Archive for the ‘Prison Camp’ Tag

Sycamore Reservoir   Leave a comment

Sycamore Reservoir B&WSycamore Reservoir Under Construction (1939) — Source Unknown
(Note: Thimble Peak In The Distance Through The Pass)

Sycamore Reservoir was originally constructed to supply water to the Catalina Federal Honor Camp, or Tucson Federal Prison Camp, located in the Santa Catalina Mountains. The camp held men subject to the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. It had no security fence, boundaries were marked with stones painted white. 45 of the 46 prisoners were draft resisters and objectors of conscience transferred from camps in Colorado, Arizona and Utah, although Gordon Hirabayashi, who had challenged the exclusion of Japanese Americans from the West Coast, was also held here.

This small lake has been made even smaller by flash floods which have washed huge amounts of rock and sand into the lake. Still, the reservoir and surrounding area remain a pleasant destination for a day or overnight trip.

Sycamore Reservoir Hike-8106-72The trail to where the dam is located. (October 2012)

Prison Camp to Sycamore DamSycamore Dam (October 2012)

Prison Camp to Sycamore DamAbove Sycamore Dam (October 2012) — Images by kenne

Hiking Sycamore Canyon/Reservoir Trail   1 comment

Friday Hike Oct. 4, 2019-72

Sycamore Canyon-721st SCVN Fall Hike, Sycamore Canyon/Reservoir Trail  — iPhone Images by kenne

Today, we led a small group of ten hikers on the first Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists (SCVN) fall Friday Hike. This hike is annually done in the fall and spring. The hike is about 5.5 miles, starting in the old Prison Camp (Gordon Hirabayashi Campgrounds) the trail leads to the reservoir that supplied water to the Prison Camp. Click here for more historical information on the Campgrounds.

— kenne

Hiking The Sabino Canyon To Bear Canyon Loop   3 comments

A few postings back, I shared photos and a video of our recent hike to Thimble Peak. This was a twelve-mile hike from the Gordon Hirabayashi Campgrounds, where we took the Sycamore Reservoir trail to the Bear Canyon trail, then on the Thimble Peak trail and back, all under windy, but beautiful weather. A good part of this hike was in the Push Ridge Wilderness area of the Santa Catalina Mountains

A week later, the SCVN Friday hike was scheduled from Sabino Canyon to Hutch’s Pool, with the option of taking the East Fork trail to Bear Canyon trail, looping back to Sabino Canyon Center. The loop hike is also a twelve-mile hike through the Push Ridge Wilderness, this time continuing on the Bear Canyon trail through the Seven Falls area of Bear Canyon. The significant difference for this hike was having the contrast of a cloudy day vs. the blue sky weather a week earlier — both were very alluring hikes.

Hiking The Loop-8865 blogNear The Start Of The East Fork Trail — Images and Video by kenne

At the fork where Box Camp Canyon merged into Sabino Canyon, six of us opted to take the East Fork to Bear Canyon, the others taking the West Fork to Hutch’s Pool. Once at the saddle between Sabino Canyon and Bear Canyon, we began heading south on the Bear Canyon trail. At this point, most of our hike through Bear Canyon was downhill.

Once we reached Bear Canyon creek, the trail crosses the creek, running parallel to it, veering to the left where the creek runs into Seven Falls. The view above Seven Falls allows one to see all the trail switchbacks that are not visible from where the south part of the Bear Canyon trail leads to Seven Falls.

After hiking down through Bear Canyon, it’s hard to understand why anyone would hike to Thimble Peak through Bear Canyon, rather than coming from the Gordon Hirabayashi Campgrounds. The distance maybe a little less, but the gain would not be worth the elevation change.

The following video contains photos and video clips from the loop hike, November 15, 2013.


Las Vegas-8899 blogThe Bear Canyon Trail Coming In Next To Seven Falls With Sun Light Peeping Through.

A Century Plant In A Century Of Record Heat   Leave a comment

Century Plant Collage blogThe Agave Century Plant Blossoms Near The Prison Fire In The Santa Catalina Mountains As Record Heat Continues In The American Southwest
— Images by kenne

Wildfire In The Santa Catalina Mountains (Prison Fire)   3 comments

Even though parts of southern Arizona received some rain late yesterday, the southwest remains very hot and dry. It is hope the the summer rains will help firefighters contain the fires without additional loss of life after the 19 deaths in the Yarnell Hill Fire last night.

When conditions are this dry, rain is needed to add moisture, reducing the amount of fuel for wildfires. However, with rain comes lightning, as was the case with yesterday’s rain in southern Arizona. Lightening started a fire at about the 5,000′ level in the Santa Catalina Mountains, not far from the eight mile marker on the Catalina Highway. The fire has burned over 200 acres and has been named the Prison Fire since is in the area where the former WW-II prison camp, now the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site.

Prison Camp FireView of Catalina Highway near Windy Point with smoke to the upper right and a red helicopter near the lower center of the photo.

On most Mondays in the summer, I hike with the Monday Morning Milers on Mount Lemmon. This morning’s hike was on the Knagge Cabin trail at Incinerator Ridge, which is located about 3,000′ above the Prison Fire.

Prison Camp FireReadying the bucket to drop water on hotspots.

After starting the hike, I noticed a red helicopter circling below, so I move for a better view of what was up. The helicopter was landing near a water tank where a bucket was being attached to a cable from the helicopter.

Since I had driven up the mountain by myself, not needing to wait for other hikers, I decided to get a closer look at this helicopter firefighting method to help put out hotspots. Driving down the highway, stopping at several points to take photos. I was not able to go into the Prison camp area because of security, so my closest photos were taken near the entrance. A professional photographer was nearby, so we talked about the wildfire. He is in one of 26 images you can see on Flickr by clicking here.


Prison Camp FireImages by kenne (To See More Images, Click here.)

Capturing The Moment — Mariposa Lily Desert Wildflower   5 comments

Friday with Friends & Molino Basin to Prison Camp

Friday with Friends & Molino Basin to Prison CampMariposa Lily Wildflower — Image by kenne Captured in the Molino Basin, Santa Catalina Mountains


There’s blue sage and
Comet Blazing Star,
Forget-me-nots and
Desert candle;
Owl’s clover, and
Dune Primrose and
There is the Scarlet Bugler
And Rattlesnake weed,
Prince’s plume and
Linear-leaf Goldenbush;
Tidy Tips and Rock Cress,
Globe Gilia and Adonis Lupine;
Pineapple Weed, and
Wooly Paintbrush,
Baby Blue Eyes, Fremont Pincushion
And Sun Cups,
Fiddleneck and bright yellow Coreopsis,
Thistle Sage and Desert Calico,
Dandelion and Apricot Mallow and
Fiddleneck and
Of course, a landscape of
Millions of golden poppies;
The desert is in bloom
And it’s all here,
Clamoring for attention,
Demanding to be admired.

–Sandra Lee Smith

Hiking The Sycamore Reservoir Trail From The Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi Recreational Area   1 comment

Hiking up the ridge the Sycamore Reservoir Trail from the Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi Recreational Area  to the Sycamore Reservoir.

The Sycamore Reservoir Trail is now part of the Arizona Trail.

Looking down from the ridge above the Sycamore Dam and riparian area.

Sycamore Reservoir Trail Gallery (Click on any of the thumbnail images for a larger view.)

There are some who complain about the long drive up the Catalina Highway to Mount Lemmon for summertime hiking at the cooler higher elevation temperatures. Being able to escape the desert heat in the summertime is a blessing, but it wasn’t till the middle of the last century that the journey became easy.

Work on the Catalina Highway began in 1933 in order to make it easier to get to the summit of Mount Lemmon. Starting at Tanque Verde Road in east Tucson, the highway goes several miles north before starting a 5,300-foot climb, passing through five of North America’s seven distinct life zones.  Although a road up to Summerhaven was built in 1920, the road was on the north side of the Catalina’s, a good distance from the more populated Tucson area to the south of the mountain range. Prior to the early thirties, the route to the community of Summerhaven from the south was a trail from lower Sabino Canyon to soldier Camp on up to Mount Lemmon.

Efforts to build a highway from the south struggled for seven years until Frank Harris Hitchcock convinced federal prison authorities that a prison camp in the mountains could provide a cheap labor source. The facilities called  the Catalina Federal Honor Camp were much like those in other western mountain campgrounds, i.e., barracks, a mess hall, a laundry, powerhouse and a small sawmill. As a tent camp, with no walls or fences, the prison camp was primarily made up of car thieves, bootleggers, tax evaders, draft dodgers, Mexicans entering the country illegally, and conscientious objectors, existed until 1951, when the road was finished. During that time period over 8,000 prisoners worked on the road, including 44 interned Japanese-Americans during World War II.

To supply water to the camp, Sycamore Reservoir was constructed several miles away, which included a pump-house to pump water through a six-inch pipe up over the ridge to the campgrounds. The pipeline was above ground placed on rock pilings, many of which can be seen from the trail from the honor camp to Sycamore Reservoir. Like many small mountain reservoirs, they become even smaller from mountain floods washing rock and sand into the reservoir. What remains of the dam and the lake area serves to maintain water levels for a riparian area that extends into the two canyons that form the dam site.

As mentioned above, during the war Japanese Americans were interned at the camp. Among those was Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi, an American sociologist and religious pacifist who defied internment. In 1942 he turned himself in to the FBI, after which he was convicted of curfew violation and sentence to 90 days in prison. He appealed the verdict, which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court ruled against him.

Given the wartime conditions, officials would not transport him from Seattle to the Prison Camp in the Catalina’s, nor would they pay for his train fare. After two weeks hitchhiking to Arizona, he arrived at the Prison Camp. Since it took him two weeks to arrive at the camp, his papers were not ready, causing the warden to suggest that he just leave. Hirabayashi thought that might look a little suspicious, so the story goes that he should go into town, have dinner and go to a movie — the papers were ready when he came back. One has to wonder how this took place given the camp location in relationship to the city, but then it could have involved days before arriving back to the camp.

Hirabayashi was to later spent one year in federal prison for refusing military induction. In 1999 the Prison Camp recreational area was renamed the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreational Area, where he had served 90 days during the war.

In April of this year, President Barack Obama announced that Hirabayashi would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his principled stand against Japanese-American interment. The honor was present posthumously May 29, 2012.


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