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Winter Storm Fun Near Catallina

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When I heard there was a winter storm advisory for this weekend, I did the opposite of what the authorities (and most sane people) would do: I looked for a way to get outside and enjoy the inclement weather. I love going out in the rain and snow, probably because those days are few and far between here in southern Arizona.


I emailed a few of my four-wheeling friends and told them I wanted to go out exploring this weekend. They said, “Sunday looks like it should be a nice day.”


I said, “Saturday even looks better!”


I woke up Saturday morning to a text message, “It’s rainy and windy. Are we still on?”


I texted back, “It’s sleeting at my house. Bring a jacket and gloves. Looks like it’s going to be an awesome day.”


We meet up at Golder Ranch later that morning and we had a tough choice: head up to Rice Peak Loop where we knew there had to be lots of snow (maybe too much snow) or go to the Rock House where we didn’t know if there would be any snow. From the look of the snow line on the Catalinas, it looked low enough for us to give the Rock House a go.


As soon as we left Catalina, we started to get into the snow. We turned on Willow Spring Road and the desert was covered in a wet blanket of snow.



Heading down Willow Springs Road


Willow Springs Road was a little muddy. Not enough to make is too sloppy or even have it in 4WD, but just the top 1/2” sticky and wet. By the time we had traveled about 6 miles up the road, our Jeeps were covered in a layer of mud thrown up by our tires.



Snow and mud



Mud and snow


We took a short cut to the Rock House and as soon as we left Willow Springs Road, no more mud! All of the 4WD trails were nice. Although the sun wasn’t up yet, but the snow was melting fast. Within 45 minutes, the desert went from a nice white blanket to only spots of snow L.



Snowy desert



Snow melted away quickly


After taking a few wrong turns (I was without my GPS today and felt naked), we found the correct trail to the Rock House.


The trail was in good shape, actually better shape than it was last September when we tried it. The tough spot had been filled in quite a bit, but we still managed to flex our suspension a little.





Flex it!


We made it to the Rock House, there are a few washouts along the way that made me happy I had 33” tires and a lift kit. It was cold and we didn’t stay too long, so we decided to try and make it to the windmill at the end of the trail.


After about a ½ mile, we dropped down into a wash and saw a tent … and a tent trailer. WTF??? How did a tent trailer get there. This wasn’t one of those 4WD trailers, just a normal trailer. There was also a few trucks there and maybe a newer Nissan Pathfinder (4WD questionable). We stopped our Jeeps and asked the people huddling around the fire how they were able to get a tent trailer out there.


They pointed out a trail down the wash on our left and said that was a much easier way in. Mystery solved. It would be our way out.


As we headed up the trail, it followed a fun wash for a while. Very sandy and curvy. After leaving the wash, the trail went up the mountain side and into huge boulder fields. It seemed we were trying to catch the snow line as we went up. The snow would melt about where we were and the snow line always seemed to be a few hundred feet above us.


The trail dead ends at a windmill and a hill with some great boulders.






Going around the boulders



Heading up into the boulder fields


There was a really cool mountain of boulders nearby and I got one of my brilliant ideas. “Let’s climb to the top!” I said. All but one agreed.


Not only did we have huge boulders to scale, but there were thick fields of prickly pear cactus. As we came to multiple impassible spots due of cactus or rocks, I reminded the people following me that I usually bite off more than I can chew.


We decided to try another angle. The rocks look a lot smaller from 200 feet below. Once you get next to them, they are really big and you can’t just jump from one to another (trying to bypass the cactus).


We made it about ½ up before people started turning around. There were some awesome rock formations and what looked like shallow caves (what could have been mountain lion dens).











I lost a battle with a cactus.


Finally, all of us gave up and we started back to the truck. It began to sleet.




The rest of the day would be strange combinations of sun, sleet and sometimes sun and sleet at the same time.


We headed back down the mountain, took the left (now a right) at the wash next to the tent trailer and headed back out. We explored a few side trails and had lunch in a field of saguaro cactus.







Gwennie wanting me to throw a stick for her




This new trail let us out right next to the trail that leads to the highway 79. When I got back to Catalina, it took me 20 minutes to wash off all the sticky mud covering my Jeep with a high pressure hose.


It was a great day to experience a southern Arizona winter storm!

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^^Photo of the Month worthy entries right there^^ Thanks for sharing.

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Matt it looks like you had a great time!! I was sitting in class all day yesterday watching huge snow flakes all morning, But it didn't stick in town. My wife said that as soon as I left the house, it started sticking for a couple of hours, but melted off soon after. Surprising as much fell down in the valley, not near as much fell in the mountains.... Think the ground was just too warm for it.


I love that pic of Pat's Jeep and the Saguaro. I made the mistake of not rinsing the mud off before it dried, and it is stuck on hard..


Sure wish I could have gone with you guys!!

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From your recent post, I see the tables have turned;). Glad you could get out there and enjoy another winter storm!

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Just wish you could have been here too, Matt!

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