Adventures at Mount Lemmon’s Butterfly Trail

I wrote a rough draft for this blog a couple of days ago, and then got busy with schoolwork (meh). In the meantime, I have been debating if I liked what I wrote. Because I love running, I knew that I wanted the blog to be about that, but I was unsure of the structure and theme. Did I want it to be a report on the trails that I run, and what they were like? Or did I want to include all of the extraneous events of the run and/or trip? After some internal debate, I have decided on the latter. See, I love my running friends. I love the adventures that we have and the stories we make. Because of this, I decided I wanted to feature all of what I love in my blog, running and my friends. My runs would not be what they are without these amazing people. To not include them in the writing, and instead write a dry trail report doesn’t show the vibrancy and the life of what actually occurred on the run. So a warning to my running friends- I write about you because I love ya!

Trying to Plan the Trip

The Saturday reconnaissance run in Tucson on Mount Lemmon’s Butterfly Trail was in the works for a couple of months. Joey, Matt, and I were very excited to get out and explore some new territory! The finalization of our plans usually has a tendency to be last minute, and this trip was no different. Two days before we were to leave we still needed to nail down:

  • Time to leave
  • Who would bring the post run Coca Cola (that was me)
  • Driving route
  • Who was driving (Joey)

Now, since this is my blog and I get to say whatever I want, I am going to explain a few things to you. In the spirit of group decision making, I suggested (let me reiterate, suggested) we leave home at 5am. When you understand that all online mapping services were stating it would take three hours to get there, this seemed like a reasonable idea. I also suggested taking the back way, as opposed to driving on I-10. I may have said something along the lines of, “It’s prettier.” Okay, note to self, when suggesting (suggesting!!) travel plans with male running partners, expect a plethora of teasing along the lines of, “After all, it’s all about you.” Also, maybe don’t say something is prettier. That’s not very badass. So we left at 5am and we went the back way (apparently I’m fairly persuasive). Thankfully, I am correct that the back way is, ahem, prettier, so my badassery is still somewhat intact.

The Three Adventurists

The Three Adventurists

Things Worth Mentioning About the Drive to Tucson:

  • Joey drove half the way there with his hood unlatched. As he was figuring out how to open the hood (this took a while), Matt took pictures of the defunct restaurant where we’d pulled over.
Lupe's

Lupe’s

  • The mountains in Oro Valley are gorgeous! Could this be a setting for a future run?
  • At one of our pit stops on Mount Lemmon, we found a camp fire that was still smoking and had embers. Joey performed a public service and peed on the fire. If you see him, please thank him for valiantly protecting Mount Lemmon from a forest fire.
  • There are numerous yellow signs on Mount Lemmon warning visitors of mother bears fisting their baby bears. Please watch out for this very serious problem.
Bear Fisting?

Bear Fisting?

(The above picture and related article can be found at: http://www.sfgate.com/travel/article/Signspotting-3264474.php.)

The Butterfly Trail

When we arrived at the trailhead, I stepped out of the car and took a deep breath. I was at somewhere around 7,000 feet of elevation and surrounded by tall pines and deciduous trees. Since it’s Autumn, there was the comforting, earthy smell of fallen leaves reminding me of my childhood. This is a smell you don’t get in the Phoenix valley!

It's Cold

It’s Cold

The first 100 feet or so of the trail were paved, and then we hit the dirt. The trail was a nice steady descent, so we ran easily at nice pace. My toes crunched through the leaves, the wind whistled through the pine needles and the leaves still on the trees. The deciduous trees were showing vibrant colors of burning yellow, orange, and red. At a turn, I heard a sound on the hill above me and as I looked up, I saw a white tail deer. Soon we saw a second one.  They flicked their tails up at us a bit, but weren’t overly concerned.

Deer

Deer

A few minutes later we blundered upon a campsite. The campers were still asleep and we sort of woke them up. Our bad.

As we got further from the parking lot, we could tell the trail was less traveled. The grasses and shrubs along the trail were closer in and often covered the trail. We had the pleasure of scrambling over a few fallen trees, too! I was thankful I was wearing long pants. Joey and Matt were in shorts, and Matt especially was showing some fairly impressive blood. We decided later that all of the blood was not actually from scratches from an overgrown trail, but from sneaky baby bears who were upset about the actions shown in the warning signs on the road (mentioned above, in case you missed that). They were simply acting out their aggression.

At a spot in the trail where we paused to breathe, or take in the view, or listen, or something, (who knows), we discovered that Joey has a super power. He is able to see through camouflage. He managed to see a small black pack that was hiding in brush and shadows. Unfortunately, inside the pack was a point and shoot digital camera, a cell phone, an Ipod, and an extra battery for the camera. We were able to get the camera to turn on by swapping out the battery and saw that the last pictures were taken at the beginning of August, so it’d been there for nearly two months. We’re hoping the phone will still charge and it might be possible to decipher who the pack belongs to and get it back to them. So if you know of anyone who lost a small black pack with those contents on the Butterfly Trail, has a blue pickup truck, and a brindle boxer, please let me know!

Because I grew up playing in running streams and I now live in the desert, I have an exceedingly deep appreciation for running water. When I heard that tell-tale trickle at a low point in the trail, I was super excited! I clambered over yet another fallen tree and found the stream. It was small and wonderful, complete with water skippers on the top, slick leaves on the bottom, and it was crystal clear. The water was so clear we were able to see up Joey’s shorts in his reflection on the water. While in this idyllic setting, a tree tried to rape Matt. He was quite upset that it didn’t even ask to take him to dinner first.

WATER!!

WATER!!

A few miles from the parking lot, the trail was much less clear and we were sometimes following rock cairns. I missed one and followed what I thought was the trail. It ended not being the trail, but was instead a freaking cool side trail leading to wreckage from 1957 of an F-86 fighter jet. There were two major pieces of it a scattered a few yards from each other. It’s possible there was more, but that was all that we readily saw. Once we finished exploring the wreckage, we headed back out and found the hidden rock cairn, fixed it to be more visible, and continued on. From this point, we began climbing.

Wreckage

Wreckage

The foliage changed from forest to kind of meadow/forest. We saw lots of deer tracks on the trail. Perhaps a mile from the wreckage, we decided to turn around. We didn’t quite make it the full length of the trail, but due to recovering from injuries, we didn’t want to push it. I was glad of that decision! That easy run at the beginning was easy because, as it turned out, it was steep! See, I have this thing with FLYING down hills. I LOVE this. There is nothing like the feel of the wind blowing across my body; eyes taking in every single rock and stick to ensure a correct landing; every tiny muscle in my foot primed to hold that perfect landing on every step and feel even the slightest beginning of a slip; leg muscles tight and under me to keep me upright; arms out to the sides for balance; heart pounding out of my chest; lungs on fire because I am running so incredibly fast; and finally, the giant grin across my entire face because in that moment I am so incredibly ALIVE. All of this masked how steep the beginning trail was until I had to climb back out. Since we had spent so much time exploring on our way in and were getting tired, we just kept up a steady pace on our way out- running the flats and down hills, and brisk hiking the up hills. When we passed the campers, they were all finally awake (it was about 11am by this time) and possibly hung over. We asked for bacon. Unfortunately they didn’t have any (sad), but wanted some too.

Flying!

Flying!

Joey Flying!

Joey Flying!

The place where we spotted the white tail deer on the way down must have a deer path because on the way back up, there was a group of people all standing in the trail and pointing and looking up at three deer!

Meh Pie

After finishing the trail, we headed to a restaurant in Summerhaven where we’d been told they had amazing pie and we had to check it out. We did… they didn’t. As in, we went and the pie was… meh. But, the hot chocolate was good. I was freezing cold in a winter coat, and it was all that cold, so I was so thankful for the hot chocolate. I also performed a social faux pas. I downed my first hot chocolate, and needed another. The waitress was nowhere around, so I got up and went to the fountain drinks (hot chocolate machine was right next to them), and began refilling my cup. One of the employees came over and nicely pushed me out of the way and filled my cup for me, which I thought was odd, but whatever. When I sat back down, Joey enlightened my dunce self by saying, “I don’t think it’s free refills.” Whoops. When the waitress came over, I told her I’d gotten a second cup and asked about the refills. Joey was right, they weren’t free. The waitress said not to worry about it; she wasn’t going to charge me. Wow! So nice!

Pizza at 1702

The final stop on this adventure was a trip down memory lane for Joey. We parked by the University of Arizona campus and walked down the block to 1702. For those of you who are not in the know, as I was not, this is a great pizza place! I’m not a huge fan of pizza, but I’ll eat it, so I was interested to check out this place that Joey remembered so fondly. He advised us to get a slice, because the whole pizza was SMALLER and more expensive than the slice. The slice is a build-your-own deal. Since it was my very own slice that I didn’t have to share with anyone, I ordered it with chicken, artichoke hearts, and basil (it comes with just sauce and cheese). For all of you pizza purists out there don’t worry; my husband has informed me, in NO uncertain terms, that what I had was not pizza. Whatever. It was. And it was AMAZING! The slice was HUGE and I… ate… the… entire… thing!

I’m not a beer person, either, but for anyone who likes beer, this place is amazing. They had a ton of different beers to choose from and I’m told they’re very good.

The Trip Home

Tired, fat, and happy, it was late and time to head home. We took I-10 because, well, a girl can’t always have her own way. Since we were all wiped, there isn’t much else to tell.

Recommendation

The entire trail was very narrow, single track. Quite frequently, it was along the edge of a steep hill. There were rocks to watch out for, which were sometimes hidden underneath fallen leaves. The elevation, as well as the elevation change during the run made this a solid work out. I definitely got my heart rate up and going, and got in some good hills. The scenery was wonderful and the views were beautiful!

The only amenities were a compost type toilet at the trailhead. I’m not sure that’s the actual type of toilet that it was. My point is that there was a toilet over a hole in the ground that was in an enclosed room. As far as places to poop goes, it was acceptable. There is no running water at the trailhead and no aid along the trail, so make sure to bring plenty of water.

So, my thoughts on this trail are that it was great and I can’t wait to go again. If you go, know that it was not an easy trail, but it is well worth the effort you put into it.

View from the Trail

View from the Trail

FYI- I am not even remotely artistic, and this includes the art of photography. This means that all of the photos in this blog are not mine, and unless otherwise noted, they were taken by Matt. So any “Ooo’s and Ah’s” at the pictures should be directed to him! Thank you Matt!

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3 thoughts on “Adventures at Mount Lemmon’s Butterfly Trail

  1. Sean F

    Just sayin’….but if you know me…and you DO…”Group Decision Making” is great if the group, realizes that I am in charge, and follows my instructions.

    Zombies get dead, and all the shit that has already hit the fan will get handled, and all possible future shit headed toward said fans will also be dealt with.

    It’s much easier that way.

    BTW…as an old trail “rider” who will happily let his horse do all the running…thank your pal with the civic-minded bladder. ONLY YOU CAN PISS ON FOREST FIRES.

    Reply

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