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Heliograph Peak from Arcadia CG
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mini location map2015-06-11
32 by photographer avatarJim_H
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Heliograph Peak from Arcadia CGTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jun 11 2015
Jim_H
Hiking10.00 Miles 3,322 AEG
Hiking10.00 Miles   5 Hrs   45 Mns   1.88 mph
3,322 ft AEG      25 Mns Break15 LBS Pack
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Personally, if you weren't me, I wouldn't read this very long log, but...

I had wanted to return to the Pinalenos since I first drove up the Swift Trail in mid-October of 2005; Columbus Day Weekend. It took nearly 10 years, but something always seemed more interesting as a trip, or the weather wasn't very good for a trip this spring. The range isn't as big as I remember, but then I've been out here for 8 years. Also, I recall more pine, but the transition to fir and sub-alpine species was much faster than I remembered.

Last time, I spent no more than 3 hours, and probably more like 2, driving up the road as far as Soldier Creek Campground before turning around. Views were spectacular, as I recall it was cold and dry, and I didn't camp (which might have been nice) due to a lack of real food and the forecast for a hard freeze for elevations above a level below the campground. I had previously spent the night camped at Hannigan Meadow and woke up to 9 inches of snow that morning, so a hotel was more appealing. Besides that, I think my summer camping gear was wet, from the snow. I do remember drying my boots ( used those then) in the motel in Wilcox, and my tent and sleeping bag at a warm sunny spot off I-10 in New Mexico. Still, I always wished I camped there.

This time, before the hike (to be fresh and have energy) I opted to drive the road to Chelsey Flat and turned back from there as I had enough of driving. My impression was that most of the views were from the paved section, and that it was still cold. It was only hovering around 60 to 62 degrees along the road, in the shade of the trees and the shade from the persistent clouds from the tropical mass. It was also very humid, so the cool temperatures felt clammy, and not crisp. It did appear to have rained, as the soil surface was moist, at Chelsey.

After turning around, I slowly drove back to the Arcadia CG to hike what I had read is one of the true, and few peaks on the range to have views, Graham being off limits and covered in dead trees which block the views, and dead from the fire. This one also has significant AEG, unlike many other peak hikes in the range. Initially, I was unable to located the TH. This is partly due to the new signs for THs on the road, and partly due to the name change for the area. This is now a group camp site at the Upper Arcadia CG, and no longer a picnic area. The sign is small, brown, and doesn't stick out at you when a van is parked next to it. The new signs are large and have big maps on them, like the other new signs throughout the Coronado NF. Eventually, I noticed the small brown sign, but what was more confusing, is that the arrows for the trail, point to the left, and not up, so I expected the trail to leave from some spot other than the rear of the group campsite. If you hike this when the group campsite is occupied, you will have to walk right by the group, which might be strange. Hopefully, they don't mind and don't have tents set up to block the trail, or even on the trail, which will complicate things.

The trail reminded me variously of the AB Young( pre-fire); because it is well worn and yet overgrown, The Elden Lookout Trail; from the aspen and dead trees on top, and the Navajo Mountain Trail/ Hike; due to the appearance of the summit and lack of any wide views, or so it felt. Other trails come to mind, too, Guadalupe Mountain Trail in Texas, but not as much. The trail and hike are enjoyable, but in time the thorns from the locust and other plants might make this less so. Birds were very, very plentiful, and after doing this once, I would almost just walk slowly in the area to listen to birds and stop at the vistas, rather than attempt to gain AEG or bag some summit.

The summit was rather dull. It was my first time over 10,000 feet since I was on the Peaks early last October, and I felt it by going slower and feeling sluggish at the higher elevations. I'm not acclimated to high elevation, anymore. I had read on SP that MT Graham is a dull summit hemmed in with trees and has no views. That author recommended Heliograph, among others, but aside from a few directions, the views here were confined and actually a little better from the road. It's still a nice summit but with the towers, and several diesel generators running to power several microwave, and other radio towers, it was a place I would leave rather than stay. At least Elden doesn't have that Truck Stop feel! I was able to see New Mexico and the Mogollon Mountains in the Gila NF, as well as what should be the White Mountains, and then the Chiricahua Mountains. Off summit, the Catalinas, Rincons, Galiuros, and even Santa Ritas, were all visible. The aspen covered parts near, but off summit, were really enjoyable.

Hiking down I was happy to have done this, but felt that if I was to return to this part of the range, I would either do a shorter hike to go slower and enjoy the birds, or just wander the road up to the peak. Not that the trail was bad, but sometimes the best part of a hike is simply being in the forest enjoying what that particular area has to offer. In this case, stopping at a view point and relaxing while listening to what seemed like a hundred different bird species, might be preferable to going 10 miles, 8 of those while having a tuna can (from lunch) clanging away in your pack. Keep in mind that I left the summit after 5, and wanted to drive down the road to see some of the views. Watching the hummingbirds and listening to a few other species on the upper slopes was a particular highlight, as was the running water in the section of Noon Creek, a large Arizona Black Walnut along the creek, the variously alive and dead old growth trees, and a seep spring right on the trail up higher.

I opted to skip camping, as with the humidity and after getting my legs scratched up, I wanted a shower. So, I drove to Safford, had a Carl's Jr 1/2 lb Avocado burger, and drove home while attempting to take several of those photos of people who slept on the ride home. This hike is about my limit for a day hike, with regard to the driving distance, especially on the ride home. Though, it might not be so if I didn't spend a couple of hours touring the upper Swift Trail.

I want to return to the Pinalenos, and hopefully it is weeks or months, and not years. Ideally, I would camp, and if I didn't just wander around the range, I would do a series of small and lazy hikes, or an easier one that allows for more stops and a slower pace to enjoy the sounds. Why would I want to race through a trail here and miss the attractions? Blue Jay Peak loop comes to mind, as does Webb Peak, and a few others.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Moderate
Lots of hummingbirds buzzing around them, too.
_____________________
Let's go Brandon!!!!! Let's go Brandon!!!!
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