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Cave Gardner Loop, AZ
mini location map2014-10-11
29 by photographer avatarchumley
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Cave Gardner Loop, AZ 
Cave Gardner Loop, AZ
Hiking12.91 Miles 4,263 AEG
Hiking12.91 Miles   6 Hrs   49 Mns   2.50 mph
4,263 ft AEG   1 Hour   39 Mns Break
1st trip
Had to run an errand with Team Buford™ to wine country to pick some grapes. And Jon had a car-camping birthday thing to do. So I tagged along but made them do a hike too.

I needed the county high-point. None of us had ever hiked Wrightson.

The east side is an absolute dream. No fees. Not a single car at the trailhead. Didn't see a single other person all day, except a few at the peak who had come up from the more popular west side.

There was running water absolutely everywhere. It was a real nice surprise. The top of the Cave trail gets really steep, and it was a grind up to Florida saddle. The traverse over the Crest trail to Wrightson was a bit more rolling, with some downhills for a break. Some juvenile aspen have started to sprout, and they were just beginning to turn.

Made it to the summit in 4 hours, and took a short break before heading back down trying to beat sunset. The trip down was a relentless descent. It looked to be a bit more exposed and I think it would be tough to come up this way during any kind of sunny/hot season. There's a stretch of trail where the ponderosa is really making a comeback. It's remarkable to see.

The mileages marked on the signs around the mountain are wrong for both Cave and Gardner due to both of them now having closed sections of road leading to the trailheads -- essentially the trailheads for each trail are now just farther away than they were before. No biggie, as both of them parallel their respective creeks and the sounds of flowing water is always refreshing.

A nice night at camp was followed up by a morning in Sonoita gathering grapes and loading a 55-gallon drum into my truck for the drive back to the pub--with a stop in Tucson for lunch :))

We stopped at DQ at picacho peak to load up on some nitrates but the line was 15 deep so we just got back in the car and kept going :(

I've never hiked Wrightson from Madera Canyon, but I have a tough time believing it's any better than the east side ascent. And making a loop out of it is just an added bonus!
 Flora [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Arizona Grape
 Meteorology [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Fire Burn Area & Recovery
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Isolated
New growth aspens up top just starting to yellow. Some sycamores in the lower drainages are beginning to turn. No other colors yet.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Baldy Spring Dripping Dripping
No flow from the pipe, but a little in the trough, and a nice deep pool of water sheltered underground next to the spring box where the pipe comes from.

dry Cave Creek Dry Dry
Flow had gone underground by this point, and downstream.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Gardner Canyon - Santa Ritas Medium flow Medium flow
Great flow. Could hear the cascades several minutes away.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Middle Cave Creek - Santa Ritas Medium flow Medium flow
Great flow in the creek. Probably at least 5cfs.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Upper Cave Creek - Santa Ritas Light flow Light flow
Perhaps aided by rain last week, but drainage contained a nice stream running down the mountain. 1-gallon + per minute.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Upper Gardner Canyon - Santa Ritas Light flow Light flow
Light flow, small cascades, plenty of water to filter. Much better option than Baldy Spring! At least on this day. Good summer monsoon season may have made the mountain unusually wet however.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Wrightson Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Dripping from cliff face and running down the trail across 2 switchbacks. Looks like this is a frequent occurrence from surrounding flora, though the true source is unknown. No problem to get half a gallon in a minute here.
two scoops!
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