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Copper Mountain and Canyon Fun, AZ
mini location map2017-01-22
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Copper Mountain and Canyon Fun, AZ 
Copper Mountain and Canyon Fun, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 22 2017
Hiking11.06 Miles 1,621 AEG
Hiking11.06 Miles   6 Hrs   20 Mns   1.85 mph
1,621 ft AEG      22 Mns Break
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
To top off the frustration, I somehow managed to drive to the wrong starting point I’d planned out,
[ triplog ]

…today, I was determined to get it right [although I had a bit of unanticipated drama on the drive in; but for very different reasons]. I’d added some tracks to the hiking routes I’d cooked up in order to help guide me on the drive in, so there were no navigation issues this time. There weren’t any issues with private property / locked gates either. Road conditions on the other hand… let’s just say that my heart was skipping beats big-time on this one!

I should’ve got the clue when I saw a badass jeep with mega ground clearance and hardcore tires parked in a pullout off the main dirt road [Vaughn Loop Road]; but curiosity got the better of me and I couldn’t resist seeing how far I could make it down FR 188. Under more normal conditions [like the drive out], the road is not overly difficult. There are a few rutted areas that definitely need to be driven with care [for having under 9 inches of ground clearance]; but nothing too terrible. In not so dry conditions however, it was whole different ballgame. Had I know just how horrendous things would be, I would’ve parked off Vaughn Loop Road as well, but this was definitely a case of what I call ‘black mud’ [sort of like the ‘black ice’ phenomenon; except with mud, it’s where the road looks to be just a little bit damp but proves to horrendously slick.

I didn’t start to REALLY spin out until I had gone about 10-15 feet down FR 188, [at which point it was safer for me to go forward vs. attempt to turn back due to some high ruts on the sides of the road]. In many places the sides of the road had ruts that were so deep that it looked more like a small ditch. Thus, in addition to negotiating the the slick mud and ruts / rocks directly on the road, [as my Forester was slipping and sliding every inch of the way], it also took a lot of focus not to end up in one of the ruts/ditches on the side of the road. Miraculously, my 2017 Forester performed like a MF’ing Champ once again, without once hitting bottom or ending up in a ditch!

The first good pullout area was located right by some ranch homes, so I continued a tad further until I came to a huge rut that would have been extremely hard to circumvent, given the muddy road conditions. When I got out to start hiking and set foot on the dirt road, it was so slick that I had to focus to stay on two feet at times, and I was even more in awe at how incredibly well the Forester did. The mud that caked up on my shoes almost immediately after setting foot on the dirt road was so thick that it looked like I was wearing some sort of strange brown snow shoes; and the mud that had caked on to my Forester’s tires was so thick that I didn’t even hesitate to run over some low patches of catclaw in the process of parking.

After about 1.4 miles of beautiful dirt road hiking, it was time for the real fun: first up was Box Canyon. Eager to enter the canyon, I found a good entry point about 1/3 of a mile before the end of the dirt road. On a recent Patagonia off-trail adventure [ triplog ] , I found a 10-15’ waterfall in a drainage that didn’t even have a blue line on the topos let alone a name; thus, I had very high expectations for something labeled as a canyon on the topos. Patagonia’s Box Canyon and Lampshire Canyon, [as well as the sensational unnamed drainage/canyon by which I returned], definitely delivered.

The NE part of Box Canyon starts out sandy, with some rocks/boulders, and the sides of the canyon alternate between low cliff and grass hillsides. It is very, very beautiful. However, about 1 mile in is when things get truly awesome. There are a couple of smaller waterfalls that are easy to boulder hop down, and after that is a 20-30’ waterfall that would be a Class 5 climb. Luckily, the resident animals have routed up a very nice detour that feels like a full out trail. Almost right after the large waterfall, the canyon makes a hairpin turn, and right after this is another extremely beautiful section, which has tall, vertical walls on both sides. At this point, I was on the animal route on the North side of the canyon, and I followed a fainter animal route to the edge of the canyon with the hopes of looking in; however, I didn’t feel comfortable taking a step on the rock slabs that form the top part of the vertical section. The exposure didn’t bother me, but if those rocks slabs gave out, it would not have been pretty. Instead of taking the risk, I scampered down a very steep slope just after the cliff walls and back into the canyon. Next I ventured a few feet back in the direction I had come from to the section where there was vertical cliff walls on both sides of me; but I soon heard buzzing and did NOT want to be caught with cliff on either side of me in the event of bees, so I continued onward. The section of Box Canyon after the cliff walls was very beautiful, with many awesome boulders of various shapes, sizes, and colors.

A little over 3/4ths of a mile down from where I re-entered Box Canyon [after having circumvented the waterfall], Box Canyon runs into Lampshire Canyon, which has a slightly different feel to it. There are no huge waterfalls, [at least not in the part I traversed], but is still very beautiful; and like Box Canyon, it delivered beyond expectation. Lampshire Canyon had tons of beautiful, blue-green rocks/boulders, as well as many sections of awesome, small rock formations right in the canyon, [all of which could easily be negotiated or circumvented]. It made for some very fun bouldering to say the least. There is also a neat, old damn in Lampshire Canyon as well.

After about 0.90 miles, I departed Lampshire Canyon to bag Copper Mountain. Not nearly as prominent as many other named Patagonia summits, it was still a very fun climb and the views were absolutely sensational. The current register was placed in April of 1997 by none other than Gordon MacLeod & Barbara Lilley; however, they noted that they had found a ‘brown plastic pill bottle with register sheets’, [which went back to at least March 1991].

After Copper Mountain, I was planning to do the nearby Ashburn Mountain… but I was also planning to return via a slightly different and longer route, [via a side branch off Lampshire Canyon]. A bit tired, [and not wishing to race the sun], I opted to save Ashburn for another day and instead hit up a tiny summit right next to Copper Mountain before heading back.

The sub-canyon that I returned by begins about 0.10 miles East of where Box Canyon meets Lampshire Canyon. The sub-canyon, [which I was in for nearly 2.5 miles], is absolutely sensational as well. It has tons of reddish/pinkish boulders/rocks for much of the way. There are many places where the boulders/rocks require some very fun, Class 2/2+ scrambling; but nothing was at all difficult. The shapes of the boulders, rocks formations, and many mini-waterfalls in the canyon are just spectacular! It was only toward the very end, [about 1/3rd of a mile SW of where FS Topo shows the end of FR 4614], that the canyon starts to get brushy; but luckily there are some very well beaten in animal routes leading out of the canyon and toward the jeep road in this area. From the start of FR 4614, it was just under 2 miles of exceptionally beautifully jeep road hiking back to my vehicle.
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