The 64OB right hand logging road wound down and around for only .7 mile... but then allowed an easy sideways descent on down into Deadman Canyon... and another little bit on up Deadman and I was at the intersection with 6409. Since I had already hiked that connecting loop, I turned and headed down canyon, intersecting Water Canyon in less than half a mile.
My thoughts had been on Cathey Canyon... one of the more prominently labeled on the maps... and the one having the named overlook off Sunspot Hiway at it's upper end... I knew I needed to hike it. I'd glanced down it from the upper roadway... it looked really dull: wide open cow pasture?
My problem: I did not know where exactly it intersected Water Canyon. As usual... no map on hand... no real planning* to the day. I did know it was close. I headed down canyon checking side drainages on my left. None looked good; eventually I decided I'd have to approach the canyon from above... no way to make a mistake doing that... and, it would have to happen on another day.
I'd had a slow start on the day... energy was not great. A simple walk up canyon back to the truck was in order. Then, walking around a curve on the Old Sunspot Hiway, I noticed a potential path leading up on to a bench above the canyon bottom that I thought was Cathey. I had not started up the cut earlier because it looked too steep and too overgrown. But... if I could ascend a side bench and walk it around into the canyon, ideally dropping into some of that more open, gentle meadow section... well... I'd score my new canyon hike.
I got lucky... bench carried me up and around, and a nice Elk trail carried me ever higher. But... the drainage proved not to be Cathey Canyon. It was a side drainage that ridged out... and crossing the ridge I could see a nice meadow canyon beyond.
Ah! I figured I was there. I walked along the ridge for a ways, then enjoyed yet another Elk hiway down into a most delightful canyon bottom. Closed in... shady... narrower than I imagined it would be. Was this Cathey Canyon? Over the next mile my mind picked off the petals of "...I think it is... and I think it is not"... carrying that indecision all the way to the top of the canyon. As I topped out on the ridge at Sunspot Hiway, I looked across: there was no overlook!
It was not the right canyon.
I walked 100' further up the ridge and gazed down into the upper meadows of the very familiar Cathey Canyon. I'd come up the drainage immediately to the north! Interestingly, it was a really nice canyon, far nicer than Cathey.
I walked up and crossed the road to the Overlook... no longer overlooking anything. Forest Service has allowed the lower section to get so overgrown all you can see are the other cars parked in the parking lot.
Well, now I could at least hike down Cathey and discover where it really did intersect with Water Canyon! Oddly enough, it turned out to be at the official trailhead for Old Sunspot Hiway Trail... directly across from Deadman Canyon. I'd seen the opening, filled with power lines and an old road I thought went up to the gravel pits above... nope... the ugly road cut going up and away was Cathey Canyon. It is ugly... now filled with pile after pile of cut trees and shrubs.
I could now do a nice write up warning folks away from Cathey Canyon... and suggest they try to find the little hidden gem of a canyon I accidentally enjoyed.
I walked up the south fork of Water Canyon, back to my car. I drove over to the fire tower lookout (Closed) and prowled around looking for my next little hiking potential. Instead I found a very nice, pleasantly hidden alcove to bring the little Acorn Trailer up for the next month. I'll set up a permanent camp, adjacent to the cordwood cutting area... and enjoy a more relaxed pattern for the coming month or so. I plan to be up here three or four nights weekly. Though it only takes 15 minutes to setup and take down camp with the tent, the idea of having the trailer during the wetter monsoon weeks has appeal. It also makes it nicer when friends drop over to share some hikes. The spot is deeply shaded and not too far off road.
Home Away from Home for the next set of hiking days...
*on that issue of planning: my idea of effective planning is to have given some thought to where I might begin hiking... and maybe thought about what direction I might head. I do not think to carry along a map... I do not bother to study a map or hike description prior to the hike. I like to hike, so it is enough to just have a beginning point to engage... and let the rest fall where it might... since I hike solo, this process does not endanger or even inconvenience anyone else. It does likely mean there will come a time when I give over to accident or age, and no one will have the slightest idea where to look for the body... and that is fine, too. I don't think I'd be any good at changing. Maybe a Spot device in 2014?