Samaniego Peak

by Dave Baker Tuesday, May 31st 2011

Residents of Oro Valley and the town of Catalina, north of Tucson, are very familiar with stately Samaniego Ridge, which drops off the top of Mt Lemmon and stretches north in a seemingly straight line for over 8 miles before dying out beyond Charouleau Gap. The highpoint on the ridge is a prominent craggy rock outcrop – Samaniego Peak.

Samaniego Peak

Samaniego Peak

The Samaniego Ridge Trail runs north down the ridge from Mt Lemmon past the peak and then down into Charouleau Gap. However, the trail was hammered by the 2003 Aspen Fire and in the fire’s aftermath the trail bed was littered with fallen timber, overgrown with nasty brush, and quickly fell into disuse.

Samaniego Ridge & Samaniego Peak

Heading towards Samaniego Ridge

In the past few years, things began looking up for the old trail. First, the Forest Service did some work on higher elevation portions, and then volunteer work groups of mountain bikers put considerable effort into cleaning up long sections of the trail on the main ridge. There are still many sketchy sections of trail to deal with, but trips out to Samaniego Peak from the top of Mt Lemmon are once again reasonably pleasant for fit and able hikers.

On our trip to Samaniego, we followed the trail to Walnut Spring, located 0.3 miles due east of Samaniego Peak. Although Walnut Spring goes dry most years, it is surprising how often it shows water given the small watershed that feeds it.

Walnut Spring

Walnut Spring shows water in April, 2011

Once in the general vicinity of Walnut Spring, it’s time to leave the trail and bushwhack! The final push to the top of Samaniego Peak involves moving through dense brush among white granite slabs and boulders. It’s worth the effort though; the top of Samaniego Peak is surprisingly dramatic, featuring a rather small granite summit block and steep cliffs dropping off towards Oro Valley. You’ll enjoy unusual and splendid views in all directions: Oro Valley, Canada del Oro, Reef of Rock, Pusch Ridge, and Mule Ears.


Samaniego Peak - summit bushwhack


Reach the trailhead (32.44036 N, 110.7858 W, WGS84) by following the Catalina Highway from the Tucson valley towards the small settlement of Summerhaven. Just short of Summerhaven, turn right (west) onto “Ski Run Rd”. Continue on Ski Run Road past the ski facility through a gate (often closed during winter months), and on up the narrow winding road to trailhead parking lot near the top of Mt Lemmon.

Samaniego Peak

Samaniego’s diminutive summit block

The Mt. Lemmon Trail #5 leaves the west side of the parking lot right next to a fenced electrical facility, crosses a dirt road and then joins an old jeep trail heading west along the broad summit ridge. Follow the Mt. Lemmon trail west for about 1.6 miles to a signed junction and turn north onto the Sutherland Trail which in turn leads to a junction with the Samaniego Ridge Trail. Leave the Samaniego Ridge Trail in the general vicinity of Walnut Spring for the bushwhack to the summit blocks.

Season: Spring and fall. The trailhead is closed to vehicular access for some of the winter, and snow can obscure higher elevation sections of the route. In spite of 7000’+ elevations, this hike gets very hot on the exposed Samaniego Ridge during summer days.

Water: Water is intermittently available at Walnut Spring and just off route at Shovel Spring, perhaps 6 to 9 months out of the year. Bring plenty of your own, and treat any water you might collect.

Difficulty: Moderately difficult. About 11.5 to 12.5 miles round trip with a 1,700’+ elevation drop and then gain on the return trip. The trail is sketchy in a few places, and the scramble off trail to the summit of Samaniego Peak involves some pretty thick bushwhacking. Take care among the summit blocks; there are many steep drop offs.

Notes: This is a Forest Service fee area. This area was impacted by the 2003 Aspen Fire.

Maps: Rainbow Expeditions Santa Catalina Mountains, Green Trails Maps Santa Catalina Mountains, or National Geographic Arizona digital map software.


Click map for larger image


Repairing a Zipper

by Emily Tuesday, May 24th 2011

It happens to everyone: you've had your favorite backpack for years. It's held textbooks, a week's worth of clothes, and camera equipment. You've dragged it on and off of trains, planes and automobiles; you took it caving and scraped it against rock walls. Its limits were tested and it always stood up to the test, until one tragic day when the zipper split.

Working at the Summit Hut, I've seen the stricken faces of people bringing in beloved jackets, sleeping bags and purses, hoping someone can repair the defunct zipper that keeps separating after the item has been zipped up. Turns out this is usually an easy repair you can perform in seconds with a simple set of pliers. Here's how to diagnose your zipper problem and get you favorite backpack up and running again.

Take a careful look at the teeth of the zipper. If any of the individual teeth are missing, or if the taping fabric next to the teeth is torn, you'll have to send the item in to the vendor or find a seamstress to replace the zipper itself.

If the zipper's teeth are intact, that means the problem is with the zipper's slider, and there are do-it-yourself solutions to that. Start by tightening the slider.

The slider is essentially two channels that come together, pulling the zipper teeth in and pressing them together. Well loved and well worn zippers sometimes loosen up from top to bottom, so they don't put enough pressure on the teeth to lock them together. To tighten the slider, first unzip it all the way to the bottom, making sure that the slider is sitting squarely on the bottom of both sides of the zipper. Take a pair of pliers and clamp them, top to bottom, around the slider on one side of the zipper pull. Squeeze with a medium-firm pressure, enough to feel a little bit of give in the slider but not so much that you press it closed. Repeat on the other side of the zipper pull. Then try zipping it up.

If the zipper works a little better now but still separates somewhere, it just needs to be tightened a little more. Repeat instructions above. It's possible to clamp the slider down too much and the zipper will be a little stiff; just keep working the zipper back and forth and it will loosen up a bit.

There are a few rare instances where the slider is completely worn out and needs to be replaced. In that case you can get a handy-dandy Zipper Rescue Kit that contains every common zipper slider size known to the outdoor industry. Now you need to get the slider off, which on jackets and sleeping bags is pretty easy and on other gear will likely involve a little sewing. On jacket zippers (or any piece where the sides being zipped up totally separate at the bottom) the only thing keeping the slider in is a little metal stopper pinched into the bottom. Use your handy pliers (or possibly a combination of implements found on a multi-tool) to open up this stopper and pry it off the zipper. Then slide the old slider off, slide a new slider on, and get a new stopper from the Rescue Kit to fasten on to the bottom with your pliers.

If the zipper is sewn into the recesses of seams in your backpack or tent, you'll need to pull out some of the stitching around the bottom of the zipper to get at the stoppers, which you can then remove and replace with the same instructions above. If you're not handy with a needle and thread, you might want to get a seamstress to take care of the sewing back together. If the item is waterproof, beware that water can seep through the new stitch holes and you might want to get some waterproofing tape to stick over it when you're done.


Florida Canyon Trail

by Jonathan Wednesday, May 11th 2011

My favorite Sky Island trails are those that take you from prickly pear to pines. There are quite a few in the Santa Catalinas, Rincons, and Santa Ritas, but my dog likes Florida (flor-EE-dah) Canyon in the northern Santa Ritas.

Actually, she has done very little hiking in mountains other than the Santa Ritas. Much of the western Santa Catalina Mountains, and virtually all of the Rincon Mountains, are closed to dogs. To the best of my knowledge, the Santa Ritas are Fido friendly. The other factor favoring Florida Canyon is its proximity to Madera Canyon and the ever popular Old Baldy and Super Trail trails, which tend to draw people away from Florida.


Now, when Gita the Wonder Dog and I go afield, we are either leashed or unleashed depending on the activity. When hiking on established trails, we are leashed. I can offer a couple of good reasons.

The first is courtesy. Though it may seem strange to some, not all hikers are enamored by strange dogs charging down the trail at them, or bursting out of the underbrush, barking or not. On one trip, I encountered a mounted ranger who made a point of stopping and thanking me profusely for having the dog on a leash and stepping off the trail on the downhill side.

The second is bears. All the Sky Islands are home to bears. I recall telling my friend Donald that I was glad I had my Rottweiler on a leash when he smelled, then saw a bear about eighty yards up the hillside on the Baldy Trail. I told him that I try to foresee the worst possible outcome, and knew that had the dog charged the bear, the bear could have ended him with one swat of his paw. Donald said, “That’s not the the worst outcome.” “No?”, said I. Donald continued, “No, your dog could have engaged the bear, and realizing that he made a big mistake, come running back to you for safety with the bear in hot pursuit - and don’t forget, both the dog and the bear can run a lot faster than you can.” I contemplated this.


We saw no bears on a Thursday in mid-April when we made our first visit of the year to Florida Canyon. It was a beautiful day indeed, sunny, with temperatures in the 80’s and a light breeze. The dirt road ends at the Santa Rita Experimental Station. Parking and trailhead are on the left just before one enters the facility. A sign at the trailhead says the distance to the saddle is 4.7 miles. The trail skirts the facility on the left, then continues up the bottom of the canyon.

The beginning elevation is around 4200 feet, well above saguaros but you’ll still see prickly pear among the grasses. Soon the trail leads through scrub oaks and leaves the canyon bottom. The trail is well planned and constructed. Though steep, the long switchbacks make it far less so than the canyon sides. All the expansive views are back toward the desert floor, until the top of a ridge offers a great view of McCleary Peak.


The trail moves up into the pine trees. Our favorite part is a series of very long switchbacks under a tall canopy of pines. Alas, since the fire of 2005, it is not the same. While it is still a pine forest, there is no longer a canopy. The dark, cool quiet has been replaced by breezy patches of light and shadow. The trail that was once compacted dark earth surrounded by beds of pine needles is now lightly colored gravel surrounded by tall dead grass.


The dog and I reach Florida Saddle which is quite the trail hub. From it, the Crest Trail leads to Baldy Saddle and the Baldy and Super Trail trails. Down the other side, a trail goes to Cave Creek. There is even a trail that heads north to Sawmill Creek. The slope down the other side suffered much more fire damage than the one we just traveled. The charred, bare tree trunks looked like black bristles on a big brush. At about 7800 feet elevation, the air was cool and fresh, and we breathed deeply.


The descent back to the desert floor was abnormally pleasant. It was down hill all the way, but never so steep that I felt that jarring feeling. Back at the truck, the little dog had one last drink, then rested her head in my lap as we drove back to town.



Thailand: Escape from Paradise – Part Two

by Richard Friday, April 22nd 2011

Note: This is Part Two – check out Part One to see how the story started!

March 31st – The new day brought good news for those still stranded on Koh Pha Ngan. There was no Navy ship for us today, but the ferry companies were feeling brave and they were sending boats! We quickly bought tickets for the 11am ferry. I could almost feel my pack get lighter as I exchanged my money for a ticket and the stress started to fade away. I was even able to find a bakery where I enjoyed a fresh apple pastry and was able to send an email to let friends and family know I was on the verge of escape from my island paradise. The news kept getting better when the ferry company made an announcement that they were able to get a boat away earlier than expected and the ferry would arrive at 9:30am.

The ferry ride was very exciting. Something about the pitching deck and the karaoke TV station playing made for a unique 30 minutes. We docked and began the mad rush toward the airport. The day before we had heard that there were about 13000 people trying to leave Koh Samui with 2000 in the airport alone. Those numbers seemed about right when we arrived. There was one main airline that flies into that airport, Air Bangkok, which my new German friends were flying. The line to get on the standby list was about 500 people long. I was very lucky in that I flew Thai Air, and there were far fewer people trying to leave on that airline. My ticket was for April 4th so I knew I was a pretty low priority on their list, but I went to the counter and asked to get on the standby list. They told me they were still trying to find seats for people whose tickets were for several days ago. They told me, though, to come back around 3:30 and they would put me on the waiting list for the last flight. One of the lessons I learned about Thailand is that if you really want something to happen, ask often and ask as many people as possible, SO I went back to the desk about an hour later. Unfortunately, they told me that there was no way I would leave that day and to find a comfortable spot to sleep the night. I went back and stood in line with my friends for around another hour. When I heard the next group of names called for the next Thai flight, I returned to the counter. They took my passport and a few minutes later, they had found me a seat! They said it would cost 1500 baht to change the ticket (about $50), which was well worth it so I quickly paid, and ran to say good bye to the Germans. They told me where they were staying in Bangkok in case I wanted companions to see the city.

When I boarded the plane, I was very pleasantly surprised when I realized that my seat was in First Class. I enjoyed a quick meal and a drink while we flew to Bangkok. Everybody cheered as the plane took off and we all knew that we were putting our ordeal behind us. When I got to Bangkok, I changed my ticket home to allow me to have about one and a half days there to sightsee. While I was waiting at the counter, a woman came up to the next desk and was telling the attendant of her ordeal. It turns out that she had been on the Thai Navy vessel that had taken the 150 people from our island and she was just arriving. It had been about 12 hours at sea, a delay once they had reached land, and another 3 or 4 hours by bus. I considered myself very lucky not to have been there with her and tried to help bridge her French to English with the attendant’s Thai to English. Shortly later, I found my way to the Grand Diamond Suites in downtown Bangkok and had another delicious Thai meal at the hotel.


April 1 - Bangkok lives up to its reputation in just about every way possible. It is a huge, sprawling city that offers something for just about any traveler who visits. It has fantastic shopping, historic temples and unbelievable food. We started the day at the Grand Palace, which served as the home of the royal family and much of the government for 150 years. Bangkok is also the location of Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The grounds are filled with incredible buildings that are lavishly decorated in gold and hand painted murals. Guardian demons guard many of the entrances and arches around the buildings. There are several small museums and countless photos waiting to be taken.


They also have a strict dress code there and offer to let you borrow garments to cover up. Since I was wearing shorts, I borrowed some traditional pants, which were quite comfortable in the warm sun. From there we went to Wat Pho, which houses the largest reclining Buddha, measuring over 140’ long. Then we took a short ride on the Chao Phraya river ferry south and found lunch along the street. After lunch, we wandered through the city toward our hotel and found Pratunam Market. This is a typical street market that winds its way around a few city blocks. You could find fine Thai silk, knock-off brand name goods, touristy souvenirs, tasty fresh food, and just about anything you can imagine in a market in downtown Bangkok.


We all headed back to our rooms for a much needed shower and nap before going back out to see a little of the Bangkok night life. We tried to go to Chinatown, but the Red Shirt protestors were there and the police had the entire area blocked off. We asked our Tuk-Tuk driver to take us to his favorite street food in the area instead (note: this is not a good idea usually because the drivers often take tourists to a place where they receive a commission). We ended up in a wonderful spot that had unbelievable stir-fry and other fresh Thai dishes. After a few helpings and a few beers, we walked across the street and indulged in 30 minutes of the best foot massage I’ve ever experienced. After a short ride, we headed back to our rooms and ended what felt like the first true day of vacation.

April 2 – Everybody had to head to the airport in the afternoon, so our plan was to spend the day in the Chatuchak weekend market. This market is perhaps the largest in the world and is only open on the weekends. In my opinion, it is a must see if your travel plans allow. The market spans around 35 acres and has around 5000 stalls of goods. The guide books say that the market gets over 200,000 visitors a day so plan to get there early, and I recommend taking the train and avoiding the street level traffic at all cost. The market is roughly broken up by the type of goods sold. If you are an animal lover, you may consider avoiding the pet area, which has all sorts of animals available for purchase including squirrels, hedgehogs, and exotic fish to name a few. You can also find a variety of bugs and other unusual treats prepared as snacks on the edges of the animal section. The clothing section is vast and has some treasures if you are looking for high quality, low priced local goods. The flower section boasts beautiful flowers in every color available. This is a nice area to wander through as a break from the more intense shopping found in the rest of the market.


The trip home was pleasantly uneventful and it was very nice to find the Tucson weather warm and dry. Although my trip ended up being far from what I had expected, I would recommend the destination to anybody considering it. It is a wonderful country, and most of the people there were very eager to help a stranded traveler. Thinking back now, I did some pretty great things: eating fresh seafood, Thai massage on the beach, great shopping in Bangkok, plus the experience and the new friends I have. If you keep your plans loose and your attitude flexible, you’re sure to have a great time.

Gear – The gear I had with me on this trip truly played a huge role in my comfort. Because the weather was so far from what I had planned for, I really had to push the things I brought with me. Everything I had with me exceeded my expectations, but I will go over the things I brought that were the shining stars for me.


My main piece of luggage was the Osprey Porter 46. This convertible duffel is carry-on friendly and was just large enough. It was very comfortable to carry on the various taxis, ferries and air planes I was on. The big surprise here was how water resistant this bag is on its own. I did not have a rain cover, so the bag was always wet. At one point, it was partially submerged in the ocean for a moment on my back. It only let in a very small amount of water, not enough to get the things inside wet, and it always dried more quickly than I expected. This bag was invaluable to me and will be a good friend for many years to come.

My second bag that I carried was the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Sling bag. This bag was my “under the seat” bag on the plane and my day bag in Bangkok. It is very light and remarkably water resistant. It holds just the right amount of stuff, and when you don’t need it, it stuffs down to almost nothing. Sea to Summit makes a few different bags in this line, and they are all fantastic, depending on what shape works best for you.

My backup bag was the Exped Cloudburst 25. I originally brought this backpack/dry bag to be my daypack for my hikes and kayak trips on the island. It turned into my emergency, no-matter-what dry bag. I stored clothes, camera, money, passport and anything that I really needed to keep dry. I also used it to line my Porter to add another layer of protection from the rain. It really provided peace of mind for the things I was not willing to risk getting wet.

Packing Systems

I used two products to keep my things organized in my bags: the Eagle Creek Half Cube and the Sea to Summit Packing Cell in medium. These were the right size and shape for me, but I would highly recommend any of the packing solutions from these companies. They are very useful to keep things organized and to truly make the most of the space you have. I doubt I would have been able to take such a small main bag without them. I also used the Sea to Summit Laundry bag to keep my dirty and wet stuff separate when I had to pack it away.

I also used the Eagle Creek Pack-it Sacs in the X-Small size as my wallet. This bag is large enough to hold money, passport, phone, and a few other small items. It is very water resistant and keeps things organized. It is also easy to find when it is in another bag, and it has a clip on the end to keep it attached to you when you are in close quarters with strangers.

Rain Wear

I had packed my Marmot Mica jacket as a sort of joke, but I am very glad it was with me. It is a very light and breathable jacket that works as well traveling as it does backpacking. I really can’t say enough about how well this jacket performed. It was wet for about 5 days straight and never leaked. The face fabric was completely soaked and it continued to breathe. I may have been the only person on Koh Pha Ngan with a jacket, and I received many covetous looks from those around me. This jacket outperformed many other more expensive jackets I have and truly impressed me in every way.


If you haven’t tried a GoToob, you need to. These little tubes are perfect for travel liquids and gels. We have them in two sizes and a few colors to keep things easily recognized. They also are extremely leak resistant, more so than most other hard sided bottles.

I used the LowePro Toaploader Zoom 45AW as my camera bag, paired with the OpTech Utility Sling strap. This was a comfortable and secure system for the camera and lens I had. The bag has a rain cover, and the strap allows for very easy access to the camera.


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!