Snowshoe Shenanigans

by Tyler Clark Wednesday, December 21st 2011

After getting a taste of winter about a month ago, I’ve been eagerly anticipating more snowfall on Mt. Lemmon. Unfortunately, the weather through the rest of November was fairly warm and no snow fell up on the mountain. All that changed in the second week of December when a storm system rolled in and dumped a ton of snow.

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On the following Wednesday, clear skies returned. The very next day my girlfriend and I rented some snowshoes from the Summit Hut and headed up to enjoy some fresh powder. Through the store’s rental program, local customers can check out tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, climbing shoes, and snowshoes to outfit their adventures. Considering how infrequently we get snow down here in Tucson, I was quite glad to be able to check out two pairs of snowshoes and test them before making a purchase.

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As we drove up Catalina Highway, snow started to appear even at the low elevations of 4,500 feet. By the time we reached Windy Point Vista, which is roughly halfway up the mountain, there was enough snow lying around for a few people to have snowball fights.

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After parking at a trailhead near Summerhaven, we strapped on our snowshoes and headed up the trail into the fresh powder and 35 degree weather. Noticing that some cross country skiers had already paved the way before us, we decided to follow in their tracks. The snow was very deep, between 3-4 feet, and had a very fine powder consistency that weighed down the trees and made them look beautiful and crystalline.

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After two miles of fighting our way uphill in multiple feet of powder, we reached a high point looking south over Tucson. The view was majestic. As we took a quick break on a nearby log, the warmth of the afternoon melted the snow and ice seated on the trees, causing it to rain down over us. The crackling of the snow and ice falling to the ground almost sounded like rain.

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Heading down following our own track proved almost as difficult as creating that track in the first place. The snow had a frustrating tendency to slide under our feet, making the descent a little tricky. When we finally arrived back at the car, we eagerly jumped into the warm and cozy Subaru to enjoy the scenic ride back down Mt. Lemmon.

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Activities | Trips

Section 17 Saguaro Census

by frank Monday, December 19th 2011

On December 8th, a group of four Summit Hut volunteers joined two community volunteers and two Park Services employees on a Saguaro Census. We met at the Saguaro East visitors center and made our way to the Mica View Picnic Area. Our fearless leader, Irene, gave a brief overview of the history of Saguaros in the park, and of Section 17, a section within the park that was first inventoried back in 1941. Just after the establishment of Saguaro National Monument, there was a tremendous decline in Saguaro population that could not be explained. There were many theories and attempted remedies but none proved successful. Because Section 17 was well established and has been counted previously, it makes for a great study in the current population and how it compared to that of 1941. To learn more about the plot’s history check out Irene’s webpage.

After the history lesson, we made our way to the plot we would be measuring, Plot D5. We were given a quick clinometer lesson and paired up with a Saguaro measuring veteran.

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Summit Hut Assistant Manager, Meaghan, setting up the clinometer.

We split into two groups that would work along the plot side by side. Once we reached the end of the plot, we swapped sides and double checked the other group's inventory to ensure no Saguaro went unmeasured. We then swept back a third time retrieving the flags marking which saguaros had been measured.

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The largest saguaro our team measured.

We worked for about four hours and measured a total of 139 saguaros ranging in size from .4 meters up to 9.4 meters! The largest saguaro we measured also had 24 arms!

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Summit Hut Merchandiser, Carolyn, measuring a saguaro.

The next day, a group of 8th graders from Paulo Freire Freedom School completed the second half of plot D5. The results of our inventory can be seen here.

The general trend is the number of tall saguaros has diminished tremendously but there are far more small saguaros than there were during the 1941 census. Irene explained that much of this is due to the fact that there are far more trees in the park than there were in 1941 which provide shelter and protection to the young saguaros.

This census is an ongoing project and just about anyone can volunteer simply by emailing Irene. We had a great time and truly felt that we were participating in historic research. Who knows, maybe 70 years from now a group of volunteers will be counting the same plot and comparing their results to ours!

Events

Arc'Teryx Atom LT Jacket Review

by Emily Wednesday, December 14th 2011

At 1:30 in the morning in early October I woke up to nearly freezing temperatures in the back of my car parked at Castro Park, in Douglas Arizona. I crawled out of my sleeping bag, desperately pulled on thicker socks and shoes, and stumbled out under the street light to meet a tiny crowd of cyclists getting ready for the longest event of the Cochise Classic, a 234-mile ride down the highways circling Bisbee, skirting along the Santa Ritas, up through the Dragoons, the Dos Cabezas, the Chiricahuas, and back to Bisbee. It's a gorgeous and classic southern Arizona tour. This little group of fifteen brave started from Castro Park and would take 11 hours or many more to ride the double-century route; it would take me roughly 4 hours just to drive the whole thing. So they were starting early, and we were freezing our butts off waiting for the national anthem at two in the morning. Or rather, the cyclists in their spandex were freezing their butts off.

I was cozy in my Arcteryx Atom Light jacket. The coldest you can be is just standing around outside, and I was pleasantly surprised to be pretty toasty at 30 degrees. Being October, the day of course warmed up to balmy tank-top weather, but after we placed our hands over our hearts for the anthem, and watched the fifteen riders pedal away down the street onto the black pre-dawn highways, I went back to my car and slept in my jacket until the start of the next event, after which I stripped it off and drove around the route to take photos of the cyclists for Tail Winds magazine.

Arc'teryx Atom LT Jacket

I pulled the jacket out again to watch the dawn start of the 108-mile El Tour de Tucson ride. With hundreds of riders, the El Tour start is not nearly as intimate as our little crew huddling in the middle of the night in Castro Park, but nonetheless, it's amazing to be in the energy of hundreds of people about to pedal to every corner of our city. Loudspeakers blared music down the neighborhood to rouse the riders awake, and people stamped their feet in the first cold Tucson morning.

El Tour always seems to be accompanied by the first signs of fall, and now into December I'll find myself wearing the Atom Light every day. It's a perfect jacket for the transition of seasons, light enough and packable enough that it's not oppressive and can go everywhere--like in a tiny summit pack for cold belays out in Cochise Stronghold. I've always been afraid to bring my down jacket up on a climb, for fear of snagging the fabric on a rock and vomiting feathers everywhere. As sad as I would be to get a hole in my pretty lavender Atom Light, the synthetic fill will stay together until I can patch it back up. And the fabric itself is somehow nearly as light as the ultrasil shell on my down jacket, but much tougher and more abrasion resistant, so I'm less likely to tear it up in the first place. Stretch fleece panels on the sides give it a slimmer, cozy, and more breathable fit. Now that it's Cochise season, I can't wait to find some chilly rock ledge to hang out on.

Gear

Variant Jacket

by Dana Davis Tuesday, December 13th 2011

The Variant Jacket has been one of our most popular jackets of the season. With synthetic insulation sewn into the front panels and Power Stretch fleece on the back, sides and arms, it falls into the Synthetic Insulation category that Charles discussed a couple weeks ago. It’s available for both men and women.

We asked Summit Hut owner, Dana Davis, and our Speedway Store Manager, Traci, to give us their impressions of the jacket thus far.

Dana

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My family and I went horseback riding for a couple hours Thanksgiving Day weekend and it was the perfect piece to wear!

At a first glance this jacket might look a little funky (it is a hybrid of Power Stretch fleece and a lightly insulated vest) but I like the look and I like the performance and versatility even better.

The Variant is a great weight and warmth for many parts of the country but seems to be ideal for the slightly chilly winter days (and evenings) in Tucson. The black Power Stretch sleeves truly conform to a body in motion in addition to accommodating many different body types. I have broad shoulders, long arms, and a narrower waist; it is hard for me to get a slimmer fit without feeling confined and uncomfortable- the Variant is perfect. There is also enough stretch in the sleeves to wear it comfortably over another long sleeve item. The vest portion is great for adding extra warmth over your core but without adding bulk. I think this will be a great layering piece for under a shell for skiing and other snowy activities and yet also a great standalone jacket to take to the movie theater.

I recently took this jacket with me when I traveled to the Osprey Packs facilities in Vietnam. It turned out to be a great travel jacket (lightweight, compact and versatile) even though I never actually wore it when I was outdoors. It was warm and rainy in Vietnam and I never wore more than short sleeves with my Effusion jacket. When did I actually wear it? For more than 20 hours straight when traveling (each way) on the sufficiently cooled airplanes and airports! It was comfy, stretchy, a good weight and I was “out like a light” on all flights!

Variant Jacket

I was disappointed to have not used it hiking and biking in Vietnam so I have been anxious to put it to the test back here in Arizona. Unfortunately up until recently the weather has been fairly warm the last couple months and while the nights have been chilly, I have not used it for more than a brisk walk during the day. I did take it out a short night run and while it was perfect for the first 10 minutes it felt too warm shortly after. For me this will be my “go to” jacket on warmer fall and winter days and a good layering piece for cold weather sports. I love that in addition to being a outerwear jacket that I can also wear it indoors in lieu of a sweater as well.

Traci

I have accumulated a few jackets over the years, which seems to be a common occurrence in Tucson. Is it hot, hotter, rainy or cold? And then when you add hiking, running, biking, running errands around town, or overall outdoor activities to the mix the decisions become a little tougher on a jacket. I want something can cover the spectrum of all my needs.

Variant Jacket

I took the Variant Jacket up Mount Wrightson. I wanted something insulated but that was light and packable. I started at the trailhead at 6 am and had a brisk breeze coming off the mountain. The insulation in the front of the piece is outstanding. It gives you the option of having some insulation without adding a ton of bulk to the jacket. As we continued to hike steadily uphill, the stretch in the Polartec sleeves was great because the Variant jacket moves with you during your activity. The thumb holes are a nice addition for the piece. Especially since I opted to not bring gloves, they gave a bit more protection on my hands. After some hiking I did shed the layer, and packed it down into my pack.  When we hit the saddle, we stopped for a snack and I pulled my jacket out so I didn’t get a chill while resting. I could feel a slight breeze coming through the Polartec, but the extra insulation in the front made the difference. I truly appreciated how the jacket was able to be packed down and I didn’t have to worry about it.

I find myself grabbing this piece because of the technical and fashion aspect of the jacket.

Gear

The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!

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