username
X
password
register help
GuidesRoutes
 
Photosets
LabelsComments
triplogs photosets comments more
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ... 10  Next
183 triplogs

Jun 10 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Tracy's Peak & Weigles Butte, AZ 
Tracy's Peak & Weigles Butte, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Jun 10 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking9.10 Miles 2,374 AEG
Hiking9.10 Miles   6 Hrs   18 Mns   1.53 mph
2,374 ft AEG      21 Mns Break
 
no photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
After 4 weeks of no hiking, it would’ve nice to far exceed the health / fitness parameter that I’ve been busting ass to attain… but at the very least, I’m content to say that I’ve finally reached my goal. During the course of those 4 weeks, I didn’t do much more than sit around on my ass all day. Miraculously however, I was no worse for the wear. In fact, aside from some mild muscle fatigue and a touch of ‘ouchiness’ in my arthritic ankle, [both very much expected], I felt worlds better… maybe even a little too good, as I completely caved to the temptation of venturing off-trail [and ended up on one of my typical bushwhack adventures... which was not the wisest option to say the least during snake season]. However, I thankfully had no snake encounters, and I managed to have a sensational, stress-free adventure that was *virtually drama free...

…*sans dealing with some moderately testy bees… but that seems to be the norm for me no matter what month of the year it is, [unless of course it’s extremely windy and/or precipitating]. The encounters played out like my typical bee encounter: I was never harassed by more than one at any given time; and the bee would always buzz me in a moderately angry/unhappy tone. Make no mistake about it: had it not been for my BeeAlert spray, it would’ve been highly stressful, especially on the off-trail sections, which were rather rugged. Add in the fact that I was REALLY focusing on the footing & going much slower than normal due to the high snake potential, and I wasn’t about to wait for the buzzing to become super angry before unleashing the BeeAlert, [and didn’t hesitate to do so in 5-6 different spots at least].

Aside from being a total Godsend in terms of bee protection, the BeeAlert also proved to be awesome at instantly removing all stickiness from pine sap. After grabbing a few branches for balance [and instantly getting my hands covered in the viscous substance, I decided to spray them with the BeeAlert to see how effective it would be at removing the stuff. I was pleasantly surprised with the results to say the least.

As for the hike / summits, I kicked things off from a very convenient little parking area along Box Canyon Road, located just to the SW of the ‘Box Canyon OHV’ Trailhead. My original plan was to hit up Weigles Butte; and then if time/energy permitted do the Helvetia Benchmark and/or Harts Butte. With TONS of dirt roads in the area, [several of which lead very near these summits], I figured it would be very a good option, allowing for minimal off-trail during snake season. I kicked things off by heading North up FR 4056, which follows along the bottom of a small, sandy, drainage. My game plan was sound & intention was good but, [after successfully resisting the urge to bound up the fun-looking UN 5587], I couldn’t help but follow some excellent, well-beaten cattle routes up and out of the drainage to the N/NW [instead of making the super short climb of out the drainage and on to FR 231 to the East, toward the end of FR 4056, as I’d initially planned]. Thus, after just 0.75 miles in to the adventure, I was already ‘off-trail.’

The cattle routes were very well-beaten, and both visibility and maneuverability were very good… initially. After about 0.75 miles, [1.5 miles total], I ended up on top of a small ridge where I picked up a jeep road that headed North along the ridge. There were many jeeps roads in this area that I could have taken toward Weigles Butte… but the incredibly rugged & super fun-looking ridgeline in front of me was irresistible. There were several routes leading up, (most of which looked to be animal routes… and deer in particular based on the droppings ); however, before even making it 1/4 of the way up to the first nub on the ridgeline, the terrain gets rugged and it looked like it would be a total snake haven. Thus, what would’ve been a mad dash up & ‘joyride’ along the ridgeline during the winter months proved to be a very slow traverse as I carefully tested rocks with my trekking poles and scanned the terrain for snakes. Lack of visibility due to tall grass was rarely an issue; but with rock piles / crags abound, I wasn’t about to go flying up the boulders as I normally would in cooler temps.

Only one of the 4-5 prominent points that I traversed along the ridge before reaching Weigles Butte has a UN designation on the topos (i.e. 6290); and it was a neat surprise to discover that this awesomely rugged / beautiful peak is locally/unofficially known as Tracy’s Peak. The first page of the summit log starts with a brief history:

“This booklet was placed here on the highest peak of the Santa Ritas, north of Box Canyon on 3/12/98 by the Green Valley Hiking Club. On that date we unofficially named this Tracy’s Peak, in honor of Tracy Ackerman, for his many contributions to the club.”

A post-hike Google Search provided further confirmation (see Pg. 6 gvrhc.org/Library/P ... .pdf). Hopefully Tracy’s Peak will appear on the topos in the near future… but as with almost everything in life these days, the naming of peaks has turned into a complex process so who the hell knows…

After Tracy’s peak, I continued along the ridgeline toward Weigles Butte. As slow as I was going to watch for snakes, I knew that I’d be heading back after Weigles but was totally fine with that. Even if I decided to head back after Tracy’s Peak, it still would have been an awesome adventure; reaching Weigles was like icing on the cake [and in more ways than one]. This peak has a very distinctive and unique shape to it that jumps out at you from Hwy 83… heck, upon my return from a post-hike grocery trip to Sierra Vista, I couldn’t help but smile as I spotted this peak almost as soon as the Santa Ritas came in to view while heading West along Hwy 82. I’ve wanted to stand on top of this peak for some time; and today was finally the day I did so. If viewed from the West, Weigles Butte looks like a suicidal free-climb… but approaching from the S/SE, it’s a fun & easy scramble to the top. The views are off the charts awesome! With the super craggy ridgeline encompassing Tracy’s Peak to the South, along with more impressive craggy peaks like the Helvetia Benchmark and Harts Butte to the North, the immediate surroundings are awesome to say the least… and with a backdrop of Mt. Wrightson & the taller Santa Rita peaks to the South, along with many other beautiful ranges in all directions, the overall all views proved to be among my favorite summit views to date in the Santa Ritas. The fun factor on this bushwhack was certainly among one of the best to date for me in the Santa Ritas as well.

In the area of the highpoint, there is a summit cairn as well as a large summit rock pile, and the two registers I saw were just resting atop the rock pile. One was a small bottle that looked as though it was once a supplement / spices bottle. It contained two brittle sheets of paper, [which I didn’t attempt to remove]; although peering in, it looked as though the oldest sign-ins were from ’04, ’05, or ’06]. The more official looking register [glass jar, metal lid, & small notebook], was placed on 9/25/2000. While it had a fair number of sign-ins relative to some of the more remote peaks I’ve done, the log definitely doesn’t receive a ton of action [I was the first to sign since December 2015]. After visiting the highpoint, [East side], I also enjoyed taking the super short stroll over to the West side of the summit, which has no brush on top and offers some killer views as well. I actually found a comfortable spot to lie down and kicked off my socks and soaked up the sun for a good 5-10 minutes. Miraculously, I did not get harassed by the resident bees, [who had buzzed me almost every other minute throughout the adventure]... although I did have to brush off a few small ants who apparently liked the taste of my filthy feet [what ever happened to the :yuk: smiley!?!].

My descent off Weigles was a little dicey [given the ruggedness AND the snake potential], but luckily it pan out okay and without issue; and it wasn’t long before I connected with jeeps roads. With a touch of fatigue in my muscles from having sat around for a month, along with some ‘ouchiness’ in my arthritic ankle, the easy, autopilot finish was definitely a real treat. Around the final mile, I approached an area where there was typically Sonoita grassland vegetation on one side of the jeep road and toasted earth [from the Sawmill Fire] on the other side. Despite extremely dry conditions, it was really awesome to see just how fast the vegetation was already starting to rebound… and to top it off, instead of the typical ‘crotch-high’ variety of grass that is tan/yellowish in color, the grass that has started to grow back is the nice lush bright green stuff [that typically grows back in the Northeast]. In terms of the views, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were still exceptionally beautiful despite a lot of charred lowlands; [that said, the area I was in had a mix of some ridges that had burned and others that had not experienced any fire damage]. Nonetheless, the healthy grasslands in combination with the burned areas actually added more color to the landscape. With different shades of browns, tans, reds, even white & cream colors, the sand & dirt that was visible thanks to the vegetation that had burned away was pretty in its own way.
_____________________
May 14 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Haystack Mountain, AZ 
Haystack Mountain, AZ
 
Hiking avatar May 14 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking10.03 Miles 1,135 AEG
Hiking10.03 Miles   4 Hrs   25 Mns   2.32 mph
1,135 ft AEG      6 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
A low-key but fun and beautiful little summit hike at the North end of the Whetstones, which I executed in true loop fashion. While over 90% of my ascent & approach was not on a trail/jeep road, the terrain consisted primarily of: extremely well beaten animal/cattle routes, very wide washes, [where I literally had a 10’ ‘cushion’ on either side between me and the vegetation], and bare/heavily grazed areas. With visibility that ranged from good to excellent, it was a very nice option during snake season.

There was a register on top that was in horrible condition, consisting of: a large glass jar with the top completely broken off, a pencil that was resting at the bottom of the broken jar, and what remained of the log, which was lying next to the broken jar & partly under a rock or two that formed the summit cairn. I’m not sure which of the following impressed me the most… the fact that:

a) the log had not blown away
b) the log had not been completely destroyed from full exposure to the elements
c) some of the sign-ins were still very visible

That said, the pages were very brittle so I did not even attempt to separate them in order to try to read any of the sign-ins that were not on the outer part, nor did I attempt to sign it. Rather, I played the role of register fairy once again and left a nice new container. Given that I still have a few servings left before I finish off another Juvo container, the one I had on hand this time was a quart sized, Talenti Gelato container. Luckily, although not as tall, the old log fit inside perfectly. I forgot to stash some extra paper in my pack though; so I left a clean paper towel that I had on hand for others to sign in the event they don’t have anything better to write on. I wrote the name of the mountain on the paper towel, signed/dated below, and then headed on my way.

Aside from following a route for a short ways along the summit ridge – and then heading off trail a couple of times toward the end to circumvent some cattle that were NOT at all happy with my presence… – I stayed on excellent jeep road for most of the return trip. Unless I’m able to get out for a hike mid-week, [or unless a total miracle happens], this will be my last hike for a while, and I’m really glad it was a good one.
_____________________
May 10 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Blue Peak/LO & Indian Peak & Raspberry Peak, AZ 
Blue Peak/LO & Indian Peak & Raspberry Peak, AZ
 
Hiking avatar May 10 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking9.44 Miles 3,181 AEG
Hiking9.44 Miles   6 Hrs   44 Mns   1.62 mph
3,181 ft AEG      54 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Partners none no partners
Day 6 (Hike 1) – Gila Trip Gone Wrong
…Nature called at about 2 AM, (which is never a pleasant thing in 20-30 degree temps… :doh: ), but on this particularly occasion, it proved to be a saving grace. I attempted to answer the call but got whacked in the face with a pile of snow that had flown off the door upon opening it; and I gazed in horror at the Winter Wonderland outside and what appeared to be a good 6-8” of snow. To make matters worse, the snow was still falling fast and furious. Without hesitation, I grabbed my keys threw my belongings off the front see, and proceeded to get the hell out of Dodge.

In the beginning, there were spots where the Forester had started to go into a slide; and although I was able to get control pretty easily, my heart was definitely skipping beats… while not a ‘white knuckle’ road under normal conditions, there were a few spots that came *frightfully close to an embankment, [*given the way I was sliding around in the beginning]. Luckily, my decade plus experience of driving in snowy/icy weather in Connecticut came back to me pretty quickly and, [after about 1/2 to 1 mile of slip ‘n’ slide], I luckily mastered the technique of how to ‘throw’ the steering wheel before going into a slide in order to keep the vehicle straight. For most of the way, there was a good 4-6 inches of snow; while the bad spots had upwards of 8” and the good spots had about 2” or less. While it wasn’t exactly pleasant making an ‘emergency exit’ at 2 AM, I managed to make the drive out in just 10 minutes [vs. the 20+ minutes that it had taken me to drive in]… it’s just amazing what a few extra inches of ground clearance can do! :D

Hwy 191 was in much better shape; however, the Southbound side [my side] was the one on the edge of the huge drop off. Given the conditions, I didn’t hesitate to take up both lanes; and in the unlikely event someone were driving up the road at that hour, I’d be able to see the headlights and move over. I arrived at Strayhorse a little before 2 AM and had the entire West side of the campground area to myself.

The next morning I intended to launch from the Raspberry Creek Trail #35 but ended up on a side road that dead-ended. Rather than backtrack, I followed animal routes and eventually connected with the trail a little further down. Upon launching, the skies were clear overhead but I could already see clouds building up in the distance; and very shortly after I departed from the trail [to make the 1,500’+ elevator ride ascent up a South ridge of Blue Peak], grey clouds started to move in very fast. The climb was super fun, with a lot more bouldering opportunities than I anticipated based on what I could see of the ridge from the trail. Aside from my feet which were soaked and miserably cold, the rest of my body somehow managed to feel okay, (despite having gotten drenched early on from plowing through snow-covered branches :doh: ).

By the time I reached the summit, the clouds were pretty thick but there were a few breaks here and there, allowing me to catch glimpses of the awesome views. Like the Escudilla Lookout, the Blue Peak Lookout was also run down & had a desolate feel. There was a register nestled under a cairn by the base of the lookout tower, and the main sign-in page goes back to August 2004. I couldn’t find any survey markers, [although I was starting to get pretty cold and didn’t put much effort into looking]. Cell reception from the summit was excellent, so I called Peter who graciously gave me a Doppler report, which proved very helpful. Before departing from the summit, I changed in to dry shirt that I had thrown in to my pack last minute, and it was a VERY nice treat to no longer have my upper body feel drenched & cold.

I headed off Blue Peak along its NE ridge via a very overgrown trail. Toward the summit, the trail is almost overgrown beyond recognition, but it soon become discernable; and, although not in the greatest shape, it definitely made the going a bit smoother given how some pretty gnarly brush had started to take over. The brush soon faded out to the point where it was faster and easier to simply head directly along the ridge in the direction I planned to go [vs. sticking to the trail]; and as I approached my next peak of interest [Indian Peak], the route on the ridgeline in this area was more defined than the stretch of trail I’d taken off of Blue Peak. Indian Peak wasn’t a standout [in that there were plenty of other spots along the ridge and throughout my adventure where the views were just as good if not better]. I was also unable to find a summit register or survey marker(s). At the very least, it was smooth off-trailing in this area and in the direction I needed to go.

Next up was Raspberry Peak. I’d intended to head of the S/SE ridge of Indian Peak toward Raspberry Peak but inadvertently headed off the ridge to the NE [toward UN 8372]. Luckily, it was under 0.10 miles before I got the overwhelming sense that I was headed toward the wrong peak. And the error even helped me to not only avoid a craggy section on the ridge I should’ve taken but also spot some very well-defined animal routes, which made it a fun and easy task of dropping about 750’ in 2/3rds of a mile to the saddle area just North of Raspberry Peak.

The ascent of Raspberry Peaks was loads of fun, offering a gain of around 400’ over about 1/4 mile. :D With tons of animal routes, excellent footing, and *minimal brush [*IF paying attention to the routes that circumvent it], I truly enjoyed the awesome workout this ascent offered. Once on the summit ridge, it was short and easy jaunt of just under 0.20 miles Eastward to reach the highpoint. The views were absolutely extraordinary but the wind was blowing viciously and I could see more grey clouds to West, [which would be headed my way based on the Doppler report Peter had given me]. Thus, I took a few pics, signed the register, [which had been placed by Mark Nichols *prior to 11/20/96], and headed on my way. *11/20/96 was the date of ascent for the second person to sign; Mark’s name was first and barely readable, [and the date of his ascent had completely faded].

My descent off Raspberry Peak was exceptionally smooth thanks to some excellent routes that circumvented the cliffy and overly brushy areas. I descended Westward until I reached about 7,800’ and then contoured Northward as I continued to descend but much more gradually. I then contoured back around to the West toward Raspberry Basin, and soon connected with the Raspberry Creek Trail #35, [which was the same trail I started]. From the time I reconnected with the trail, I had a little over 2 miles to go to get back to my vehicle. This trail was a real treat: the footing was excellent for the majority of the way, the trail was very well defined [aside from a handful of confusing spots where the cattle had blazed routes that were equally well-defined if not more so…], and the views and immediate surroundings were absolutely beautiful. Aside from half expecting a storm to blow over the ridge at any moment, it was truly a stress free ending to an awesome adventure.
_____________________
May 10 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Rose Peak TrailAlpine, AZ
Alpine, AZ
Hiking avatar May 10 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking2.42 Miles 558 AEG
Hiking2.42 Miles   1 Hour   55 Mns   2.05 mph
558 ft AEG      44 Mns Break
 
no photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day 6 (Hike 2) – Gila Trip Gone Wrong
Before heading back to Elgin, I squeezed in one final hike to Rose Peak & the Rose Peak Lookout. Although I reached the summit in just over 1/2 mile, the 500’+ gain made it a great little workout. And to top it off, the views were absolutely beautiful. There were some clouds rolling by as I was making my ascent, but shortly after reaching the summit they had cleared, allowing me to experience the sensational views. Unlike the previous two lookouts [atop Blue Peak & Escudilla Peak], the Rose Peak lookout is very nice and not run down / desolate. There is a nice survey maker on the South end of the peak, [which, according to the topos, is 10’ lower than the North end with the lookout]. I also saw a glass jar nestled among the rocks that might have been a register at one time, but it had no lid and there was no paper/logbook to be found. For my return, I took the dirt road since it would give me some extra mileage. The views were actually much better than those along the ascent, which were largely blocked by the tree cover.

Although my big plans for hiking in the Gilas got totally crashed, I still had an amazing trip and managed to cross off some big bucket-listers that were not on the original itinerary; the final one being the scenic drive from Alpine to Three Way along Hwy 191. The mountainous areas were very beautiful as expected; but a really neat surprise that I wasn’t anticipating was the mining area in Morenci. Hwy 191 literally goes right through this area, which makes the large mine in Green Valley seem peanut-sized by comparison. Clifton was also a neat little town to drive through.
_____________________
May 09 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Profanity Ridge & Escudilla LO & Escudilla HP, AZ 
Profanity Ridge & Escudilla LO & Escudilla HP, AZ
 
Hiking avatar May 09 2017
AZHiker456
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
Linked linked
Partners none no partners
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.
_____________________
May 09 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
K P Benchmark, AZ 
K P Benchmark, AZ
 
Hiking avatar May 09 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking0.46 Miles 43 AEG
Hiking0.46 Miles      17 Mns   1.62 mph
43 ft AEG
 
no photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day 5 (Hike 2) – Gila Trip Gone Wrong
After my hike to Escudilla, I headed for Hannagan Meadows, which was beautiful and reminded a bit of Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, [minus of course the many dome mountains in the backdrop]. I had a really fun visit with Charley at the Hannagan Meadows Lodge and then continued on my way, heading South along the Coronado Trail [Hwy 191].

I’d loaded a GPS route off HAZ for the Greenlee County Highpoint, but given that there was a very large dark cloud almost overhead, [and that the skies in general still looked like they had the potential to send stormy weather my way], I figured I would test the waters with something even shorter and headed off to see if I could find any survey markers atop the K P Benchmark, located almost right across the Hwy. I didn’t have much luck with that… but given how horrible the deadfall was in this area, it wouldn’t surprise me if one or more of the survey markers is deeply buried under a downed tree(s).
_____________________
May 09 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Greenlee County High Point 9441Alpine, AZ
Alpine, AZ
Hiking avatar May 09 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking0.52 Miles 84 AEG
Hiking0.52 Miles      15 Mns   2.40 mph
84 ft AEG      2 Mns Break
 
no photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day 5 (Hike 3) – Gila Trip Gone Wrong
While there was no thunder or lightening during my super short trip of under 1/2 mile / under 20 minutes to the K P Benchmark, the large grey cloud that had me a bit concerned was still lingering around. Thus, I opted for as short an approach as possible to the Greenlee County Highpoint. I managed to find a spot along Hwy 191 that was in almost perfect alignment with the X on the topo that represents the highpoint, and I reached the summit in just 0.24 miles.

While there were some downed trees to hop over, it definitely was not at all terrible relative to the bad / moderately bad areas. The summit area looked more like a pretty meadow than the top of the mountain, and had the weather been more favorable, it definitely would’ve been nice to sit up there for a bit and enjoy the surroundings. However, in addition to the stormy skies, I wasn’t exactly digging the 30 degree temps. Thus, I made my way over to the summit cairn, signed the log, [which had a Gordon MacLeod / Barbara Lilley register and was filled with names due this ‘peak’ being a county highpoint], and then headed back down.

Upon returning to my Forester, I decided to head for the trailhead that is just to the West of Blue Peak, [at the end of FR 184], where I planned to car-camp for the night and then launch from the next morning. However, I missed the turn and didn’t realize it until I’d reached the Strayhorse campground area, just over 4 miles further down Hwy 191 [and nearly 1,500’ lower]. I toyed with the idea of just staying at Strayhorse [and then just beginning my adventure from the Raspberry Creek Trail #35 instead of from the one that takes off toward Blue Peak at the end of FR 184]; but for one reason or another, I decided to head back up the road and then down FR 184. While definitely not car-friendly, FR 184 was not a particularly difficult / shitty road for high clearance; just annoying slow due to about 4 miles of road that seemed to constantly alternate being having several feet of flat/excellent stretches followed by boulders that had me riding the brakes to ensure I wouldn’t hit bottom].

I reached the trailhead at the end of FR 184 just before dark and enjoyed some awesome views as the sun set. Ironically however, all of the backtracking was for naught; as fate would have it, I’d wake up on the morning of Day 6 at the Strayhorse campground and kick-off my adventure from the Raspberry Creek Trail #35…
_____________________
May 08 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Saddle Mountain & Brushy Mountain, NM 
Saddle Mountain & Brushy Mountain, NM
 
Hiking avatar May 08 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking6.50 Miles 1,894 AEG
Hiking6.50 Miles   4 Hrs   47 Mns   1.59 mph
1,894 ft AEG      41 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day 4 (Hike 1) – Gila Trip Gone Wrong
Nearly out of GPS routes [in terms of what I’d pre-drawn prior to my trip], and with storms in the forecast, I awoke on edge and was strung out for most of the day. Fortunately, despite really having to ‘wing it’, I managed to have some fun hikes, get in a great workout, and experience some beautiful country.

I continued along Pueblo Park Road [FR 232], which is an exceptionally beautiful drive but gets a bit rough. While still very easy for my Forester, this road would not be doable in a low clearance vehicle due to several spots with taller boulders that begin shortly after the Pueblo Park Campground. Initially I was going to take FR 232 into Arizona and knock out the Bear Mountain loop; however, the combination of a late start and storms in the forecast made the idea of this 18.5+ mile hike less than appealing. Thus, I settled on a short hike to the summits of Saddle Mountain and Brushy Mountain, which I accessed by turning off on FR 209 and then on FR 209B, which goes all the way to the summit of Saddle Mountain.

After turning onto FR 209B, the signage is not particularly good in terms of indicating where to park… or informing drivers that there is rough road ahead. The road rather suddenly goes from being easily doable in a high clearance vehicle to a ‘strictly 4x4’ type of deal; and as a result, I had the joys of executing a three point turn on a narrow up-stretch with a steep drop on one side. Fortunately, I eventually managed to complete the turnaround without ending up down the embankment. I then found a nearby spot on the side of the road a little further down to park, and then took off on foot up the road to the summit.

Saddle Mountain was a real treat and definitely exceeded my expectations. In addition to sensational views, there is also a Lookout and, [unlike some of the other Lookouts I hiked to during my trip…], the one atop Saddle was in excellent condition [and I’m guessing still in use during fire season]. There are also three nice survey markers; and, [while I never envisioned myself using adjectives such as “interesting”, “neat”, or “awesome” to describe an outhouse], those are exactly the adjectives I used to describe the Saddle Mountain shitter to friends/others. :o :lol: I won’t bother to explain… as they say, a picture’s worth a thousand words. [ photo ]

Next up was Brushy Mountain, and reaching the summit proved to be a short and easy bushwhack of about 1/2 mile from the summit of Saddle Mountain. Although there was definitely lots of brush, the many routes blazed by the resident animals, [along with perhaps some manual thinning efforts], made it very smooth sailing. And, while the views were blocked in many directions from the summit, the views to be had were truly awesome.

Not in the mood for an out-and-back, [and still needing to log lots more miles for the day], I continued Southward off Brushy Mountain with tentative plans to try to make my way down toward Pueblo Creek and then pick up the trail in Camp Canyon for my return. However, despite the gradual topo contours, I’d gotten a good view of this side of the mountain on the drive in and knew that the massive crags in this area might pose a bit of a challenge, especially given that I hadn’t had a route drawn to assist in working my way through / around the crags. After cliffing out twice, [and with storm clouds fast building up in the distance AND still having a lot more mileage to log], I opted for a more conservative return via a shallow, well-routed drainage that parallels the road leading to Saddle Mountain to the West. Toward the end / where the drainage branches off toward the bottom, I headed up and over UN 7562 followed by UN 7933. My vehicle was about 1/3 of a mile off the other side [N/NW] of UN 7933.
_____________________
May 08 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Aspen Mountain, NM 
Aspen Mountain, NM
 
Hiking avatar May 08 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking1.29 Miles 404 AEG
Hiking1.29 Miles      50 Mns   1.84 mph
404 ft AEG      8 Mns Break
 
no photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day 4 (Hike 2) – Gila Trip Gone Wrong
Still needing to log lots more miles following my sweet but short trip to Saddle Mountain & Brushy Mountain, I continued North along FR 209 and headed for some other peaks I saw on the topos that were not only right near the main roads but also had trails / jeep roads leading to the summits [or very near to the summits]. Storms had moved in and the day was flying by, so at this point, I needed some options that would allow me to go a lot faster than the pace I typically hold for most of my off-trail adventures in order to meet my daily mileage quota. Luckily, I was in an area with many options that fit the bill.

Although Aspen Mountain proved to be an exceptionally fun and easy hike that I completed in true loop style in under 1 hour [including a peaceful summit rest] & under 1.5 miles RT, it was a fun, stress-free type of summit hike. The summit reminded me very much of Grant Hill in the Pinalenos in that the summit is a hop, skip, and a jump from the main trail, a thick tree cover surrounds the summit [resulting in no views], and due to a large, fairly level summit area, the highpoint would not have been particularly obvious had it not been for the summit cairn.

I really enjoyed flipping through the register. Unlike Southern Arizona where I find registers on most named peaks, my experience in New Mexico has been very different; and with few exceptions, the handful of peaks where I’ve found registers in NM are high-pointers of some sort that are very popular with peak-baggers as a result. Aspen Mountain is the highpoint of the San Francisco Mountains in New Mexico, and it therefore wasn’t surprising to find a Gordon MacLeod / Barbara Lilley register whose logbook had several sign-ins. Although I didn’t take the time to flip through the whole thing, the handful of pages I saw revealed that AZ has very good representation with the likes of Mark Nichols [who visited the peak on at least three different occasions] and John Klein.
_____________________
May 08 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Leggett Peak, NM 
Leggett Peak, NM
 
Hiking avatar May 08 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking7.07 Miles 1,074 AEG
Hiking7.07 Miles   2 Hrs   35 Mns   2.81 mph
1,074 ft AEG      4 Mns Break
 
no photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day 4 (Hike 3) – Gila Trip Gone Wrong
After Aspen Mountain, I’d logged just under 8 miles for the day and really needed to get down to business if I was going to hit my minimum quota of at least 11 miles for the day before dark [or before one of the many storms in the neighboring areas decided to come my way]. Leggett Peak fit the bill perfectly, and my planned launch point was a short drive of about 7-8 miles away from where I’d parked for my short hike to Aspen Mountain. I continued along FR 209 for about 5.5 miles, which put me back out on Hwy 180, and then headed East for about 1.5 miles before turning off on a dirt road in an area near Bull Basin Spring, where tons of Forest Service roads take off in all directions. Initially I planned to park right at the start of the main Forest Service & Hwy 180 but figured I would try to drive in as much as I comfortably could thanks to some very dark skies not to far off. It doesn’t take long before the road gets really rough but the Forester performed like a champ. Although I called it quits and set off on foot after about 1/2 mile, this really paid off at the end.

The route I took offered no ‘distance views’ en route to Leggett Peak due to a thick tree cover; but with springs, creeks, beautiful tall pine trees, and lush grass, it was still very beautiful and peaceful… and made for some exceptionally fun/easy off-trailing! :D With only a summit waypoint to shoot for [and TONS of jeep roads showing on the topo], I attempted to add some waypoints just before beginning the hike in order to keep myself on course… but go figure, at one point I ended up on a jeep road that was headed in a different direction. Luckily, [despite getting really turned around in more spots than one], my sense of direction quickly picked up on fact that I seemed to be off course, resulting in a total of only about 1/3 mile extra.

The summit views were blocked in most directions by the surrounding trees, [and upon arriving at the summit there were no views thanks to the cloud cover]. However, once the rainstorm blew past, the views in the directions that were not blocked by trees were quite beautiful. The highpoint was not at all obvious, so I hit up the many possible points in question. I had a brief scare while attempting to take some summit photos before the light rain had passed: my phone started to freeze up and I’m guessing this had to do with water being able to rather easily penetrate the inside, thanks to the screen having several cracks. Luckily, after drying off, I was once again able to zoom in / out and the functionality of the touch screen was completely restored.

Having my approach/ascent track as a guide, the return trip went much more smoothly. After making my way off the summit area, I stayed North of my approach track for most of the way back in order to get some different scenery… however, after a brief rest to enjoy an exceptionally beautiful creek, a loud crack of thunder, [which came from the direction of a very dark cloud that suddenly crested a small ridge behind me], had me making a mad dash for back for my vehicle. Luckily there was no lightening; but not knowing if things were going to get bad, it was definitely a hair-raising final mile.

With about 30-40 miles of light left, [and still feeling rather wired after the sprint back to my Forester], I decided to head West along Hwy 180 for Luna / Alpine in hopes of tanking up my vehicle AND finding an area with LTE reception so I could draw up some routes for the final two days of my trip. I didn’t notice a gas station in Luna, and the one in Alpine had already closed, so I headed for Eagar to tank up, [which proved to be a blessing since I then stopped by a hotel that graciously let my use the guest computer, saving me loads of time and allowing me to draw my GPS routes with MUCH greater detail & accuracy than would have ever been possible from my phone]. By the time I left the hotel, it was around 10 PM. Luckily, the launch point for the hike that I settled on as my premier hike for Day 5 [the Escudilla Lookout & Highpoint] was a relatively short and easy drive from Eagar.
_____________________
May 07 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Maverick Peak & Black Bull Peak, NM 
Maverick Peak & Black Bull Peak, NM
 
Hiking avatar May 07 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking15.15 Miles 4,018 AEG
Hiking15.15 Miles   9 Hrs   57 Mns   1.73 mph
4,018 ft AEG   1 Hour   13 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day 3 – Gila Trip Gone Wrong
After a peaceful night of car-camping at the Trailhead for the Little Dry Creek Trail #180, I headed for Bursum road; however, shortly after reaching Hwy 180, it was clear I was going to need a Plan B… a large flashing sign indicated the road was closed for maintenance between 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM. I’d drawn up a few routes for some nearby peaks and headed for a dirt road a few miles North of Bursum; however, [in addition to there being private property issues that were not apparent from satellite imagery with my planned route], I bumped into several Forest Service folks who advised me to head back the other way; [they had been called in thanks to a fire that had broken out in the Gilas nearby]. I asked them about the Bursum Road closure and they told me that even if I were to head up there between 5:00 PM – 7:30 AM, I still wouldn’t be able to make it to the area I’d planned on going. They also advised that I head for higher ground [at least 7,000’] for any off-trail since the snakes were already coming out at the lower altitudes. They recommended Pueblo Park [on the East side of Hwy 180 / the NM part of the Blue Range Primitive Area]. Ironically, this was the last area that I’d routed up and was planning to head there anyways.

I launched from the Trailhead for the Cottonwood Trail # 4, located just 2-3 miles down Pueblo Park Road, and started off on this trail, which heads down Cottonwood Canyon. My luck was much better on today’s adventure, and although the trail ends up turning out of the canyon after about 0.75 miles, an excellent route, [that was just as defined as the main trail], continues along the canyon. I stayed in the canyon for another 0.80 miles or so and then followed a side branch out and worked my way along & over a small ridge to reach Jones Canyon. There were animal routes everywhere, and the off-trail in this area was a really treat and very smooth sailing. After crossing over Jones Canyon, I made the super easy ascent up to Maverick Peak and had a very nice summit rest. Most of the views from the peak were blocked by the surrounding trees, but there were some awesome views on the ascent.

Next, I made a short & easy descent of about 1/2 mile off the other side of Maverick Peak and then connected with a trail that I took for nearly 4 miles to Black Bull Saddle, [located to the North of Black Bull Peak]. The trail was well-defined, the footing was excellent, and the views & scenery were awesome, making for a relaxing, auto-pilot type of cruise. After Maverick, my legs felt a little drained, [mostly from the previous day’s 12.5+ hr / 16+ mi / 6,100’+ AEG adventure]; but by the time I made it to Black Bull Saddle, I was ready for more peak bagging fun.

Black Bull Peak proved to be a total surprise in more ways than one. From most sides, I got the sense that the summit would end up being one those large, mesa-like summits where the highpoint area is not particularly obvious. However, what looked like it would be a hop, skip, and a jump to the top proved to be a never-ending type of ascent with several false summits. Feeling more energized by this point, I actually enjoyed the longer than anticipated ascent and really liked how the false summits kept me guessing. The other surprise was: once reaching the summit area, [which looked as though it would be a large flat area covered in tall pine trees], there were several areas with boulder crags. The group of crags that appeared to be the highest was also consistent with the X on CalTopo; and what looked to be a fun/easy Class 3 climb from the ground to the top definitely proved to have more exposure than I bargained for and ended up being a rather dicey Class 4. While the rock surface had excellent grip, the reliability was horrendous; and even holds that seemed very thick would break off from the main crag. I managed to climb almost to the top and then get a hand on what appeared to be the highest part of the highest crag from nearly all angles on the ground… but as I stood on tiptoes to reach it, one of the other crags appeared slightly higher. Getting to this crag would require even more dicey maneuvers that the one I had reached, and I decided it wasn’t worth the risk.

I descended off the South side of Black Bull Peak, and reconnected with the trail, which I took for a little over 5 miles to get back to my vehicle. There were a handful of spots where the trail was not well defined, [mostly as a result of the resident cattle having blazed routes that were even more defined than the trail]; but for the most part, the trail was well-defined and well-cairned in the confusing spots. I reached my vehicle with just minutes to spare before needing my headlamp. Feeling pretty beat, [and not wanting to miss out on new scenery by driving after dark], I decided to car-camp right where I was parked. Although right along the main access road, it was a very peaceful spot and I can’t recall having seen/heard another vehicle go by all night.
_____________________
May 06 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Lone Pine Hill & West Baldy & Sacaton Mountain, NM 
Lone Pine Hill & West Baldy & Sacaton Mountain, NM
 
Hiking avatar May 06 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking16.18 Miles 6,183 AEG
Hiking16.18 Miles   12 Hrs   38 Mns   1.36 mph
6,183 ft AEG      44 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked linked
Partners none no partners
Day 2 – Gila Trip Gone Wrong
The bulk of the hikes I’d planned took off from Bursum Road [aka Rt. 159], a major access point in the Gilas and particularly for some of the big-gun 10,000+ footers, including none other than the wilderness highpoint, Whitewater Baldy. Since first having hiked in that area in May of 2016, I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to go back; not only is it an amazingly beautiful area, the ‘unfinished business factor’ ( of having to terminate a 10 day trip there after just 4 days - [ triplog ] ), was definitely eating away at me. Thus, after some pre-trip calls to some folks in Gila wilderness office, [and the less than accurate information they gave to me…], I once again headed off to the West side of the Gilas with big plans… little did I knows those plans would once again get crashed [but for very different reasons].

Knowing what a slow-go the narrow, twisty Bursum Road is, I decided to do a Gila hike that takes off along one of the shorter access roads along Hwy 180 for my Day 2 hike; then post-hike head up Bursum. As fate would have it, that never happened either…

…things started off exceptionally well / as planned: I launched from the Trailhead for the Little Dry Creek Trail #180 and took that trail for just under 1 mile before bushwhacking up and onto a ridge paralleling it to the East, where I connected with a jeep road. The short bushwhack of just under 1/4 mile was quite steep but exceptionally well routed, and I was really enjoying the opportunity for a great off-trail, leg-/lung-busting kind of workout… [vs. a constant brush battle like many of my bushwhacks from previous trips to the Gilas]. Upon reaching the jeep road, the views really start to open up and kept getting better as I climbed higher; in fact, this adventure would probably make my top 10 list for having the best overall views.

Less than 0.10 miles after connecting with the jeep road, I took a very short side trip up an exceptionally well-defined route to hit up UN 7130, which is right next to the jeep road and proved to be a fun little detour. Upon reconnecting with the jeep road, I continued for about 0.60 mi before once again heading off-trail; this time to bag the first of my three primary targets: Lone Pine Hill. From the topo maps, I expected this to be a little bump along the way, [similar to UN 7130]. While it’s certainly little compared to what the Gilas have to offer, it definitely proved to be more than a little bump. With a very steep slope and loose footing that had me sliding for nearly the entire ascent and constantly grabbing for rocks / tree branches [in addition to using two trekking poles], this little hill definitely gave me a run for the money and proved to be more tiring than some of the much longer & steeper slopes that had excellent footing. Given that negotiating loose footing is my weakness, I was very glad for a super short & easy descent off the other end of the peak; [my planned route basically involved traversing up the ridge that incorporates Lone Pine Hill, West Baldy, and Sacaton Mountain; then returning by way of the trail].

The next bump on the ridge was UN 8201, and the ascent could not have been more pleasant: excellent footing, minimal brush, tons of routes, and a relatively gradual grade [but still steep enough to offer a great workout]. Upon reaching UN 8201, the views REALLY open up and continue to get better, [while ‘the going’ begins to get less than smooth]… although the next stretch of ridgeline is relatively level, the brush definitely slows the pace. Nothing is overly thick; but given that the primary offender was a catclaw-like shrub that was constantly grabbing & jabbing, the ‘smooth sailing’ was definitely over.

Shortly in to the final ascent of West Baldy, the brush lets up and things rather instantly go from one extreme to the other: excellent footing but having to deal with tons of the catclaw-like shrub… to praying for having some brush [even thorny brush!] within feet [vs. yards] in order grab & help combat the ‘avalanche factor’… :eek: In addition to heading up a very steep slope, the footing in this section consisted almost exclusively of loose rock, [most of which ranged in size from that of a tennis ball to that of a basket ball]. Even the few rocks that appeared to be well balanced would start to give out the moment I began to transfer my weight; and to top things off, they would also trigger many other surrounding rocks to begin rolling downward. This was NOT a fun stretch to put it mildly, and my heart was skipping beats in many places… I would perform Class 4+ climbs and/or negotiate the equivalent of Class 3+ loose footing before repeating a stretch like this one with loose rocks. With a super steep slope that lacked ‘break points’, taking the time to spot the handful of solidly rooted rocks and/or getting close enough to make a lung for the handful of well rooted vegetation was absolutely key to not setting off an avalanche and/or going for one hell of an elevator ride down. Very luckily, mid-way through the ascent, the grade levels off and the rocks rather suddenly go from giving out at the slightest touch to being quite reliable.

The views from the summit of West Baldy, [as well as the summit itself], were off the charts awesome; and as I completed my ascent, it was obvious why “Baldy” is part of the name. The summit - as well as substantial portions of its flanks on all sides - consists of pretty much just small chunks of light colored rock; and there is no brush. I was unable to locate a register but found a nice survey marker, which ironically had both ‘West Baldy’ AND ‘Sacaton’ on it.

Sacaton Mountain was next on my list. I had several other nearby peaks routed up as well in the event I had time/energy for more; but given just how rugged things were getting, I realized as I headed off West Baldy that I would probably just barely have the time to grabbed Sacaton. The animals had blazed an exceptionally nice route along the ridgeline between West Baldy and Simmons Saddle, which is located just to the West of Sacaton Mountain. Along this section of ridge, the going was generally very pleasant when the route skirted the top and ran along the loose rock piles on the flanks; and it was less than pleasant when it ran along the top of the ridge / on solid ground thanks to more of the catclaw-like shrub. The stretches that ran over the loose rock piles were so well-beaten that it looks like an actual trail, even from a distance.

Things started to go sour when I neared UN 10293. Given that I was running tight on time, I figured I’d hop on the trail in this area, [which would lead me to Simmons Saddle], then ascend Sacaton, and then hit up UN 10293 on the return if time permitted. It definitely made me a bit nervous when I came to the spot where I should have intersected trail, only to find nothing that even resembled a route. The only routes present were animal routes, which headed up toward UN 10293. While it wasn’t total panic yet, the possibility that my planned exist trail might no longer exist, [and that I’d be in for a long, off-trail haul back], definitely entered the picture.

To make matters worse, time wasn’t the only thing I was running out of… this was a very rare occasion where I found myself almost out of water. While it wasn’t a *direct miscalculation of my natural water needs, [*but rather having forgotten to take a remedy that then requires a double dose, often resulting in up to a doubling of my water needs], the end result of being shit out of luck was equivalent to that of a beginner who completely underestimates water intake. Very luckily for me, the creeks and canyons were flowing well… to the point where the water even looked crystal clear further down where the cows were shitting in it. :eek: Fortunately, I’d be coming down from the 10,658’ Sacaton Mountain and be able to catch the first flow if needed… little did I know at that point however just how ‘rough’ of a ride I’d be in for on the return…

In approaching Sacaton, I opted for the path of least resistance, [which was following the animal routes up to UN 10293 vs. attempting a brushy contour in the area where the trail should’ve been]; and then headed down to Simmons Saddle. I wanted to relax at the sight of a trail sign, but it was a little unnerving: not only was there not even the faint resemblance of a trail in either of the two directions [NE & SW] that the trail supposedly headed according to the topo maps, the sign, [which had broken off and was resting on the ground at the base of its post], indicated that there was a spring [to the SE]; and the only trail that took off from the saddle headed in that direction, which was not going to be of any help in terms of the way I needed to go to get back to my vehicle]. At this point, I knew I was going to be in for a long haul back; but given that I was only 1/2 mile or so from the summit of Sacaton, I’d hit up the summit and then head back.

The ascent was not complicated, consisting of a huge rock pile at the base that extends most of the way up to the summit ridge, followed by a short section of some trees & light brush. There was tons of deadfall along the summit ridge, making it a very slow go. I attempted to speed things up but took a hard fall as a direct result of the impairments I still face from the viral infection that damaged my equilibrium last summer. The fall would’ve easily broken a knee or ankle, and as I was flailing through mid-air, I decided to save my legs [i.e. my most prized body parts in terms of walking/hiking] and shifted my weight as needed to allow my legs to hit solid ground. This resulted in my head getting ‘close-lined’ by a large branch above. The pain was intense for the first 1-3 seconds but thankfully there was just some mild swelling vs. a laceration that would’ve required me to kill time waiting for the bleeding to stop. I was not in a particularly good mood after this … the fall was one of 6-8 spills that I took during this ONE adventure… ALL of which were a direct result of my impaired equilibrium; and there were 2-3 other falls were I would’ve sworn [while flailing through in mid-air] that a knee/ankle was about to get snapped. Luckily, my athleticism saved me those other times as well, [and without taking another big hit to my head/other area].

The highpoint of Sacaton is not obvious, so I touched all points in question as I made my way along the summit ridge. I was very surprised to find a register nestled under what appeared to be a summit cairn [which was not on the highest point but still in the general vicinity]. Prior to me, there were just two other sign-ins: AZ’s Mark Nichols (7/30/05) and James Jones of Missoula, MT (4/18/08). The inside of the jar, along with the single sheet of paper, were completely drenched. Normally, I would’ve waited the 10-15 minutes for them to dry out; but I was really starting to get worried for more reasons than one: I had just under 1/2 liter of water by this point [and with potentially no return trail, I was literally a couple of hours from just reaching the first flow at the top of the canyon where I was planning my return]… an overwhelming sense that every minute was going to count in terms of getting back [or least to where there would be well-defined trail] before dark… AND what appeared to be a storm was moving in toward the summit. Thus, I signed the single, dry sheet of paper that I FINALLY remembered to take in my pack, enclosed it in a Ziploc bag that I had on hand, and left it in the register; then got the hell out of Dodge.

I dropped off Sacaton first to the NE, then North, and then began contouring counterclockwise, back around toward Simmons Saddle. There were a couple of spots were I overlapped with where the trail should’ve been; but it was no surprise by this point to not even detect even faint resemblance of a trail. Part of the North face had a good 2’ of snow, which surprised me given that I’d seen no other snow up to that point, aside from a very small isolated patch shortly after descending West Baldy.

Getting back to Simmons Saddle seemed to take forever, and partway back it started to rain lightly and there was thunder. I did not have a good view at all during my contour and could not see how bad things might get or which direction the storm was headed. I powered on my phone and had partial service [1x / 3G]… enough to text Peter for an ‘SOS Doppler report of Sacaton Mountain in NM’. He graciously got me an update and it was thankfully just small passing storms versus a big system, [in which case I might’ve opted to find a spot to hunker down]. Luckily there was no lightening.

Upon reaching Simmons Saddle, I proceeded to contour UN 10293 near where the trail should have been. Animal routes were abound and definitely helped; and with considerably fewer downed trees compared to Sacaton Mountain, [along with having a much shorter distance to contour], this section went by pretty quickly. However, with some ups and downs along the way, I had finished all but the final 1/4 liter of my water by the time I had made my way to where the big descent would begin. I wasn’t overly thirsty but definitely holding back on the last little bit in case I REALLY needed it [i.e. if I experienced muscle cramping].

The next section involved what should have been the trail making a few switchbacks down toward Little Dry Creek. In this area, I saw occasional faint remnants of what may have been trail, but I’d already decided on my game plan: a “blind” bushwhack return via Little Dry Cry. After the switchbacks, the trail heads away from the creek [only to drop back in a few miles later]; and if I was going to be bushwhacking anyways, I wanted the most direct route back.

Mid-way down, my muscles started to cramp, and I finished the final 1/4 liter of water that I’d been saving. Shortly after that, I heard water below me and started heading for it, not giving the topography, [which had been very generous along this stretch], the attention it deserved. I soon spotted water below… [and then noticed the VERY steep 75-100’ stretch of extremely loose footing separating me from the first flow]. As I looked for options to skirt the precariously slope, I suddenly realized me error; had I been paying attention to the terrain, I would’ve noticed that even the animal routes converged to skirt this super steep section… however, with my muscles on the verge of cramping, backtracking up to pick up the animal route was not an option.

I decided to tackle the loose footing head on. While a fall in this area would not have been like going off a cliff [and unlikely to result in death], bad bruises were almost a guarantee and broken bones/fractures were very possible. With a mere handful of single-stranded but STRONG plant shoots, a handful of rocks that looked solidly rooted, and a massive downed tree partway down the slope that acted as a decent breaking point, I used everything in my surroundings, [along with my trekking poles], to negotiate the stretch of terrain that was outside my element [I would’ve opted for a Class 4 climb any day over loose footing like this!].

Aside from the added difficulty of having my legs nearly cramp while straddling a large branch that stemmed from the downed tree, the descent went much smoother than anticipated. I then scrambled over to the highest area where I could see water flow and it was coming out through the rocks like a natural water fountain. Before even refilling my bottles, I got down on all fours to drink directly from it. The stream of water from the first flow was very small but the flow was excellent, filling 1 Liter in about 15-20 seconds. Despite being over 9.5 hours into my adventure by that point [and now having to head up a steep embankment to skirt a waterfall], I carried the weight of the 6 extra lbs. [3 Liters of fresh water] up the steep slope with much more ease & vigor relative to the previous section of downhill in my semi-dehydrated state where my load was 6 lbs. lighter.

I took a much needed 5-10 minute break by the water pool but couldn’t relax for much more, as I had another couple miles of ‘blind’ bushwhacking before reconnecting with the trail. There were some craggy areas to be skirted, [and reaching the trail as daylight fast ran out seemed to take forever]; but luckily with many excellent animals routes, it was pretty uneventful and no cliff-hanging maneuvers were needed. Little Dry Cry was exceptionally beautiful; there were neat shaped waterfalls & pools EVERYWHERE. Some of the deeper pools were thigh deep and walking directly through them felt awesome after the beating I’d taken on this adventure.

Upon finally reaching the trail, [which was luckily very obvious for the remainder of the way back, aside from a few poorly marked water crossings], I had just over 3 miles to go before reaching my vehicle, [about 2 miles that were new and 1 that was a repeat of the first mile]. The surroundings were absolutely beautiful but given how beat I was by this point, reaching the trailhead seemed to take forever. Just minutes before needing my headlamp, I came to a neat abandoned home and was able to get a few pics. My last 1+ mile was in total darkness but luckily the trail was very obvious in this area. Exhausted beyond belief, I car-camped right at the TH. It was a beautiful spot and I had it all to myself. And, [as I’d find out soon enough the next morning], it was a dam good thing I didn’t have the energy to head up Bursum Road…
_____________________
May 05 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Southern Arizona Summit Hike, AZ 
Southern Arizona Summit Hike, AZ
 
Hiking avatar May 05 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking10.22 Miles 1,310 AEG
Hiking10.22 Miles   3 Hrs   12 Mns   3.23 mph
1,310 ft AEG      2 Mns Break
 no routesno photosets
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day 1 – Gila Trip Gone Wrong
The primary objective of this trip was for training purposes. Each day different challenges presented; and relative to other hiking/peak-bagging trips, this one definitely threw many more unplanned ‘surprises’ my way. Despite the resulting stress, [along with the huge frustration of hitting my training targets out of the park, only to make no progress toward the ultimate goal], I still managed to have some enjoyable moments.

I kicked things off with a beautiful summit hike in Southern Arizona. After a full day of work, I knew it was going to be a bit rushed, but my planned launch point worked out perfectly; and with excellent jeep road leading all the way to the summit, I figured it would be worth it from a fitness standpoint alone even if I didn’t have as much time as I would have preferred to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Given the heat wave, I’m glad I opted for something with excellent visibility… not even 1 mile into the hike, [during which I was jogging to save time while simultaneously taking in the awesome scenery], I leaped backwards in horror after catching a glimpse of alternating black/white out of my peripheral vision. Despite having come with about 5 feet of the small to mid-sized D-back that was partially on the jeep road, it failed to give me an initial warning. That said, the loud crunching sound my feet made after leaping backwards instantly resulted in the snake going into a ‘tarzan swing off’ coiled position and giving me a rattle, along with a hateful stare. I did not feel comfortable getting any closer than 15-20 feet from the snake, and luckily the grass on one side of the jeep road had been eaten down enough by the resident cattle that I had enough room to get around while still being able to clearly see the ground. The snake did not take its eyes off me, rotating its head to keep tabs on me as I made my way around.

The summit views were absolutely sensational. I’d drawn up a partial bushwhack for my return, but with very tall grass AND tons of rocks along the beginning part of the ridge I’d planned to head down, the snake potential was not worth the risk. Daylight was also fast running out, and even if it had not been snake season, the more exciting return option definitely would not have been viable in terms of getting me back before dark.

I looked at the topo and saw another spot about 1/2 mile down from the summit that would involve only about 1/3 of a mile of bushwhacking to reach another jeep road that I could then take back, and I decided to go for it if the terrain didn’t look overly grassy/rocky. There was a faint route and only about 0.20 miles of slightly dicey [in terms of snake potential] bushwhacking; I had no snake encounters. To top it all off, toward the bottom, the visibility was excellent thanks to the cattle having eaten down the grass; thus, instead of making my way up to the jeep road, I stayed in a pretty drainage for almost another mile before reconnecting with jeep road further down. I ended up needing my headlamp for the final mile or so; and it was a little freaky given that it was the stretch of terrain where I encountered the rattlesnake earlier on, but luckily I had no further encounters.

Post-hike, I pressed onward to make it to the Blackjack Campground right off Rt. 78, which is where I spent the first evening of my first trip to the West side of the Gilas nearly one year earlier. It’s not nearly as remote as I prefer but definitely fit the bill given the convenience and very *decent privacy it offers, [*relative to many other ‘official’ campground areas].
_____________________
Apr 30 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
China Peak & Cochise Peak, AZ 
China Peak & Cochise Peak, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Apr 30 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking11.33 Miles 2,645 AEG
Hiking11.33 Miles   5 Hrs   32 Mns   2.14 mph
2,645 ft AEG      14 Mns Break
 
no photosets
1st trip
Linked linked
Partners none no partners
To say my debut hike in the Dragoons did not disappoint would be an understatement… it’s very possible that if I were to go through my peak list and separate them by range, the Dragoons would come out among my top 3 favorites in AZ; enough said! Friends have been telling since I moved to Southern AZ just over 4 years ago that I need to check out this range, and today was the day I finally got around to doing so. With a drive of just 59 minutes from door to parking spot, I feel like I’ve been living under a cave for the past 6 months for not have hit up these sensational mountains sooner… (or maybe AZ is just that awesome :cool:)… or perhaps a little bit of both.

At any rate, I kicked things off from a small pullout area located right at the start of FR 697, right off the incredibly accessible Middlemarch Road, [which is perhaps one of the nicest dirt roads leading in to a mountain range that I’ve ever driven]. A low clearance vehicle could make it easily to within about 1.5 miles of where I parked, at which point the road becomes slighter “rougher”, involving a handful of spots that would be on the tougher side for low clearance [but still ridiculously easy for any HCV]. FR 697, on the other hand, has several spots that will likely flip [and/or destroy the underside of] any jeep / truck that is not further equipped with some serious enhancements for off-trailing / extremely rugged road conditions… and I do mean serious enhancements… the shit sections start very near the beginning; and the finale, [about 1/2 mile before the terminus atop China Peak], is so steep that it almost flipped me. :o

The sensational views begin before even reaching the parking spot, as the area of Sheepshead and the gazillion other awesome rock/”dome” formations are approached; and they continue for pretty much the entire adventure. The two peaks I did [China Peak & Cochise Peak] had some of the nicest views, but equally awesome were the views along the stretch of FR 697 from just past mile 1 [where the many craggy / dome rock formations suddenly pop into view, to just past mile 2 [around where the road goes up to some massive rocks and the takes you though an area where the massive rocks had been blasted to make room for the road. Shortly after this area, [and just before FR 2002 takes off on the right], there is an area to the left that has the remains of what appear to be at least three separate foundations.

Next, FR 697 starts to ascend an area with lots of mines. I did my best to stay on the this road, [and did a fairly good job of it], but there were so many minor roads/paths leading up to the many mines in this area that I ended up getting slightly off track in a few places and simply bushwhacked toward my destination [China Peak] in these areas. The road terminates on the summit of China Peak, and I’m curious as to why this portion of the road it is shown only on the older, CalTopo and not on FS Topo, given that the end of the road it is not at all overgrown; and, [although exceptionally shitty], is still an extremely well-defined jeep road. Oddly enough, the many mines I spotted [that are located above the 6,600’ contour, en route to China Peak], are not shown either; so my best guesses as to why FS Topo does not show the last little bit of this road are]: a) honest map error; b) “political pull” from whoever owns the mines to leave off the last little part of the road; c) for safety reasons (to deter all the dumbasses who might otherwise attempt to drive to the top of the peak in their jeeps/trucks with stock tires… :o ).

I had a short but extremely enjoyable visit atop China Peak. The bees had been buzzing / flying around quite a bit toward the beginning; but thankfully there were none on the peak; and the ones I encountered during my adventure were fortunately quite docile, completely ignoring me at best and giving me a quick, mildly unhappy buzz at worst, [but never anything where I felt the need to hike with bee spray in hand, let alone use it]. I was unable to find a register on China Peak but spotted on nice survey marker just a few feet away from the highpoint.

My descent off China Peak was very easy thanks to some well-blazed routes, [and in many places there were many good routes to choose from]. While there were a few brushy spots, it was almost all upper-body type of brush; the ground visibility was luckily good to fair. After around 1/2 mile, I connected with another jeep road [FR 345A], which I took for just under a mile before beginning my ascent to Cochise Peak via a short ridge to its SW. I was extremely tempted to follow a road leading up toward UN 7010, [which is not shown on the topos but is clearly defined on satellite imagery as well as ‘in person’]. This road takes off right around where I connected with FR 345A / right near Pear Tank]. From both satellite imagery and ‘in person’, it then seems to peter out mid-way up, before reaching the ridgeline that connects UN 7010 & Cochise Peak. This ridgeline looked like loads of fun, and it took a huge effort on my part not to go bounding up; but I was really trying to be as safe as possible now that snake season is in full swing, and taking the jeep road to the base of Cochise Peak definitely minimized the portion of off-trail that involved lots of tall grass & small rock piles with less than perfect visibility. Even my short ascent of just under 1/2 mile, [which would have been loads more fun a month or two ago without having to be as concerned about snakes], definitely had me on edge for much longer than ideal [due to the snake potential]; and had it not been for the many, well-beaten deer routes, it would not have been at all ideal during snake season.

Luckily, I made it to the summit without an encounter. I headed for the North end of the summit first, which is the lower end; but it had much better views, encompassing some excellent views of some of the rock crag / dome formations [which were completely blocked from the actual highpoint / Southern summit]. The highpoint, however, had views of some other nice peaks that were not visible from the Northern summit; and the views from both summits were stunning. There was a summit cairn, along with a register that was in horrendous condition: a supplement bottle, with the top part broken off, such that what remained of the log was completely exposed to the elements and would get drenched with each rain/snowfall. The main log consisted of what appeared to have once been a super mini-sized note pad. The writing in places was surprisingly still very readable, but I made no attempt to uncurl it because it was extremely frail thanks to the weather damage. There was also a much more recent business card that someone had left, and it appears that most of the recent sign-ins were taking place on the business card, thanks to the incredibly poor condition of the main log. I squeezed my name on the biz card; and then, [although the peak was about as easy as it gets for off-trail], I decided to do some much needed, ‘register duty’, not wanting to turn my back on a register that was clearly in dire need. I broke out the new empty Juvo container that I was using to store my SOS device, headlamp, and cell phone recharger; and I took the old log book along with the biz card and pen and put them inside. Although the lid of the new container was completely functional, I figured I would add yet another layer of security by putting the container in a sealable plastic bag. The only area where I fell short [yet again] was having even just one sheet of paper on hand that I could leave… but I did have some clean paper towels in my pack, and decided to leave a couple in the event the next several folks to summit don’t have anything better to write on.

Just before leaving the peak, I decided to add an extra rock to the summit cairn in order to secure the new register container since it was considerable bigger than the old, broken one. Conveniently, there was a medium size rock that was the perfect sized laying about a foot or two from the base of the summit cairn. As always, I overturned the rock with care... and this time it definitely paid off…! I guess you could say I allowed the summit scorpion of Cochise Peak to have a human encounter, [and probably gave it the scare of its life in the processes]. Aside from attending one of those night, ‘scorpion hunt hikes’ at the San Tans when I first move to AZ, this is the first scorpion encounter that I can recall while hiking… and definitely the first scorpion encounter I’ve had: a) on the East side of the Santa Ritas; b) above 6,775’; c) on a summit… and while on the topic of “firsts”, I’m still trying to decide which encounter should take the prize for the day’s weirdest: the summit scorpion atop the 6,797’ Cochise Peak… or the massive Wolf Spider that ‘welcomed’ me the moment I’d set foot INSIDE my home & shut the door that evening…! :o :o :o

Thankfully, [as far as the hike was concerned], the remainder was relatively uneventful: after about 1 mile or so into my bushwhack descent, [which was very easy and luckily had visibility ranging from good to fair], I encounter a trail/jeep road not shown on the topos. It was extremely well defined and ran along the ridge toward UN 6217, paralleling the jeep road below [FR 345A] that I had originally planned to take. Traveling along the ridge offered some sensational views, and shortly after the trail/jeep road petered out, there were some well-defined routes that lead me the short distance back over to FR 345A. About 1/3 of a mile after later, I connected with Middlemarch Road, which I took for a little under 3 miles to get back to my vehicle. Originally I was planning to hit up Black Diamond Peak as well on the way back, but with such a late start it just wasn’t worth the rush to squeeze in that late in the day. About 1.25 miles from my Forester, I made a very brief stop to check out a neat windmill, located near the Duran Well. There were small rungs/holds, [similar to rungs on a ladder], to climb to the top; and it was very, very tempting… but with some bees in the area who seemed to be minding their biz [AND being out there alone], I decided it was best to just head back. It was still a very solid adventure overall, and I’m psyched to have ‘discovered’ such an amazing range that is so close to home.
_____________________
Apr 22 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Mount FaganTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 22 2017
AZHiker456
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.
_____________________
Apr 16 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Signal Peak & Black Peak & the Twin Sisters, NM 
Signal Peak & Black Peak & the Twin Sisters, NM
 
Hiking avatar Apr 16 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking13.29 Miles 4,003 AEG
Hiking13.29 Miles   8 Hrs   11 Mns   1.73 mph
4,003 ft AEG      29 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day 5 (NM Peak Bagging Trip, Part 2)
With a 3+ hour drive ahead of me and a full week of working beginning bright and early the next morning, the last thing I wanted was for my final hike to turn in to some wild bushwhack adventure, resulting in several extra hours of hiking and arriving back at the Forester well after dark. Thus, I’d planned what I thought would be a relatively straightforward “exit hike”… let’s just say, today’s adventure gave me the best of all worlds: from a trail that someone who’s never hiked before can follow with ease to several miles of “blind” bushwhacking; and from cruising along excellent stretches of dirt & pine-covered slopes, to performing a Class 4 climb and what was no doubt the equivalent of a Class 5 bushwhack, this adventure truly had a little of everything. To top it all off, [not only did it turn into an awesome bushwhack adventure], I also somehow managed to make it back to Elign at a very reasonable hour [~7:30 PM].

The initial game plan was a super-straightforward out-and-back hike, involving very little bushwhacking [10% tops according to my pre-hike GPS route planning calculations]; and consisted of the following:

1. Take the Signal Peak trail to Signal Peak / the Signal Peak Lookout
2. Then pick up the Continental Divide Trail [CDT] heading towards Black Peak
3. “Bushwack” the uber short distance up one of MANY well-defined routes to the summit of Black Peak and then back down to the CDT
4. Continue Southward along the CDT toward the Twin Sisters
5. “Bushwhack” to the top of each ‘Sister’ via one of MANY well-defined routes that are very clear from satellite imagery
6. Retrace my steps back along the CDT and then back along the Signal Peak trail to get back to my vehicle

As they say, ‘The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry…’ :D In a nutshell, things started to ‘go awry’ after item #3 above… and what was supposed to be an out-and-back type of adventure with a maximum of 10% off-trail turned in to a true loop type of ‘course’ w/ a thrilling bushwhack return, resulting in just over 50% of the adventure taking place off-trail. The above items played out as follows –

1. It’s not hard to see why the Signal Peak Trail / Signal Peak / Signal Peak Lookout came up in several of my online searches while researching quality summit hikes in the area. The trail is very well maintained, exceptionally easy to follow, and it doesn’t dick around, taking you from the TH that sits at just under 7,300’ feet to the summit which sits just below 9,000’ in 2.5 miles. I thoroughly enjoyed the workout and found it similar to one of my favorite trails in the Santa Ritas, (which would be the Vault Mine Trail :D ); although the Signal Peak Trail felt slightly less steep, had a lot more shade and MUCH better footing. While I didn’t find the distance views from the peak to be overly impressive, the summit area was very peaceful and nicely laid out. Near the base of the lookout tower under the shade cover of the trees is a picnic area, equipped with bench & grill, and trash can; and on the sunny side of the summit is a nice helipad. There are also some very large solar panels, radio towers, an old shed… there’s lots to check out up on this summit! I wasn’t able to find a register but located two nice survey markers. The sign at the base of the Lookout seems to imply that it’s fine for visitors to climb up as long as it’s outside of fire season; exact wording =

USFS Work Station
Restricted Access
During Fire Season
Authorization Required

As nice as it would’ve to climb up, I noticed some bees flying around mid-way up [and could hear the buzzing from the ground]. They were minding their biz, and the last thing I wanted to do was head straight toward what appeared to be their territory. Besides, I touched down on the highest natural surface [boulders] in question and that was good enough for me.

2. Heading SE off Signal Peak, the Signal Peak Trail overlaps with the service road that leads up to the Lookout for the first quarter mile or so, at which point it diverges; and about 0.75 miles after that is a well-marked junction where I picked up the CDT for a little of 1/2 mile before departing from the trail for the super short “bushwhack” to the summit of Black Peak. The stretch of trail from Signal Peak to Black Peak is well-marked and easy to follow; but its around this point that the fire damage really starts to jump out at you… folks who tend to get rather sensitive over the sight / talk of fire damage will probably want to keep clear of this area and retrace their steps after visiting Signal Peak…

3. The small summit of Black Peak was not nearly as nice as that of Signal Peak. With a tree cover in most directions, there were far fewer views and they were not nearly as nice. There were a couple of old, run-down sheds along with some newer looking solar panels & radio towers, [which made it was fun to have some things to check out]; but they too were not nearly as nice or interesting as the beautiful lookout or the helipad atop Signal. Like with Signal Peak, I was also able to locate two survey markers atop Black Peak. And, aside from my first peak of the trip [Attorney Mountain], Black Peak was the only other where I was able to find a register. Given that the 9,000’+ peak also has over 2,300’ of prominence [and is therefore very popular with true peak-baggers], I would’ve been more surprised to not find a register. There were quite a few names in the small log book, [which was getting rather full], and I wasn’t in the mood to read it in detail like I often do when there are only a handful of sign-ins. However, in very quickly flipping through, I noticed a couple of the guns in the AZ peak-bagging circle: Bob Packard [who summited in November of 2005] and John Klein [who summited very recently at the end of March of this year]. The register was sitting out in the open on a slab of concrete by the base of one of the old sheds, and it was tipped upside down. On one of the pages in the log, someone had written, “leave the can upside down keep rain out.” Forget about the rain, I’m surprised a strong gust of wind hadn’t come along and taken the small jar half-way down the mountain… or cause it to shattered on the concrete. I decided that some register duty was very much in order. First I took a medium-sized plastic bag from my hiking pack and put the jar inside that to add an extra layer of protection. There was nothing wrong with the lid that I could see, but if you didn’t secure it just right, then I could see how water could get in. Next I returned the jar to its spot against the shed on the slab of concrete, [and in the upside down position]; and lastly I placed three small to mid-sized rocks around the other sides so that it wouldn’t get taken away by strong wind.

4. The next segment of the journey was where things started to go South, both figuratively and literally. After the super short descent from Black Peak and back to the CDT, the trail was supposed to head Southwest… but I soon got an overpowering sense that it was leading me in the wrong direction. Sure enough, a quick GPS check revealed that I was headed Northwest. Oddly enough, neither Cal nor FS Topo show any other trails in this area… and after bushwhacking the short distance back over to where the CDT should’ve been, the path that the trail was supposed to be following [according to the topo maps], was not at all obvious. There were occasional stretches spanning about 10-40 feet that resembled trail; but I’m talking bare resemblance… in fact, if I were bushwhacking and suddenly encountered this section of “trail”, I likely wouldn’t even notice it, [and at best assume that I’d happened upon a short, faint animal route]. By this stage of the game, I was literally hiking with Route Scout topo in hand and constantly checking my track against what I’d drawn up for myself pre-hike in order to stay on course.

Granted, the confusing section of trail runs through an area that experienced some pretty extensive fire damage… but oddly enough, a short while later, [while still not out of the clear of the fire damaged area], I suddenly came upon what appeared to be the main trail. Not only was it extremely well-defined, according to both Cal & FS Topo, there aren’t any other trails around; thus, I figured it had to be the trail I should be following… yet once, about a tenth of a mile later, I got an overpowering sense that it was leading me in the wrong direction; and yet again, a quick GPS check revealed that I was right. This time, whatever type of trail I had picked up was taking me Southeast instead of Southwest.

After that, I was sick and tired of trying to find the damn trail whose existence was almost entirely obliterated… and it would be a total understatement to say that I was not having a particularly fun time hiking with phone in hand in order to perform constant GPS cross-checks to stay on course. In fact, I was not even halfway through the hike in terms of both total time and total distance; yet the battery life on my phone was already drained to just 49%; enough said! By this point, I decided to take matters into my own hands and proceeded to bushwhack in the general direction that the trail was supposed to be going; and I started having a much more enjoyable time. Occasionally I would run into very faint segments that vaguely resembled trail, and I half wondered if it was in fact the trail or just an animal route… a few of these times I actually spotted the little metal sign, [indicating that you’re on the CDT], secured to a tree situated right by the side of what now barely resembles a trail. For a section of “National Scenic Trail” that’s located just 10-11 air-miles outside of Silver City, the conditions were appalling to say the least… but even more appalling was the lack of any kind of sign by the popular Signal Peak TH to warn hikers of the nonexistent trail conditions a little further up…

By the saddle area to the NE of the Twin Sisters, there is a well-marked trail junction; and oddly enough, it’s around this point that the trail rather suddenly goes from nonexistent to completely obvious. However, already in bushwacking mode, I decided to just head along the ridge leading to the first of the Twin Sisters vs. staying on the trail and then making a shorter, steeper ascent via the Western flank.

5. From a distance, there looked to be a huge, fairly vertical outcropping that I thought would need to be skirted. However, the well-defined route I’d picked up headed straight for it, and as I approached, I could see that the angle was just gradual enough to potentially make it doable. Upon reaching the slab and examining the quality of the rock, I knew that the very good grip would allow it to be easily doable. That said, while the maneuvers proved fun and easy, my guess would be Class 3 due to a bit of an exposure factor. After the rock slab, I continue along the route for the short rest of the way to the summit. The views were actually very decent… better than both Signal Peak and Black Peak as far as I was concerned. As for a register & survey markers, my guess would be no to both, but I didn’t exactly give it a fair search… despite very little brush on the ascent, the summit was badly overgrown. The other super brushy spots I blasted through up to that point of my trip had been thick from the waist up, [but on the light side from the waist down and didn’t even come close to requiring shin guards]. However, the summit of the North most Twin Sister had primarily the type of brush that is extremely thick from the waist down, [including some bright green, bush-like shrub that had me thinking: SNAKE HAVEN…!]. Luckily the summit also had several small to mid sized boulders. Although I wasn’t exactly sure which one was the highpoint, the thought of snakes lurking below had me setting foot on all of the summit’s tallest boulders by default!

For my descent, I was planning to continue Southward and hit up the other ‘Sister’ which was the lower of the two, but the thick brush in that direction was making me very uneasy, given the snake potential. As luck would have it, I noticed what appeared to be a faint route in the direction I planned to go and I hopped on it. The route was actually very well blazed but appeared faint at first glance due to the surrounding brush, [which luckily faded to nothing not more than 0.05 miles into my descent]. There were several areas that had been mined, [which explained the excellent routes]; and at the base of a very large hole I encountered mid-way down, [which had been mostly filled in], there was literally a small wooden bench to rest on. It was actually rather amusing… not more than 2 minutes earlier, I was bracing myself for a bushwhack from hell, only to encounter many well-blazed routes – and a freakin’ bench – mid-way down the small mountain in an area that was supposed to be ‘off-trail.’

As I continued my descent, what initially appeared to be just a massive rock outcropping suddenly came into full view, and it immediately because obvious as to why the Twin Sisters earned the name: the massive slab of white rock proved to be a little more than just some huge outcropping; it literally comprises the entire saddle area between the two summits, making it appear as if they are fused together with cement/glue. The rock slab is very large and wide enough that you can walk right on out and most of the way across without feeling any exposure. It’s also very beautiful; and there are other boulders atop the main slab, as well as a few full out trees sprouting right up out of the rock. While formations like this are probably quite common in areas like Yosemite / parts of Utah, it’s not very often that I get to experience something this neat; and as someone who loves rocks/boulders, I found it especially awesome and could not have asked for a better summit / surprise to conclude my trip.

After simply walking about 80% of the way across the rock slab saddle that separates the two sisters, there’s unfortunately a large gap in the main rock that would definitely require ropes/gear for the normal person to safely get across. Luckily, there appeared to be several rather doable exit spots off the West side of the rock slab saddle, which would then allow the cliffy gap to easily be circumvented by contouring around via the pine-covered slopes to the West. I opted for one of the first exit sports I could find, which was a short, moderately dicey, [but super fun], Class 4 climb. Given just how well routed the area is by the rock slab saddle, I’m guessing that other less dicey options exist.

Once off the saddle, I followed a route up the soft, steep slope for the short rest of the way to the summit. Go figure, after encountering little to no brush on the way up, the summit area was extremely brushy [upper body type of brush]; and there were no views to be had from the summit area. I touched down on the handful of highpoints in question and then headed down. While the summits of the Twin Sisters were less than impressive, the ascents / descents were a total blast, and the saddle area joining the two sisters was one of the neatest things I’ve encountered to date.

6. As if I hadn’t had enough adventure already, my bushwhack return proved to be an adventure in its own right. As noted previously, I did not stick with my original plan of an out & back. Unlike most occasions where my good intention to stay on trail is overpowered by the fun involved with heading off the beaten path, [along with the opportunity to return via a different route], I was fully intending to return by way of the trail on this adventure… however, no way in hell was I repeating the 1.5+ mile stretch where the trail all but disappears as it heads up toward Black Peak. Thus, without a second though, I proceeded to execute a mostly *blind bushwhack return. *The topo was being finicky and as a result, all I had to guide me in the direction of my planned return, [in terms of GPS assistance], was my starting waypoint… along with the waypoint I strategically added during my hike as a “mid-way” point to help keep myself on track, which I’d pinged with the help of the physical topo map that John Klein had left on the summit of Black Peak, in combination with the small slice of topo map that Route Scout had successfully displayed…

…come to think of it, having pinged the waypoint from Black Peak meant that I did so before encountering the severely fire-damaged stretch where the trail was nonexistent… so apparently I was already toying with the idea of a bushwhack return even before the shitty trail conditions. :D

Aside from one very short, [but absolutely hellacious] stretch of just over 0.40 miles, (which involved blasting through some of the hands-down worst brush I’ve encountered, EVER :o ), the return trip was a total blast and incredibly smooth sailing. And after having the opportunity to review my track upon my return, [i.e. with the topo contours fully displayed in the background], I was rather impressed with how well I’d executed the bushwhack, especially in a situation where push came to shove… now if only I could learn to tap into that potential in normal situations [when the topo IS displayed in full along with my route]…

…as for the hellish bushwhack, it took place just after passing by my midway way-point. I had decided to head out of a drainage and up & over the rather brushy looking ridge in front of me. I guess I was having a bit too much fun with using the ‘line of sight’ method in combination with just the two waypoints to guide my return; and, [although I could see other parts of the ridge with much less brush], I figured that at the very worst, the more direct line I was about to make would involve a little zigzagging as I worked my way along overgrown animal routes to circumvent the extremely brushy spots. Similar to how animal routes in a drainage tend to rather suddenly start banking out altogether as a tall waterfall is approached, I should’ve taken the hint early on when all of the animals in my near vicinity literally dead-ended or diverged. All I can say is, in addition to gloves, safety goggles, head-butting brush, crawling on all fours, etc.; this short bushwhack from hell took things to an extreme. During the 0.40 mile of brushy madness leading up to the ridge, more time was spent on all fours than on two feet… and, [after bagging several hundred peaks, logging several hundred miles, and spending countless hours hiking in the 8-10 pairs of Five Ten Camp Fours that I’ve gone through since I started wearing them two years ago], it was the first time ever that my trusty partners in crime were penetrated. :o It occurred mid-way during my ascent. Desperate for relief from the brushy abyss, I decided to try walking over a small patch of Agaves… :doh: trust me when I say: this tactic is best saved for the shin daggers!
_____________________
Apr 15 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Alum Mountain & Copperas Peak, NM 
Alum Mountain & Copperas Peak, NM
 
Hiking avatar Apr 15 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking8.67 Miles 2,857 AEG
Hiking8.67 Miles   6 Hrs   36 Mns   1.43 mph
2,857 ft AEG      33 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day 4 (NM Peak Bagging Trip, Part 2)
After a very peaceful night of car-camping along a forest service road located less than a mile from the visitors center of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, I woke at the first signs of daylight and was eager to start hiking. Sometime during the night, some fountain cleanser in a dark colored truck had literally pulled in and parked all of about 10-15 feet away from my Forester… it’s one thing if the parking options were more limited; but the person could have easily tripled the distance that he/she had parked from me. Having slept incredibly deeply, I had not even heard the truck pull in during the night; and when I bolted from my Forester the next morning to relieve myself of the loads of water I’d chugged the previous evening, I was literally not a happy camper at the sight of the truck. The thought of now having to drive several miles down the road in order to piss in private, [all because some moron decided to park practically on top of me], was beyond irritating; and not more than a few seconds had passed before I thought, ‘screw it…’, blocked myself from the view of the truck as best I could, and proceeded to take care of biz on the spot. In the unlikely event the moron happened to get out of the truck in the process and give me hell, you better believe I was prepared to dish it right back and give ‘em a crash course in Car-Camping Etiquette 101. Thankfully it didn’t come to that.

Next I hopped into my Forester and headed back toward Gila Hot Springs trying to figure out what to do. Not expecting to end up in this area, I had only a handful of other hikes routed, [and most of them were quite long… in the 17-30 mile range]. After my 19+ miler from the previous day, I wanted to go easy on the distance; and I was also hoping to be back early enough to hit up the Cliff Dwellings & check out the visitor center. The only nearby option that fit the bill was the ‘bifecta’ of Alum Mountain & Copperas Mountain. The previous evening when I was considering my options, I wasn’t too fond of this combo. Both summits are very close to Hwy 15 [just over 1.60 air-miles for Alum Mountain and a mere 0.30 miles for Copperas Mountain]; and tackling them both in true-loop style as I was planning wouldn’t be more than about 8.5 – 9.5 miles RT. However, with some very rugged terrain – AND at least 7 miles worth of bushwhacking – this could easily turn into a 7+ hour adventure with many cliff hanging moments and/or brushy battles. However, not in the mood for another super long hike, [and even less in the mood to drive at least 60 minutes to the next area where I had some shorter options routed], I defaulted to the Alum & Copperas combo.

I’d figure I’d start with the more questionable of the two [Alum]. That way if things got rough and I had to turn back there would at least be enough time to grab Copperas, [which was right by Hwy 15 and did not look at all cliffy or overly brushy], and then head back toward an area where I had some shorter options to round out the day… but luckily it never came to that… unlike the previous day where nothing seemed to go right, everything feel into place for me on Day 4, and in more ways than one…

…first was a little ‘dirt road redemption.’ My cell phone had failed to power off during the night and I awoke to a 49% charge. Needing to kill a little extra time en route to my planned starting point, I headed down FR 4301B, which runs nearly parallel to Hwy 15 for about 1.25 miles before re-joining Hwy 15. I don’t know what compelled me to turn onto such a shitty looking road… [and trust me when I say, this one was definitely up there on the shit factor scale for a vehicle with under 9” of ground clearance]… especially when it would not have given me any advantages whatsoever in terms of a better starting point for my hike. Despite having to negotiate several spots that were just as bad if not worse than the spots that caused me to ‘tap out’ with the Forester on the road I attempted the previous morning, the Forester prevailed like a champ and complete this road unscathed.

In the spot where FR 4301B reconnects with Hwy 15, there is a very large pullout / viewpoint; and, while I had about four potential launch points planned out, this one looked quite ideal and very convenient. The first challenge was getting down the steep embankment to reach the floor of Alum Canyon without cliffing out; and if that was successful, then I’d make my way to the base of Alum Mountain, [ideally by way of Alum Canyon, although given just how cliffy the terrain looked in many places, I was prepared to do some extra ‘up & overs’ of along any of the neighboring ridges in the event I cliffed out in the canyon].

Although Alum Mountain is clearly visible from my launch point, [and is a “landmark feature” from many viewpoints along the West side of Hwy 15 in this area], I was not exactly sure which mountain it was at the start of my adventure, [which was probably a good thing given that the sight of the mountain toward the end of my adventure gave me butterflies and had me thinking, ‘holy shit… I was just on top of that…!’].

At any rate, I got out of my vehicle and headed down a human-looking route that took off down the embankment right in front of where I’d parked. Based on the topo contours, the worst [steepest] part in terms of reaching Alum canyon was in the very beginning. While the human routes seemed to fade out entirely within about 0.05 miles or less, the resident animals did an excellent job from there; and if something didn’t particularly appeal, there was usually at least two or more route options in sight at any given time. Although things were definitely on the steep side in the beginning, [along with some loose footing and brush to combat], the descent was not nearly as difficult as I anticipated, and it actually went quite smoothly. I’m usually pretty good at not getting ‘psyched out’ by the terrain; but after having my confidence shaken just prior to leaving for this trip, I was definitely feeling more than a little intimidated at the start of this adventure, and it felt really good to break through those barriers.

Since negotiating loose footing is NOT my forte, the steep, beginning part of my descent was on the slow side; but the footing proved a lot more generous than I anticipated and before I knew it, I had reached the more gradual area and was having an absolute blast as the somewhat brushy / rocky slopes had transformed into pine-covered dirt slopes that I could glide down with ease. NOT having a clear line of sight to the bottom of the canyon until I had practically reached it, I really tuned in to the surrounding terrain, [and managed to do a very good job in terms of choosing where to drop and where to contour to reach the floor of the canyon without having to blast through any super brushy spots and/or perform any cliff-hanging maneuvers].

For 95+% of my descent, there was a very nice shade cover; but in the handful of sunny spots I encountered, the bees were already out and about and buzzing loudly; and when I reached the canyon floor which was lush and had some pretty spots with flowers, I could see / hear quite a few bees at any given moment. Generally speaking, the bees in NM do not seem to get nearly as peeved by my presence as the bees in AZ… but nonetheless, they made me a bit uneasy, given that reaching my vehicle [or a nearby trail] would NOT have been a fast or easy process. Thus, aside from a handful of spots where the shear beauty of the canyon captivated me, causing me to pause to take in the awesome scenery amidst the buzzing bees, I did my best to enjoy things on the move and did not even stop for water. There is a very distinctive red rock outcropping that can be seen from many spots along Hwy 15, and my journey through Alum Canyon literally took me right by the base of it, which was quite an awesome area. Near the red rock outcropping was also some white rock, and by the base of it, the rock had crumbled so finely that it looked just like beach sand; and for a stretch of about 40-50 feet along the canyon, the “footing” literally consisted of a white ‘mound’ of this sand. It was a total blast to go through and felt very similar to walking through the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley.

I was in Alum Canyon for only about 2/3rds of a mile, but this short stretch was incredibly beautiful and never came close to cliffing out. Next I reached a tributary heading SW [right in the direction of Alum Mountain] and headed up it for about 0.20 miles, at which point it was time to begin my ascent. Initially I had planned for a slightly longer approach that would allow me to experience more of the area; but given just how rugged some of the spots were, I wanted to play it safe and take what I felt would be the fastest and most direct route to the summit. Although I had a fairly clear line of sight for most of the way up, there were a handful of questionable spots where I did not have clear line of sight… and although I’d drawn up a route for myself ahead of time using satellite imagery, the part of the mountain I was about to ascend was no where near it. With many craggy areas to negotiate, cliffing out [although unlikely from what I could see], was still a possibility.

The partially “blind” ascent definitely added to the fun [and made reaching the summit so much more rewarding]. The slope I’d selected for my ascent was super steep; but with many excellent animal routes to choose from, and excellent gripping footing, it was pretty much just a matter of powering up. With an extremely high VO2 max, my heart & lungs rarely feel challenged while hiking… but trust me when I say, this ascent gave both a good run for the money. The views during the ascent were absolutely spectacular and kept getting better as I climbed higher… [and thankfully there were enough spots here and there where the terrain flattened out and allowed me to take it all in; cuz for much of the way up, the slope was so steep that attempting to stop resulted in sliding downwards OR bracing my body in such a way [to prevent from sliding down] that my calf muscles were burning after just half a minute.

The awesome views made the ascent go by incredibly quickly… in fact, I suddenly found myself standing on top of a huge rock crag, [that I had originally intended to skirt], on the NE end of the summit. Contrary to what the super gradual topo contours may suggest of this area, there is a bit of generalization going on and you cannot simply stroll the rest of the way up to the highpoint… from just past the 6,680’ contour line at the NE end of the summit to the highpoint at the SW end is all crag. Luckily, by staying just North of the summit ridge, it’s possible to easily circumvent this craggy area; and after working my around and over to the highpoint crag, [which was fairly obvious by this point], it’s a very short but fun Class 2+ climb up. The highpoint crag is not a particularly large area, but there is room for a good 5-10 people to sit comfortably and soak in the exceptionally awesome scenery. I saw a couple of bees on the summit, but they minded their biz and never once buzzed me, allowing me to take a good 30+ minutes to thoroughly enjoy this sensational summit with breathtaking 360 degree views.

As per what seems to be the norm in these parts of NM, I was unable to find a register [or survey marker(s)]; and, I did not hesitate to leave a register [or at least a *partial one]… the few summits I reach that: a) do not already have registers; AND b) challenge me both mentally and physically like this one did are ones where I typically leave an empty Juvo container [which I use as a carrying case for my SOS device, headlamp, & cell phone re-charger]. This summit definitely fit the bill. Frustratingly though, the pen/paper that I also had finally remembered to put inside the container had fallen out the previous evening as I was re-arranging my stuff; thus, I needed to get creative and settled on using a rock to carve the name of mountain, as well as my name & date of summit, onto the outer part of the lid. The few times I’ve hiked with others, I’ve found that people often have writing implements & a scrap something or other to write on. In the event the next one to summit doesn’t, then there is plenty of room on the sides of the container to ‘sign & date’ via the rock carving method I used.

The second half of my journey involved getting from Alum Mountain to Copperas Mountain, and for this leg of the journey, I followed very closely to the route I’d pre-drawn for myself. The terrain in the beginning, [from the descent off Alum to the SW, followed by heading S/SE up a ridge and then doing some contouring to position myself to reach the ridge that would lead me to Copperas] looked to be exceptionally smooth sailing; and this proved to be case. However, there was one questionable spot, which proved to be a total beast. If looking at the topo, this spot is located to the S/SW of the Northwestward-most prominent point of Copperas’s NW ridge. Yet again, unlike the topo contours suggest, this prominent point is total crag, [at least from the direction I had approached]… and as I neared the base of the craggy area, I came upon an animal route that was like the grand-central station of animal routes. When it started contouring the craggy prominent point counterclockwise… I took this as a clue that attempting an up and over might leave me shit out of luck, so I decided to follow the animal route. While it was well blazed, there were a few steep sections where I had to perform some Class 2+ / Class 3- maneuvers up boulders while also dodging some light, [but ‘strategically positioned’] cacti / thorny shrubs in the process. Luckily, the shitty stretch wasn’t overly difficult, and I managed to pull off the climbs AND avoid getting impaled by the nasty vegetation.

After that, the rest of the way was exceptionally smooth sailing. The views from Copperas were very decent… but after getting super spoiled with the exceptionally awesome views atop Alum, I definitely was ‘oh’ing and ah’ing’ over them. Unlike many of the other summits in the area however, Copperas did have some nice cultural aspects; while there was no register that I could find, I located 3 survey markers. Two of them were your typical silver/gray color and out in the open, and the third appears to have been painted white and is serving as the “base” for a tall wooden rod/pole that is supported by a large rock pile and several additional wires. I have no clue as to was this is / once was, but I was able to angle my cell camera so that it focused in between the cracks of the rocks and capture part of the white-painted survey marker.

The descent off Copperas was as smooth as smooth gets, and it was really nice to get some great views of Alum Mountain along with the beautiful landscape in that direction [N/NW] as I descended. Views to the N/NW were completely blocked from the summit area of Copperas, and when they finally opened up shortly into my descent, it was really awesome. Toward the bottom of Copperas’s NE ridge, I picked up a jeep road that lead back out to Hwy 15 after about 0.10 miles; and after that it was a beautiful, 1.25 mile cruise along Hwy 15 to get back to my vehicle.

Rounding out the awesome day, I managed to make it to the country store in Gila Hot Springs about 30 minutes before closing. In addition to stocking up on some salty food, [which I had completely run out of], I snatched up the very last of this superb topo map atlas of NM by DeLorme. According to the store owners, DeLorme will no longer be making these maps [for the Southwestern states], and as such they are in high demand. Next I had time to make a very brief stop at the visitors center at Gila Cliff Dwellings NM. I didn’t make the cutoff time to be able to see the cliff dwellings, but I purchased the pretty National Monument pin anyways in celebration & remembrance of such an awesome adventure. Before heading back toward Silver City in preparation for my final night/day of the trip, I parked at a pullout right down the road from the Cliff Dwellings and scrambled down a 5-10’ vertical bank to get to the Gila River. It was exceptionally refreshing to sit in the river, [which was surprisingly NOT ice cold]; and VERY nice to be able to wash off [to some extent] after not having showered for the past few days.
_____________________
Apr 14 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Buck Hannen Mtn & Middle Mtn & Loco Mtn, NM 
Buck Hannen Mtn & Middle Mtn & Loco Mtn, NM
 
Hiking avatar Apr 14 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking19.55 Miles 3,325 AEG
Hiking19.55 Miles   10 Hrs   34 Mns   1.97 mph
3,325 ft AEG      38 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked linked
Partners none no partners
Day 3 (NM Peak Bagging Trip, Part 2)
It’s not often that I wake up on the wrong side of the bed to begin with… let alone wake up on the wrong side of the bed AND still feel royally pissed & frustrated after a sensational day of hiking… but that’s exactly what happened today. And, while I can’t say I had a particularly good time as a result, there were a handful of moments I where was able to enjoy myself. Most importantly of all: the ‘piss ‘n’ vinegar’ allowed me to manhandle another 19+ miler and bag three peaks in the process. 8) Distance has never been a forte of mine but, [unlike a certain other health/fitness parameter where superhuman effort on my part still produces inferior results relative to average…], my efforts to withstand higher mileage have clearly paid off.

STILL having failing to attain that certain other health/fitness parameter [despite exceptionally hardcore effort] was the trigger for my shitty mood; and everything little thing after that pissed me the F off. The previous night I’d car-camped in a large area with tons of pullout spots/fire-rings right after making the turn onto a dirt road by the sign for the Military Road TH, right off Hwy 15; and the road continuing toward where I planned to start my hike looked almost car drivable from what I was able to see on satellite imagery. However, it was really putting my Forester’s 8.7” of ground clearance to the test, and for just under 1/2 mi each way, there were some spots that I decided where just not worth the risk. Not only was it frustrating having to turn back, the backing up / turn-around process was a total bitch and cost me nearly 20 minutes… given the shitty mood I was in to begin with, to say I was more than a little pissed off by the time I set out on foot down the jeep road would be a total understatement…

First on the itinerary was Buck Hannen Mountain and it’s right at the beginning, [I made summit in under 1.75 miles from my parking spot]. Reaching the summit is as easy as it gets in terms of the terrain… in fact, with such a gradual “grade”, [along with enough trees to block the views en route to the summit], the hands down most “challenging” aspect was the navigation; I was constantly having to spot check my GPS because there were several areas where the general direction of the highpoint was not obvious. Though unlike the peaks I did the previous day, the highpoint of Buck Hannen Mountain is obvious [once you make it to the highpoint area], and it consist of a small boulder pile. Reaching the highpoint boulder from the ground took all of a few seconds, but there is just enough room for one person to sit comfortably on it and enjoy the surrounding views, which were beautiful enough to snap me out of my uber pissed off mood, [or at least for the few minutes I took to sit up there and soak in the scenery]. And, although I encountered several buzzing bees going about their biz en route to the summit, [as well as during other places over the course of the day’s adventure], they must’ve sensed I was having a bad day and never once bothered me.

After leaving the summit of Buck Hannen Mountain, [which felt more like a mesa than a mountain], I headed back down to the trail and continued along it for about three] miles. Just after the trail passes Thirtytwo Tank, I started my bushwhack loop of nearly 8 miles, incorporating both of my next summits [Middle Mountain & Loco Mountain], in the process. The trail segment on this adventure was okay… the route finding factor was a definite 1 [i.e. not at all confusing]; and, having a rather long off-trail segment ahead of me, it was nice to have a trail that allowed me to cruise on autopilot for a good stretch. The surroundings are very peaceful; however, thanks to the surrounding tree cover and almost complete lack of distance views, the scenery ranks quite low relative to what this area has to offer. The footing on the trail was really ‘feast or famine’, alternating between very pleasant stretches of soft dirt and/or pine needles with no rocks to being filled with so many rocks that it literally felt like walking along a dried up stream/river. The rocks ranged in size from a ping-pong ball to larger than a basketball; and most of them were loose / on the surface vs. well-rooted into the ground, making it the perfect type of terrain for twisting an ankle. And with little to no room left to plant my feet on the solid ground in between, my pace slowed considerably during these rocky stretches. About 3.5 – 4 miles in to my adventure, I decided to chance caching some water. Although I was carrying my usual 3 liters, I was really struggling to make good time, especially on the rocky sections of trail. While I off-loaded just a single liter, it made a HUGE difference; and with a lot more float to my stride, I was able to make much better time.

The bushwhack from the trail to Middle Mountain was exceptionally well-routed by the resident animals, and it proved to be even easier than Buck Hannen Mountain thanks to a slightly steeper grade, which avoided the need for GPS cross-checks every 5 seconds to determine which way was up. Views from the summit were mostly blocked, and the few distance views to be had were on the plain side; though I didn’t particularly care since a large part of the fun of peak bagging, [at least for me], is the journey and not just the destination.

From the summit of Middle Mountain, I was around 7 miles in to my adventure. The 1.5 liters of water that remained in my pack would need to last me roughly 8-9 more miles before I’d arrive back at the liter I’d cached… and with at least 6 of those 8-9 miles being off-trail, it definitely made me a little nervous. Thus, I decided to cut as many corners as I could and opted for what I thought would be a slightly shorter & faster approach than I was initially planning to reach the final summit [Loco Mountain]. From the vantage point I had atop Middle Mountain, I was able to get a decent view of most of the ridges/terrain I’d be covering, and luckily most of it looked like very smooth sailing… however, if I ended up needing upper body protection for any length of time, then there was a chance I might fall a little short in terms of the water I had on hand and how much I was going to need.

Instead of riding ridges to reach Loco Mountain, the slightly more direct approach I opted for involved: dropping off Middle Mountain via a ridge to the NE, then into a drainage heading NE, and finally making a rather straight-up type of ascent from the Western flank to reach the summit of Loco. My one reserve was that the area I planned to ascend looked to be a little on the brushy side… but still pretty full of ‘piss ‘n’ vinegar’, I didn’t hesitate to tackle it head on. Relative to the previous day’s adventure, the brush never got quite as bad; but it was thick enough that I needed to suit up in my bushwhacking pants, jacket, gloves, AND safety goggles in order to continue making somewhat decent time. Given the many bares spots on the surrounding ridges, [and also the less brushy spots I’d observed on certain other sides of Loco Mountain], having to fight a brush battle put me in an even worse mood. And to top it all off, the summit area was incredibly overgrown and had absolute no views… although there were some very nice views on the descent. Unlike Buck Hannen Mountain, the highpoints of both Middle Mountain & Loco Mountain were not at all obvious; so I touched the many points in question on each. And, like with many of the other summits in the area, I was unable to find a register or survey markers on any of the three summits I visited during Day 3’s adventure.

Shortly after leaving the summit of Loco Mountain, the brush let up enough for me to complete the descent without safety goggles; and by the time I reached the saddle area to the SW of the mountain, I was able to remove my jacket and gloves. The next couple of off-trail miles along the ridge were very easy-going but a bit brushier than anticipated. It never got nearly as bad as the previous days adventure and/or required further use of the safety goggles, but it was thick enough in some places that I needed to re-suit a few times in jacket & gloves.

Fortunately, by the time I reached the water I’d cached, I still had about 1/2 liter remaining of the bottle that was in my pack. By this point, I’d covered 16+ miles, [nearly 10 of which were off-trail]… taking on an extra 2 lbs. for the final 3+ miles was not exactly my idea of fun. And since dumping water was not an option thanks to being low on my overall stash back at the Forester, I force drank the 1/2 liter to partially offset the weight of the 1 L I’d cached. By the time I reached the Forester, I was rather beat [and still felt pissed as all hell], but luckily the next morning, I awoke to my normal, chipper self.

After my adventure, I headed for Gila Hot Springs to hit up the country store that I kept seeing signs for along Hwy 15 (gilahotsprings.com/ ... ost/). I had enough water to get through the night/morning, but not for another day of hiking. Go figure, the store had closed by the time I arrived and the hours totally suck this time of year [they close at 4:30 PM and don’t open until 10:30 AM]. Given that it’s light before 6 AM, there was no way I was waiting around the next morning until 10:30 AM to get water. I figured I’d drive the remaining 4 miles to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, and if I couldn’t find water there I’d head back toward Silver City. Although the National Monument had closed, [and the 9 AM – 4 PM hours were not much better than the hours of the country store], the bathrooms were open and right outside was an area to get drinking water free of charge. The water was amazingly good; and I was thrilled to not have to drive back to Silver City.

My final minutes of daylight were spent checking out the nearby campgrounds. By this point, I was struggling to keep my eyes open and if the campgrounds were halfway decent like the ones in the Chiricahuas, I was ready to call it a night. However, for such an exceptionally beautiful area, I could not believe how poorly these campgrounds were designed… you pretty much park/camp in a paved lot with the vault toilets to your front and the road to your back… and to ‘top off’ the experience, the parking spaces were literally right on top of each other like any standard parking space at your local Wal-Mart / grocery store… no thank you! I’d sooner drive back to Gila Hot Springs and pay to stay at a bed & breakfast type place over this type of camping arrangement. Luckily there was no need; with forest service roads abound, it didn’t me long at all to find something peaceful, private (or so I thought… :o ), and very near by.
_____________________
Apr 13 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Scott Peak & T X Mtn & A Four Mtn & Tadpole, NM 
Scott Peak & T X Mtn & A Four Mtn & Tadpole, NM
 
Hiking avatar Apr 13 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking13.51 Miles 3,962 AEG
Hiking13.51 Miles   9 Hrs   58 Mns   1.55 mph
3,962 ft AEG   1 Hour   14 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked linked
Partners none no partners
Day 2 (NM Peak Bagging Trip, Part 2)
If I had to summarize today’s adventure in a few words, if would be: total brush carnage. And despite: a) the overall views being *mediocre at best, [*compared to the likes of the Chiricahuas, Pinalenos, & Galiuros]; b) absolutely no views from three of the four summits; and c) getting the living crap kicked out of me, I somehow still managed to have a really good time on this adventure. :o

First up was Scott Peak, which comes into view within the first mile. In looking at a topo map, the very close proximity of this peak to the main trail makes it appear as though it will take all but a few minutes… but it proved to be a total beast. I approached from the East via the trail and was initially planning a short, bushwhack ascent from the E / NE. However, the TONS of deadfall I would’ve had go through – in combination with an initial, very gradual grade – definitely had me concerned in terms of the snake potential. Additionally, [already sunny and very warm without any shade cover], the bees were out and about and there was constant buzzing as they went about their biz. Thus, I decided to hold out and stayed on the trail a little longer as it contoured the peak counterclockwise and headed into a shady area, [figuring that I could then just head up the Northern flank which had a much steeper slope]. While it was comforting to no longer hear buzzing bees after entering the shady side of the mountain, there were many moments were I thought a backtrack was going to be in order, thanks to an extremely thick population of thorny nastiness circling the top part of the peak. I don’t know the name of this stuff but I’ve seen it before, particularly at higher altitudes [~7,000’+] and often in areas that have experienced fire damage. It looks similar to catclaw but the thorns are much longer [about 1/2 to 1”] and they don’t have as much as a curve to them; and, although very ouchy looking, they luckily don’t hurt nearly as much as catclaw, nor do they readily impale you at the slightest touch like many varieties of cacti. Nonetheless, the patch of this stuff circling the top part of Scott Peak was worlds thicker than I’ve ever seen it; and even with my high pain tolerance, there was no way I was attempting to plow though without a full body suit of armor. Thus, I continued to contour in hopes that either the brush would thin out and/or I’d spot an animal route. My patience paid off and it wasn’t long before the brush toward the top appeared to thin slightly and I also spotted an animal route taking off from the main trail and heading up.

The beginning part of the ascent was super steep but quite fun with almost no brush and good-gripping dirt; and when I reached the thick brushy part toward the top, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated, thanks to the animal routes; [although without the routes it would’ve been total brush carnage, if not a complete ‘brush-out’]. The summit views were very nice and definitely among the best of Day 2’s adventure. There were 2-3 large rocks that looked as though they could be the highpoint, so I hit them all up, examined them briefly for a summit register, and then moved on. While I wasn’t able to find a register [or any survey markers], I didn’t exactly devote much time/effort looking… the summit area was very sunny and in addition to hearing lots of buzzing once again, I could also see lots of bees flying about. For once they were minding their own biz and made no attempt to harass me… nonetheless, I was not about to take any chances, and I made my summit visit very brief.

Returning to the trail from the summit of Scott Peak was not difficult; although thanks to the thick brush, it was a very slow go and seemed to take forever, [as did much of the next several off-trail segments, which included: pretty much the entire stretch from when I set foot off-trail to bag UN 8336 and almost the entire way down from UN 8336 to the saddle area just North of the peak that LoJ lists as the *summit of T X Mountain (listofjohn (pay $ite)/pea ... 2908). *Both Cal & FS Topo erroneously list this peak as 6020. While I hadn’t picked up on the error prior to my trip, I did find it rather odd that what appeared to be the highpoint based on the topos alone, [i.e. the peak labeled as 7964], is located just 1/3 of a mile South from the one labeled as 6020 AND separated by only a handful of extremely gradually spaced contours… and after making the relatively gradual descent of about 2/3rds of a mile from UN 8336 to the saddle between UN 8336 & what the topos label as UN 6020, I knew something was definitely off. It didn’t even feel like I’d 1,000’ let alone 2,000+’.

Just North of the saddle area, the brush finally let up and rather instantly went from one extreme to the other [i.e. I went from needing safety goggles, gloves, and having to stand still for several seconds to snap branches out of my way to suddenly having several feet of room between me and the surrounding brush]. Both the true highpoint [8020’] as well as what appears to be the highpoint if looking at the topos [7964’] were very similar in that: a) the highest point of each is not at all obvious; b) there are absolutely no views to be had thanks to the thick tree cover in this area; and c) I was unable to find a register or any survey markers. The only difference was that, [unlike the 8020’ peak], the 7964’ peak was horrifically brushy around the highpoint area. Thankfully, after heading East off this peak for my descent into Wilson Creek, the brush rather instantly let up, and the beginning part of my descent was very smooth sailing. Things got a little brushy mid-way down, [but nothing too terrible relative to other portions of this adventure], and then the brush let up again as I dropped into a side branch of Wilson Creek. My very short stretch in the creek area was exceptionally pleasant: almost no brush, tons of shade, soft pine-covered footing, and beautiful surroundings. Although very short-lived, it was worth the effort.

The next leg of the journey was the ascent from the floor of Wilson Creek to A Four Mountain. In the beginning, it was very smooth sailing; but, [surprise, surprise!], it didn’t take long before things got brushy. That said, relative to the brush I encountered during other segments of this adventure, what I would normally describe as some pretty thick brush along this stretch proved mild by comparison. Nonetheless, it definitely slowed my pace, and the constant zigzagging in this area and along most of the off-trail segments of this adventure added considerable distance when all was said and done. Wanting to log as many miles as my body could handle, this was totally fine by me.

The closer I got to A Four Mountain, the thicker the brush became. Ironically however, after getting about 1/4 mile from the summit, [and about to resort to crawling on all fours], I suddenly stumbled upon a full out trail / quad trail. It’s not shown on the topos and definitely did not appear to be an official trail/road; but to call this a “route” would definitely be an understatement, as it was wider than most foot trails [but not quite as wide as your standard jeep road]. Given just how incredibly thick the vegetation is in this area, [and the fact that it was thinned out in several areas surrounding this little road], I’m guessing that the road’s purpose was for the crew that comes in ands thins out brushy areas like this for fire control purposes.

A Four Mountain did not have any views from the many areas in question that looked to be fair-game in terms of the highpoint, [nor could I find a register or survey markers]; but unlike T X Mountain, this summit had a very nice viewpoint in one direction. For my descent, I followed the trail/quad-like road to the E/NE. After the many brush battles I’d endured, it was an exceptionally pleasant treat…

…however, little did I know, it would also prove to be the calm before the storm. After leading me off A Four Mountain, [then over UN 7827, and then down to the saddle area to the NE of UN 7827], the road either terminates or heads in a different direction than where I planned to go next, [which was up the ridge to UN 8609, on Tadpole Ridge]. Talk about “saving the best for last”… the 1 mile stretch spanning from shortly after the saddle area to shortly before UN 8609 was pure brush carnage at its finest. In addition to the previously mentioned tactics, [of safety goggles, gloves, and standing still in several areas to snap branches in order just to move forward], reaching Tadpole Ridge required me to step up my game: head-butting brush, hurling my entire body weight into patches of non-thorny brush, and crawling on all fours were frequently required for much of the ascent.

At one point I noticed a section of large boulders and headed straight for them. Two consecutive Class 3 up-climbs were required, and for both I needed to toss my hiking poles & pack on the boulders above me in order to pull off the maneuvers. Although extremely short-lived, the fun climbs were a very nice break from the sea of brushy madness… speaking of which, my one-mile split for the insanely brushy ascent was 1 hr. 15 minutes… enough said!

Upon reaching Tadpole Ridge, the highpoint [8614’] proved to be a super easy stretch of about 1/4 mile. With almost no brush, such a gradual up-slope that it felt flat, a nice shade cover, and footing of dirt & soft-covered pine needles, reaching my final summit of the day could not have been any easier or more pleasant. Though as with the previous couple of summits: the highpoint was not at all obvious, there were absolutely no views to be had from the highpoint areas in question, and I was unable to find a register / any survey markers. Nonetheless, with plenty of fallen trees to sit on, a very nice shade cover, AND no bees to harass me, I had a very enjoyable summit rest.

The Tadpole Ridge trail is literally a hop, skip, & a jump from the Tadpole Ridge Highpoint, and my return proved to be an exceptionally pleasant cruise on excellent trail. I normally do not elaborate when it comes to the trail segments of my trips, but this trail is definitely deserving of an extra shout out: not only is the footing excellent for most of the way [dirt and/or a super cushiony blend of dirt + soft-covered pine needles], the Forest Service has done an excellent job of maintaining this trail. While there were a few downed trees to maneuver over/around, 4-5 downed trees over the course of 3.5 miles is nothing given the time of year; and unlike many trails that go through brushy areas, I didn’t encounter any overgrown spots while on the trail. Junctions were all clearly marked, and with a ‘route-finding factor’ that I’d describe as a ‘definite 1’ / ‘as easy as it gets’, the stretch that I traversed is truly an autopilot type of trail. To top it all off, there are some excellent views, and the trail does not dick around with any annoying switchbacks. Instead, it makes good use of the topography and contours around & up to the ridge; and the parts along the ridge alternate between contouring and riding the top of the ridge. The parts that counter not only allow for some really awesome views, but the ups & downs along the way almost feel like a foot-rollercoaster and are total blast. This is a very well-designed trail, and I don’t often give kudos to trails!
_____________________
Apr 12 2017
AZHiker456
avatar

 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

38 female
 Joined Nov 07 2015
 
Attorney Mtn & Still Ridge HP & McGhee Peak, NM 
Attorney Mtn & Still Ridge HP & McGhee Peak, NM
 
Hiking avatar Apr 12 2017
AZHiker456
Hiking11.50 Miles 2,767 AEG
Hiking11.50 Miles   5 Hrs   36 Mns   2.24 mph
2,767 ft AEG      28 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Day 1 (NM Peak Bagging Trip, Part 2)
After a hellacious week following my 1st trip to NM, [and then a huge setback three days prior to this trip that left me so weak I barely had the strength to get out of bed], I’d written off this trip entirely, booking errands that normally would’ve taken a day or two to complete… however, almost as suddenly as everything hit the fan the previous several days, all barriers to my departure miraculously resolved the evening before I’d originally planned to leave. And less than 24 hours after I’d thrown in the towel, I found myself not only scoring double-digit mileage, [and slightly surpassing my goal of 11 miles/day], but also rather effortlessly pulling off a sweet trifecta, [consisting of: Attorney Mountain, the Still Ridge High Point, & McGhee Peak]. Needless to say, it was definitely a much better start than the super rushed Day 1 hike of my first trip to NM, [during which crashed plans resulted in not even logging 5.75 miles and not even making it across state lines].

I kicked things off in the Peloncillo Mountains, which are partly in AZ and partly in NM. In fact, the exit to get to my planned starting point is the last AZ exit on I-10 before crossing over into NM. My planned starting point was just under 5 miles from the exit, and it proved to be a very easy 15 minute drive. Based on satellite imagery, the roads in looked excellent for the most part but there were a handful of questionable spots. These proved very easy/doable in my Forester but likely would’ve been a push for a low clearance vehicle; [although with that being said, I’ve seen people take low clearance vehicles on worse]. Less than a mile after exiting, Chato Road [the dirt road I followed for most of the way to my starting point], passes right by the ‘Welcome to New Mexico’ sign that is seen from I-10 as you cross from AZ to NM. From the uncomplicated/uneventful drive in, to a sweet ridgeline summit trifecta hike, Day 1 was a huge confidence builder and absolute blast; I could not have asked for a warmer welcome.

Directly behind my parking spot to the SE is a fun-looking ridge that heads East and leads to the summit of Attorney Mountain; however, having had my confidence completely shattered from the setback that occurred three days prior, the idea of heading off-trail from the start was not very appealing. Thus, I headed East on foot along an old jeep road that parallels the ridge. Although I still felt broken and weak, I gradually started to warm up to the beautiful, friendly terrain; and when I saw some very well-defined routes leading up a ridge to the North of Attorney Mountain I was starting to feel like myself again and more than ready to head off-trail. The off-trail portions of this adventure were truly as awesome as it gets. With well-defined routes, little to no brush, and good to very good footing for most of the way, it made for a fast, fun, and stress-free traverse.

I reached Attorney Mountain in under 45 minutes / under 1.5 miles. After having been to hell and back over the previous three days, I literally almost cried tears of joy upon reaching the summit. Attorney Mountain has two highpoint areas that are separated by a small saddle and look roughly equal in elevation, and I reached the SE summit first. Although the topo map labels the NW summit as Attorney Mountain, the SE summit not only looks slightly higher, it also has a register, [once again, placed by none other than AZ peak bagger, Mark Nichols]. Up to & including Attorney Mountain, I’ve encountered only 5 NM summit registers this year, and 3 of them had been placed by Mark Nichols. In addition to Mark, [who placed the register atop Attorney on May 9, 1998], only two others had signed prior to me.

Before continuing along the main ridgeline, I hit up the lower, NW summit of Attorney Mountain, which had a large cairn on the summit. The next two summits, [Still Ridge High Point & McGhee Peak], as well as a few seemingly random spots along the ridgeline, also had large summit cairns; however, there were no *current registers that I could find. *McGhee Peak had a very old & rusty can nestled within its summit cairn; but it was impossible to tell whether it was just someone’s food/beverage can vs. an actual register at one time.

The views on this adventure were really phenomenal throughout, with the best views being along the ridgeline. No one summit / point along the ridgeline stood as my favorite… it was all really spectacular, and I thoroughly enjoyed the many vantages points along my 4.5 – 5 mile ridgeline traverse. While I had a very enjoyable summit rest atop Attorney, unfortunately I can’t say the same for the other two summits & most other points along the ridgeline, thanks to the resident bees… surprisingly, after leaving me alone and not even buzzing me once during the first 1.5 to 2 miles, they got a bit testy as the adventure progressed. While I never saw more than a single bee at any given time, there were MANY places – both along the ridgeline as well as along the 5 - 5.5 mile segment of jeep roads that I took after exiting the ridgeline – where the bees harassed me in the typical manner [i.e. single bee coming out of nowhere and angrily buzzing around my head/face]. The tone of the buzzing was angry enough AND the bees flew close enough that several of the encounters not only had me reaching for my BeeAlert spay but also using it… in fact, I had two encounters where the buzzing sound was exceptionally angry AND the bee started dive-bombing my head/face area. I responded by unleashing the spray in a similar manner to how I described a few weeks earlier during my hike to El Plomo & Salero Mountain [ triplog ] . Once again, not only did the BeeAlert prevent me from getting stung, my heart did not even skip beats, and I actually felt calm throughout what otherwise would’ve been a frightful experience.

After McGhee Peak, I was making good enough time that I continued for a little ways along the main ridgeline before heading back to my starting point. I decided to exit the ridgeline just past the low point, which is labeled as “Johnny Bull Gap” on the topos. Like the main ridgeline, my exit ridge was really smooth sailing, and at the bottom was a jeep road. Aside from having to switch dirt roads a few times, the rest of the adventure was a very fast cruise back. Given that I still needed to log some extra miles, [AND that I was racing the setting sun], the longer than normal dirt road finish was quite ideal, given the circumstances.

Feeling energized and rejuvenated, I decided to get a jumpstart on the rest of driving and headed toward Silver City. On the drive back out to 1-10 as I headed West along Chato Road, I passed a Border Patrol Officer who was heading East, and he motioned for me to stop. He looked very relieved that I was not someone suspicious and that I was not up to trouble; however, unlike the Border Patrol Officers in AZ, [where the general attitude seems to be along the lines of: ‘just make sure to stay at least 5 miles North of the border, don’t try to interfere, and bring a dog or a gun and you’ll be just fine!’], this Border Patrol Officer kind of read me the riot act for hiking in ‘not such a safe area [due to the illegal traffic]’. The odd part was – unlike in the Tumacacoris very near where I used to live in Tubac, or the Mustangs that are just a few air miles from my current home in Elgin, [both of which have MANY areas with suspicious trash], I did not see a single item of suspicious trash during my hike in the Peloncillos. The Officer was also curious as to whether I planned to hike in the area regularly, [mentioning that a Border Patrol agent is sent to check things out if they simply spot someone in this area]. He seemed very relieved when I told him it was a one-off.

I ended up car-camping in the exact same location as my final evening of my first trip to NM, which I’ve already described here [ triplog ] . It was very nice to have such a beautiful and convenient spot to go back to.
_____________________
average hiking speed 1.92 mph
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ... 10  Next

WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

help comment issue

end of page marker