|Backpack||17.55 Miles||3 Days |
|2,750 ft AEG|
|Bassett Peak Tales 2012
33 gallons of gasoline
266 digital images
"Robber" stellar jays
Clean, crisp mountain air (with just a hint of snow)
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 => http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=18664 ), "Oregon Tales 2012" (check out => http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=20147 ), and Colorado Fall Colours 2012" (check out => http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=21834). 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 => http://www.willcoxlodging.com/)
C. Fort Bowie National Historic Site - stop at the old fort (check out => http://www.nps.gov/fobo/index.htm and http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=934)
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 => http://www.nps.gov/chir/index.htm and http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=27)
H. South Fork of Cave Creek TH - access at the South Fork picnic area (check out => http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=509)
I. Forest Road 42 - up and over the Chiricahua Mountains (check out => http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coronado ... &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 => http://www.willcoxlodging.com/)
L. Bassett Peak TH - end of the road for FR660/Ash Creek Road in the Galiuro Mountains (check out => http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=252)
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
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
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 => http://www.amazon.com/Cochise-Times-Gre ... 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 => http://www.nps.gov/fobo/historyculture/ ... 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 => http://www.dykinga.com/p947625174/h1be05152#h1be05152 and http://www.flickr.com/photos/mkmphoto50/6330187608/ ). 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 => http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=22250 ) 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)
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 => http://www.pbase.com/sedonamemories/image/128206856 ) 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...