Hikers explore 2003 fire’s regrowth

Hikers relaxing at Marshall Saddle: hike leader, Michael Reale, and Jeanne Reale (at rear), Jeff Traft, Jan Springer, and Maria Szentirmal (along the log) and Roddy Wilder (napping); Photo by Lynda Green

Lynda Green

The morning of March 9, seven hikers ventured up Mt. Lemmon to enjoy the trails surrounding Summerhaven. This hike commenced in the town center, travelled up Turkey Run Road, passing some of the homes built since the 2003 fire, until the roadbed gave way to dirt. The Aspen Draw trail begins here and climbs through a forest of tall pines, giving shade almost all the way to the top of the Ski Valley chair lift on Radio Ridge.

Pausing to recover from the strenuous climb at the 8300-9000-foot altitude, the group snacked and appreciated the views of Tucson below. The Aspen Trail then descends the other side of the ridge. The hikers stepped carefully down a very rocky set of switchbacks that first wind through an area where small pines have grown back to about ten feet in height since the fire. This part of the hike contrasted greatly from the shady, unburnt first section.

The way turned to an area where new growth was more sparse and consisted of oak and aspen trees. At length, the leader spotted a sign for Mint Springs. Just a few feet off the trail they found the spring, which flows from underground. And yes! They found newly sprouted mint plants and enjoyed the rich smell that plant emits. Not enough for Juleps but much appreciated anyway!

The remainder of the hike ducked back into shady forest, skirted the ledge above Summerhaven, giving everyone interesting views of the homes and buildings and finally entered the town near the end of Sabino Canyon Park Road.