Once again, I've been beat to the wonderful details of the trip by my stalwart hiking companion... however, I really enjoyed this little jaunt, so I'm writing up my own version of events anyhow.
Tibber came down to the Old Pueblo on Friday night and I hiked her 'cross downtown to El Charro. She's gotten smart, though, and she wears her walkin' shoes when she arrives at my place now! I suppose if I was promising EC's Carne Seca at the end, she'd probably follow be just 'bout anywhere!
We spent the balance of the evening making pumpkin-pie protein bars. It's a recipe I recommend, though I still want to play with it a bit to get it dialed in to a higher level of pumpkin-y goodness. We turned in early with plans to get a decently early start.
Although it's a longish drive out through Sunsites and Pearce to the trailhead, it's a pretty one and well worth the trip even without the hike. I'd never actually driven through Pearce (on Ghost Town Trail Road no less), and found it to be the genuine little AZ ghost town I've always seen in my head. Gotta go back someday when 'all' the stores are open and what not
Middlemarch road was in good shape, though not super-fast through the pass. Once we turned off onto 4393, things got notably rougher. I might have made it in further with Bu if I'd been more adventurous, but we were here to hike afterall. We parked just a ways past the parking area described in the write up and headed off on foot with Lilo in tow.
The first part of the hike is classic AZ Mining Road walking. This means steep, loose and winding, but not difficult. It's a pretty area, and we were just happy to be out. I'd hoped that a little exercise would exorcise some of my nasty cold ick in my chest, but it only seemed to irritate it. I ended up spending the day sucking on lozenges and coughing 'till I peed. Nice.
At the top of the road we followed the instructions left along the old bulldozer scar. It was very obvious to me because the scar is grown in with a non-native bufflegrass where the rest of the hillside is finer, prettier native grasses. The narrow tread is a bit slopey in places, but not hard to follow. Lilo was having a great time showing us right where to go.
Once we made the ridgeline and stopped for a quick lunch, my coughing was getting quite bad. However, I was not in the mood to turn around after so short a trip, and we headed up the relatively open land along the ridge. Views here were fantastic, and the going was pretty easy. A little fun from time to time navigating around rocks and bushes, but overall just a nice walk.
Then we got to the part that Preston described as "mountain top like". And it was. Larger rock outcroppings with old, low hanging oaks and junipers. The going got fun. The last few 'false summits' were beating my endurance a little, between the fact that my cough suppressant was wearing out and there was a little more exposure than I was 100% comfortable with. (I'd give it about a 6 on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being 'no pumpkin way'). At one point, looking at the real summit still a dip and rise over, I almost gave up. It seemed like more work than it would be worth, and my woosey was hurting.
But, as Angela says, no self-respecting HAZer comes this far only to turn around...
I was very glad we pushed to the summit in the end. Not only were the views from there significantly better than from the ridge (the summit itself blocks views to the north until you're right on top), but the sun came out, the wind stopped and it was a beautiful, beautiful moment. Lilo had some trouble finding a soft spot to lay down, but she was tired enough to do with what she had.
We entered our names into the summit register, right after Preston 1/10 and Preston 1/11. I left my spiral bound notebook behind in the register, as the papers there seemed nearly full and decaying pretty quickly. Obviously not a well-visited spot, and while I'd like to keep it that way, I have to say that it's definitely worth more attention.
Our hike back was quicker and easier, with Lilo being an invaluable help in keeping us on the right animal tracks. Her nose knows for sure!
We made it to the HAZ camp just after dark, and it was such a delight to see everyone. So many folks that I'd not met before, or hadn't seen in ages. We're a pretty amazing group of folks, if I do say so myself!
Hated having to leave early, but the coughing just wouldn't stop, and I was afraid the group might lynch me if it carried on through the night. Angela and I drove back to Tucson trying to talk as little as I could (which meant I talked alot), and picking up a milkshake to soothe the sore throat.
Maybe next time for the Irish folk tunes around the fire!!