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South Fork of Cave Creek #243, AZ

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Guide 29 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Douglas
4.6 of 5 by 7
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 6.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,280 feet
Elevation Gain 3,406 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,711 feet
Avg Time One Way 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 18.87
Interest Seasonal Creek, Perennial Creek & Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
8  2018-04-17 Yoder
47  2017-11-16 rwstorm
2  2016-07-21 cactuscat
30  2015-11-07 RedRoxx44
55  2012-11-09
Bassett Peak
40  2012-11-03 RedRoxx44
10  2011-11-10 JuanJaimeiii
4  2011-10-21 sumnergeo
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author sumnergeo
author avatar Guides 2
Routes 1
Photos 44
Trips 24 map ( 195 miles )
Age 75 Male Gender
Location Houston, TX
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Oct, Nov, Aug, May → Any
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:04am - 6:15pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
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Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Look out for birders!
by sumnergeo

Maple Camp, 1.6 miles, 5620'
Trail leaves the South Fork and climbs up a side canyon for the Crest Trail, 3.8 miles, 6160'
Bowl on north side of Sentinel Peak, 5.4 miles, 7200'
West to Crest Trail, 6.8 miles, 8900'

The trail (#243) along the South Fork of Cave Creek in the Chiricahuas starts in riparian woodlands (oaks, sycamore, cypress, ash and walnut). The trailhead has parking for ten or so cars and there is a toilet and a scatter of picnic tables. This stretch of the South Fork is an international destination for birders seeking to add the elegant trogan, painted redstart, and red-faced warbler to their life lists, among many others. The valley is several hundred yards wide at the trailhead and, depending on the time of year, there may be no water in the creekbed.

Note: Poison ivy grows well in the South Fork and can look like innocuous sticks if it has not leafed out.

There are five distinct segments from the trailhead to the Crest Trail (#270) that makeup the 7 miles and 3600 feet of elevation gain.

First Segment: The broad and well-used trail climbs impercepitably (about 400 feet) over the 1.6 miles from the trailhead to Maple Camp. There are six water crossings. In May these are simply dry and rocky streambeds. Depending on rains and snowmelt (March and July through September), the creek can be high and rushing... if the first crossing is a challenge, every crossing will pose a hazard!

The trail junction at Maple Camp (WP: N31.84985 W109.19837, 5650 ft) has a trail (#240) that climbs steeply up the south side of the canyon toward Horseshoe Saddle and Burro Springs. A ten-minute walk up this trail rewards with spectacular views of rock formations that line the South Fork Canyon.

Second Segment: Upstream for about two miles from Maple Camp, big-tooth maples occupy the floor of the narrow canyon. In late October and November, the colors rival the best seen anywhere. There is a good place to camp about a quarter mile up the canyon from Maple Camp and there is spectacular overlook into the canyon about a mile farther. The trail narrows but is still well-used. Views of balanced rocks and spires abound. The trail climbs gradually (about 700 feet) from Maple Camp to the point where the trail leaves the South Fork and climbs south up a side canyon toward Sentinel Peak and the Crest Trail. Note that the departure point is the last place to find water year round.

There is an old trail marked on the USGS topo maps that connects the South Fork and Snowshed Trails that I have looked for over the past couple of years. I have found traces of this trail about one mile above Maple Camp on the South Fork Trail. There are two drainages that come down from Snowshed Ridge and the trail climbs north and west along the western drainage coming down from Fossil Saddle. From Snowshed Trail at Fossil Saddle, the trail to the spring (seep) is overgrown with many trees across it.

There is also an "illegals" trail that leaves the South Fork at about the same spot as the old trail but goes straight up the eastern drainage to Cypress Saddle. In the Cachor Taylor book, "It is 1 mile (from Maple Camp) to the junction with the old trail up to Snowshed Ridge. The 2 mile, 2000 foot climb to Cypress Saddle, in spite of its intial appearance, has totally disappeared for most of its length." (Note that he says the trail goes to Cypress not Fossil Saddle). Ron Pelech noted an apple tree in bloom in April 2008 on the north side of the trail in this same area.

Third Segment: The trail turns up a side canyon - Burnt Stump Canyon because there is a junction with the Burnt Stump Trail in about 2 miles (WP: N31.83629 W109.22473, 6200 ft)- and is easy to follow since it was cleared and brushed in September 2009. The trail follows the bottom of the canyon. The trail climbs about 1000 feet (6200 to 7200 ft) through mixed conifers and aspens. There is a spire - the Column (WP: N31.82809 W109.22676, 6750 ft) on the west side about 3/4 mile above the departure from the South Fork that is worth the journey and a photo. Large debris flows (probably after the 1994 Rattlesnake Fire) in the upper reaches of the canyon have filled the canyon floor to such an extent that the trail blazes on one tree are only about two feet above the ground.

N.B. MapSource Topo has the Monte Vista Lookout mis-located about 1/4 mile west of the trail. The latitude is correct but the longitude is not. Actual location of the lookout is N31.82517, W109.31534 (not 109.23153), about 5 miles to the west.

This segment of the trail ends at a large ponderosa marked with trail blazes (approx WP: N31.82197 W109.22900, 7200 ft) where three small drainages come together

Fourth Segment: The canyon opens into a bowl (the Burnt Stump Basin) with three drainages. The trail is well-marked and cleared along the right-hand or north side of the rightmost or westerly trending drainage. Again, clearing and brushing in September 2009 make this trail easy to follow. The trail crosses to the south side of the drainage after 1/4 mile and switchbacks another 1/4 mile to the junction ((WP: N31.81837 W109.23621) with the Burnt Stump Trail (#366) at 7600 ft. At the junction, the trail to the east goes to Burnt Stump Spring (WP N31 48.822 W109 14.099, the spring typically has water depending on rain and snowfall except June and early July) and the Horseshoe Ridge Trail (WP N31 48.885 W109 13.958). The trail to the right goes to the Crest Trail. Beyond the junction, the trail is easy to follow (good tread, flagging and rocks) but has trees across it. The trail climbs with switchbacks and crosses the drainage again and crosses back to another switchback that eaches the '94 burn. From the junction to the burn is about a mile and a climb of 600 ft (7600 to 8200 ft) through mixed conifers that form a good canopy with an open understory. The last bit of trail is at WP N31 49.302 W109 14.606 with 1/4 mile and 600 feet remaining to the Crest.

Segment Five: This last piece of the trail climbs from 8200 to 8800 ft over a less than 1/2 mile across the '94 burn. It is dauntingly open and stark and has a feeling of being above tree line except for all the snags and fallen timber. Grasses, bracken, raspberries and other flowers and brush cover the hillsides. A volunteer crew cleared this trail segment to the Crest in March 2011. The May 2011 Horseshoe II fire crossed this area with low intensity so there is significant erosion but the trail is still easy to find. South Fork - Crest junction (WP N31 49.152 W109 14.874). In late summer this slope is perfect for raspberries.

The view from the top is unobstructed! There are views into Cave Creek and Portal and out into the San Simon Valley and the Peloncillos. Views to the south are of the southern Chiricahuas and the ranges that run east of Douglas into Mexico.

To reach Sentinel Peak, follow the faint trace of the Crest Trail that runs about 1/2 mile around the southwest side of Finnicum Peak to a saddle and bushwack to the top. There is another spring (PK Spring, N31 48.882 W109 14.925) that is down a series of switchbacks into Baker Canyon.

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2008-02-25 sumnergeo
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When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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Most recent of 11 deeper Triplog Reviews
South Fork of Cave Creek #243
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Mission accomplished, and then some! Best day of wildlife watching ever - two huge firsts! :)
Second trip to Portal/Cave Creek in two weeks - this time I got an earlier start, getting up at 4am to arrive there by 7.
Once again I lingered near the parking area for a few minutes, and same as last week I heard the Trogon call as I was peeing near the trailhead! Lol
I took off up the creekbed, following the sound ... a few minutes later I popped out onto the trail and paused to listen. I still heard the call, but softer and hard to locate. Finally I caught some movement in a pine tree and spotted him! He was in the shade at first, so his green parts looked black, but I clearly saw the red breast. So thrilling!
I watched him through the binoculars for a few minutes, then noticed another bird moving nearby ... could it be? Yes, it was the female - and she was feeding a baby in a nest hole!! Could not believe I found a nest site.
After a few more minutes, they flew away and I settled into a comfy log seat with a great view of the nest tree to await their return. I turned around to look for the hummingbird I kept hearing, glanced towards the creekbed ... and there 50 yards away was an adult black bear!
I jumped up for a better view, and took a few noisy steps towards the creek - the bear heard me and we stared deep into one another's eyes for a few long moments. Felt like love. ;) He or she then sprinted (quickly and noisily) partway up the hill on the other side, making huffy puffy bear sounds as it went.
I celebrated a bit, then saw Mrs Trogon at her nest again. This was about all the excitement I could take, so I headed out.
Checked out Sunny Flat Campground - really nice - then stopped at the V.C., but it wasn't the same lady I talked to last week there today.
Stopped at the Chiricahua Desert Museum to buy an Elegant Trogon hat.
Also saw my first scaled quail, road runners, Mexican jays, kestrel falcons, and red tailed hawks.
Side note: wouldn't have been a good day to be an illegal border crosser in the area. Border Patrol was lining NM80 from I-10 to Rodeo. Saw at least 10 B.P. trucks - one towing horses -and two more agents on quads. Two of them waved at me.
Incredible, amazing day - and it's barely noon!
South Fork of Cave Creek #243
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Tens of thousands of people come to Portal/Cave Creek every year to try to see an Elegant Trogon ... yesterday I was one of them.
The Trogon has been number one on my wishlist for many years, but it wasn't until I moved much closer to their tiny U.S. range this year that I decided it was my mission to see one this summer. I had hoped to maybe see one a few weeks ago when I went to Ramsey Canyon, but this was the first trip that was really all about the Trogon.
Unfortunately I was called out at 2am the night before to deal with an issue at a cabin, costing me an hour's sleep, and so I got a bit later of a start than I'd hoped. Arrived at Cave Creek Canyon around 9am.
First impression driving the last couple of miles to the canyon: Holy cow, it's jaw-droppingly gorgeous ... like driving into Zion. I had no idea.
As I drove the one mile dirt road to the South Fork trailhead, I rolled down the windows and turned off the radio - the better to enjoy the sun-dappled light filtering through the tunnel of trees ... and the better to listen for the Elegant Trogon's loud, distinctive call. Saw a few people birding along the road.
3 minutes after parking, and while still taking care of pre-hike business, I heard it! ARRRK! ARRRK! Like a weird dog bark echoing through the sycamores ... unmistakably the Trogon. I thought OMG - it's right freakin here ... I'm going to see this thing without even hiking! :y:
I walked two minutes back down the road to the little bridge where some people confirmed yes, they had gotten a good look at it just a few minutes before. Unfortunately within a minute or two, the bird stopped calling and I wasn't able to lay eyes on the rare beauty. I should have pursued it quickly and single-mindedly the second I heard it. ](*,)
Not having been to Cave Creek Canyon before, I didn't really notice the fire/flood damage that other people have mentioned - I only saw how lovely it still is. I saw lots of good birds (painted redstart is a favorite), deer, squirrels, native fish (dace), and my first Arizona Alligator lizard (they are skink-like). I heard a Trogon one more time, not as close as the first.
After my hike, I stopped in the Ranger Station and had a nice chat with the volunteer, then helped her water the rattlesnakes on exhibit.
So my mission was semi-sucessful ... I got a 100% positive I.D. by voice - which counts. I can cross the Trogon off my list now. But as thrilling as it was to hear so close, it was quite frustrating not to see it ... a return trip is in order soon.
South Fork of Cave Creek #243
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Bassett Peak Tales 2012

3 days
607 miles
33 gallons of gasoline
266 digital images
Fall colours
"Robber" stellar jays
Clean, crisp mountain air (with just a hint of snow)
Unexpected solitude
No work distractions

The Plan => Friday 11/9 rendezvous at Einstein's Bagels in Ahwatukee AZ, truck pool, and hit the road to the Bassett Peak trail head at the end of FR660/Ash Creek Road to set up camp in the Galiuro Mountains to enjoy what many consider the best fall colours in Arizona.

I've been able to keep my 2012 quarterly wilderness adventures pretty much as planned; "Anza Borrego California Tales 2012" (check out => ), "Oregon Tales 2012" (check out => ), and Colorado Fall Colours 2012" (check out => Those 3 days crossed out on the November calendar to take in the Bassett Peak fall colours at Ash Spring were about to be tested...

Thursday started out with 6 adventurers ready and raring to go, by sundown there was only 1. Weather forecasts and other calamities took their toll. With Friday already booked off, I decided to roll the dice and use the Willcox Holiday Inn Express as basecamp with some adjusted plans;

A. Ahwatukee AZ - ground zero, home
B. Willcox AZ - basecamp at the Holiday Inn Express (check out =>
C. Fort Bowie National Historic Site - stop at the old fort (check out => and
D. San Simon AZ - S. Noland Rd. turn-off to head south to Portal AZ and the South Fork of Cave Creek TH in Chiricahua National Monument
E. South Noland Road - note; signage is not "San Simon Road" as noted in HAZ write-ups
F. Foothills Road - turn-off to SE towards Portal AZ
G. Portal AZ - SE access to Chiricahua National Monument (check out => and
H. South Fork of Cave Creek TH - access at the South Fork picnic area (check out =>
I. Forest Road 42 - up and over the Chiricahua Mountains (check out => ... &actid=105)
J. Dos Cabezas AZ - a drive back to Willcox via SR186
K. Willcox AZ - basecamp at the local Holiday Inn Express (check out =>
L. Bassett Peak TH - end of the road for FR660/Ash Creek Road in the Galiuro Mountains (check out =>
M. Tucson AZ - Sunday dinner with my youngest daughter, Tobyn
N. Ahwatukee AZ - home again...

DAY 1 - Friday 11/9
Ahwatukee AZ to Willcox AZ
185 miles
3 hrs 1 min 1-way per Google Maps

Hit the road for the Willcox AZ basecamp.

DAY 2 - Saturday 11/10
Willcox AZ to South Fork of Cave Creek Trail #243 via FOBO and FR42 to SR186
96 miles
3 hrs 34 min per Google Maps

I have never been to the Chiricahua Mountains before and thought I could take advantage of being in the vicinity. My home library contains the book "Cochise - the Life and Times of the Great Apache Chief" by ASU professor Peter Aleshire (check out => ... 0471383635 ). Despite the literary criticism, I've always been intrigued by this book and the subject (an easier read about Cochise was authored by Dave Roberts). It's arguable that the existence of Fort Bowie can be attributed to Chief Cochise, so it was fitting to make the side trek. Upon entry to the site, I discover the cool nickname for Fort Bowie - FOBO, uttered by one of the staff (FOBO is now forever burned into my brain). A quick tour of FOBO Loop followed by a pondering about the location of the tent Cochise cut open to make his escape in 1861 (check out => ... elix-3.pdf ) during the "Bascom Affair". The low hanging clouds created a fittingly eerie FOBO atmosphere...

The main objective of the day was exploring South Fork of Cave Creek Trail #243 and the fall colours I've heard raves about from some HAZ trekkers and others (check out => and ). Maple Camp would be the primary objective given some of the photos I've seen. I arrived at the picnic area at the end of South Fork Road noon-ish. A group of 3 hunters decked out in full camouflage were exiting the trail as I began my trek. They said they managed to get a single shot off during their morning hunt - I indicated I hoped to get considerably more (digital) shots off that afternoon... I arrived at the Maple Camp area wondering what all the fuss is about. Undeterred, I trekked another 2 miles or so upstream from the Burro Trail junction seeking fall colours. I have to agree with Letty's recent assessment (check out => ) and look forward to area recovery to its former blazing colours. I returned to the TH with just enough remaining daylight to spark-up the BBQ and grill a couple of burgs. To my complete surprise, I discovered a robbery in process - Stellar Jays landing on my picnic table and helping themselves to my Doritos - with me only an arm's length away!

I returned to my Willcox basecamp via Forest Road 42 up and over the Chiricahua Mountains to join up with SR186 near Dos Cabezas. When I packed up and left the South Fork picnic area my truck thermometer indicated it was 48degF. As I peaked-out along the Chiricahua ridgeline, my truck thermometer indicated it was a chilly 34degF!

DAY 3 - Sunday 11/10
Willcox AZ to Bassett Peak TH (Ash Creek Rd/FR660)
36 miles
1 hr 37 min per Google Maps

Sunday sunrise revealed a brilliant blue cloudless sky with snow visible on the highest mountain peaks. I slowly made my way to the trail head stopping many times to observe the various eye-candy (I still regret passing up the pumpkin field and failing to re-create the image captured by Derek von Briesen => ) including snow on Mount Graham. As I turned onto FR660 near the intersection of Ash Creek Road and Sunset Loop, I was surprised to see nobody at the usually busy "hunter's meadow". Saw one group of campers at the large site as you exit the wash and another group at the almost-TH. I parked my truck here and discovered the campers were mostly from Mesa AZ. They indicated it had snowed overnight accompanied by some strong winds. Once on the trail, I was treated to a riot of colour (albeit a week past their prime). At Ash Spring, the aspen still had about half their leaves. Another one of the old growth aspen fell victim to the weekend winds - every time I've visited there's another old growth casualty. Without any new growth aspen, I wonder how many more years we'll have to enjoy this spectacular scene??? After capture my fill of fall colours, I packed up my gear with a dinner stop in Tucson visiting my daughter Tobyn.

And that's my Bassett Peak Tale 2012! Photos to follow...
South Fork of Cave Creek #243
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Recovery Horseshoe II:

This was a bit of a gonzo day. Our volunteer USFS trail crew of three left the South Fork trailhead with a single goal: restore Burnt Stump Spring to a usable spring. We figured 5 1/2 miles and a 3000 foot climb. We left at 7 and got back at 5 with about 1 1/2 hour to dig out the spring. Sunny and bright with scattered clouds.

The entire South Fork has either been backburned or burned. Either way, the under story was cleaned out (and some of the poison ivy got whacked). Tree trunks were blackened and locally the white oaks and silver leaf oaks on the hillsides were fire killed. But mostly it was the same old South Fork with lots of grasses and flowers and living trees. The maples were just starting to color at 6,000 feet elevation. The trail was in good shape although we did cross a tangle about three miles in. Going up the Chute to the Burnt Stump Basin had a few big trees across the trail but the trail was easy to find.

The worst result of the fire in South Fork is the erosion. Many but not all of the pools were filled with gravel. The creek merrily flowed where there were once deep pools. Sigh.

We reached Burnt Stump Spring by 11:30. Only the corner of the tank was visible beneath rocks and gravel. For an hour and a half we cleaned out the metal tank, built a diversion channel, and generally did what we could before leaving at 1 to get back to the trailhead at 5. The hillside above the spring burned lightly so there are still grasses, bracken, and raspberries along with big Apache Pines. With that cover, there shouldn't be too much additional erosion into the spring drainage.

I don't see Burnt Stump Spring on the Spring List. This is an important spring for the southeastern Chiricahuas: 31.81538333 109.2368667 7980 55 degrees fast seep 6-ft metal tank

I'll try to attach a photo or two if I can figure out how to do it.
South Fork of Cave Creek #243
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Trip Report: South Fork (#243), March 23-26

Trail Head, 31.868906, 109.187983, 5280 feet

Four days to finally complete the opening of the South Fork trail

Tuesday, March 22
Seven of us backpacked in about six and a half miles to "High Camp" at 8200 feet and about one mile from the Crest Trail and 700 feet lower in elevation. Along the way we cut out a 20 inch Arizona pine that lay chest high across the trail and a thousand feet below the campsite (around 7200 feet). Cool and sunny weather with water in the creek but low flow. Normally at this time of year, it is a challenge to make the thirteen crossings over the first four miles without getting wet. With little rain or snow this winter, it was not a problem.

Wednesday, March 23
Our campsite was good but not exactly flat so we had to do a bit of grooming to prepare sites for our bags and tents but at least no one slid down hill during the night. We spent the first day working our way out of the woods into the burned area. For the first 3/8 of a mile, we could locate the old trail and it was a matter of cutting out downfall, grubbing out raspberry bushes and improving the tread. For a quarter mile, to a prominent welded tuff outcrop, we laid out a new trail and spent the rest of the day clearing to a newly installed switchback.

Thursday, March 24
From the switchback below the outcrop we worked our way south and across the drainage and picked up traces of the trail coming from the crest. Each of us had a role: Zac and Jody cut out the big logs with the two-man bucking saw while John and Jim shifted smaller logs off the trail and cut ones that couldn't be moved with pruning saws (Coronas) and the 3 1/2 -ft D-handle saw. Walter and Dirk and Brad dealt with the tread and constructed an elegant crossing complete with bulwarks across the drainage. We worked our way northwest to the switchback at the outcrop and then back to the southwest to link up with the trail we had cleared in September 2010

Friday, March 25
With our final push we connected with the trailed cleared last year and, finally, had the South Fork Trail open and findable from the Trailhead to the Crest. We spent some time looking for PK Spring south of the crest but turned back at lunch without success. According to our GPS, we were about 500 ft away but wanted to get back to clear out some logs close to High Camp. As we were clearing a log a couple of hundred feet from south of our camp, down the trail came six backpackers from Philadelphia. They appreciated the newly completed trail!

Saturday, March 26
After packing for the hike out, we still had several logs below the Burnt Stump junction to deal with so we cut those out on our way back to the Trailhead. We left one 8-inch aspen log across the trail otherwise the trail is now cleared from the trailhead to the Crest for the first time in 17 years.

GPS for Upper South Fork Trail attached
South Fork of Cave Creek #243
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Big News - Crest Trail (270 and 270C) now cleared of downfall from Barfoot Lookout to Sentinel Peak.
Seven of us backpacked from Rustler Park to Aspen Saddle. This was a volunteer trail crew with six volunteers and Zac, the Trails Ranger for the southern Coronado National Forest.
We spent our first day (Sunday) clearing the Crest Trail 270C from Junction to Aspen Saddles. This was less than a mile of trail but with some massive trees and difficult clearing. We set up our basecamp on Sunday night at Aspen Saddle and walked the trail to Ojo Agua Fria for water and found even more large trees blocking the way.
On Monday, we continued clearing 270C from Aspen to Junction Saddle but the trees were deadfall and relatively easy to clear. From Junction Saddle out to Sentinel Peak, a Forest Survey crew had cleared the trail the week before but the tread made walking difficult from the Price Canyon trail junction out to the South Fork trail junction (about 1.5 miles). We arrived at the South Fork junction at 11:20 and the rain hit us. With cloud-to-cloud lightning - we hoped - we waited out the rain in a copse of trees downslope on the south side of the ridge. With the shower out of the way, we worked our way down the trace of the South Fork trail. We chopped out raspberries and also ate some. We moved and shoved off smaller logs and cut out bigger ones to the switchback, about 150 yards to the northeast and started clearing the next leg to the northwest before calling it a day and heading back to Aspen Saddle. We flagged and located the trail to the northwest into a drainage and then along the southeast-facing hillside to just below a rock outcrop so are encouraged that we may someday be able to get the trail open once again.
With concern about more storms, we decided to clear the trails around Chiricahua Peak on Tuesday. We started on 270D, from Aspen to Chiricahua Saddle and had that cleared by 10 o'clock. Working back up 270B toward Junction Saddle, we cleared some nasty tangles and also a huge Douglas Fir so even though there are a number of "step-overs" left, the trail is easily passable for hikers heading out to Monte Vista. Rains hit again around noon but only lasted about an hour. We got water at Anita Spring and found enough dry wood at Aspen Saddle to enjoy a campfire.
It rained overnight so our hike out on Wednesday was in cloud and drizzle. Even with packs and tools, we made the walk back to the Long Park trailhead in 90 minutes.
South Fork of Cave Creek #243
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Trip Report: South Fork (#243), September 11-15, 2009

Trail Head, 31.868906, 109.187983, 5280 feet

Five days in South Fork - three days a rainy and humid rain forest and two days a lush and sunny glade filled with pools, a bear, and coatimundis.

Friday, Sept 11.
Five of us backpacked in about two hours (four miles) to a likely camp site on the east side of the creek. Heavy rain made it a slog but the rain let up while we set up camp and had dinner.

September 12, Saturday
We started up the side canyon from South Fork - the canyon has no name on any map but I'm calling it Burnt Stump Canyon since the South Fork Trail (243) joins the Burnt Stump Trail (366) at the top of the canyon (in Burnt Stump Basin). During the day we removed all logs (about 20) and brushed the two miles of trail from the South Fork toward the junction with Burnt Stump Trail in the Basin. We dropped our trail signs and returned to our base camp.

September 13, Sunday
We headed back up to the Basin and put up a sign at the South Fork and Burnt Stump junction. We brushed and cut logs off the trail to better define it. Under threatening skies, we walked and brushed the ¼ mile of the Burnt Stump Trail to the spring. From the spring, it is another ¼ mile to the Horseshoe Ridge Trail. At the spring, there is a lower trail and an upper trail about 50 ft apart. The spring is on the upper trail and is a metal tank in the drainage. The clouds coming over the crest delivered hail and rain while we filled our bottles and headed back to the trail junction for lunch. After lunch, we cut out the remaining deadfall below the junction. We left one large log that might be better handled with a crosscut, not our D-handle saw, and some smaller logs where yellow jackets convinced us that we needed to be somewhere else.

September 14, Monday
Everyone else left so I spent a lazy day of exploring and drying out after three days of on and off rain. I removed a 21-inch log about ½ mile above Maple Camp and returned tools to the TH. Still a couple of months until RedRoxx44 can work her photographic magic on the big tooth maples in their brilliant colors.

September 15, Tuesday
I left my camp at 6, reached the junction with Burnt Stump at 8 and continued up the South Fork trail to the Crest Trail. I flagged and marked the trail for about a mile and a half above the South Fork-Burnt Stump trail junction until I lost it on the south side of the drainage at 8200 feet and found it again about ½ mile farther at 8700 feet. I reached the junction with the Crest Trail at 10 and put up signs for Crest Trail and South Fork Trail. I walked the Crest Trail to the saddle between Finnicum and Sentinel Peaks and located the trail to PK Spring and flagged it through the first switchback. Returned to camp and then walked out to TH. Lots of rasberries to collect on the way to the crest.
South Fork of Cave Creek #243
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Walter and I walked the South Fork to relocate trail in the upper portions of the trail, below Sentinel Peak. A light drizzle kept us in and out of our rain clothes but by the time we reached the bowl below Sentinel Peak (in the vicinity of the yet-to-be-discovered Burnt Stump Spring) we had snow pellets, sleet and snow. We located the trail from the ponderosa and fir with a blaze at around 7200 feet along the hill on the north side of the drainage (A huge log lies across the trail) to the switchback to the south and east on the other side of the drainage and up to the burned post that we think marks the trail junction of the South Fork Trail and the trail to Horseshoe Ridge. We took the trail to the west and north (trail to the Crest Trail) with more long switchbacks up to 8000 feet and almost to the bottom of the burn at 8200 feet. We moved logs, flagged, and marked the trail for anyone trying to get to the Crest Trail and Sentinel Peak. This is a much better way up than following the right-hand drainage that trends west northwest.
South Fork of Cave Creek #243
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Trail Head, FR 42D, 31.90592, 109.27708, 8370 feet

Low 30s overnight at Herb Martyr. Drive to Rustler Park was uneventful but the last mile of road to the trail head is rougher than most jeep trails. One car in the parking lot so headed out around 8, bound for Cima Cabin with a load of white gas for the volunteer trail crew that will be here in June. Went up the road to the turnoff to Boot Leggers Saddle and followed the Crest Trail (#270) to Cima Saddle and the Greenhouse Trail (#248). Made the seven mile round trip in four hours because I moved every small log off the trail on the way in and carried out a pack's worth of trash that was on trail between Round Park and Cima Saddle. Clearly some illegal traffic through the area in the last few months.

Perfect weather with views across the Sulphur Springs Valley to the west and Cochise Head to the north Many yellow-eyed juncos - do they ever leave? - and four cows keeping the tread in good shape. I think I counted five cows when we were here in November 2007 and am surprised that they didn't leave the high country with the snow. Two little icy patches near Round Park; quite a contrast from floundering through deep soft snow at this time last year. Springs might be iffy come June.

Met the dad and two sons in Bootlegger Saddle and heard their tales of a really cold night.

Counted over 30 trees across the Crest Trail between Bootlegger and the cabin. Returned via the Long Park trail head and found a big blowdown outside the Wilderness Area. Looked like a tornado touched down with trees lying every which way.
South Fork of Cave Creek #243
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I left the trailhead at 4:45pm on Sunday so did not get as far as planned. I had hoped to reach a camp site about 3 ½ miles in at the point where the trail leaves the South Fork and heads up a side canyon toward Sentinel Peak but it was getting dusky so ended up at a spot next to the creek about one mile above Maple Camp. In the morning I noticed that my camping spot had plenty of poison ivy but it hadn't leafed out. To save some time, this was to be a cold camp so made do with peanut butter on muesli bread and tortillas, fruit, carrots and several bars.

The weather was perfect with nights in the low 30s to 40s. The creek was running but easy to cross.

I got up around 6 on Monday to 43 degrees and on the trail with plans to walk the South Fork Trail (#243) to the Crest Trail (#270) and then climb Sentinel Peak. From my camp it was only about four miles to the Crest Trail but a climb of about 2500 feet. This was also a chance to scout the trail conditions with a thought to return with a volunteer trail crew next year. I walked with loppers and a pruning saw and took out a couple of small green firs that were across the trail in the narrow canyon above where the trail leaves the South Fork. The creek was running for the first half mile or so up the side canyon. There were other small trees encroaching on the trail and I ended up doing as much brushing as walking.

The trail was easy to follow up the narrow canyon although there are plenty of logs across the trail. The pink to ochre colored bluffs along the trail are everywhere stunning but there is one spire about a mile above the departure from the South Fork that is especially noteworthy (6730 ft, N31.82809 W109.22676).

The trail mostly disappears at a large ponderosa with trail blazes (elev. About 7500 ft). At this point, the narrow canyon widens into a bowl with three drainages coming into it. The understory is open with Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine covering the slopes. I was unable to find the trail sign for Burnt Stump Spring that I had found last spring with Zac Ribbing but after a ten-minute walk up the right-hand (west trending) drainage I could see up to the crest and the saddle between the twin peaks (Sentinel and Finnicum). There is a fire-scarred trail post at this spot (7750 ft, N31.81840 W109.23699). It would have been an easy scramble to go straight up to the saddle but I wanted to see if there were any traces of the trail left so continued up the drainage to the west-northwest and did find trail segments but decided that there are several trails and wasn't certain about where they were heading although I found one going up the drainage to the edge of the 1994 burn. At this point (8225 ft, N31.82190 W109.24243), it is about a mile to the crest and a climb of 600 feet. Even though the elevation is 8200 ft, it has the feeling of being above treeline because it is totally open. There are no trees. A couple whitetail deer took note of my intrusion and took off. They had no cover but plenty of grass and forbs not to mention acres of rasperries. Slow going up to the crest with loose soil, raspberry thickets and logs, logs, and more logs to cross.

I found no traces of a trail in the burn except for about 200 yards below the crest. Even from half a mile away, I could see the sign post on the crest marking the junction of the South Fork and Crest Trails. It was cold on top and I got there shortly before one o'clock, had lunch, enjoyed the view, made a cellphone call. I had spent too much time doing scouting and clearing the trail to get to Sentinel and back to my camp in daylight so headed back down around 1:30. Back in camp by 5;30 and a dinner of muesli bread and peanut butter with carrots and dried apricots - delish!

Up at 6 on Tuesday and walked out to the trailhead with some lopping along the way and cut out three good-sized trees (two silver-leaf oaks and a cypress) that were across the trail between Maple Camp and the trailhead


Trail Head, 31.868906, 109.187983, 5280 feet

Maple Camp, 1.6 miles, 5620'
Trail leaves the South Fork and climbs up a side canyon toward the Crest Trail, 3.8 miles, 6160'
Bowl on north side of Sentinel Peak, 5.4 miles, 7200', junction with trail to Horseshoe Ridge (#366)
West to Crest Trail (#270), 6.8 miles, 8900'

Trail (243) Condition
South Fork Trail Head to Maple Camp (trail 243) - nearly perfect

From Maple Camp to the swing south away from South Fork is slightly less than two miles. The trail is not very overgrown but could use some brushing.

From the South Fork canyon to the junction with trails 366 and 270 is about 1.5 miles. This trail segment is badly overgrown in spots, is difficult to locate in several areas, has a couple of washouts, and has been locally covered by a slide and downed trees. There are a large number of trees across or in the trail. I don't think this trail has been worked since the fire in 1994.

Below the Crest. For about a mile below the Crest Trail (#270) the trail is totally gone due to the downslope movement after the 1994 fire. The trail will need to be rebuilt.

Permit $$

Coronado Forest
MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To hike
Tucson on I-10 to San Simon and Foothills Rd. South on Foothills to Portal; Portal up Cave Creek to South Fork turnoff (well-maintained dirt)
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