Ok, continuing my logging as I said I would. South Fork to Sentinel Peak...awesome. This is now my favorite trail in the Chiricahuas. The forest over here is full of noise. I knew birders frequent this place, but I didn't expect this. Very pleasant surprise. I started at the TH and met a birder from Louisiana. He was quick to point out a painted redstart to me, apparently one of the hot birds down there. He was also a fellow biologist so we shared some survey work we've been doing...he's been surveying plovers and least terns impacted by some oil spill he mentioned happened in the Gulf. A chopper flew up the canyon a few times which led to a conversation of me finding a dead body and his brother being lost to the wilderness and not being found for a year...whoa. After 2.5 miles he decided the 200 yard walk he told his wife he was taking had extended into the "I'm in trouble" distance and we parted ways. It was nice conversation, but I was happy to be solo again and to be absorbed by the woods.
Up to this point the trail is absolutely no problem to follow. And seemingly, the birders don't go far beyond. About half way through though the trail has become fairly overgrown; easy enough to follow, just need to check around now and then. The further up you go the worse it gets. The rangers put up some pink flagging to mark kinks, but many are on the ground now. Just follow the drainage or game trails and eventually you'll see some clear trail or a pink. Anyway, I was happy because I prefer no trails.
So, after I parted from Louisiana I continued on. Just a little bit after, where the trail was choked with veg, I was greeted by a black-tailed rattlesnake. Cool. He slithered away and I crouched down to grab a shot and whoops, I stepped on his buddy. He was nice and just rattled me away. Too bad I didn't see them first because it would have made a cool shot. And then I carried on. The clouds rolled in, the thunder clapped, the birds quieted, and the rain poured. Rain was exactly what I was hoping for and I got it, I was thrilled. I had rain gear in my pack, but didn't feel like being dry. I marched on in the downpour and was happy. From here it was lost time. I just hiked on towards Sentinel and enjoyed the woods.
I neared the top of the drainage the trail was following and eventually lost the trail completely. I let my senses take me from there. I crested a ridge through a raspberry patch (yum) shortly after and saw what was Sentinel Peak a half mile away...perfect. I trotted over and was greeted by some 20 or 30 Forest Service folks...the helicopter from earlier. They were there working on a fire break and I think more than a bit surprised to see a hiker 9 miles up the drainage in a tshirt in the rain. I chatted with a threesome for a bit and got some general info on the area and the fire. From there I grabbed the peak, changed shirts, and threw the rain jacket on...and the rain stopped. The chopper zoomed back up to start picking the workers up as well. Real cool.
Down. As soon as I got back in the woods the chorus picked up again. Wonderful. Asides from the all the birds I was seeing a good amount of Yarrow's spiny lizard and a great amount of bear scat. I was disappointed I didn't come across any bears...I was expecting to. The hike down was just as nice. The creek on the way up was tasty and clear, coming down it was brown and not worth anymore tastes. Lost my bandana on the way up, found it on the way down.
Great hike overall. If you are coming to the Chiricahuas I would strongly recommend this trail, and the whole area. Beware of the healthy amount of poison ivy. I am scratching myself as I type. You'll see it everywhere on this trail. I get it every year and don't bother avoiding it, but you should be able to fairly well. Anyway, those are my hikes this weekend, logged as I said I would.