After driving down the previous week to check out the Chiricahuas from the road, I decided to go down this weekend and camp in West Turkey Creek and do some hiking. I invited several people to join me, but only Angela decided it was worth doing given the weather forecast of stormy conditions. I almost called it off, but hurricane Hilary became a non-factor as far as creating a monster event, so the trip was on.
We arrived in the area around noon Saturday and since there were a number of people in the best spots at Sycamore CG, we headed up the road a short ways to check out a spot I like as an alternative. Nobody was there, so we set up camp before the rains came. Glad we put the tarp up! It rained pretty good for about an hour, then moved on, so we got a little hiking in. Angela had never been there, so I wanted to show her all the cool spots near camp. That worked out well, then more showers moved in as we got back to camp. But we gradually got the fire going, had dinner, and by dark all was well as the rain let up, and we relaxed enjoying wine and conversation.
Shortly after heading for bed around 10 PM, the rain returned and persisted most of the night. The lightning never got too close, so it was quite pleasant for sleeping with with the sound of the nearby creek and rain on the tents to act as a lullaby.
The rain had stopped by 6 AM when I got up to get the coffee going. It was a wet but beautiful morning. After a leisurely morning in camp, we started our hike around 9. The original plan was to do my typical adventurous loop up to the Crest Trail near Chiricahua Peak, then head clockwise past Paint Rock to Monte Vista Lookout, finishing by going back to camp via the Morse Canyon Trail.
We had determined by hiking about a mile up the Mormon Canyon Trail Saturday that it would be better to do the hike up Mormon Ridge instead, due to the flood damage we saw. That turned out to be a good idea, but even so there were spots high up with trail damage. We didn't start early and our pace was slow, so we decided to shorten the hike when we got near the Mormon Ridge/Canyon junction at around 8800 feet. By then the storms were developing again nearby to further convince us. The section of Mormon Canyon Trail immediately below the junction has been in bad shape from previous fires, and it is even worse now. There is about a quarter mile of tough route finding, before the trail becomes more obvious. But even then, the amount of post fire damage was amazing, in places blowing out the trail (which more or less hugs the bottom of the canyon). Once you get to the old sawmill site, you pick up the old logging road for the finish, but even that was hammered by the runoff this summer.
Our camp was at about 6500 feet, Sycamore CG is at 6300 feet, and the official Mormon Ridge trailhead is at 6200 feet (and about .7 mile from our camp). I hadn't hiked on the Mormon Ridge Trail since the 1990s, since I much prefer going up the canyon route and stay out of the sun. But the views from the ridge route were very nice (burned trees and all). This is a fine part of the western Chiricahua Mountains, with its easy access and an excellent array of trails.
Mormon Spring was blasted by lateral runoff, and the pipe from the spring box was missing, but there was a gallon plus per minute flowing out of the ground. This is a very lush canyon and the spring is very reliable.
On our way home Sunday evening, we stopped at the John Ringo grave site by the Sanders Ranch and had dinner in Benson. Yet another fine Chiricahua trip in the books!