Tubac Secret Revealed!
After living in Tubac for almost three years and growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of "trail" data in my area, I decided that enough was enough. I finally felt experienced enough to get creative and go off the beaten path, literally! Last December, with a small group of friends and/or hardcore hikers from local clubs, I had done one of the Devil's Cashbox Peaks, Tumacacori Peak, and San Cayetano Peak, [none of which have descriptions on HAZ either]. All were classic, Southern Arizona style bushwhacks, filled with almost every variety of cactus and thorny shrub that AZ has to offer, [or so it seemed]; and all were adventures to remember, all ranking among my most challenging bushwhacks.
Like the peaks mentioned above, Diablo Mountain did not disappoint! In terms of the bushwhacking aspect, I would rank it much easier – relative to the other three. This is not to say it was a walk through the park; rather, the quantity and number of cacti / thorny shrubs were a lot less, and the footing a bit better. In terms of the views however, Diablo Mountain definitely takes the prize! The panoramic views are absolutely amazing to say the least.
As for the hike: for those familiar with the area, Diablo Mountain is very near the Hunter's Access Point (or the start of FR 684), which is located off West Frontage Road just North of Exit 40 off I-19. In studying topo maps prior to my adventure, I noticed a short jeep road that branches off the main FR 684, headed straight toward Diablo Mountain. I was hoping to use it as my access point, and it worked out even better than anticipated. Right at the end of the short jeep road, [which proved to be FR 4140], there was a full out route; [by this I mean it was less defined that your typical 'official trail' but much more definite that most game trail type routes]. It didn't last very long, [maybe about 1/3 of a mile if I had to estimate], but it was nice to be able to get closer to the base of the mountain before starting the bushwhack.
Throughout the journey, there were many faint routes, some of which resembled game trails and others that looked more like animals had blazed them. It definitely helped having some sort of route to follow. After around nine tenths of a mile, I reached the base of a rock outcropping decided to head to the left [had I gone right and cliffed out, it would've been a big back track; but had I cliffed out at the saddle area – which proved to be the case – it was under 5 minutes of backtracking altogether]. The views from the saddle which actually quite nice, and oddly enough, [not having seen cairns the whole way], there was a giant cairn in the saddle area.
As I turned to backtrack, I noticed a nice route leading around the other side of the rock outcropping, so I hopped on it. After getting around the outcropping, the route continued upward and then headed straight in between a short, shaded gulley with a small tree in the middle of it. I should've remembered to create a waypoint, but if you have any kind of route-finding skills, it should be pretty obvious. :)
After going up the small gulley, [which has surprisingly good footing], the finale of the hike proved to be both a teaser and a pleasant surprise. From what I could see of Diablo Mountain as I was approaching, I knew that the high point – as seen from the gulley – would prove to be a false summit. The pleasant surprise and thing I was not expecting: upon emerging from the gulley and making it to the first high point, I literally popped out on a sweet ridgeline! At this point, you are pretty much home free: the path of least resistance is pretty obvious and the route is relatively well defined from here on out. The teaser is that the ridgeline seems to keep going and going. I always run two GPS apps, [so sometimes I mix the numbers up!], but if I'm remembering correctly / had to estimate, the ridgeline portion of the hike is about four tenths of a mile. I am NOT the kind of hiker that counts things like # of switch backs or false summits, […that kind of thing would drive me nuts!], but even after reaching the ridgeline, there were a good number of false summits before I arrived at the peak. It was very fun ridgeline to traverse and a definite teaser to say the least.
Once you've reached the highest peak on the ridgeline, just head for what looks to be the highest point on that peak and you'll find a marker. It says 'United States Army' across the top; and, [in letters almost as big], 'Fort Sam Houston Texas' at the bottom. Right near the marker under a small pile of rocks is the summit register. To say this peak doesn't get a lot of action would be an understatement! Nonetheless, I was still surprised to see other small groups of 2-5 people over the years – not counting the SAHC groups, [since this is a SAHC peak, I knew it would have some names in the log].
For the return trip, I decided to take a chance and go a slightly different route down, veering from my track up shortly after having descended down the short gulley at the southern end of the ridgeline. In addition to noticing a nice route [southeast relative to my track on the ascent], it also looked to be a more direct route back to my vehicle. Being able to view the many beautiful rock outcroppings on the southeastern face of the mountain definitely made the choice better in terms of scenery. Terrain / difficulty wise, it ended up being about the same, [maybe slightly easier if I had to guess].
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.