Summer higher altitude backpacking is coming up and I felt I needed a workout; found myself thinking about a loop in the Chiricahuas I wanted to do. A friend of mine and his girlfriend had done this loop, several years ago, as a dayhike from base camp at Anita Park, and he experienced some terrible trail conditions courtesy of several forest fires in the wilderness and he had told me would be very difficult as a backpack.
I overnighted in Rucker, then up around 6ish started up Bear Canyon on the trail to Raspberry Ridge. You climb in about 4 miles 3200 feet. I wanted to get this out of the way. At 2.8 miles by my GPS, which I was using instead of it sitting in a drawer, showed a little over 2K gain and I felt fine, had my breakfast of a PB and J sandwich.
At Bear Saddle, you have some nice views looking toward Paint Rock and the Chiricahua crest.
Mounting the Raspberry Ridge, through the burn, the trail was quite followable although faint in places and eroded. It stays just downhill of the ridgeline. If you lose it just look for cut logs. Very little treefall and small to negotiate. Big puffy clouds were building, giving amazing sky views, along with the green of ferns and new Aspens, new life to the drab landscape of old burn.
Soon I spotted the Monte Vista lookout, I didn't feel like going over so kept on toward the Crest trail and toward Chiricahua peak and junction saddle. I saw some dayhikers along here. I realized this is the first time I have backpacked in these mountains; normally just dayhike. This loop is dayhikeable with a reasonable start and take a headlamp just in case.
The burn gives way to the old growth forest. I had plenty of water so decided not to detour to Anita Park, taking a cut off trail that skirts Chiricahua peak. It's in pretty bad shape, the downslope burned and the trail barely clinging to the bare hillside.
Juniper Spring was nonusable, it had some water but you needed a straw or siphon to pull it out.
I cruised on down the Crest trail, at the end where you dive into Price canyon there is a lot of treefall and the trail steep and eroded, you'll be leaning on your poles and you scree surf down.
Price canyons head was littered with trash from illegal immigrant traffic.
It reminded me of the canyons in the Huachucas. The canyon is steep and narrow and progress here is slow. The trail is eroded ( seems like a common statement) and lots of vegetation and treefall to negotiate. Price had pools of water. The constant trash was depressing.
I exited on the Red Rock canyon trail, and heard people talking on the Price canyon trail below. The threatening weather was getting it's act together and it rained gently, nice in the low sunlight. I decided I wanted to camp soon as to see Rucker canyon in the early light. I found some eroded rock outcrops and set up camp in one of the alcoves, off the trail and out of sight.
I was treated to a lightning, thunder, rain, and near sunset, the "Fire Rain" as I call it, the sun's rays making the sheets of rain glow red.
I had a good night sans bivy and packed up and descended the switchbacks into Rucker early. The canyon was flowing here and just gorgeous in the early light and the stream was bordered by lots of the yellow columbine. You might as well have your camera out all the time in this canyon. It's just beautiful.
I sauntered along, took photos, then finally got to my car. By GPS 17.4 miles and elevation gain about 4330 total.
Another excellent trip in the Chiricahuas.