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West Divide Loop - Galiuro Mountains
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mini location map2012-03-24
51 by photographer avatarRedRoxx44
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West Divide Loop - Galiuro MountainsTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Backpack avatar Mar 24 2012
Backpack22.00 Miles 6,000 AEG
Backpack22.00 Miles2 Days         
6,000 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Perfection---- sometimes it happens without much planning. Such as it was as I drove toward the Power Hill TH in the Galiuros, no real destination in mind. It was twilight as I cruised up the ridgeline road on my way to Rattlesnake Mesa and a car camp to start my hike the next morning. Just as I decided to switch on headlights, a cow was in the road. Not unusual here. She turned around and I saw two legs sticking out. This part of the road is a narrow ridgeline with not too many flat spots. So I parked the car. She turned around twice, laid down and had her calf. It was about an hour for the cleaning, nursing, getting the baby to take a few steps. At one point the calf came up to me and the vehicle, obviously puzzled. The cow made a low sound but she didn't come close. The calf was unsteady and leaned up against me. So cute. I guided it back to mom. The cow then got them both off the road, as if realizing I would move on.

Full on dark when I got to the Mesa top, from here it is a narrow and at times difficult 4wd modified vehicle road. Some one had put a sign up "ATV only past here" --- a lifted and locked Sammy or Jeep would do fine. I could have taken the Toyota down but didn't bother. I placed my foam mattress on the tarp and slept under the stars. Very little light pollution. The velvet black punctuated by thousands of dots of light. I dozed, waking to check the star rotation, and to pick out new formations.

I started my hike by headlamp, and dispensed with the mile or so of road quickly. Descending the hill heard the welcome sound of running water. Not a lot, but a pleasure for here. The pools a deep icy blue from the snowmelt. At the junction of Rattlesnake and Pipestem I paused then went up Pipestem. I felt good, taking some pictures, pack light and balanced on my back. The cairn committee has been at it in here. I don't like the over the top cairns but it makes walking the trail easy. Near the head of the canyon is a large pool that will hold water for a while. I picked up some water here, and mounted the West Divide trail. I stopped off to enjoy the huge views out, looking over San Manuel and Mammoth, the towns looking tiny in this gigantic landscape, study the east side of the Catalinas, look at Mica mountain with snow and the rise of Rincon peak, and the washes like squiggling snakes in the landscape below.

The West Divide has had trail maintenance and is a pleasure to walk. There was some snow yet on the shadow side and I ate a few snow cones. Approaching Rhodes Peak the trail passes through a Japanese Bonzai garden of manzanita, yucca and scrub oak punctuated by some well placed rock. The trail here is wide, and gives a hint as to it's possible history as an old road.
The trail passes Rhodes near the broad top, suddenly changing in character and you clamber over a short rock wall.
I thought what a wonderful camp site this would be when I passed by here in 2005, and I decided to camp although the sun was still high. What views you have from here. The open huge valley of the San Pedro river bed, looking south down the west front of the Galiuro escarpment, looking east to see the dark rise of Kennedy Peak and the ridgeline of the East Divide, the major canyon of Rattlesnake hinted at but hidden from view, looking past to see the Pinalenos.
The terrain is rocky and brushy, and has quite a few dead trees starkly decorating the landscape. The rock here is yellow, bands of it, and as you look at Rhodes peak from below on Hwy 77 it stands out with the yellow banding.
I found the perfect campsite in a flat area tucked under a very slight overhang and protected on one side by a clump of manzanita. I had a hearth for a campfire if I so desired, which I didn't, and I found old burned pieces here.

Needless to say I had a great time wandering around. Late light was wonderful. I didn't bring a tent or a bivy and enjoyed my slice of sky. Sunrise filled the sky with warm pink light, and I hated taking time to pack up. I was worried I didn't have enough water for my dry camp as it was warm and I was drinking more than usual. I found a rock pocket with a clean gallon in it, and took part of that.

Starting out my stomach was uneasy. In 2005 I was low on water, had no trail and it was late with a storm coming in. I wandered about in the landscape, pushing through brush, looking at and cursing my map repeatedly. Running out animal trails to nowhere. When I camped I was stressed and tired. The storm came in and pounded me. The next morning I happened to walk out and there was the trail, just like that. Then I got some water. Life was good again.
Now the trail is well cairned and brush trimmed. What a simple joy to walk. You contour around little rock prominences; take notice of the rock here, lots of crystal pockets and differing textures. I located a rock chipping area with lots of worked rock.
The trail is still difficult in spots due to the type of terrain but it is well cairned.
I didn't have the time I wanted to do the whole loop so went down the unsigned Field canyon. If you continue on the West Divide you will come to a signed Field Canyon trail which will take you to the Garden. This will also but makes a loop joining the other trail about a half mile before you get to Powers' Garden. The canyon is very pretty with big boulders, steep runoff chutes, tall pines, an old dam and a developed spring which was running down the hill this trip.
The cabins were quiet with no one about and in good shape. It was the first time I had been here with the addition removed from the main cabin, and the fire pit moved to between the two cabins, a better location I think. I couldn't get the water spigot to work either. I signed in and moved on, not bothering with the spring.
It was warm and nice, and soon some surface water down Rattlesnake. A few of my favorite pools were full. Had to rock hop to keep feet dry in a couple of spots.
Grunt up the hill and out. I stopped in at Burger King in Willcox; normally I don't do fast food but allow myself after a good hike. I was in a good mood, and as I got my food the guy at the window said--"keep smiling". I turn onto I-10 and Coldplay comes on with "Paradise" I crank it up and keep on smiling. And I'm still smiling today, with an excellent Galiuros trip under my belt.

FYI:counted 54 piles of bear poop, mostly old, and countless probably coyote poo, full of what looked like rabbit fur, enough to knit a sweater or two. :)
Parry's Agave
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