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Blue Mountain, AZ
mini location map2016-12-29
40 by photographer avatarAZHiker456
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Blue Mountain, AZ 
Blue Mountain, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 29 2016
Hiking11.02 Miles 957 AEG
Hiking11.02 Miles   5 Hrs   55 Mns   1.93 mph
957 ft AEG      12 Mns Break
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day 7 – Hike 2
After my first hike of the day to Harris Mountain, the weather got rather miserable and I sat around warming up and then decided to scope out some of the dirt roads in the area, not caring to get out of my vehicle. After heading down a dirt road leading back toward the Chiricahuas, it soon turned into to private property & a private road [which I had to drive on in order to be able to safely turn my vehicle around]. It’s almost always frustrating when a good looking access road on the topos proves to be private property, but this time it turned out to be a very nice experience:

While in the process of turning my vehicle around, some of the folks who live off the road were driving by. I apologized to them for ending up on what had rather suddenly gone from a dirt road to their private driveway, explaining that I was on a hiking expedition in the Chiricahuas and that the topo maps do not always clearly identify which roads are/aren’t private. I showed them the GPS route of my drive in, [they seemed pretty impressed with Route Scout!], and then they eagerly connected me with their neighbor, who is none other than Rick Taylor, author of Hiking Trails and Wilderness Routes of the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona (1977), ... zona

Rick, his wife Lynne, and his business partner John are really awesome folks; and they were super cool to take time out of their busy day to chat with me. Rick is the Founder & Director of Borderland Tours ( ... html), through which he offers International birding tours, and he has authored several books on the subject. He shared some pretty amazing hiking experiences with me, and he gave me some awesome route options for several Chiricahua hikes that are still on my bucketlist. It was such a pleasure and honor to connect with someone like Rick. For once, ending up on a private dirt road did not end with feelings for frustration.

After visiting with Rick, the weather had finally let up to an intermittent drizzle. It was nearly 2 PM by the time I launched for my 2nd hike of the day, for which I selected the nearby Blue Mountain. With under 4 hours until pitch darkness AND 9.75 miles left to log in order to equal my mileage stats from my March 2016 Chiricahua trip, I certainly had my work cut out for me; yet once again I managed to cook up a route on the fly to meet all objectives: enjoying the exceptional scenery, bagging another peak, and getting my mileage in… all without having to bushwhack in the dark.

I parked in a pullout very near to where I parked for my first hike of the day to Harris Mountain, [the highpoint of which is just under 2.75 air miles from the highpoint of Blue Mountain]. In order to get the ‘full ridgeline experience’ of this awesome mountain, [but NOT be left bushwhacking in pitch darkness], I opted for the following: approach from a ridge on the SE end, hike the entire ridgeline, [which runs NW – SE], then [depending on how much daylight was left], descend either to the North or the South of mountain; [dirt roads flank the mountain to the North as well as to the South, but since I would be finishing up on the West end of the ridgeline, reaching the road to the North would be a mush closer bushwhack].

To sum things up: Blue Mountain really knocked my socks off in terms of both the views, as well as the fun it provided. With somewhat steep slopes but excellent gripping rock, my Blue Mountain bushwhack was loads of fun. The awesome grip of the rocks on this mountain was second to none aside from perhaps the full out lava boulders in Flagstaff. The only annoying part, [especially given that I was really racing daylight], was having to CONSTANTLY dodge prickly pear and ocotillo, the two primary offenders in terms of thorny vegetation. Luckily it was never thick enough to be extremely cumbersome… but definitely thick enough to slow my off-trail pace to under 2 mph [on terrain that would have otherwise been good enough for me to pull off a pace of close to 3 mph].

The clouds following the rainstorms provided for some sensational views throughout this adventure; and with a highpoint located just 1.5 air miles to the East of the Chiricahua wilderness boundary, there were awesome views of some of the Chiricahua ‘big-gun’ peaks. There was a register on the highpoint and to say it does not get a lot of action would be an understatement: the earliest signings were Bob Martin & Mark Nichols from May 8, 1993, followed by a group of 3 from September of 1993. Rounding out Page 1, the next signing jumps nearly 20 years, to John Klein on June 12, 2010. Page 2 kicks off with none other than Bob Packard on March 6, 2012 [Blue Mountain was his 2,232 Arizona summit!], followed by me on December 29, 2016. It’s always such an honor to sign after folks of this caliber.

With overcast skies, I didn’t have a good sense of time like I normally do, and when I did a time-check just before leaving the highpoint I couldn’t believe how late it was, [or just how much the prickly pear and ocotillo were slowing my pace]. I had 3 options: 1) break off the ridgeline early with light and at a pace I’m comfortable with; 2) continue at a comfortable pace [but finish the ridgeline in pitch darkness]; or 3) really step up the pace outside of my comfort zone to get off the ridgeline before pitch darkness. I took my chances and opted for #3 [and luckily no falls / twisted ankles!]. As fast as I was going at the end of the bushwhack, I decided to reach for my headlamp a little before pitch darkness [when I was partway down my short, exit ridge, about 0.25 miles before connecting with the jeep road].

I had about 6 miles of EASY dirt road hiking to get back to my vehicle, which took about 2 hours including several spots [changing headlamp batteries, layer changes, etc.]. Thank God literally for the flashlight app! The batteries in my headlamp had died rather quickly / without warning, and my spare batteries, [although never used], had apparently been drained from the many 20-30 degree nights they’ve spent in my hiking pack, inside my vehicle. The spare batteries provided just as little if not less illumination than the ones I’d swapped out… but the good old cellphone flashlight app took illumination to a whole new level. Normally I would have planned for a more interesting ending than 6 miles of dirt road hiking, but given the weather conditions, late start, and the need to hit my mileage goal, the finish was textbook perfect. The dirt roads were all car-drivable and soft sand [vs. lots of rocks], so even my tired legs got a much-needed break.
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