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Mount Fagan
4 Photosets

mini location map2017-04-22
14 by photographer avatarAZHiker456
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Mount FaganTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 22 2017
Hiking15.07 Miles 3,079 AEG
Hiking15.07 Miles   5 Hrs   50 Mns   2.68 mph
3,079 ft AEG      12 Mns Break
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The cliff note version can be summed up in a handful of words: I said, “tarzan swing it!” [to hiking/peaking-bagging altogether]… and I ended up on Mount Fagan.

Having taken some pretty amazing hiking trips over the past 4-5 months, I returned from New Mexico last weekend with a sense of fulfillment, and I FINALLY feel like I can just relax a bit without going stir-crazy if I don’t get in a minimum of 2 hiking adventures per week. However, something that hasn’t exactly been fulfilled is a health/fitness goal that I’ve been busting ass to attain; and, [in order to prevent from loosing ground after a small setback I experienced the previous day], Saturday’s mileage requirements were: no less than fifteen. After a particularly unpleasant trip to Tucson, [which involved running around to 15-20 stores and cumulated at the Tucson Mall…], I was in a shit mood to say the least, totally drained, and half wondering if I’d be able to muster the strength to hit the day’s minimum goal of 15 miles.

Both Mount Fagan and the Empire Mountains have been tempting me for quite some time, and the temptation continues to grow with each trip I make along Hwy 83. Since I haven’t done a single summit in the Empire Mountains, hitting up this little range was my original plan. With several excellent-looking dirt roads leading in that I’d spotted from satellite imagery, [AND the absence of any gates], I was really looking forward to tearing it up in the ‘Emps’. And with amount of miles I needed to log, even a worst case parking scenario [i.e. at a pullout along Hwy 83], would still allow me enough time to hit up some peaks in this small range AND get in my 15 miles before dark.

However, what seemed like a very solid game plan got crashed on multiple levels. Running hours later than anticipated after my less than enjoyable errands in Tucson, it was nearly 2:30 PM by the time I reached the turn for the road I’d planned to take in… and no sooner had I relaxed and thought, “Well, even if I don’t depart from the dirt roads, at least I’ll get my mileage in AND get to see a new & beautiful area…,” I looked up to see a small but explicit “welcome” sign, which *stated that only those who live down/off the road, their guests, persons with written permission, or authorities can use the road, [*I don’t recall the exact wording nor do I care but it was something along those lines]. And my “luck” was similar for the next 1-2 dirt roads I attempted.

By this point, I had completely thrown in the towel as far as hiking was concerned. The setback I experienced the previous day meant that I had about a 24-hour window to throw my body into [metabolic] overdrive; and if I failed to do so, the subsequent ‘snowball effect’ would not be pretty. Fatigue was already starting to set in; and I knew all too well that holding out another 45 minutes to get back to my home turf in the Sonoita/Elgin area would likely prove too late… even if I had to walk along Hwy 83, I NEEDED to start walking/hiking, ‘right here, right NOW.’

I started looking for pullouts as I continued along Hwy 83 and for upcoming dirt road options with Rout Scout topo. Luckily, it wasn’t long before I found one that panned out. It was a pretty main-looking dirt road and extremely well-maintained [EASILY car-drivable]. While there was some signage toward the start about private property, it seemed to imply that the private property / private part of the road was a little further up.

There was a large pullout about 1/2 mile down and I eagerly grabbed it and continued on foot along the dirt road. The surroundings were absolutely beautiful, and even through it would be a very low-key outing [or so I thought], I was very thankful to have found something so nice and I hoped to log some decent mileage before reaching the private part of the road. No dice to that… after just over 1/2 mile, there was a large gate-like barrier and all kinds of signs about: not proceeding without special permission, no photo-taking, and that video surveillance was in progress.

Had it not been for the super shitty jeep road just 0.15 miles before the barrier on the main road, my awesome adventure may have turned out very differently… but at this stage of the game, Mount Fagan was the furthest thing from my mind. Given the very close proximity of the jeep road to the barrier on the main road, I wasn’t even wondering, ‘Will I be able to proceed?’, but: ‘Just how far will I make it this time before reaching the no trespassing signs?’ and ‘What kind of creative verbiage will they use this time for telling ya to keep the tarzan swing out?’

At the very least, the jeep road began ascending a small ridge, giving me a better workout than the relatively flat main road… and the scenery got better as I started to ascend. Within the first mile, there is a gate… but no ‘do not enter’ / ‘no trespassing’ signs, just a small sign reminding folks to close the gate. Mount Fagan had come into view a few times by this point, but there was no way I could see myself going for it [or so I thought] on this occasion. As if a near 3 PM launch time, the perfect temperature conditions for snakes, AND not even having imported my Mount Fagan GPS route weren’t enough to put a damper on things, there were also some ‘equipment issues’ that I needed to resolve: a) remembering to bring a spare set of batteries for my headlamp [or better yet just replacing the old ones, which had so little life that my headlamp barely illuminated my hands let alone the ground in front of my feet]; and b) solving the issue with my cell-phone recharger, [which, starting about 2 days ago], completely fails to re-power my phone.

Despite all of the above, I couldn’t help but notice that, not only did Mount Fagan look incredibly close, the jeep was taking me on a very straight shoot toward it. After a little over a mile down the jeep road, [just to the NE of UN 4931], I clicked on the waypoint that Route Scout automatically displays for Mount Fagan and saw that I was just under 2.00 air-miles from the summit. Seeing a trail [or jeep road] on a ridge that eventually wraps around and approaches Mount Fagan from the SE, I turned right off of the jeep road I’d been following and on to an unmarked jeep road which I thought would lead toward it. However, the unmarked jeep road ended after about 0.10; and the footpath taking off from the road’s end and down toward the trail / jeep road that I spotted from a distance was quickly getting overgrown and the footing was becoming rather poor; thus, I turned back. It was totally doable and not at all difficult… but short on time, [and loose footing not being my forte], I would need something a little faster if I was going to pull off Mount Fagan.

It wasn’t very long before the opportunity presented. After working my way back to the jeep road I’d been following, I continued for about 1/3 of a mile, at which point the jeep road intersects with the Arizona Trail [AZT]. Directly to the North of the intersection is a small, unnamed / unnumbered summit, and its NW ridge wraps around and eventually leads to the SW ridge of Mount Fagan. Taking this ridgeline is exactly what I ended up doing… but still not too sure if I was up for pulling it all off, I first headed in the opposite direction [Southward] along the AZT. After about 1/3 of a mile, the AZT intersects with the jeep road once again, and around this spot, I noticed many well-beaten cattle routes leading up the very gradual ridge that is directly West of the AZT. I headed off-trail along the cattle routes; then starting heading up toward the ridge; and then, [as they say], the rest was history. The footing for most of the way was well-routed and truly excellent [both in terms of visibility & maneuverability]. It was long at all before I reached the unnamed / unnumbered summit that I referenced above, and the views were quite beautiful. From that point, I was just over 1.5 air-miles from the summit of Mount Fagan.

Near the prominent point located just above the 5,400’ contour, a barbed wire fence begins and follows the ridgeline closely for most of the way after that [but eventually shoots off in a different direction around the final saddle before beginning the ascent to Mount Fagan]. The fence was rather annoying and required me to cross several times in order to make the best use of the terrain; and anytime I found myself on the left [West] side of the fence was particularly annoying thanks to an old barbed wire fence that had been taken down and simply left there. The old downed fence pretty much continues the entire way, paralleling the new one.

The final notable aspect of my ascent was a rattlesnake encounter – and specifically, [while many find this hard to believe], it was my first ever rattlesnake encounter that took place while I was off-trail. Fortunately, the encounter went down, ‘text book perfect’, [and I never even saw the snake]. In fact, the first rattle did not last more than about 5-7 seconds, and I half-thought it was a bird of some sort at first. The encounter occurred just after the final saddle as I was preparing to make my final ascent. The annoying barbed-wire fence had finally headed in a different direction, and with excellent terrain and good to fair visibility, I was about to go bounding up… but as always, I first paused to assess the terrain before making a mad dash to the top. About 10-15 feet in front of me there was a small rock pile… and literally just moments after thinking, ‘I better skirt that… looks like a perfect spot for snakes…,’ I head the first rattle. It was softer and much shorter than the other times I’ve been rattled; and, [having many recent incidents where I’ve accidentally startled the living shit out birds that were nesting / sleeping in grassy areas], I thought for a split second that’s what was going on… but when no birds fled the scene, it kind of clued me in as to what I was dealing with. From the first rattle, I got a decent sense of precisely where it was coming from, but I wanted to be super sure before continuing. I gently started tapping my trekking poles together, and about 5-10 seconds later, the snake gave me another 1-2 rattles, allowing me to adjust my path of travel accordingly.

The summit views were very, very beautiful… and in light of the tragic fire that struck this area just 17 hours after arriving back at my vehicle, I will make it a point to post a photo set for this trip. The Sawmill Fire has since burned over 7,000 acres and is only 7% contained as of my posting this triplog, and I’m guessing that my summits shots are going to be the last beautiful shots for a long time to come. :(

There is a very large summit cairn, and I stood atop it for a slightly better vantage point, [and captured most of my summit shots from atop it as well]. I was unable to find a register or survey markers… but given how little daylight there was left, [relative to the amount of bushwhacking I had to do to reach a trail/jeep road that would take me back toward my vehicle], I didn’t devote much time to looking and kept my summit visit brief. On one side of the summit cairn, there are two very nice memorials, both of which are engraved in a stone slab.

For my descent, I headed off a SE ridge. It was not at all complicated; just slower than ideal due to a somewhat steep grade in combination with some spots of moderately tall grass and lots of loose rock. Although not overly brushy, there were enough rocks and tall grass that parts of the descent definitely made me a bit uneasy; particularly toward the beginning where several of the slopes were filled with mini-rock piles that looked like they’d make even better spots for snakes than the rock pile where the snake was that had rattled at me earlier. Needless to say, my trekking poles came in very handy in allowing me to test out the areas that I could not satisfactory see. And, while I luckily had no further encounters, I bet I caused a lot more than just the one resident rattler to have a “human encounter.”

As I neared the bottom of my ridge, I could see excellent trail / jeep road taking off below; and even before reaching it I encountered some very well-defined [human] routes, [that led to some old mines]. Once on trail/jeep road, the rest of the way back was exceptionally smooth sailing. Although I did not have a route loaded, Rout Scout topo showed the trail/jeep road I was on heading all the way back out to Hwy 83, so I knew I was home free… and as I neared Hwy 83, I cut yet another break as I encountered another jeep, [not shown on Cal or FS topos], that leads South and reconnects with the dirt road I started on after about 1/4 mile, completely avoiding the need to do any hiking along Hwy 83.

Upon reaching my Forester, I had 4.24 more miles to get in my 15 for the day, and I proceeded to do “laps” along the dirt road where I’d parked until I got my miles in. During my 2nd lap as I was approaching the barrier and preparing to turn around, the night security officer came out to see what in the hell I was doing. After telling him that I had just hiked to Mount Fagan and was now doing ‘laps’ along the dirt road because I needed to get in my mileage in for the day, he gave me a bit of a strange look as I anticipated… but he opened up immediately when I proved it by whipping out Route Scout, [which was still running, along with MapMyHike], and displaying my awesome route. 8) With the security guard stationed at one end of the dirt road, my Forester mid-way down, and Hwy 83 at the other end, I’ve never felt safer while walking after dark in rural Arizona.
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