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China Peak - 3 members in 10 triplogs have rated this an average 4 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Apr 30 2017
AZHiker456
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 Guides 28
 Routes 197
 Photos 7,418
 Triplogs 184

39 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.
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Jan 19 2014
PrestonSands
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 Guides 168
 Routes 149
 Photos 5,534
 Triplogs 1,323

42 male
 Joined Apr 12 2004
 Oro Valley, AZ
China PeakTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 19 2014
PrestonSands
Hiking9.00 Miles 2,139 AEG
Hiking9.00 Miles
2,139 ft AEG13 LBS Pack
 
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Having turned off of the highway near Tombstone, I rolled along Middlemarch Road toward my beloved Dragoon Mountains on a warm Sunday afternoon. Parking at the turnoff for Forest Road 697, I set off on foot into the parched limestone hills. Familiar sights and good feelings greeted me as I trudged up the rocky road toward my goal. The last leg of the journey up the summit cone of China Peak was just as steep as I had remembered. After photos, a bit of revelry and summit smiles, I started back down. Opting for a slightly different return route, I followed China's forested southeast ridge over to peak 6942', leaving broken branches and cat-claw induced blood along the way. Reaching a group of old mine tunnels, I began to follow Forest Road 4390 down, where three guys were gathered around their pickup truck, desperately looking for a lug wrench to change a flat tire. I was amazed that they had actually driven so high up the mountainside on this so called "road", and wished them luck. The sun was setting as I went through the granite wall pass, where I got to enjoy the San Pedro Valley blazing brilliant red-orange. Very nice. I spent a good while searching for the "Button Cacti" rumor said existed in this area. By headlamp, I eventually located a single, dead plant. Success!...kind of. The guys in the pickup came bouncing by soon after...how they were able to turn around on a road barely wide enough for their truck, I'll never know. After reaching my truck I drove west, and located a nice campsite a couple of miles west of Sheepshead. I set up my tent, enjoyed campfire quesadillas, then retired for the evening with plans of Black Diamond Peak the next day.
Culture
Culture
Campsite HAZ Food
Meteorology
Meteorology
Sunset
_____________________
"I'm going for a coffee, but you never know when a hike might break out." -Jim Gaffigan
May 31 2012
MAVM
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 Guides 1
 Routes 43
 Photos 666
 Triplogs 78

55 male
 Joined Mar 15 2012
 Seattle, WA
China PeakTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar May 31 2012
MAVM
Hiking4.11 Miles 1,748 AEG
Hiking4.11 Miles   3 Hrs      1.90 mph
1,748 ft AEG      50 Mns Break12 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
After bagging Cochise Peak, I later traveled the off-road route that becomes the rocky road to China Peak toward mid-afternoon. I had eaten lunch and done due diligence below Black Diamond Peak for another day - gathering a water report at Gilda Spring in the process. The less than obvious spur from Middlemarch road (FR 697) is NOT to be taken lightly if you intend to travel it for any distance...as it is possible to make it all the way to the peak if you have a low track Quad or Jeep type 4x4. I advise against anything less if you want to make it to the Hot Gates that guard the entry to the Hidden Valley. There are only a couple of turn-out possibilities once the truly high clearance mega-chickenhead part of the route ensues...you'll want a heavy suspension and good tires or you could be in REAL trouble!

I chose to make my way toward the Gateway - turn things about for an easy exit upon returning - and then embarked into the western valley of the Inner Sanctum of the Dragoons. The Hidden Valley has many surreal points of view outwardly opening to the surrounding Dragoon rock formations, and it can seem like you are suspended in a very special, lightly traveled altered-dimension during the initial portion of the route...then it just continues that way only much steeper as the views really open up! This day was obscured by smokey haze in the distance - not especially good for a limited cell phone type camera. The normally visible island ranges (Whetstones, Rincons, Chiricahuas & Huachucas...) from the upper reaches of the Dragoons had all vanished in this haze.

You'll pass the remains of the San Juan mine as the real elevation begins...later, oddly morphed alien looking Century Plants surround the peak adding a nice punctuation to the apex. There are several spur routes along the way, so be certain to do your trail research. Avg. Grade 63.2% GPS Route Available
Flora
Flora
Creosote Bush
Culture
Culture
Benchmark

dry Smith Well Dry Dry
I spoke with the ranch hand responsible for Tenneco Well nearby. He informed me that in over 10 years he had not known of Smith Well to be active. Tenneco is robust and spring sourced...the most reliable water source in the area openly available without an open range tank, etc.
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The MaNtiS - Assume & be Damned!
http://www.mavm.com
2 archives
Jan 26 2011
PrestonSands
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 Guides 168
 Routes 149
 Photos 5,534
 Triplogs 1,323

42 male
 Joined Apr 12 2004
 Oro Valley, AZ
China PeakTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 26 2011
PrestonSands
Hiking3.50 Miles 673 AEG
Hiking3.50 Miles      50 Mns   4.20 mph
673 ft AEG
 
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Did a quick hike up from Middlemarch Road, with a turnaround just before the entrance to the hidden valley. I met two other hikers coming down from China Peak (no way! :) ). Got back to my truck, where the Border Patrol was waiting to talk to me. Other travelers on Middlemarch Road had felt my vehicle was suspicious, and had alerted them. The Border Patrol agent was friendly after I showed him I wasn't smuggling anything, and we talked for a few minutes about activity in the area. Ah, Dragoons, my winter playground, you are always exciting!
_____________________
"I'm going for a coffee, but you never know when a hike might break out." -Jim Gaffigan
Apr 17 2010
rwstorm
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 Guides 1
 Routes 125
 Photos 19,955
 Triplogs 899

72 male
 Joined Feb 28 2003
 Tucson, AZ
West Dragoon Weekend, AZ 
West Dragoon Weekend, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Apr 17 2010
rwstorm
Hiking14.00 Miles 3,000 AEG
Hiking14.00 Miles
3,000 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Partners partners
TUB - Group
cindyl
GrottoGirl
John_seJerman
RedwallNHops
A weekend of camping and hiking with the Tucson Backpackers meet up group. Went down and secured the best site Friday, then did hikes Saturday and Sunday. I had previously hiked to both the mine in Slavin Gulch and China Peak separately, but wanted to combine the two into one large loop hike from the camp area. Based on excellent hike descriptions by Preston Sands and checking maps, I figured it would entail about 12 miles and around 2600 feet of elevation change. A bunch of us did this one Saturday.

We all made it to the Abril Mine in Slavin Gulch just fine, but after a break there it was a nasty scramble up the mine tailings to reach FR 345A above. A few of us got dinged up in the process, but fortunately no major injuries! We then continued to follow the road southeast for a couple miles until we came to Pear Tank. At this point we bushwhacked our way up to China Peak for lunch. It turned out to be a pretty warm day with lots of exposure, so we were really glad to have the uphill part of this adventure over with! The remainder of the hike was along roads. From China Peak it was a steep descent to Gordon Camp, then the gradient eased as we continued to follow FR 697 to its junction with Middlemarch Road. We weary hikers finished by taking Middlemarch Road and FR 687 back to camp.

If I were to do this loop hike again, I would make it a shuttle, with a vehicle waiting where FR 697 hits the main road. This would save 3 to 4 miles of hiking a boring road section.

Following a good campfire session Saturday night, we broke camp Sunday morning and some of us hiked up to the top of Sheepshead on the way out. I skipped going all the way to the top, since I'd done it 3 times in the past year. It is a real cool short hike/scramble though (less than 3 miles RT/about 800 feet). Sheepshead is popular with rock climbers, but we took the hiker's route up.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
_____________________
Onward into oblivion!
Oct 25 2009
VVebb
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 Guides 3
 Routes 4
 Photos 18
 Triplogs 23

36 male
 Joined May 16 2008
 Flagstaff, AZ
China PeakTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 25 2009
VVebb
Hiking1.00 Miles 750 AEG
Hiking1.00 Miles      45 Mns   1.33 mph
750 ft AEG
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
_____________________
"The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom. Yet to camp out at all implies some measure of this delight."

-- Theodore Roosevelt, The Publishers' Weekly, Nov. 25, 1905
Oct 24 2009
VVebb
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 Guides 3
 Routes 4
 Photos 18
 Triplogs 23

36 male
 Joined May 16 2008
 Flagstaff, AZ
China PeakTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 24 2009
VVebb
Hiking1.00 Miles 750 AEG
Hiking1.00 Miles      45 Mns   1.33 mph
750 ft AEG
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I hiked the abridged version of this trail, which Preston Sands briefly mentions in the beginning of his write-up of the full China Peak hike. FR 697 probably sees very little use throughout the year due to its ruggedness, but since I hiked during deer hunting season, several other trucks had also made the climb that weekend. Gordon Camp is a valley-like area which is about one mile south of China Peak and about two miles north of Middlemarch Road.

The Gordon Camp area is relatively small, and closely surrounded by looming granite mountains, but there is still enough space to accommodate 2-3 separate groups of campers, still having some space between them for privacy.

I recommend making the drive up to Gordon Camp in either of two circumstances: (1) you don't have enough time or energy to start the hike down at the junction of Middlemarch Road and FR 697, or (2) you'd like to car-camp overnight at a higher elevation in order to enjoy some cooler weather. I fell into the latter category, and hiked from Gordon Camp to China Peak a few times during the weekend, while enjoying cool mornings and evenings due to great sun blockage by the trees and surrounding mountains. In any case, *do not* attempt to drive up FR 697 to Gordon Camp without a reliable, high-clearance 4WD vehicle. Additionally, you will probably find that the narrowness and agility of a jeep or compact pickup would make for a more comfortable drive than a bulkier full-size pickup.

As for the hike itself, start north on the road that goes through Gordon Camp. After several hundred yards, the road turns to the left (east) near a small mineshaft entrance which bears a threatening sign warning you of the dangers of entering abandoned mines. After another several hundred yards, the road comes to a T -- the left path dead-ends after a few hundred yards, and the right path ascends toward China Peak. At this point, you probably have about a half-mile (and a 750ft elevation gain) before you reach the top.

The road switches-back numerous times as you ascend, and although you will encounter a small number of forks in the road, the "wrong" turns always dead-end within a very short distance. I actually recommend checking out these brief "wrong" turns, partly to satisfy curiosity and partly because it might help you avoid falling into an open mineshaft if you stay on the Peak until sunset and get careless while hiking down in the dark.

As you approach China Peak, you will also find that the makers of this old mining road apparently grew tired of making switchbacks, and instead blazed a road straight up the south side of the mountain as it nears the top. After two short but very steep stretches of trail, only a short distance remains before you reach China Peak. At this area just below the peak, I noticed several piles of bear scat, as well as some deer tracks. Proceed to the peak, and enjoy the views all around you.
_____________________
"The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom. Yet to camp out at all implies some measure of this delight."

-- Theodore Roosevelt, The Publishers' Weekly, Nov. 25, 1905
Oct 24 2009
VVebb
avatar

 Guides 3
 Routes 4
 Photos 18
 Triplogs 23

36 male
 Joined May 16 2008
 Flagstaff, AZ
China PeakTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 24 2009
VVebb
Hiking1.00 Miles 750 AEG
Hiking1.00 Miles      45 Mns   1.33 mph
750 ft AEG
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
_____________________
"The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom. Yet to camp out at all implies some measure of this delight."

-- Theodore Roosevelt, The Publishers' Weekly, Nov. 25, 1905
Oct 21 2009
PrestonSands
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 Guides 168
 Routes 149
 Photos 5,534
 Triplogs 1,323

42 male
 Joined Apr 12 2004
 Oro Valley, AZ
China PeakTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 21 2009
PrestonSands
Hiking4.40 Miles 850 AEG
Hiking4.40 Miles   1 Hour   57 Mns   2.26 mph
850 ft AEG
 
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I did the bottom portion of this hike while passing through the area on Middlemarch Road. Started at Gordon tank, and hiked up to the old well in the hidden valley. Hiked back at sunset. It was a bit chilly, and it sure felt good.
Flora
Flora
Skunkbush
Geology
Geology
Granite Horn Coral
_____________________
"I'm going for a coffee, but you never know when a hike might break out." -Jim Gaffigan
Feb 12 2009
PrestonSands
avatar

 Guides 168
 Routes 149
 Photos 5,534
 Triplogs 1,323

42 male
 Joined Apr 12 2004
 Oro Valley, AZ
China PeakTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Feb 12 2009
PrestonSands
Hiking6.25 Miles 1,894 AEG
Hiking6.25 Miles   3 Hrs   13 Mns   1.94 mph
1,894 ft AEG
 
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I had such a great time in Slavin Gulch a few weeks earlier that I took a day off of work and headed back to the Dragoons to check out the China Peak area. I discovered that my memmory card had broken on the drive in, luckily I found another in my pack. That event and the slushy drive over Middlemarch Pass wasted alot of time, so I decided to drive a little ways up the 697 road, as I had hopes of checking out the Whetstones later that afternoon. I concluded that driving the 697 was a bad choice, saving no time, so I ended up parking at a tiny little turnaround. From the start, the scenery and the hike did not disappoint. The day brought some interesting clouds, and snow still lingered in the shade. The climax of the hike was the view from China Peak: wow!!!! I poked around the mine dumps, and did a quick exploration of the notch at the bottom of the little valley on the way down. I suspect there may be waterfalls in the notch. I didn't end up having time to go to the Whetstones, but that gives me something to look forward to. I know some guys that might be up for that... I did visit Tombstone again, though.

In searching the web for China Peak's history, I came across a rather funny misadventure someone had while trying to drive up one of China Peak's mine roads. Google: dragoon mountains and dead suburban Gordon Camp for the story.
Flora
Flora
Schott's Yucca
Culture
Culture
Mine Shaft
_____________________
"I'm going for a coffee, but you never know when a hike might break out." -Jim Gaffigan
average hiking speed 1.75 mph

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.

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