So, my tour of the Southern Arizona Sky Islands concluded with a hike up to the top of Mt. Wrightson. I did a very similar series of hikes last year in April, and I was amazed how different things looked this year in May/June. There was still snow on Lemmon, barely any water in the Rincons, and there was almost no wind on Wrightson.
While the hike didn't start until Saturday morning, the adventure started early with Angela arriving for the requisite trip to El Charro for Carne Seca and Prickly Pear Margaritas. As I seem to be becoming a regular at El Charro, I decided to try something different, and I got the grenn chili pork burrito (elegante style with green sauce). Talk about Yum! Unfortunately, I was to discover through the remainder of the weekend that yum does not always indicate the level of approval your body has for any given food source. Bloated, and with more than half of my burrito in a to-go box, we headed home to pack, yack and catch a few zzzzzzzzz.
The shutterbug and I arrived at the TH exactly on time, meeting up with 4 hikers who had spent the night in the canyon, and shortly followed by 3 more driving up from Phoenix. The 9 of us hit the Old Baldy Trail at around 8:30 and it accommodated us with it's infamous immediate climb up. It was a sparkling morning, not too hot, with slight breezes and tons of birdsong. I gave Angela a 7 minute "coming right up" and poof - we were at the saddle already! I had completely failed to acquire accurate (or any) intel on the spring situation, so while Angela fought with Big Agnes, I ran down to Sprung Spring to see if it had, well, sprung. While the tub was dry and the pipe empty, there was a fair trickle in the creek below the true spring. Plenty for a small band of hikers - that meant we were a go for cocktails that evening. Wahoo! I walked back up to the saddle, and we picked up the trail again towards the peak.
Angela and I took our time, snapping lots of photos, playing with cheeky squirrels, listening to the birds and oohing-and-ahhing at the incredible scenery. Although the hills are recovering from the fires, it's still quite barren and offers amazing views to the west and the north. When we got to Bellows Spring, we found crystal clear water gushing over the lip of the cement tank. The locust bushes were so thick near the spring that it was almost like walking through a garden bower. Birds were singing, butterflies fitting by - textbook spring stuff. We caught a quick snack and a few group photos and were off again - planning on lunch at Baldy Saddle.
I always think that the trail between the spring and the saddle feels so much longer than it's signed to be. Perhaps that is because there is so much to see along the way that I just can't believe it all happens in less than a mile. Angela was in Tibber-Mode full on, and we took our sweet time getting up. This was the very first time I've ever climbed this face without being buffeted by nasty winds. Instead it was warm, lightly breezy and beautiful. Just below the saddle I ran into members of the SAHC, the leader of whom I had conversed before the trip in an attempt to get water intel. Evidently, he'd been making the same little speech about a 'girl named Wendy' to every female hiker they encountered that day
. Nice folks, they were on their way down, so they must've started MUCH earlier than we did. Of course, I know they're faster, but that's neither here nor there.
Lunch at the saddle, with those drop-dead-amazing views. Another couple came up and began setting up camp in the one shady, sheltered spot up there. Again, no wind. I almost began to wonder where I was and what the world had done with the Santa Ritas.
We started the last upward leg and managed to stay together as a group pretty well all the way to the peak. The trail was (as usual) in superb condition and it felt like we just flew to the top. At the peak, we found only one other hiker, and he descended just after we arrived, so our 1/2 hour or so up there was all to ourselves. We goofed around, watched the lady bugs, signed the log book and took a pumpkin-ton of photos. Angela was on cloud nine - and I got her on video saying those wonderful words "It was easier than I thought". We threw Wendys all over the place, because that's like one of the ultimate Wendy locations. When we started back down, I think we were all a little high. Whether it was the altitude or the joy of the mountain might never be known...
The hike back down on the Super Trail was great. The afternoon light was getting fun, though it was quite warm on the stretches with no shade (and there are a lot of them on that part of the trail). It is kinda eerie to see how the hillsides are recovering from fire. So completely different from the rest of the mountain.
Made it back to Josephine, refilled on water at the spring, made a lovely small fire and turned in for a pleasant night. It got breezy at about 3am, and that cooled it down a bit, but otherwise, it was quite balmy.
We got up earlyish, headed down the Super Trail, and made the parking lot by 9:30a. We drove into Green Valley looking for breakfast, and we got lucky at the American - considering that it was Father's Day and all.
Overall, a fantastic trip with a fun and relaxed group. With experiences like this one, it gets hard to think "yeah, I should stay home and clean my bathroom this weekend", ya know?