So today was the day that I thot I was gonna attempt a 12 mile hike with serious elevation, for me anyway. So wrong Chiricahua breath! I realized after the first 2 miles and gosh knows how much elevation gain, the later start, the lack of fuel in my body and the ominous weather, the chances weren't good.
This first four miles is a doozy
. It gets even more scenic the higher you get. I particularly liked the views toward the Dragoons where I had been two weeks earlier. And of course there's the view of the Peaks (Johnson, Monte Vista) to your south that attract your interest.
The trail got dicey in a couple sections. One time it was particularly tricky but come to find out, we had missed an immediate switchback which we noticed as we were making our way back across the side of the hill. Randy realized a couple times that he should have turned & I should have been paying more attention too
instead of going straight so it's important that a person be mindful of these abrupt switchback turns. The wrong way had been properly blocked but with the fire and water and such, those road blocks had been moved around a bit and were quite subtle. But I don't mind a little scrambling so it was actually kind of fun.
est part of this trek was when we got to the top of one of the switchbacks where we were treated to spectacular, almost 360 degree views. We took a 10 minute break here. Little did we know what a fantastic show we would get as we walked across the north side of the ridge. Though there was some burn, the greenery and the wildflowers above Ward Canyon and beyond were absolutely magnificent
. We were very happy hikers. Plus an added bonus, this was the level part of the hike for about 10 minutes. It was great.
Eventually you get back over to the south side of the ridge above Mormon Canyon and it's back to the up and up
. The up is not dramatic, it's just forever it seems. The weather would threaten from time to time so Randy wanted us to keep going steady. As we were walking along through some great wildflowers, I told Randy I wasn't gonna be able to do the entire hike. He had already given me two bailout routes and I told him, I wanted to take the bailout at Mormon Saddle and head down the canyon rather than try the ridge and the rest of the hike. We were fighting time and weather, I was fighting hunger at this point.
Eventually I kept plugging along and still managed to enjoy almost all of this ridgeline elevation except the 1/2 mile before we finally got into a more protected area where Randy timidly proclaimed there looked to be another corner to go around and I proclaimed, I had to eat
. He agreed that this spot would work fine. It did turn out to be a scenic area with nice views across Ward Canyon toward the Saulsbury Crest Trail area and Anita Peak. It was nice to see some of the various peaks in the Chiricahuas in person. Here is the video from the Ridge part of the hike:
We ended up probably being about 1/4-1/3 mile from the Junction. I am glad we chose to have lunch where we did because I thot the views were much better. Next, it was all downhill
as they say. This wasn't the easiest downhill but at least I didn't need as much lung power. It was here I was particularly glad Randy had done this part of the hike a few times last year as the trail was no where to be found in a couple cases
. Eventually of course, we would hook back up with the trail.
The scenery was so interesting especially the deeper we got into the canyon. And as we got deeper there were cairns that helped guide us as the trail would disappear again. We passed by some cool mossy covered rocks and trees. Randy told me we should be coming closer to the where the water suddenly appeared from under the rocks. Soon I hear him say, "I think the creek is just ahead". Less than one minute later we are struggling to get our jackets on as quickly as possible
No, it wasn't the creek, it was a hail storm
(which I thot I was filming but apparently I didn't press the movie button never engaged). We would hear the creek flowing in about 10-15 minutes. So now if you're ever hiking with Randy and he says he thinks the creek is just ahead, grab your jacket. This moment, in spite of the hail, provided great levity.
I think because this is such a long and tightly-treed canyon, it gives off a sense of spookiness
but especially on this kind of weather day. As we started to get closer to the bottom, we came across an area where I noticed debris up in the tree and then in another tree. At first we were surpised that the water would have flowed that high, well above us, but then realized the water had probably got caught between some very tall boulders and had pooled up. That must have been something. Here is the video from the Canyon part of the hike: http://youtu.be/PxBAhXL6VVw
Soon we were back at camp, having a beer, taking down the tarp and on the road but not before stopping at John Ringo's gravesite. I had read a little about him while doing my research for this hike. His death is very interesting. We were also lucky to enjoy a beautiful sunset all around us and lightning storms in the very far north and east as we made our way toward Benson on Dragoon Road via Sunizona. We had a great Mexican meal at a restaurant Randy wanted to try on main street before we parted ways in Tucson.