|Hiking||6.60 Miles|| 5 Hrs 50 Mns ||1.20 mph|
|2,373 ft AEG|| 20 Mns Break||20 LBS Pack|
||no linked trail guides|
|Hike #2 of 4 from our Sierra Ancha 2022 camping/hiking trip.|
We last hiked this trail over 7 years ago (a year before it burned in the Juniper Fire) so we were well past-due for a return.
Immediately after our Hells Hole ruin hike yesterday we hustled up to Billy Lawrence in hopes of finding solace for three nights of camping and sure enough we had it all to ourselves.
(For one night as the next two nights we had two couples for company... one couple in a tent the other in a new-to-them self-contained monster Ford camper. They were about our age but unlike us, they were all dressed in kilts.)
Our plan for an early start was destroyed at about 1 am when I woke up with a bad feeling... for some reason I had a sinking feeling my camera was missing.
Yup, the one with all my photos and video of the hike to the ruin site and the underground bunker, so to say the least I was more than a bit peeved at myself for a likely 'brain-fade' moment resulting in a missing camera.
Nope, I didn't even need to search for it, I just KNEW it was missing. So for the next 5 hours I ran the end of yesterday's hike through my mind, replaying it over-and-over before coming up with two possibilities, it's either at the underground bunker or at the trailhead.
Ok, so where is my camera?
Well, I figured it was most likely at the bunker because I had removed my pack when I dropped into the bunker the second time to shoot a video (yup, I didn't even think about a video when taking the photos) and when I came out I had set the camera down while putting my pack back on. In my replaying of the event, I distinctly remember looking back where I had set my pack thinking I may have left something there, and I didn't take a second look to be sure.
The next likely place was at the trailhead. Why? Who knows?
Whatever, the moment Tracey woke up (she has her backpacking tent I have a larger one with enough room to use all the pillows I need to sleep on-the-ground as my back issues require a pretty specific sleeping position) I told her the gist of it and I set off for a quick drive back to the trailhead.
I would say it was likely the fastest anyone has driven back out to AZ 288 from Billy Lawrence... I pretty much knew where the rocks and ruts were from the drive up the day before and I slowed a tad for those, but for much of it 40-45 mph was the norm, even hitting 50 mph at one time. Good thing I have tires that can handle the abuse. (6 ply ProComp AT's)
DID I find the camera?
Obviously I did or there would have been no photoset & video of the Hells Hole Ruin Site and underground bunker.
And WHERE did I find it?
Thankfully it was NOT at the bunker (saving me the hike) but it was laying on the ground in the open at the trailhead.
I still have no idea how it ended up there or why neither of us saw it before driving away. Who knows, maybe I left it on a rear tire like I did with my GPS a few years ago, and it just fell off to the side, rather than getting run over like the GPS.
Ok, enough of the early morning drama... we were only 75 minutes late starting the hike because while I was making the round-trip to retrieve the camera (almost as fast back up to Billy Lawrence) Tracey was busy getting everything ready to go for when I returned. She actually wondered why I had returned so fast... how on earth did I have time to make the round-trip?
Easy, I drove like a rally driver of course!
Luckily I bought a new screen tent before the trip and we had left most of the things she needed in it, instead of in the car like the half-n-half for her coffee. Ok, so she had black coffee instead. I, on the other hand don't require coffee to get fired up in the morning.
THE HIKE: (Finally!)
Barely a hundred yards up the trail we encountered some very fresh bear tracks. Fresh, because they were not there the night before when we took a short walk. Ultimately we would follow these tracks for almost the full hike out, only losing track for a bit when WE were off the trail and finally losing it when we turned north to head toward the air compressor and the bear did not.
As long as we were following the old mining road along the contour below Center Mountain the going was pretty good but the farther we went the more deadfall and rock-slides we encountered, making the going tougher than anticipated.
We both had the same thought, why didn't we look at photos from the previous time to have something to compare the conditions to?
(Comparing the photos from 2015 later, every photo of scenic views, equipment or the mines were practically identical! The trail conditions must not have been bad back then because there is not one photo of any thick brush, deadfall or rock-slides, which I usually would document.)
Shortly after our turn north toward the Lucky Strike adits (off the trail heading down to Cherry Creek Road) I heard what I first thought was a cicada (just a louder version of my somewhat bothersome tinnitus) but with her precise hearing Tracey was quick to let me know it was a rattlesnake.
Ok, but where?
It just happened to be under old deadfall across the trail that I was standing on so one moment the sound came from one side, and the next it was on the other side. Finally, even knowing it was under the log, it still took an effort to locate it for a photo and video.
(It would still be there and a bit quicker to rattle on the return trip 90 minutes later)
VIDEO: Arizona Black Rattlesnake
Moving on... we came upon the Ingersoll air compressor in no worse condition than 7 years ago. I took a number of close-up photos of specific parts of it just because I'm interested in mechanical stuff, especially when it's old. (Even more so when it something is older than I am)
What was kind of interesting was the needle on the oil pressure gauge was still accurate... zero!
I checked out every adit as we encountered them but when the brush between them got quite nasty Tracey told me to go on without her while she checked out a few masses of moss with a steady dripping of water. I took photos inside every adit and as mentioned earlier, some of the photos could be lined up next to those of 7 years ago and they appear to have been taken at the same time, even the lighting looks the same.
Ok, enough of the exploration, it's getting warm and my stomach is growling, time to take a break. I found a nice flat boulder and immediately upon sitting on it my EMF tester gave a shrill warning, which I NOW know meant a reading of over 40 mG (milliGauss).
Whoops... is that light-blue coating on the boulder uranium by chance? Unfortunately I didn't have the meter set on MAX (to save the maximum reading) so by time I moved a few feet away and took a look, it was already down to 27 mG. Not knowing at the time what is considered safe or not, we decided to keep going and find a better spot with shade and hopefully a cool breeze before stopping for lunch... which we did at the intersection at the old cabin site.
With all the extra effort constantly climbing over deadfall and carefully traversing rock-slides on the way out, along with warmer temps than Tracey cared for, rather than continuing our exploration of the same sites as we did on 2015, we decided to start the climb back up.
The only thing of note on the return trip was a fleeting glimpse of a White Tailed Deer near where we were off-trail earlier. It was easier to follow this part on the return trip partially due to the bear tracks following the trail when we had not. Must have been smarter than the average bear, huh Yogi?
Once back on the 'easy' part of the mining road we had a reasonable breeze along with plenty of shade, a nice way to top off the hike.
That's all folks! Even though we cut it short, it was more than enough of an adventure for one day for me.