After Saturday's big day, there were several options for Sunday. A handful of us decided on Ramsey. Karl and I got started around 7:30, while Belinda and some of the Tucson crew took a more leisurely morning and headed out a little after us.
The first 2.5 miles down Comfort Springs to the Wisconsin/Hamburg/Pat Scott junction breezed by in about an hour and was mostly shaded. Rain the day before assured wet grass and subsequently wet feet. Gaiters and waterproof boots would have prevented that.
Next was the 1800 foot ascent of Pat Scott in just over 2 miles that took almost an hour and a half. I really like the Pat Scott trail. The creek was flowing most of the way, and the switchbacks at the top are beautifully constructed at a nice grade. I saw a deer as I reached the crest -- impressive since bow season opened on Friday. After a short break, we headed across the crest toward Huachuca Gate #2. Along the way we took the short side trip to Pat Scott Peak where there was inexplicably a register full of SAHC names. This "peak" has a prominence of approximately the length of my forearm. Not sure how this is a destination worthy of a register.
(In fact, I believe that Randy says it's not really Pat Scott Peak at all ... the topo maps have it mismarked, while the true Pat Scott Peak is the 8,715 foot peak .35miles SSE of this one. Randy's name was in this register. We didn't add ours as all the pages are full. Maybe I need to visit the other one sometime?)
A short distance later we arrived at Huachuca Gate #2. There's no gate. The barbed wire fence is frequently broken, and there is no indication that you are entering a military base.
We chose to follow a route generally along the ridgeline, which is where the fence goes. Interestingly, the Fort Huachuca boundary as marked on the map is not where the fence is. Either way, we decided to take a wide traverse around the north side of the first peak along the ridge, saving a few feet of gain. The views down Scheelite onto the base were great! Once beyond the first peak, the vegetation thickened but there was a use path that was pretty easy to follow.
Farther up, the ridge follows a sort of knife edge, with a sheer drop to the South into Pat Scott Canyon. The vegetation made it impossible to stay on the edge. The best route was below the ridge on the left in the forested canopy below. There were signs of use, but no real defined path.
At the 500 foot audible Route Scout announcement, the first rain drop fell. It had been sunny up until now, with some clouds beginning to build over the peaks to the south. Upon reaching the peak it started to rain. Hard. The vegetation is very thick and overgrown up here. There's no real route. I found a glass jar with the register, but didn't take the time to read any names or sign it. Then it started to hail. This was a repeat of yesterday on Miller where it rained and hailed for about an hour before clearing up.
I didn't think the register was at the true summit so I pushed a bit farther. I passed a solar panel and an attached relay antenna. Military or cartel?
The crap got too thick. Everything was wet and it was raining harder. I had to get the rest of my rain gear on. Karl and I were disappointed we would not get to sit on the peak and enjoy our summit brew. That's when the first clap of thunder hit. tarzan swing. Yesterday had been thunder-free. We were not where we wanted to be. Huddled under a tree sheltering from hail just a few feet below a ridge and a prominent 8700 foot peak.
The trip back was miserable. It rained and hailed. Lightning flashed and thunder clapped. We abandoned the ridge and traversed the steep slope on the north side. It was hard work. But we just kept moving with the goal of finally dropping into the lower elevations of Pat Scott Canyon just two miles ahead. Upon reaching the Crest Trail we contemplated staying in the lower terrain and cutting the corner and dropping into Pat Scott off trail. A short excursion in that direction seemed promising at first but turned ugly. The flash-bang rain and hail continued. We actually decided to head back up to the crest. With less than a mile to go we figured it was the best bad option we had.
Finally off the crest and dropping quickly into Pat Scott, we felt a little better about things, but the thunder and lightning continued. Just when it seemed to be moving away, it would start somewhere new. We just plowed on. The water flow in Pat Scott was up. Crossings that were dry on our way up were running now. Layers of white hail remained in sheltered spots.
Normally the 600 foot climb up Comfort Springs is a killer at the end of the day. I was looking forward to it. The climb would help me warm up again. Somewhere along the climb it stopped raining. For the first time in 2 hours. Thunder still rumbled around us. We finally trudged back into camp, much to the relief of those waiting for us to return. They had been far enough behind to turn around before reaching the crest when the storm hit.
About 15 minutes later, the sky opened up again. I was glad to be in camp this time.
Great hike. I love the Huachucas. There's so much more here I want to explore. But I might puss out next time if there's even a chance of a thunderstorm in the forecast. Wildflowers
Pretty nice up on the crest and the military boundary above Scheelite.