Banff Film Festival & Summit Hut Grant Recipients

by frank Thursday, March 31st 2011

First off, I want to offer a big thank you to everyone who came out to this year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour at the historic Fox Theatre. I hope you all enjoyed the evening and left feeling inspired to get out there and enjoy your own adventure.

Sold out crowd of 1150 at the beautiful Fox Theatre

The evening of films was filled with some incredible characters, Ueli Steck is just an incredible climber and his speed ascent of the Eiger made for possibly the most amazing moment of the night. And we can probably all agree that we now know more about paragliding than we ever thought we would - but what an incredible ordeal!

As the result of a sold-out crowd we were able to donate $5,500 to local non-profit groups as part of a grant program. We here at Summit Hut are incredibly grateful for all the amazing work our five finalists do in our community, and incredibly thankful for your support of this year’s grant. Each and every one of the five finalists, and the other 15 applicants, do wonderful things for the Tucson area. Everything from trail maintenance to getting our area’s youth outside. I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight, in a little more detail, our three runners-up and our two winners.

Our finalists on stage with Summit Hut owner Dana Davis.

Each of our three runners-up were awarded $250 in partnership with Patagonia as well as a $250 Summit Hut gift card.

Inner City Outings: The folks at ICO do an amazing job getting kids outside, most of whom would otherwise have no chance to do so. As a subsidiary of the Sierra Club, they partner with local schools and youth agencies to lead hiking, camping, kayaking, caving, mountain biking and many other adventures.

Friends of Kartchner Caverns State Park: Kartchner Caverns State Park is definitely a gem of our region. Friends of Kartchner is dedicated to advocating preservation of the caverns through research, education and public awareness. They are also responsible for docent training and scientific research at the caverns.

Sonoran Desert Weedwackers: The Weedwackers started in 2000 as a small group committed to remove non-native grasses in Tucson Mountain Park. Now, they are the hosts of the incredibly well known Beat Back Bufflegrass Day and have been incredibly productive in removing tons of invasive grasses.

The two winners of this year’s grant were each awarded checks for $2,000.

Our winners, Southern Arizona Rescue Association and Tucson Wildlife Center.


Southern Arizona Rescue Association: SARA is an incredible group of men and women who all volunteer their time to provide a vital service to our outdoor community. Members go through extensive training to be able to perform rescues under just about any conditions Southern Arizona could throw at them. This team of dedicated volunteers responds to over 100 search and rescue missions each year which results in over 4,400 hours of their time at absolutely no expense to taxpayers. Just about every one of us who has been enjoying the outdoors around Tucson for any amount of time has had some sort of interaction with this team. I know I’ve run into members of the SARA team out on the trail and here in the store and every single one of them is excited about the opportunity to do what they do, and on top of that, they are all genuinely nice people. They are all great people and obviously dedicated to providing a great service to those in need. They also have some wonderful outreach programs including the nationally acclaimed Hug-A-Tree system for educating children about outdoor safety. If you are interested in learning more about SARA, they host a monthly meeting at 7:30 pm the first Friday of each month at their SARA House near Sabino Canyon.

Tucson Wildlife Center: The team over at Tucson Wildlife Center was established in 1998 and is dedicated to rescue, rehabilitation and release of injured and orphaned wild animals. Specializing in birds of prey and javelina, this team of specially trained and passionate people is able to handle large and potentially dangerous animals. Since the first year, the center has rehabilitated between 250 and 300 animals per year. TWC also has a 24/7 emergency help line and a 24-hour emergency room. All services are provided free to the public. They also conduct wonderful educational programs out in the community which include live animals and provide wonderful information to children and adults alike. In working with Lisa and her team for a couple events, it has become incredibly evident that they are as dedicated as it comes. They are committed to the care, rescue and rehabilitation of the majestic wildlife of the Tucson area and love to share their passion with the community. And as an aside, they also have some of the cutest animal pictures in the world!


Babad Do’ag Trail

by Dave Baker Wednesday, March 30th 2011

Located a few miles up the Mount Lemmon Highway, the Babad Do’ag Trail follows an old bulldozer track up MacDougal Ridge on the southern flanks of the Santa Catalina Mountains. This old route had been nearly forgotten until the trail was rebuilt and renamed during the 17 year Mt Lemmon Highway road improvement project which began in 1988.

Babad Doag Trail

The old bulldozer track is evident on lower stretches of the trail

As part of the improvement project, Babad Do’ag Vista was also built, now the first major pullout on the drive up the Mt Lemmon Highway. An interpretive display at the vista explains that “Babad Do’ag” is the Tohono O’odham name for the Catalina Mountains, meaning “Frog Mountain”. Babad Do’ag Vista provides plenty of trailhead parking for the hike.

Babad Doag Trail

Oak chaparral and desert grassland near trail’s end

This is an enjoyable and moderate outing. The trail first climbs through stands of Saguaro cactus and other Sonoran vegetation and ends in eye-pleasing oak chaparral and grassland. Hikers are also treated to an array of great views along the entire route. Take care: summer heat can be intense on this hike, since it faces south and is low elevation

About 2.6 miles up the ridge, a metal sign marks trail’s end, though an obvious “social trail" continues past the sign. This marks the beginning of a cross country route that eventually joins the Soldier Trail a little over a mile to the northwest.

Babad Doag Trail

Agua Caliente Hill, Mica Mountain, and Rincon Peak are distant high points

Find trailhead parking at Babad Do’ag Vista near milepost 2.6 on the Mt Lemmon Highway. The trail begins a few hundred feet up the highway beyond the vista, on the north side of the road.

Season: Fall, winter and spring -- south facing and low elevation, so summer temperatures can be quite hot.

Water: None: bring plenty of your own.

Note:. This is a Forest Service fee area.

Difficulty: Moderate. About 2.5 miles one-way to trail’s end, with 950 ft elevation gain.

Maps: Green Trails Santa Catalina Mountains



Click map for larger image


Banff Mountain Film Festival Grant

by frank Tuesday, March 8th 2011

Each year, for the past 12 years, Summit Hut has brought the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour to Tucson. The tour is an evening filled with some of the world’s best films on mountain sports and mountain culture. It is equal parts adrenaline pumping and inspirational.

For the past three years, we have donated a portion of the proceeds to wonderfully deserving non-profit organizations. Last year, due in large part to the film festival being a sell-out crowd, we were able to donate $2,000 to Friends of Saguaro National Park and $2,000 to Friends of Sabino Canyon.

This year, we decided to let the community in on the fun of helping us give away some money! Back in December, we announced an open request for applications for our First Annual Banff Grant Program. For our first year, we got a wonderful response from some amazing organizations. We got back 18 applications from a huge range of groups from Tucson Clean and Beautiful, to the Arizona Trail Association. Each of the groups that applied does great things for our community and we are in awe of their work.

We then gave three of our staff members the incredibly challenging task of selecting our five finalists. They considered every angle, the impact the organizations have on our region, the work they have done in the past, the work they plan to do in the future and what they would specifically use the grant dollars for. After careful consideration, the team selected five incredibly deserving organizations:

Sonoran Desert Weedwackers: Our mission is to protect wildlands around Tucson from the encroachment of invasive plants that threaten to destroy the Sonoran Desert. The Weedwackers work in Tucson Mountain Park mapping and digging out buffelgrass and fountain grass three times a month.

Tucson Wildlife Center: The Tucson Wildlife Center is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of injured and orphaned wildlife throughout Southern Arizona. They are responsible for the rescue of 700 animals per year!

Inner City Outings: Sierra Club Inner City Outings is a community outreach program that provides opportunities for urban youth and adults to explore, enjoy and protect the natural world.

Southern Arizona Rescue Association: A non-profit, all-volunteer search and rescue organization serving southern Arizona and Pima County since 1958. SARA members are volunteers from all walks of life, donating their time, skills and enthusiasm to provide a vital service to the public.

Friends of Kartchner Caverns State Park: The Friends will partner with the community, and provide resources, to advocate for and ensure the continued preservation of Kartchner caverns through research, education and public awareness.

To select our two grant winners, we have put it up to a customer vote. That’s right, we’re letting you decide who gets a portion of this year’s Banff ticket sales. Through next Monday, we have voting tables set up at each of our Tucson locations. All you have to do is come in and drop a poker chip into the jar of the organization you think is most deserving.

Banff Voting Display

After two weeks, we have had over 600 people vote and here are the standings:

Tucson Wildlife Center: 230

Inner City Outings: 145

Southern Arizona Rescue Association: 121

Sonoran Desert Weedwackers: 91

Friends of Kartchner Caverns State Park: 74

There’s still plenty of time to mount a campaign for your favorite group! Get the word out to come in and vote and get the word out to buy tickets to the Banff Film Festival at the Fox Theatre on March 25th. We’ll be announcing the winners at intermission on the night of the festival so don’t miss it!


King Canyon Trail

by Dave Baker Monday, March 7th 2011

The King Canyon Trail is an excellent way to enjoy Saguaro National Park West, which protects a major portion of the Tucson Mountains west of Tucson, Arizona. The Sonoran Desert ecosystem is on full display along the trail, featuring Saguaro cactus groves, Ironwood trees and Jojoba shrubs, to name just a few plant species.

Wasson Peak

Wasson Peak, from Tucson’s west side

Hikers will also encounter plenty of evidence of the mining history of the Tucson Mountains in King Canyon, including a few mine shafts right beside the trail. Indeed, King Canyon Trail is named after the Copper King Mine, which was active in the area in the early 1900’s and briefly during World War II.

A section of King Canyon is also home to ancient Hohokam petroglyphs; down canyon a bit from the Mam-A-Gah Picnic area, which is about a mile up the trial.

King Canyon petroglyph

Ancient rock art in King Canyon

Located on the west side of the range, the King Canyon Trail provides the most direct route to the high point of the Tucson Mountains – Wasson Peak (4,687 ft). A final bit of history: Wasson Peak is named in honor of John Wasson, the first editor of the Tucson Citizen newspaper in the late 1800’s.

This is a beautiful and rewarding hike, but note that the Tucson Mountains are relatively low elevation and can be dangerously hot in the summer, early fall and late spring. Winter, late fall and early spring are the best times to take advantage of the Park’s trail network and enjoy the unique scenery and landscapes.

Along the King Canyon Trail

King Canyon Trail

The trailhead is on the opposite side of Kinney Road from the entrance to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Kinney Road is easy to reach by following Speedway Boulevard west past I-10. Speedway eventually becomes Gates Pass Road, which continues up and over Gates Pass before descending into Avra Valley. Gates Pass Road ends at the junction with Kinney Road where you turn right (north). Look for a dirt trailhead parking lot just past the entrance to the Museum, on the right (east) side of the road. The first mile or so of trail follows an old jeep road which begins at the back of the parking lot.

Avra Valley viewed from Wasson Peak

Avra Valley from Wasson Peak

Season: Fall, winter and spring. The Tucson Mountains are low elevation and very, very hot during summer months, late spring and in early fall. This hike is most enjoyable on cool winter days.

Water: None: bring plenty of your own.

Note: Dogs and pets are not permitted on this trail. Though fees are not collected at the trailhead, Saguaro National Park is a fee area.

Difficulty: Mt Wasson is 3.5 miles from the King Canyon trailhead with a 1,900 elevation gain. Moderately difficult.

Maps: Green Trails Maps Saguaro National Park


Click map for larger image


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!