The grey blanket of clouds rolled in from Mexico early Sunday morning while I slept. I awoke to Michigan in late springtime. 60's and overcast, ceiling of 5000 feet. Sabkha wanted to "go for a walk with leash", and I wanted to get out too. For some reason cleaning the house felt more appealing, and I temporarily fell victim to "I-don't-want-to-go-osis". This is a strange disease, because I spend most of the work week daydreaming about smooth granite and soaring saguaros, and wind whistling through the pines, snowflakes falling, and scaling redrock. But when the weekend comes I get housebound paralysis. A million little naggy excuses bubble up in my mind: it's a pain to bring Sab, she might get hurt. It's such a long drive. I don't know where to go, there are so many options. Finally around 4 PM I scooped up the Camelback and Sab's leash and we went out the door. Destination: either Soldier Canyon, at the first curve on the Catalina Highway (aka Hairpin) or Molino Canyon, my old standby. I vetoed Solider Cyn because of the heinous bouldering. The sky was darkening and it was sprinkling rain. Time was ticking. I saw Soldier Trail on the left and I did a U-turn.
In all my years of driving up Mt Lemmon I've never tried Soldier Canyon. It always looked boring and desertish. When you live down in the desert you want to get up into the forests. So I've never stopped here, only 500 vertical feet above Tucson, where summer temps still reach the lower 100s. Sab and I bounded up the trail and I was pleasantly surprised. After getting out of view of the road the trail follows a delightful (if small) canyon with nice outcroppings of mylonites on both sides. A little over a mile brought us to some views down into the upper part of Solider Canyon, where it splits (and Rivendale climbing area is found in the left split). From the trail down into Solider Canyon was a significant drop. Here is Sabkha peeking over the cliff, trying to think of some good reason to take a flying leap. Perhaps a squirrel in the bottom of the wash, 250 feet below?
We kept on the trail which begins to follow Soldier Canyon. Cutting back left we got a close-up look at some of the smoothed-out hollows and pools dropping down into the lower canyon. It looks difficult, although I think moderate climbers/canyoneers could get up from below. It was tough to spot how one would get down from above, as it usually is. Darkness was upon us so we high-tailed it back down the trail, running most sections. Much of the trail is smooth enough for careful downhill jogging, especially in the upper sections. Who knew Soldier Trail would be such a gem? I look forward to going farther up the trail next time.