With but two days to take in as many hikes on Mt Graham as we could fit in we started off with what turned out to be our most-enjoyable hike of the trip. Although we left Mesa before 6 am, with a few delays along the way as well as a lot of dawdling on the mountain checking out the many campgrounds it would be late morning before we'd hit the trails. With info that the Cunningham campground may be least populated we continued until reaching it. But taking a loop through it dampened our hopes as it was nearly full and already one group had their boombox going
, destroying any chance of serenity so we continued on.
Columbine Corrals turned out to be perfect! Not a soul around and the first hike on our agenda will begin there. With rain clouds threatening we didn't bother setting up camp, figuring we'd wait until after the hike when the rain would likely be over with. We set out shortly after 11 am, heading down along Ash Creek with plans to go at least as far as the falls before turning back and taking in the Webb Peak Trail on the return trip.
This hike was easy on the eyes, with plenty of lush green vegetation along the quiet sound of the softly flowing creek, which simply heightened our anticipation of encountering the falls. Along the way we passed remnants of the mining camps that dotted the landscape years ago. About an hour into the hike the showers began in earnest but while it may have dampened our rain gear throughly it didn't dampen our enthusiasm. Besides, it's providing the additional water for a more impressive falls. Again Teva's proved to be the footgear of choice with good grip on the wet rocks and easily cleaned after steppping in mud with a simple swish in the creek at each crossing. Thankfully the rain let up before reaching the falls so we didn't have to deal with keeping our cameras covered while snaping pics.
Side note: After the debacle of trashing my previous Canon S3 I was lucky enough to happen across a pristine used one for 1/5 the cost of the latest in the Canon S series and this one performed beautifully the whole trip. And now with access to the original manual again, I started to be a bit more creative. I believe my first attempts at a wispy-water effect turned out very well in the absence of a tripod. Holding the camera still by hand was quite a challenge. On the way back the effort of the climb as well as the 9,000' elevation made for some heavy breathing.
On the return trip we took the trail up to the summit of Webb Peak for some photos before heading back to camp. The extra climb up to the peak made for quite an effort, especially since I regularly hike with 25 lbs in my pack,
most of which falls into the category of "in case I encounter someone with an emergency". Fortunately none has been required for some time so I'm beginning to re-evaluate what I carry.
The peak wasn't anything more than a rounded area with enough trees to prevent taking in the best views. The base of the tower sported a sign warning "CAUTION authorized personnel only" but since we weren't authorized, we didn't feel the caution applied to us and passed the unlocked gate, continuing only the the second landing where the views were stunning. This was the high point of our Mt Graham trip at 10,039' in elevation.
With no great love of heights Tracey
saw no need to climb higher. So, coupled with the hours of daylight fading and the job to set up camp yet to be accomplished it was time to head back. Only a mile later we dragged into camp shortly after 6 pm. To our pleasant surprise we were still the only ones at the campground and the ground was already dry from the earlier rain. Dealing with the combined effects of little sleep the night before, up before the crack of dawn, the long drive and adding 2000' AEG and 9000' elevations I was left almost useless at camp
so Tracey took on the job of setting up camp, and doing a fabulous job at that.
(Part of the credit goes to the excellent backpacking tent we bought at Cabela's last year)
As we were readying to turn in a group of what we believe were U of A students drove in (huge A
decal on the rear window) and parked on the other side of the campground, waited for another vehicle to arrive which then left with them all. A few hours later the group came walking back, jumped in the vehicle and left so they must have done a nightfall shuttle hike from somewhere south of us. Other than that short interruption we were alone all night. Ok, except for a deer that wandered through during the night, seemingly unconcerned I had my flashlight shining on it.
In the end, it was a very enjoyable yet taxing, scenic hike providing no end of opportunities for photos and videos, borne out by the ~300 photos we took in the 3+ hours of stopped time over the 7 hour hike. Again the whittling down to a reasonable amount for posting on HAZ is a time-consuming job in itself, to say nothing of the three additional triplogs/photosets to post of the hikes we took the second day on Mount Graham.
Full set of 60 photos is here:
Composite video of hike highlights (including Ash Creek Falls) is here: