|Miller Carr and Calyx, AZ|
|Miller Carr and Calyx, AZ|| |
Miller Carr and Calyx, AZ
|Hiking||13.64 Miles|| 8 Hrs 3 Mns ||1.82 mph|
|4,609 ft AEG|| 34 Mns Break|
|The past week has been very warm in Southern AZ relative to the previous several weeks, and I haven’t been the only one soaking up the sunshine at the lower altitudes. After encountering bees on all three 6,600’+ summits I bagged this past Saturday in the Whetstones, I decided to set the bar a little higher this time, [and capitalize on the warm spell], by knocking off one of my few remaining ‘big-gun’, Southern Arizona bucket-listers: none other than highpoint of the Huachucas, [aka Miller Peak].
In first researching route options [over a year ago], the myriad of different approaches / THs for accessing this peak has always impressed me, [and always made me feel torn in terms of what to go for first]. However, after moving to Elgin and researching the options in more detail, the decision became an easy one: I’d approach via the Oversite Canyon TH / Oversite Canyon Trail #112, which is located on the much more remote, SW part of the range.
The plans were as follows:
1. Launch from the Oversite TH on the Oversite Canyon Trail #112;
2. Shortly thereafter, depart from the Oversite Canyon Trail #112 and bushwhack up to the Arizona Trail in a much more direct line toward Miller Peak compared to the roundabout way that the trail goes;
3. Bag Miller Peak; [which from this point would be via the Arizona Trail #103 followed by the Miller Peak Trail #105];
4. Bag Carr Peak; [take the Miller Peak Trail #105 off Miller Peak, reconnect with the Arizona Trail #103 heading NW, pick up the Carr Peak Trail #107 by Bathtub Spring, followed by the short little spur trail marked #108 up to Carr Peak];
5. Bag Granite Peak [retrace steps from Carr Peak back to Bathtub Spring, then continue NW on the Arizona Trail #107 for a little over a mile; at which point depart from the trail and bushwhack up to Granite Peak… which looked to be extremely easy… provided that the topo maps didn’t ‘generalize’ the contours…];
6. Return via the Ida Canyon Trail #110 or the Oversite Canyon Trail #112;
7. If time permitted, bag Sutherland Peak
I did not expect to get through everything; but personally, I like to have extra planned out vs not enough; and I’m extremely glad I took the time to draw up some very good route options / back-up options… Route Scout topo was completely nonfunctional on this one, and the old fashion / ‘line-of-sight’ method would not have been particularly helpful either [it was typically either crystal clear where to go or not clear at all]. Having topo contours would definitely have come in handy; but even with just the routes/waypoints I’d drawn up pre-hike, Route Scout still exceeded expectations and allowed me to pull off an epic adventure.
Items #1-4 were executed almost exactly as planned. With boulder crags abound, the bushwhack up from Oversite Canyon to the AZ Trail had the potential to go bad at several points; but from a route finding perspective proved exceptionally smooth. I followed some routes out of Oversite Canyon and pretty much had routes the entire way up to the AZ Trail [which ranged from faint animal routes during some stretches and full out human / “International” routes during other stretches].
Frustratingly, what should have been a wicked fun bushwhack ascent proved to deliver quite a beating. Relative to the “R-” and “X-”rated bushwhacks I did earlier this year in the Chiricahuas, I would have given this bushwhack a rating of “PG”…. yet thanks to the pumpkin-up equilibrium impairments that have not resolved, it proved to be a bit of a battle, which ended with me getting battered far worse than on some of my ‘X-rated’ Chiricahua bushwhacks. It’s one thing to take a beating while negotiating truly difficult terrain, but after experiencing the following as a directly result of my pumpkin-up equilibrium - gashing open my knee during a basic bouldering maneuver, taking a direct hit to my eye by a branch in a NON-brushy area, and smashing my head against rock, [among other more minor assaults] – I wasn’t in a very pleasant mood by the time I finally reached the AZ Trail.
After reaching the AZ Trail, I picked up the pace [but nothing that I thought was too fast], and heard some backpackers exclaim as I passed by, “Wow, you are cruising like a ninja” [or something to that effect]. It lifted my spirits a little to know that all was not lost, and I started to feel better after reaching the summit of Miller Peak and enjoying the beautiful views… but then I took a step closer to see what the deal was with this “pit” on top of the peak that everyone was throwing cans / bottle into. There are some mid-large sized rocks that people have placed by the edge of the pit and [thanks to my pumpkin-up equilibrium yet again], I tripped over one of them. Fortunately, my ability to recover while flailing through mid-air is not impacted by the equilibrium issues; but the acting of recovering, [and literally not landing in such a way where I’d break an ankle/knee or end up in the pit] unfortunately took all of my focus……………. and the split second before my foot reconnected with the ground, I realized that my body was headed straight for the rocks surrounding the summit register. I attempted to shift my weight, but it was too late, and somehow during the landing process, [either one of my legs brushed the glass register into a boulder or perhaps it was when I used the rocks supporting the register to spring toward solid ground], the glass jar shattered.
I was beyond furious at how my handicap was directly responsible for destroying something that is special to so many, and I did my best to make amends, first using some choice words directed toward myself, acknowledging that I was the one who broke the register when I signed the log, then donating my trusty carrying case that housed my tweezers & headlamp as the new register and further wrapping that in a poncho I had in my pack. All paper and all writing implements that were in the glass register actually fit perfectly; but it was still very frustrating… the new “register” is not as secure from a waterproof standpoint, and until it is replaced by a better container, whoever signs will need to wrap it with care to ensure that it stays waterproofed.
Although I made the summit of Miller Peak in just 4.55 miles, my time to summit [3 hr 37 min] was extremely slow due to the bushwhack in combination with my equilibrium impairments, and as I departed from Miller Peak I wondered whether I’d even have time for Carr, let alone the other two. Luckily the Arizona Trail between Miller Peak and Carr Peak was very fast; and with some snow that was firmly packed between the gaps of the rocks, [but not so firm as to be slippery], it was really smooth sailing. Once on the Carr Peak Trail, there were a few places where I was able to cut some switchbacks / head ‘as-the-crow-flies’ over terrain that was good enough to allow me to both cut off distance AND save time. I thought the views from Carr Peak were much better than the ones from Miller, but both were very nice… however, neither can hold a candle to anything I’ve summited in the Chiricahuas and/or Pinalenos! As for a register, I did not see one at all on Carr Peak. Had it not been so late in the day, I would have easily stayed another hour on Carr Peak [and Miller as well]. With awesome views, unbeatable temps, and no bees, both were very pleasant summits. However, it was just after 3 PM by the time I departed from Carr, and it was a good 5-6 miles back to the Oversite TH.
Ironically, no sooner did I dismiss the idea of going for a 3rd summit do I find myself atop the unofficially named Calyx Peak. I’d started to come off Carr but instead of heading Southward [back down to Carr Peak Trail #107], I decided to stay on the ridgeline that heads due West of Carr Peak. I’d been eyeing this ridgeline earlier as I approached Carr Peak. Although parts of it looked craggy, I didn’t see anything that would prevent me from exiting this ridgeline and banking back down to the Carr Peak Trail #107 if the going got slow. About 1/2 mile from the summit of Carr Peak as I crested a ‘bump’ on this ridgeline, I encountered a metal rod near the highpoint, which was supporting a small wooden sign that had the words “CALYX PEAK” carved into it. Ironically, I thought the views from Calyx Peak were even been that from Carr.
The ridgeline from Carr to Calyx – and then onward from Calyx back to the Arizona Trail, [which ended up being almost another mile] – was extremely well routed. Even with my equilibrium being markedly worse on the type of terrain I encountered during this hike, I was able to go relatively fast on this ridgeline, enjoy myself on the off-trail, and not take any further unnecessary ‘beatings’. It would have been nice to explore more but I knew that even if with a very fast trail, this adventure was going to end in a race with the setting sun.
A little over 1/2 mile after reconnecting with the Arizona Trail #103, I reached the junction for the Oversite Canyon Trail #112 [my exit trail]. The HAZ Description for this trail rated it a 1 in terms of the Route Finding, and this was very helpful in planning my route. Aside from a very short overgrown section where the trail does some switchbacks before reaching a spring at the upper end of the Canyon, the going was quite fast and the route was extremely obvious. It proved to be the perfect exit trail… I have horrible night vision, [in terms of hiking in the dark], and I reached my vehicle at 5:47 PM without needing to reach for my headlamp or flashlight; enough said!