Tag Archives: Santa Catalina mountains

Finger Rock Fire update

During the night the fire seemed to subside somewhat, and today it is raining. I can still see smoke, but no flames. However, the cloudy weather, plus morning is a poor time of day to observe details in the Santa Catalinas because of the angle of the sun, means that this is not a certain observation.

The Forest Service has sent crews up to check on the situation and will report an update later this morning. This news report says nothing about the fire spreading into Ventana Canyon, as it appeared to do to me last night. Hopefully I was wrong and the fire only appeared larger than it was.

Big fire in the mountains above Tucson

At sunset tonight I went out into my back patio to enjoy the evening air and noticed smoke trailing off from the mountains on the opposite side of the valley. Taking a closer look with binoculars I discovered a major forest fire blazing on the front range of the Santa Catalina mountains, about a thousand feet above the city.

To give the layout, our home is on the west side of town, on a hill that overlooks the city. The Santa Catalina Mountains border the north side of Tucson, about ten miles away. (Below the fold is a short video showing the mountains and the smoke, taken today from the west side on one of the overpasses above the interstate, slightly south of my home. The video shows a view similar to what I can see.)

The fire, dubbed the Finger Rock fire after the canyon in which it started, was originally ignited by lightning last week, smoldered for a week, then re-ignited today and is spreading fast. While Diane and I watched this evening we saw the flames leap across from Pontatoc Ridge to the opposite wall of the adjacent valley, Ventana Canyon, which Diane and I last hiked in 2013. I saw flames that were easily 100 feet high.

We have hiked on Pontatoc Ridge. That trail is certainly badly damaged or destroyed. The lowest parts of the fire now appear to be burning at about 500 feet above the nearest homes in the foothills below. When it jumped into Ventana Canyon it appears to move uphill, so at the moment no one’s home is threatened. This is a very very rugged area. It will be difficult for fire crews to get there, no less work to control the blaze.

As the evening progressed and darkness set in the extent of the fire became easier to see, as the flames now stood out in the darkness through the smoke. Though the Forest Service seems sanguine about it, this is not a trivial fire. It threatens the entire front range of the Santa Catalinas, which is one of Tucson’s major recreation areas. Worse, it is close enough to the city that it poses a threat to the homes in the foothills.

Stay tuned for updates.

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We made it.

Getting to the Window in the Santa Catalinas is a challenge, mostly because of the 4000 foot elevation gain. In the past two years Diane and I have made three previous attempts, all of which were aborted because we simply either ran out of time or energy.

Today, we left very early in the morning, and because we are right now in very good shape, made it with little trouble, completing the entire hike in just under eleven hours. Some pictures below the fold.
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Hiking to the Window in Ventana Canyon

An evening pause: My posting on Sunday will be light until the evening, as Diane and I will be doing a 13.2 mile hike up Ventana Canyon to a giant natural bridge called the Window. This canyon is in the Santa Catalina mountains that overlook Tucson. These mountains are quite rugged, with some intense elevation gain in a very short time, comparable to the Grand Canyon. For this hike we will gain 4,000 feet in 6.6 miles.

Below is a video of this hike but only going about halfway up the canyon.