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Brown Canyon Trail #115
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mini location map2014-09-19
5 by photographer avatarBenTelly
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Brown Canyon Trail #115Tucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 19 2014
Hiking5.20 Miles 1,660 AEG
Hiking5.20 Miles
1,660 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I planned to drive up to Ramsey Canyon and hike the Ramsey / Hamburg / Pat Scott Loop. Hurricane Odile, or rather the remnants of said storm, altered my plans. The first creek crossing up Ramsey was totally impassable with a three foot high torrent coming down the creek bed. I spent some time marveling at all the water and then pulled the map out to reroute. The Brown Canyon trail drops into Ramsey Canyon so I flipped around and took the mile long dirt road at the base of Ramsey to Brown Canyon Ranch and set out.

SO much water. Everywhere.
This cool September day there was a good amount of water coming down not only the main wash of Brown Canyon, but all the side gullies as well. The grasslands of the first section of the trail were green from the rains and everything looked vibrant. The pipe that carries water from Brown Canyon Spring to the tank at the ranch had burst in a number of spots due to the pressure and a caretaker of Brown Canyon Ranch was out repairing the leaks.

Farther up the canyon small waterfalls fed spontaneous streams. At times the trail served as a channel for overflowing washes. I was happy to have worn my Chacos, a last minute decision that I felt a bit smug about when I passed hikers with soggy boots. I revel in these moments not out of arrogance, but out of the rarity of occasion that I have chosen wisely. At the concrete trough where the dirt track of Brown Canyon road meets the trail I passed the Miller Peak Wilderness sign and entered a narrower, low canyon with big tooth maple and sycamore. I don't know why crossing an imaginary boundary makes me feel more comfortable, more at home. In this case the imaginary line felt more physically present as the landscape changes dramatically. From the wilderness boundary to Brown Canyon spring the trail winds up the canyon under large oaks and sycamores. It's shady and calm.

Leaving the canyon the trail traverses south toward a saddle between Brown and Ramsey. The vegetation changes: pinons, giant huachuca agave patches, less undergrowth. The geology even seems to change a bit at the saddle, more igneous rock eroding out on the Ramsey side. Another big change here was the soundscape. Even a mile away from the Ramsey Canyon drainage I could hear the water rushing down the narrow canyon toward the road I tried to pass earlier. From the saddle the trail descends and traverses before climbing again to another high point. This time the vegetation breaks up a bit and a short spur trail leads to an impressive view of Ramsey. I could all but see the water in the canyon bottom. Anticipation grew as I made my way down the trail to the creek bed.

At the junction of the Brown Canyon trail and Ramsey Canyon trail the creek - or rather, the river - was raging. I've lived in deserts off and on throughout my adult life and I'm still at a loss when finding the right noun to use for a specific waterway. Arroyo? Wash? Creek? Stream? River? When there is three feet of water seven feet across cascading down a usually dry stream bed, does it not merit a loftier designation?

I made my way up the Hamburg Trail another mile, crossing the cascade a number of times and enjoying myself every step of the way. The term Sky Islands once again occupied my mind. Deep memories of the Rocky Mountain landscapes of my youth came to the surface. These high mountains of SE Arizona are capable of transporting me through time and space and simultaneously keeping me tethered to the present.

After a good time at the waters edge I began to make my way back. I opted to take the same trail back rather than drop down to the Nature Preserve and walk Ramsey Canyon Road back to the truck. I met up with an 80 year old gentleman near the saddle between Brown and Ramsey. "It's trails like these that make me wish I was in my 60s again", he said over his shoulder, smiling his way down the trail. I only hope I am still hiking these trails when I am his age.

Parry's Agave
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