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Profanity Ridge & Escudilla LO & Escudilla HP, AZ
mini location map2017-05-09
36 by photographer avatarAZHiker456
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Profanity Ridge & Escudilla LO & Escudilla HP, AZ 
Profanity Ridge & Escudilla LO & Escudilla HP, AZ
Hiking11.75 Miles 2,587 AEG
Hiking11.75 Miles   6 Hrs   15 Mns   1.95 mph
2,587 ft AEG      14 Mns Break
1st trip
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Day 5 (Hike 1) – Gila Trip Gone Wrong
Although the Escudilla Trailhead made for a very peaceful car-camping spot, I awoke on the morning of Day 5 to less than pleasant conditions: 37 degree temps, light hail, and grey, stormy skies. The cloud cover didn’t look like it was going to break up anytime soon either. Nonetheless, I decided to chance the elements, [suiting up in some extra layers topped off with a 99-cent poncho from Walmart], and headed for the trail.

A previous ‘victim’ noted in the sign-in book: “trail sucks you will hop a thousand dead & downed trees”. I half wondered if this was a hyperbole or reality, and was pretty blown away when it proved to be the latter. Relative to other areas I’ve hiked that have some pretty bad deadfall, [such as certain spots in the Chiricahuas], the first quarter mile of trail was not at all terrible, with about 10-20 downed trees. However, after that, things escalate rather quickly and I stopped counting when I reached 100 downed trees, [which was around 1/2 mile into the hike]. And, from what I could see of the trail in front of me, the total number was about to make an exponential increase…

I didn’t mind the extra effort required to hop the logs [at least not at this point], but with stormy weather I didn’t care for how incredibly slow it was taking to maneuver over/under/around them. In its current condition, this was NOT a trail where one could just run / haul-ass back to the TH if a bad storm were to hit. Noticing some animal routes that took a more direct path up, I attempted to cut the trail in several places. In the beginning, heading off-trail definitely saved time, particularly in the area where the trail switches back; but it ended up backfiring in the end, thanks to not enough GPS spot-checks on my part in combination with allowing myself to be “pulled” in a more natural direction by the topography as I approached the 10,400’ contour.

En route to the Lookout, I took the extra time to make my way over to the highpoint of Profanity Ridge, which normally would’ve been a 2-5 minute detour but took a good 15-20 minutes thanks to the horrendous deadfall in this area. I haven’t looked in to how this ridge got its name, but the horrendous deadfall in this area will have most cursing like sailors; so for that reason alone the name is quite fitting. I also decided to grab UN 10,758 for the hell of it. The deadfall was pretty bad in that area too but not quite as bad as near the highpoint of Profanity Ridge.

While the winds were relatively tame given the altitude AND the stormy conditions, the windy spots were usually accompanied by the sound of creaking from the weakened trees that were still standing, and to say it made me more than a little nervous would be an understatement. The area around the Lookout proved to be one of the windier spots, and I was starting to get really chilled so I made my visit extremely brief. I might’ve had a better impression in sunny conditions, but on the particular stormy day I was up there, the poor visibility, [along with not being able to see much more than some dead trees in the backdrop], made for a very desolate feel that I didn’t particularly care for. That said, [independent of the dead trees & clouds], the trashy, run-down overall appearance of this particular lookout area didn’t exactly give off a happy feel either.

Next I made my way to the highpoint area. The deadfall let up slightly but still made things a very slow go in the area between the Lookout and the highpoint. Views from the highpoint were completely blocked by both the cloud cover along with the many trees that are still standing in this area. Given that this peak is on multiple peak-bagging lists, it wasn’t hard to find the highpoint thanks to the help of a large cairn (and of course, Route Scout Topo! :) ). Upon reaching the highpoint, [which took me just under 3 hours from the TH, including the other stops / detours I made], I started to get a bit nervous being so far out [time-wise], given the stormy conditions. Thus, aside from glancing at the first page, I didn’t bother to read log but just signed-in and began my return…

I think it was sometime during the end of the first mile that the thought, ‘no tarzan swinging' way am I coming back this way’ crossed my mind. However, with LOTS of tree hopping to focus on, I didn’t really given my return plan a second thought, [other than, ‘an out and back is NOT happening!’]. A couple of times I glanced at the topo, thinking just how convenient it would be to drop off the Escudilla highpoint area [which is exactly what I ended up doing]; but the contour lines definitely looked a little close for comfort in a situation where I hadn’t even laid eyes on the terrain or the satellite imagery…

…all I can say is, while the bushwhacking may have backfired on the approach, my bushwhack return was tarzan swinging' brilliant. 8) Despite not even having pre-drawn a return GPS route, [I had imported a route from HAZ, initially intending to do an out-and-back via the trail], I nailed this one in more ways that one. Without a second thought, I put the register back in its spot and then headed over to the edge of the summit and began to make my ‘blind’ bushwhack descent, exactly as I had envisioned, which involved using a combination of dropping & contouring such that I would eventually end up on a very gradual ridge located to the SE of the summit with the Lookout. This ridge would then lead me out to very near the main road that goes back up to the TH, at which point it would be about 2-2.5 miles of very easy dirt road hiking.

During my descent, there were a handful of times where the clouds broke briefly, allowing me to get some awesome views as well as a decent enough look at the terrain below me to know that my return plan would likely be okay, [despite the fact that I didn’t have a clear line of sight to the bottom until I had almost completed my descent]. I can’t help but feel pretty awesome at just how smooth it turned out, especially given how I totally ‘winged it.’ Although there were some very steep spots, the combination of tons of animal routes, good gripping footing, and almost no deadfall to hop over (fewer than 10 trees during the first mile of the descent 8) ), made for a very pleasant return.

Towards the bottom / upon reaching the super gradual ridge, there are a few downed trees to get around / over; however, it doesn’t even come close to the ‘volume’ of deadfall found on the trail. Furthermore, the beautiful surroundings in this area really take the attention away from the few downed trees. With rolling green slopes and beautiful flowing creeks/streams, it was a really pleasant surprise to say the least. And, to top it all off, I ended up picking up a dirt road, [that’s not shown on the topos], that helped shave off even more time / distance… which was definitely a relief given that the storm clouds seemed to be rolling in again… in fact, I had heard thunder during the beginning part of my descent and then again about 30-45 minutes later, just before reaching the area where the terrain really levels out. Although I’d seen no lightening up to that point, the potential was definitely there based on how the skies looked, and I wanted nothing more than to get back ASAP.

Upon reaching my vehicle however, the skies appeared a brighter and things looked better than they had all morning, so I decided to hit up UN 9782… which should have been under 0.75 miles round trip. However, thanks to the combination of avoiding some of the worst deadfall I’d seen during the entire adventure AND getting completely turned around, it added an extra 1.75 miles… which was fine by me as I was still under my quota of at least 11 for the day.

Perhaps the most frightful / eye-opening experience of the whole day happened on the drive out… I hadn’t gone more than about a mile from the TH, [and was headed down the same stretch of road that I had traversed not more than an hour earlier on foot], when suddenly there was a simultaneous loud crack of thunder AND a blinding flash of lightening; the focal point of which seemed to be just feet in front of my Forester. Ironically, despite the fact that the skies still looked whiter / less ominous in color than they had all day, this was the first [and only] bolt of lightening I ended up seeing the entire day. It definitely seemed to come out of nowhere; and the fact that I had been pretty much in that exact same spot [on foot] very shortly beforehand definitely gave me an eerie chill.
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