Recruited my adventure bud Addie for this one to help scout out and complete a loop idea I've wanted to do for years with the main attraction being the McInery Tunnel. Day of the hike we had 5 early morning family/friend add-ons bringing my hiking tribe up to 7!
First some brief history - In 1900, Thomas McInery began to acquire land south of Pima to sell shares in a scheme to find both gold and enough water to irrigate all of the Gila Valley. He promoted this tunnel (also called the Mammouth Tunnel and Triumph Tunnel) in a fraudulent money-making scheme before abandoning the project and leaving town. The 250-foot start still remains, dug ten feet high and eight feet wide into solid rock and accessible to exploration.
We started from Cluff Ranch Pond #3
Off-trailed across the mesa tops and down to FR 681
681 up to the McInery Tunnel
Found an excellent (unknown) cairned trail that led up and over to Lower Ash Creek
GET #11 (Lower Ash Creek Rd) back to Cluff Ranch
Pond #3 loop back to the start.
Cluff Ranch looks great right now. Pond #3 is full, leaves are in, wildflowers are in and the whole area is just very scenic.
McInery Tunnel - The main attraction of the hike. The rocky road across the flowering desert and up to the tunnel was fun. At the tunnel we all first explored the tunnel 250 feet in to it's end. I'm am NOT GOOD going into dark unknown holes, but having the gang with me made it ..... doable. Addie once worked at Kartchner Caverns and gave me a brief tour inside pointing out the white cave crickets and explaining to me the water formations that are starting within the tunnel. Outside the entrance was spent with photo ops and lunch before moving on.
Ash Creek - Found a good unknown trail that led us up and over a ridge and down to Ash Creek and what a beautiful & shaded section it led to!!! All but 1 managed to cross this tricky section of good flowing creek dry and up onto Lower Ash Creek Rd/GET #11 trail. Along the way back was another break by the cold flowing creek, then a little off-trail to a nice prehistoric ruin I wanted to show & then took the Pond #3 trail back around the lake to the start completing my envisioned loop.
I love it when a plan works out, everyone in the group was great, the weather was perfect, the creek was perfect, the scenery was perfect ..... just a good ole' time with friends in the Pinaleno foothills!
Good read for the history buffs -
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