Osprey Talon 22 Pack

by Jonathan Tuesday, August 16th 2011

One of the great things about commuting, or running errands, on a bicycle is that you can do those things while outdoors (sorry, driving a car is on the “in” side of the doors)!

The downside of cycling is that carrying all your stuff with you can be problematic, particularly in light of the fact that when you stop you must take it all with you.

Panniers, saddle bags, and handle bar bags are by far the best way to carry stuff. If, however, you are getting on and off almost as much as you are riding, the dismounting and remounting of these bags becomes quite tedious, and everywhere you go you look like a cyclist who just ran away from home.

Putting your stuff in a day pack and wearing it solves these problems. It automatically comes with you when you dismount, and everywhere you go you look like everyone else with a day pack.

While a pack will never match the efficiency and comfort of panniers, you can mitigate the packs shortcomings in two ways - keep the weight low, and get a superb pack.

First, mount your lock on the frame, this will save weight, and you will not be taking your lock with you anyway. Second, do not get a large pack, too much capacity encourages too much weight. Consider an upper limit of around 1800 cubic inches (30 liters).

Talon 22

My favorite pack for this application is the Osprey Talon 22 (22 liters or 1350 cubic inches). It is quite light in its own right, and unless you fill it with bricks its capacity will keep you within a reasonable weight range. Innovative features include a bladder sleeve outside the main body of the pack, and an outside pouch for overflow or quick access.

Water Bladder SleeveOutside Pouch

Bike-specific features include a tab for a tail light, and a retainer for fixing the helmet to the pack - this is a delight when you really want the helmet out of the way.

Bike Helmet ClipTail Light Tab

The pack comes in two sizes, both of which are widely adjustable. It is constructed in such a way as to support the load while remaining flexible enough to move with your body. Compression straps stabilize the load when the pack is not filled to capacity.

All these features make the Talon 22 a superb pack for the bike. They also make the pack superb on the trail. This double-duty feature may be the best of all.


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.



Santa Catalina Island

by Jonathan Monday, November 29th 2010

Located about twenty miles off the California coast, Santa Catalina Island offers visitors one of the best preserved marine environments in the world. The kelp forests that surround the rocky coast support a vast community of marine life, including local fish, seasonal pelagic predators, lobster, and marine mammals.

The island itself is twenty-one miles long, eight miles at its widest, with a fifty-four mile coastline. The steep hills are covered with brown grass and some scrubby trees. There is an extensive trail network for the hiker, and more than a few dirt roads for the cyclist. There are two small communities, Avalon and Two Harbors, where the intrepid backcountry adventurer can resupply, find a place to stay, eat out, or party hearty at a bar.

It is the marine environment, however, that makes Catalina Island an irresistible destination. I go there at every opportunity.

You might ask, “Isn’t that a little far away for a quick vacation?” Well, the coast is no farther away from Tucson than is The Canyon, and it is closer than Utah or the Arizona Strip.

The sea has a special appeal, as does the desert. In fact, they are both all about water, though in different ways. You might say that they are two sides of the same coin.

Anyway, there are a number of ways to get to Catalina Island form the coast. Ferries leave from Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point. In two to three hours you can be in either Avalon or Two Harbors. If that is not fast enough, you can take an airplane or helicopter and be there in fifteen minutes.

Since I love to sail, I use a sailboat to get there. A good sized sailboat is like a floating RV. It not only gets you from the coast to any part of the island, but it is also your place to stay once there!


At one point on our last trip, we anchored in Rippers Cove - a few miles down the coast from Isthmus Cove at Two Harbors. When we had everything squared away, I donned my wetsuit, mask, snorkel, fins and weights, grabbed my speargun, and slipped into the water.

We were in eighteen feet of water and I could see the bottom. In fact, I saw a good sized bat ray resting on the sand. I dived for a closer look and it slowly flew away. I made my way over toward the the rocky cliffs where I found a wall of kelp. I slowly worked along the kelp keeping an eye both on the kelp forest and the open water.



It was mid-September and I was hoping for some late season yellowtail, which I was hoping to find doing what I was doing - hunting the edge of the kelp forest. I figured it more likely that I might find a good sized calico sea bass in the forest, so I would occasionally dive and poke around in the stalks. Mostly I slowly kicked my way along the surface, breathing through the snorkel, feeling like I could go on forever.

While the game species were disappointing (there were plenty of calicos, but none big enough to shoot), there were plenty of other fish to see - opaleye, halfmoon, kelp clingfish, leopard shark, bat rays, halibut, and the ubiquitous bright orange girabaldi, to name a few.

I noticed the visibility had declined. I could no longer see the bottom form the surface. I looked to my left, to the open water, and saw a school of fish swimming in the opposite direction. Their tails were bright yellow, far brighter than they appear when out of the water. These were the yellowtail I sought. I was mesmerized, as most novice hunters are when the game comes in to view. The now somewhat cloudy water gave them a ghostlike appearance. They moved in unison. I thought them small based on the jerkiness of their swimming, but were they? In the open water, there was no frame of reference. They could have been small and close, or large and further away. I tried to close them, but they managed to keep their distance, eventually fading away. Ham sandwiches for dinner.

That night the moon and the distant glow from the mainland lent a soft dim light to the boat and the shore. There was a hint of phosphorescence when I leaned over the side and stirred the water with my hand. The air was almost still, and I could almost hear the small waves lapping the beach. There was a bare hint of swell which caused the boat to rock gently.

The next day we sailed until the wind died, then motored the rest of the way to Avalon. The community of a few thousand was more charming than I expected, it had an almost Mediterranean flavor - and of course, food and liquor. In back of the casino is a fenced-in, I should say “netted-in”, marine park. I spent an hour or so diving there without the burden of the speargun. They actually built steps so you can walk down into the water.


We left Avalon and set a course for Long Beach. There was absolutely no wind, and the sea was like glass, so we motored. What would otherwise have been a long slog was saved by a large pod of dolphins who crossed our path. When we met, we turned to their course and they swam and played by our bow and on either side of the boat. With the water like glass, we were treated to a close view of them swimming underwater as well as breaching the surface. What a treat!

I never mind the drive back to Tucson. The feelings of joy and fulfillment last well beyond it.


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!