A springtime walk on the Pima Canyon Trail can be a bonanza of beauty - and also a bit of a bummer.
Wildflowers in brilliant bloom line the path, but other sights along the way include rocks that have been defaced with graffiti.
The words "Simon says leave him" are written in bright red paint across the face of one rock not far from the trailhead near North Christie Drive and East Magee Road.
Pink hearts have been painted on another rock.
A short tunnel in which the trail passes under a road is plastered with graffiti.
"We're starting to see graffiti in the backcountry more and more," said Gregg Sasek, trails and wilderness field manager for the U.S. Forest Service.
"We've had quite a bit of it in Sabino Canyon and Bear Canyon" and elsewhere along trails in the Catalina Mountains, Sasek said. "It's also becoming an unending thing in developed recreation areas. Windy Point (along the Catalina Highway) is probably the worst hit, but we've also started to see it at the Gordon Hirabayashi Campsite and the Hitchcock Campsite."
Sasek said there's no designated funding for graffiti removal, but he said he personally takes to the trail to remove writing and images from rocks when he hears about them.
"Some poor guy goes out there with a steel brush and some cleaner and basically scrubs the graffiti off the rock," he said. "That poor guy is me."
One of the most difficult removal challenges, Sasek said, was scrubbing away a 10-by-15-foot expanse of graffiti on forest land near the eastern end of Golder Ranch Road north of Tucson.
"It's getting harder for us to keep up with graffiti removal," he said.
SAGUARO PARK SPARED
Rangers only occasionally find graffiti at Saguaro National Park, with districts east and west of Tucson, park spokeswoman Andy Fisher said.
"We actually don't have a big graffiti problem in either district," Fisher said. "Reports vary, but maybe once or twice a month" graffiti are spotted. "Often, ranger and resource staff don't even hear about it, and the maintenance staff cleans it up as they find it."
One possible reason for the relatively low rate of graffiti at the park: Visitors there pay a $10-per-vehicle fee to enter and enjoy the natural attractions.
Many national forest trailheads, on the other hand, require no fees and sometimes attract people for reasons other than hiking or nature study.
On StarNet: Read more of Doug Kreutz's outdoors stories at azstarnet.com/staff/doug-kreutz
Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz