite monoliths with mineral-green patinas add a finishing, regal cache to an impeccably designed threshold to pleasant, (but not too wild) hiking.

Access to the Wild Burro Trail--which serves as a backbone for the nine routes of the Tortolita Mountain system—begins with a descent into a wash and a short trek to the trail proper. Turn left here and hike a half-mile north (in full view of resort guests lounging on their balconies)  to a major hub junction.  Here, another map kiosk and a rainbow of color-coded arrows help with navigation. Turn left again to stay on Wild Burro---the "purple" trail--and follow strategically placed signs as the trail skips across grainy substrates into a canyon bend that gradually closes in on filtered shade of ironwood thickets and secret finds such as rock art etched into a jumble of boulders near the junction for the Lower Javelina Trail.  At 2.2 miles, the path makes a sharp left up an embankment, emerging at the ruins of masonry "line shack" and concrete basin. The trail continues by the basin, heading steeply uphill over rocky terrain to a scenic lookout area, another petroglyph site and a short descent to Alamo Spring. The spring is a popular turnaround point for many hikers; however, the trail continues into Tortolita Mountain Park with several loop options for longer return routes.

LENGTH: 2.8 miles one-way to Alamo Spring OR 6.3 miles one way entire trail
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2810' - 3100'/3920'
GETTING THERE: 14810 N. Secret Springs Drive, Marana.  From Phoenix, go south on I10 to Tangerine Road exit 240, go 4.9 miles east to Dove Mtn. Blvd. turn left and continue 4.5 miles to a traffic circle. Turn right through the circle and and pass the Ritz-Carlton gatehouse. Trailhead is less than a mile up the road. There are no fees.
INFO & MAP: Town of Marana

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Beautiful Cassiopeia was adopted after the Feb. hike!

EVENT IS CANCELLED: because it will be raining cats & dogs on Saturday---please join us on April 5th!

There are only 2 more Wag & Walk dog adoption hikes to go before we take a break until November.  The next hike  with Maricopa County Animal Care adoptable dogs will be Saturday, March 1,2014.“Wag & Walk” hiker dogs are already spayed or neutered and available to go home on the spot, usually at reduced adoption fees.  Many of the dogs who participated in these hikes have found their "fur-ever" homes, and all of them certainly enjoyed strutting their stuff on the trail. 
The dogs also inspired some (human) hikers to become Day Foster Volunteers.  This special team takes dogs out of the shelter for a day, weekend or a few hours to walk, socialize or just to get some quiet time and extra attention.  Sound interesting?  Sign up here:

Denver the dog works the crowd
Cooper on the February hike

LENGTH: 1-mile loop (Merkle Trail)
RATING: easy, barrier-free
FEE: $6 park entry fee per vehicle
FACILITIES: picnic tables, restrooms, water,
3939 N. Usery Pass Rd., Mesa AZ 85207
From Phoenx, travel east on US60 to the Ellsworth Road exit.  Go north on Ellsworth to the park entrance.
DATE/TIME: Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 9 a.m. at the Merkle trailhead (area 6 parking).
INFO: Maricopa County Parks & Recreation, 480-984-0032