The remains of the 2003 "Aspen Fire" are plentiful and it is a surprise that after 16 years, so many dead trees still stand. I organized a group hike for those who wanted a hike and escape from the valley temperature. It was a wonderful 67 degrees at the start as we begin our hike from in front of the observatory at 9000' .
I promised the group there would be awesome views at the start and so good were the views that I walked by the Lemmon Rock trail, the 2nd leg of our route. Nice work hike leader! Thus we added an unnecessary mile to the hike.
At times, the trail leads into the forest but soon comes back out for more great rim views.
Once I figured out my error, we turned around and headed back but.....
….new group hiker Christie pushed me and we got ahead of the others so waited and could see.....
….another observatory across the way, a white dot set against the mountains. So many observatories in the region, Kitt Peak, Mount Graham, Mount Hopkins and atop Mount Lemmon. I understand they are oblivious to each others work but gather once every 2 years for a conference.
We regroup and there is some minor grumbling because most of the return to the route is up hill. Very minor grumbling. We begin a fairly steep descent on the Lemmon Rock trail and as I walk, I pass a brushy area and then hear behind me.....
...that distinctive sound of a rattlesnake. Yikes, I had walked by it and perhaps it was napping and I woke it. I took my hiking pole and fished a black rattlesnake out of the brush but it was not keen to stay in the trail and quickly slithered back. I assured my hiking friends they were out of the strike range and they quickly skipped by. This produced a story about a hiking friend who was struck not once but twice by the same snake, 3 weeks ago and is still in the hospital. The damage is so great that he may lose a leg. This being my 15th encounter, stories like this ensure I remain vigilant to the extent that is possible as they are sneaky creatures.
Reaching the Wilderness of Rocks trail we pause for a break and then continue on it to Marshall Gulch saddle. The climb took its toll, along with my unplanned additional distance so two of us bugged out, taking a down hill option to the Marshall Gulch trail head where later they would be picked up. The rest of us proceeded up the Aspen Trail, rather exposed to the sun and way steep. Trees have been slow to regain the slopes here.
Nearing the top, I look back over a portion of where I had come, finish the ascent and walk to.....
….the top of the ski lift where people are arriving so they too can enjoy the views. We regrouped and made the short hike to the car. I finished with 8.3 miles, exactly what I had the previous day hiking Mount Hopkins. Weird how that works some time. Oh and 2100' of climbing.