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Geronimo Head - Malapais Mtn, AZ
mini location map2020-02-09
11 by photographer avatarLindaAnn
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Geronimo Head - Malapais Mtn, AZ 
Geronimo Head - Malapais Mtn, AZ
Hiking avatar Feb 09 2020
Hiking11.57 Miles 3,821 AEG
Hiking11.57 Miles   10 Hrs   47 Mns   1.21 mph
3,821 ft AEG   1 Hour   12 Mns Break
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Route Scout GPS Route Recorded on Route Scout View
On Saturday's hike, during the offtrail to Pikes & Mill, knowing what my Sunday plans were, I'd made the offhand comment that the brush through there was worse than when I'd been on Malapais a couple of years ago. Stupid stupid me--I should have realized right then what was to come on Malapais. I guess ignorance really is bliss...

We got started shortly before 0730 and took the trail up to Fragile Arch Saddle, which was easy to follow. After the saddle, despite some vague trail in a couple of places, it was fairly easy to stay on track. Once we reached the drainage, there was a cairned route to the west and up to the ridge. Once up top, great views all around, and so far, this hike was much easier than it had been two years ago. We followed the ridge south to Geronimo Head, then headed northeast and contoured north-northeast, then southeast, making a big U-turn to stay level until we reached the saddle.

From there, we headed southeast and down, staying on the ridge that heads generally south. Lots of prickly pear through here, more than before. We saw the remains of someone's campsite--tent, pads, cooking grate, water bottles, etc, and pondered both what possessed someone to carry all that great out here and what caused them to abandon it. Near the south end of the ridge, we dropped off the east side of it and then headed up towards the drainage coming off the side of Malapais.

Occasional cairns were helpful, but the explosion of recent vegetation was terrible. It was almost impossible to follow my old track, which was a very good track, so we resorted to trying to pick our way through whatever had the least thorns and didn't seem to involve climbing. Eventually we reached the saddle. Still lots of prickly pear up top, but once we reached the Woodbury burn area, travel got much much easier. We stayed in the burn area while we headed west, then south to the summit of Malapais. This little bit was the easiest part of the day.

Views from Malapais are great, especially with the clear air yesterday. Lots of new vegetation growing in the burn area, it was quite green. After a break on Malapais, we unhappily headed back to the drainage to begin the dreaded descent. We managed to avoid more of the brush on the way down, and generally picked a better route. In one spot, we did some backtracking while trying to find the easiest way to get down through the rocks in the steepest part, but progress was faster than I thought it would be.

Once down, we retraced our steps north across the ridge back over to the prickly pear side, then veered right, more north, by the saddle to avoid the big U-turn. We headed up and followed the ridge north for a while before finally dropping to the west off of 3509 and making our way down into a drainage to follow west then north back up to Fragile Arch Saddle. That drainage was mostly brush free, and easy to walk through. Once over the saddle, we followed the trail back down to the car and finished up right around sunset.

Great temps all day, and a perfect breeze too. We never saw any other hikers, but did see some fairly recent shoeprints in places near Malapais. Given the current conditions of the drainage up to Malapais, unless I hear it improves, I'll probably scratch this one off my list for future hikes. Still, a good day, and it was nice to get a tough hike completed.
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