Back to my beloved Sierra Anchas for the second weekend in a row, this time to finally get Cindy up to meet Red at Aztec Peak and retrieve the fire lookout book I had loaned him. I almost got her up there in the spring of 2009 as part of a meetup car camp I put together, but we ended up spending too much time at Workman Creek Falls watching people rappelling and only got as far as Peterson Meadow.
Left Tucson around 11 AM Saturday for a leisurely drive up. We were looking forward to lunch at our favorite place for Mexican food in Globe, Chalo's, but found out they were closed for vacation until August 9th. So we decided to hit Libby's El Rey instead. It didn't take me long to wish I had gone to Taco Bell instead. The salsa was good, as was the service, but the food was way too greasy (stop here only if you're running a quart low).
It was so bad I was still wiping my hands miles later to keep from losing the grip on the steering wheel.
I wanted to explore something new this time, and the plan was to hike up to Aztec from Reynolds Creek. I had scoped out campsites along that road the week earlier when nobody was in there, but this time all were taken, including the primo one near the trailhead (maybe lifting the fire restrictions had something to do with that). We headed up Cienega Spring Road to the Billy Lawrence trailhead, with its great views into Cherry Creek, and since nobody was there we decided that would be the place to camp. It was perfect: great views and solitude. Looking at my maps I realized we could do the hike over to Aztec from there instead of Reynolds, with only a slight increase in distance and elevation.
So we set up camp and prepared to enjoy the evening. Unfortunately, while walking around in the creek bed near camp, Cindy slipped and fell hard, putting a deep gash on her cheek near the left eye. I turned around just as she was landing and saw her head bounce off the rock. It was scary. There was a fair amount of bleeding, so I raced back to camp and drove the truck with the first aid kits back to where she was. We cleaned the wound as best we could and got the bleeding stopped. I asked her if she wanted to call it off and head to Globe, but her decision was to stay in camp and see how it went. An extra dosage of ibuprofen helped with the pain and we kept track of the wound and bleeding as the evening went on. Needless to say this put a real damper on the mood, but we managed to cook our dinners and hang out by the fire until around 11pm or so.
As usual I was up early at about 5am, out taking pictures and making a pot of coffee (with a mug delivered to her tent door when she woke up). Her head was still hurting in the morning, so I asked her if she wanted to try the hike or just break camp and drive over to Aztec Peak instead. After breakfast and packing the gear into the truck, she decided to try the hike. We set out at 10am on new trails to us.
From the Billy Lawrence trailhead it was about half mile on the Lucky Strike Trail (old mine road) to where the Center Mountain Trail starts. The Center Mountain Trail was a pleasant surprise, as it goes over Center Mountain then down right along the edge of the cliffs with the great views into the Cherry Creek drainage, before dropping down to join the Reynolds Creek Trail. Things were wet and green from the summer rains, but the best was yet to come. Reynolds Creek had a good flow as we climbed toward Knoles Hole. I was blown away by this section! It was so lush and wet, with large old growth trees and a tangle of shrubs, vines, and grasses. Lots of large raspberries were encountered, as well as some blackberries! The blackberries were very sweet. Simply one of the neatest little pockets of natural bliss I have seen in Arizona! After topping out at about 7500 feet, it was a gradual descent to the road at the old Murphy Ranch. The most boring part of the day was the road walk up to Aztec Peak.
So Cindy finally got to meet Red! We had a nice visit and he told me he really enjoyed reading the book and showing it to tower visitors. We happened to be in the tower when all the towers had to give their weather reports when called. That was neat. It started raining as we left the tower, but soon let up when we walked over for a food break at the Flintstone furniture. It was time to head back and we admired the great scenery for a second time. Stopped to have a beer on Center Mountain for the homestretch. Got back to the truck at 730pm, as the daylight was almost gone. Cindy showed real grit doing this hike under the circumstances.
She was hurting, but happy. It was a fantastic hike!
What I saw on this trip guarantees I will be back to do more exploring.
We finally got back to Tucson around midnight.