Best of Mount Graham 2010
Aka "Ode to More Moderate Temperatures"...
Friday August 13, 2010 - Hell Hole/Grandview Peak
Plan to escape 110 degree plus Valley temperatures by noon was thwarted by never ending work meetings. I did get on the road by 2:30pm sans co-adventurers. Stop off at Gold Canyon Basha's to strike off those last few items on the camp shopping list and a quick text to Preston Sands to let him know I'll be passing through Safford later than planned. Turned onto the Swift Trail a little before 6pm and I'm getting concerned about waning daylight => I hate setting up camp in the dark! Now the mental checklist to find that primo camp site courtesy of Mr. Sands;
o Pass the "Restricted Access" driveway heading to the Telescope on Mt. Graham at 10,720 ft. More at http://www.eac.edu/DISCOVERYPARK/mgio.shtm
Maybe a future tour?
o Pass the entrance to Old Columbine, then Columbine Corrals Fee Campground/Ash Creek TH and Visitor Center
o Pass Soldier Creek Fee Campgrounds
o Pass Large Rocks undeveloped recreation area
o Pass Chesley Flat TH
o First right turn after Chesley Flat should be the FR to Hell Hole and Grand View Point...
I make the turn off the Swift Trail onto the FR and gun my F-150 through a couple of mud holes. As I climb up to a saddle I spot a choice "at large" campsite on the right. The FR makes a sharp bend just beyond the campsite and a plunge down into what I presume is Hell Hole. I'm intimidated by the dark and a healthy expanse of water covering the road. So Camp Schulhauser is established on the Hell Hole Saddle => See GPS map 32.71462degN, 109.94670degW. Nice clearing provides a spectacular view of the star filled skies including the Milky Way. The Forest Service has been actively thinning the forest near the camp site making for an endless supply of fire wood. Set up the tent to the glow of F-150 headlights and fire up the propane BBQ => T-bone, mushrooms and baked potato on tonight's menu. Half a beer into my meal and I feel a headache coming on. What gives? My body altimeter has always been triggered at 10,000 feet in the past (a quick look at the GPS say 9,337 ft). Total silence grips the night only to be punctuated by a couple of hooting owls. I take a midnight stroll along the FR towards Grand View Point...
Saturday August 14, 2010 - Chesley Flat Trail, Blair Canyon Trail, Webb Peak via Soldier Creek, Webb Peak Trail, Ash Creek Trail
Rise with the sun and check the time on my cell phone => 5:38am. Grill up some bacon and eggs for breakfast, dead-out the campfire and head over to Chesley Flat.
Chesley Flat Trail => Explore the meadow and old corral. I'm unable to locate the foundations of the old Chesley homestead => http://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=36102
Undeterred, I spot the trail heading east into the forest. Lot's of downed trees as I approach the Blair Canyon Trail junction. A quick trek down this trail doesn't grab my interest, so it's back up to the Chesley Flat Trail and a steady climb towards a burned zone (remnants of the 2004 Nuttall Fire per Preston's hike description). The burned zone has been reclaimed by a riot of wildflowers => Western Sneezeweed, Western Dayflower, Richardson's Geranium standout... I follow the fire line gazing up for the Webb Peak lookout tower. The hike description warns about the trail disappearing at this point. Wandering some more without spotting the lookout tower, I decide to retrace my path back to the TH (more on this later...).
Webb Peak via Soldier Creek => Forest Service and locals have their chain saws and axes chopping up firewood at the FR88 TH. No room to park at the TH, so I pull my F-150 over to the side of Swift Trail. The ascent up the service road to Webb Peak is reminiscent of the lower sections of the Weatherford Trail. As I round a bend near the upper reaches, both the lookout tower and the upper Chesley Flat TH come into view. I head down the Chesley Flat Trail and think I spot where I gave up on the ascent up the trail. I turn back and head up to the lookout tower. View from this vantage is jaw-dropping.
Webb Peak Trail => After lingering in the lookout tower, time to make a decent down the eastern slopes towards Ash Creek Trail. I meet my first hikers of the day, a couple of adults leading about a dozen tweeners. Let's just say the tweeners all looked like they wanted to do anything but climb Webb Peak...
Ash Creek Trail #307 => This has got to be one of the best "escape the summer heat" trails in Arizona. Amble past the sawmill remnants to the slick rock and on to the falls. Everything is green, green, green! The trek back up to the TH works up a good sweat. As I approach the TH and Columbine Corrals Fee Campground, I see "tent city". All the campsites are occupied and full of activity. Quite the contrast to my Hell Hole Saddle "at large" campsite...
I follow the Swift Trail back to my parked F-150 and amble back to Camp Schulhauser about 4:30pm. I'm wiped. Sit back in a camp chair and us the opportunity to finish off Man Corn => viewtopic.php?f=11&t=5356&p=57762&hilit=man+corn#p57762
Sunday August 15, 2010 - Deadman-Highline Trail
I awake at dawn, fix some breakfast and begin to break camp waiting on the arrival of Mr. Sands. On cue, I hear a vehicle splashing through some mud holes. It's Preston. Finish packing, dead-out the firepit and it's off to DHT. We trek up the switchbacks into the "gray zone" that is Mt. Graham. Another sweet trail worthy of the 5-rating...