|Hiking||5.51 Miles|| 4 Hrs 11 Mns ||1.52 mph|
|1,792 ft AEG|| 33 Mns Break||8 LBS Pack|
||no linked trail guides|
|This one was a whopper! Victoria and I did Mustang Mountains High Point 6469 as a bit of morning entertainment prior to our day of wine tastings in Sonoita. It was supposed to be a quick hike before lunch but ended up taking far longer and being far more difficult than we expected.|
We were able to find the spot pretty easily. We parked at the 3rd gate and walked from there even though we could have easily driven another ~1-1/4 miles. It was a beautiful morning and we didn't want to make the hike too short (I know, more the fool us). The dirt road was passable for our small 2wd pickup although we did go slow and have to maneuver carefully around some larger rocks. After walking to the end of the dirt road we came across a camper that was the temporary hunting lodge for a group of quail hunters as well a a pickup and side-by-side that was transportation for a group of deer hunters and their guide.
Shortly after beginning the trail in earnest (marked by a sign indicating that no motor vehicles were permitted past this point) we came across the deer hunters. They had several sets of binoculars on tripods set up on a small rise and were glassing the area for deer. They had seen some and the guide and one of the hunters had gone down into the valley to attempt to get an angle on them. The hunters were not pleased to hear that we were intending to go hiking through their prospective firing range and we hung about for a few minutes waiting for the guide and hunter to return so that everyone could get on the same page. The guide was less concerned, they had scared up the deer which had left the immediate area we were going to be hiking and he was planning on relocating the party anyway. We were also wearing bright colors (white and blue) so there was little chance of being mistaken for a deer. After discussing and showing the guide our planned route we parted ways and had no further issues with the hunting parties. Their preferred scouting position is noted on the route.
Continuing on, we decided to explore the old dam before starting the ascent. We quickly found that the trail was more of a vague suggestion than a route. There were numerous very faint an non-continuous paths that were likely either game trails or social paths carved up by hunting parties but no actual trail was apparent to either the dam or the summit. It was almost entirely bushwhacking (off trail hiking) but there was relatively little in the way of foxtails or other prickly vegetation (by Arizona standards) so this aspect wasn't terribly unpleasant (at least initially).
Navigation was fairly easy but somewhat misleading. We found the dam without issue using the posted GPS route but during the ascent it was less useful. Attempting to follow the exact path was not practical or particularly efficient as it meanders around thickets and other obstacles. It is much easier to simply target the peak and pick whatever path of least resistance presents itself. We attempted the "nose in the GPS" method for the first part of the ascent in the hope that some semblance of a trail would present itself, to no avail. When we abandoned attempting to follow the precise GPS route things went a bit faster.
The initial ascent out of the valley was straightforward and, despite the lack of a clear trail, not to difficult. That changed about halfway up. The angle of the slope increased significantly and at the same time the terrain became much more difficult. What was previously well secured dirt became a combination of very loose dust and scree on a 30+ degree angle. Each step was likely to dislodged rocks and dust and send a hiker sliding sliding anywhere from a few inches to a few feet back down. Testing each foot placement was necessary and even then was not a guarantee of success (some rocks would hold your full weight only to give way as you were testing the foothold). We basically had to step-kick our way up the peak and later semi-glissade our way down. Both of us took minor spills, acquiring scratches and bruises, on multiple occasions on both the ascent and descent of this section.
There was also a high concentration of dry shrubs and trees near the summit that added to the misery. The branches were generally too large to simply push through but at the same time too small and dry (liable to snap) to be useful as handholds. Each thicket had to be either navigated around (where possible) or carefully climbed through (adding stepping over and under branches to the unstable ground challenges).
The only thing that went relatively well on this portion was that the terrain was so uneven that whatever large rocks you did manage to dislodge did not go far and present a hazard the the person following. We were able to avoid rockfall issues by maintaining a spacing of ~10-15'.
It took us so long to ascend that we did not stay long at the summit to enjoy the view of Sonoita (the view was quite nice). The aerostat that is stationed over the border in this area was also clearly visible from the summit as well as the whole of Sonoita Valley and the surrounding areas.
We made a beeline down the peak to start our wine tasting tour (quite belatedly). On the way out we passed by the quail hunter's camper where they asked if we had seen any quail on our hike. This was a bit surprising considering the number of shotgun blasts we heard on the ascent, we figured they had been pretty successful. We hadn't seen any quail (that I could tell) but had scared up numerous other birds. A bit later, while walking on the road portion back to the truck, we heard 3 rifle shots in quick succession (the first we heard that entire day). So the deer hunters we inadvertently displaced might have been compensated later on as well.
I don't think we would do this hike again, mostly because Victoria doesn't like off trail hiking. It would definitely be a good idea to check to see if there is a hunting season in effect when you want to hike this peak so that you can avoid possible issues of that sort. As far as off-trail hiking goes this was probably a good introductory route. If you drive all the way to the end of the dirt road the actual route is quite short. Even though the terrain is steep and challenging it isn't ridiculous or terribly dangerous. The nuisance factor of foxtails or prickly vegetation is also minimal so it's not a bad place to get your feet wet. The dams (both the old one we went too and the two newer ones we skipped) make potential points of interest or places to explore along the way. So this is a solid off trail hike option for those looking for that sort of adventure.