Ode to a Sycamore
The Huachucas...a conflicted range to be sure. Rugged, lush and scenic they tower over Sierra Vista with a huge trail network. A hiker's paradise? Well almost, the thing is this is a major avenue for illegal border-crossers. Every hiker in southern arizona knows this. Unfortunately, they litter their way along the range and it can be very discouraging. But like that childhood friend you can never stay mad at, I just can't keep away. For me, this range just has too much to offer.
This loop out of Ramsey Canyon at the Nature Conservancy Preserve is fantastic. It makes an out-loop-and back hike with good distance and elevation. The only caveat is that it incorporates a segment of the Huachuca Crest Trail - which seems to be the main avenue for the border crossers and their litter. However, this could be done, as described below, as an out and back that avoids the Crest Trail and it's (at times) sad litter.
Well enough of that...take the trail out of the excellent Preserve and immediately begin a gradual upward pace that never actually ceases until the top. As you first wander up along the broad gravel trail with the canyon wash to your left you will marvel at the foliage, including the largest Arizona Sycamores I have ever seen. You pass some old cabins and such and shortly the Hamburg Trail breaks off to the left at a signed post.
As soon as you hit the Hamburg trail the climbing starts in earnest with switchbacks. Shortly, you pass a sign announcing official entrance to the Coronado National forest and Miller Peak Wilderness. You gain elevation like crazy here and before too long you will break out to a nice look out over the lower Ramsey Canyon to your right. Very nice. The trail winds around a bit more before leveling out, then dropping down to the canyon wash/ streambed. You cross over this a couple of times. There was water running today and it was very pleasant. As you continue the more gradual ascent along the canyon, it becomes more lush as it crosses over the stream, with nice tall grass and small open glades. This part is awesome. Comically huge dragonflies buzz around here, checking out the action.
A side trail from Brown Canyon enters from your right, continue straight along to Hamburg Meadow. I understand this to be the remains of an old mining town/site way up here in the mountains. Old pipes and weathered foundations can be seen here and there to confess. Shortly after this you come to the signed intersection where the loop begins, this is roughly 2.5 miles into the trip. I recommend hanging a right and following the Pat Scott Canyon trail up to the Crest.
This seems to follow the high reaches of the main Ramsey Canyon and is an awesome route. It closely follows the streambed of the wash and climbs more seriously as well. You cross the stream several times now, noticing nice little pools along the way. After about a mile or so, the trail kind of breaks out into the open and begins to switchback up into the highcountry. Fragrant pines all about here, with increasingly broad views occasionally opening up. You can begin to see the ridge after a while and you pass through an old burn area from a fire in 1983. Open grassy hillsides here struck me as quite cool for some reason, more green and grass than I'm used to, I guess. At about two miles along the Pat Scott trail you come to a saddle and the Junction with Huachuca Crest Trail. If you don't want the trappings of the history I eluded to with this trail, I would recommend turning around here. It makes for a beautiful, clean and scenic 9 mile hike in and of itself.
If you choose, turn left onto the Crest Trail and follow it along for roughly 2.1 miles. There is occasional litter, it just goes with the territory here. I hate it, but that's the way it is for now. Enough editorializing, back to the route. This trail goes up shortly, then it's all downhill the rest of the way. There are sweeping views off to your right as far as the eye can see and canyon/peak views to the right and straight ahead. This section is easy and fast and before you know it you descend upon Bear Saddle where I happened upon a .......deer.
Hang a left on the Hamburg Trail (122) and head back down. This trail is very steep, but shorter than the Pat Scott trail. Watch those knees and before you know it you are back at the intersection just past Hamburg Meadow. Hang a right on the Hamburg trail and head back to Ramsey Canyon. Stop at the humming bird feeders at the preserve, I have never seen so many little humming birds in my life. They are everywhere.
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.