Friday, December 17, 2010

Perimeter Ramble

Hiked the Perimeter Trail up from the bottom of Carr Road to Miller Canyon and back via the Clark Spring Trail.
This bit of peeling bark reminded me of the old woodland-camo pattern.

Juniper berries smell enticingly like gin, but I can never find any vermouth trees.

Apart from an early cold snap, it's been a mild Fall, so there are still some colorful leaves clinging to the trees in Miller Canyon. Reminder to self: Some of the bigger oaks near the Perimeter trailhead have potential as rope climbing anchors.

They're slightly beyond the sell-by date, but these madrone berries are still purty.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hidden Pasture

When I hiked to North Star Peak a couple of years ago to place a Geocache, a divot in the landscape to the north of the peak caught my eye. Turns out it's called Hidden Pasture, and it's enough of a hiking destination to be featured in a guide book and a hike report by Dave Baker of Summithut.

That was good enough for me; I strapped on a pair of foot gloves and set out to explore. I used Baker's map, which I converted to a rough GPS route, as my guide.

Parked alongside Mescal Road next to a dry creek bed, then hiked up to this gate that overlooks the boulder-strewn drainage leading to the pasture.

There are quite a few cairns marking the route. I was unnecessarily fussy about locating and following them, hoping to make a human Etch-a-Sketch tracing of the route. Burned a lot of time this way, and still made a botch of the track. Fact is that so long as you follow the drainage to the northeast, you can't miss.

Terrain along the route was a mixture of granite boulders, coarse sand, catclaw acacia and various grasses.

Chilicote, AKA Rattler Beans. When the pods dry out, brushing up against these guys produces a realistic rattle that'll raise your hackles.

Along the way, I appraised various potential routes to North Star Peak. All of them looked steep and tedious.

The pasture. Was kind of let down that not to see herbivorous dinosaurs grazing down there.

Found a wonderful shade tree and lunched on Sausage Shop jalapeno sticks and cheese.

Glad to go, glad to return. First sighting of the Jeep is always poignant, even on a short trip like this one.

Map of this trip is on everytrail.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Route 66 (miles)

Rode the big, square loop: Highway 90 north to 82, west to 80, south to 90, west back home; a total of about 66 miles. Other than a persistent headwind on the southbound leg, conditions were perfect. I stopped to photograph the jellyfish clouds during that stretch.

Trip stats: 65.6 miles in 5:03 (4:11 moving); track at

Friday, October 8, 2010

Kentucky Camp Epic

Been kind of toying with the idea of running the Kentucky Camp Epic, but wasn't sure how I would do. One way to find out: I loaded the GPS with the short loop route (~29 miles) and gave it a shot. Turns out I'd have finished 8th or 9th in last year's running with my 4:17 time.

Enjoyed the mixture of tough climbs, techy descents and fast doubletrack. Don't think I'll sign up for the race, but I will return to explore the lower loop of the long course, or maybe run the whole thing (46 miles).

Map of the run is here on everytrail.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Carr Peak Bike-Hike

Up ahead on the trail, I heard someone curse sharply. Other voices responded with something unintelligible but sympathetic sounding. I rounded a bend and caught sight of them: a half-dozen Forest Service workers outfitted for trail maintenance standing in two groups about a hundred feet apart. One of the nearer group, a young woman, saw me coming, and said, "I'm so sorry." I made a questioning face. "I accidentally broke their nest and the bees are all stirred up. You might want to run past them." She glanced toward the more distant group, who were rubbing and scratching.

I saw the bees flying fast, tight orbits around their nest a couple of feet off the trail. They looked stirred up alright, but not very numerous or menacing. "I'm not allergic to bees, so I'll try to sneak past," I said. And so I tried. The bugs left me alone until I drew up even with their damaged home, then attacked en masse. One made a direct assault on my nose, seemingly intending to crawl up a nostril, while others stung my nearside arm and back. I had time to mutter "Crap!" before pawing at the nose invader and taking off running. I tore the bee-booger away from my face, only to have another replace him, and sting my nose in the bargain.

About the time I barreled into the midst of the second group, the bees broke off their attack.

I continued up to Carr Peak to inspect the Geocache (A-OK!) and have a snack before heading down. I had ridden the mountain bike from home up to the Ramsey Vista campsite, where I'd locked it to a tree. I'll add the trip stats later.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fairbank Fifty

It's not a full 50 miles, more like 48-and-a-quarter, but it's a pleasant ride. I made excellent time thanks to a nearly windless day, but I failed to record the GPS tracklog. Next time.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

Carr Road Ride

Rode from home to Reef Campground; roundtrip of 27.6 miles with 3100' of climbing in 3:02:35. Made it from the parking lot to the Reef in 52:35, about par for the course. Felt like I had plenty left in the tank when I finished, as I'd made a conscious effort to take it easy. Pics are from the pasture on the south side of Carr Road, and at one of the final switchbacks near the top.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Babocomari Sweet Spot

Heard strange tales of a fishing hole on the Babocomari River near Huachuca City and had to check it out. Finagled some GPS track data, recruited Gary to accompany me, and set out.

And, what do you know? It's true! We hiked along the mostly waterless riverbed, enjoying the shade of enormous cottonwoods, until we reached a long, narrow pond of still water. GPS track indicates that it's about a tenth of a mile long, and I'd guess 20 feet wide. The water appeared to be dammed by an earth berm, but I couldn't say with any certainty whether the berm was manmade.

With this discovery under our belts, Gary and I have agreed to make another expedition in search of the site where the infamous Babocomari Gator was caught by AZGFD back in 1986. Fortunately, between clues in the newspaper article and water-flow maps available online, I have a pretty good idea where to look.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Miller Peak

My hike to the peak via the Miller Canyon trail was not the unalloyed pleasure of past trips. The heat, humidity and swarming bugs got the better of me. I was soaked two miles in, and remained that way until I toweled off after my post-hike shower. My usual source of solace, speed, just wasn't there today.

At the summit I checked on my Geocache: all is well. I ate lunch and watched crowds of ladybugs milling around on bits of deadwood and leftover campfire char.

The trip down was blessedly fast, given the grumble of potential storms overhead. The grumbling was insincere, though, as not a drop fell.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Brown Canyon to Parker Canyon Lake

Just 13 miles away--10 from the Brown Canyon trailhead--that's how close to home pretty little Parker Canyon Lake is. Of course there's the small matter of the Huachuca Mountains in the way, making the trip to Parker a 38-mile slog on the dusty Montezuma Pass road, a 50-mile slalom on pavement through Elgin, or an extended round of hurry-up-and-wait transiting Fort Huachuca.

The thought occurs, it'd be easier to walk. So that's what I did. Starting from the trailhead on Ramsey Road, I stitched together the Brown Canyon, Hamburg, Pat Scott, Crest and Sunnyside trails to make my way to the Montezuma Pass Road and onward to the lake. Amy dropped me off before six and promised to meet me at the other end at around one. I didn't envy her the drive.

At the top of Brown, I met a lady and her dog, the latter enjoying a canine favorite: the Bath-n-Guzzle. The water in the trough smelled strongly of algae and tadpoles, a real plus in the dog's opinion. The owner asked me where I was headed, and when I told her she said, "That's certainly ambitious." Heh. "Ambitious" is the new "interesting."

I pushed on up Brown to join the Hamburg Trail, then upward toward the Crest. I made this a test run of my new Vibram KSO Trek foot-gloves, and was happy with the extra traction relative to the slick-soled regular KSOs.

I had good conditions for the hike; an unusually cool day (high forecast in the upper 80s) and wind to keep the bugs away for awhile.

I didn't want to get bogged down with sightseeing, but I snapped a few pictures anyway. It's impossible not to.

Golden Columbine. These delicate beauties were everywhere in the canyon, particularly abundant near streams and seeps. I also spotted some purplish orchids, but they were past their prime, already wilted and withered.

I called Amy when I reached the Crest to assure her that I was on schedule for our one o'clock rendezvous. We'd been texting throughout the morning, mostly cussing out SPOT for a lack of tracking. I cycled power several times, but the tree cover is too dense along most of the route. If SPOT can't get a GPS fix, it won't bother sending a track. I tried once more after hanging up, and bingo! SPOT started tracking.

Just a tenth of a mile south of the junction at the Crest, I picked up the Sunnyside trail for the trip down the other side. The western slopes exposed me to an unpleasant southwest wind for awhile, but as I descended I was swallowed up by forest and once again sheltered from the wind. So too were swarms of bugs, and they gathered around me in malevolent clouds. I was ready for 'em, though. At the last minute I'd dropped a headnet into my pack. I deployed it, careful not to trap any of the bastards on the inside, and experienced the snug comfort of isolation from one of Nature's nuisances--like sitting by a window inside on a stormy night.

Pretty soon I cruised into the ghost town of Sunnyside. Wind and bright sunshine kept spooks and spectres at bay, and I was within striking distance of my goal.

Hit the Montezuma Pass road at around noon, and realized that I had a very good chance of making the lake by one. I picked up the pace and reached pavement in about 45 minutes. I turned on a walkie-talkie (no cell here) and immediately received a cheery deedle-deedle alert tone from Amy. She'd just pulled in to the parking lot. I told her I was a quarter-mile away. Made the one o'clock appointment with seconds to spare, as recorded by SPOT, below.

Stats: 19.6 miles with about 3500 feet of climbing (trailhead to the Crest; thereafter almost entirely downhill).

Friday, May 28, 2010

AZ Trail: Canelo Hills Hike

The Canelo Hills passage of the Arizona Trail has a reputation among mountain bikers as being a hike on which you might like to carry along a bicycle. You know, just in case. I took the hike and left the bike at home.

Set out from the trailhead just south of Patagonia and letting the arrival of lunchtime determine my turnaround point. Right away, I could see how the passage got its hike-a-bike rep; the first couple of miles consisted of loose, sand-gravel trail surface mounting a succession of small hills at a 10-20% gradient. Maybe rideable for a patient, skilled granny-gear climber, but not for me.

About a mile from the trailhead, I caught up to another hiker, "Autumn," an authentic Oregon hippy chick visiting Patagonia. She'd heard Bad Things about illegal immigration and smuggling and wondered about safety on the trails. Most of the horror stories were from folks who own homes and ranches near the border and in the Parker Canyon area. I gave her the sitrep and told her to enjoy Patagonia, though she might like Bisbee better.

Autumn on the trail.

After awhile, the hills gave way to flatter and occasionally shady, bosqey countryside, vastly more bike-friendly. Bike-friendly, but tire-hostile, with plenty of mesquite thorns and catclaw. I wore my Vibram foot-gloves through this section, but picked my footfalls with care.
Large, lush trees shaded parts of the trail.
Saw quite a few bike tracks enroute, some made while the ground was muddy and preserved, others more ephemeral impressions in sand. Wonder if any of these were remnants of the AZT300?

Lunch time arrived just as the GPS odometer turned over eight miles. Not fast or far, but acceptable for a hot, lazy day. I picked a shady spot under a tree to snack.

On the way back, I spotted a cow skull hung in a tree above a fire ring--a nice prop for telling stories around the campfire.

By the time I reached the steep switchbacks above the Harshaw Road it had gotten properly hot. I drew the last mouthful of water from my Camelbak about a mile from the Jeep. Stats for the day: 16 miles with 2700 or 3300 total feet of climbing. (A rare case in which Topo Fusion counts more climbing-feet than Topo USA.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cooper Brown Mini-Epic

With the wind bending treetops and grassblades alike, it seemed like a good idea to stay close to home. I slapped the new Exiwolfs (-wolves)on the D460 and rode from home down to the Huachucas. Got in 35.7 miles and 3849' of climbing by piecing together routes along Garden Wash, Ramsey Road, Cooper/Perimeter trails and Brown Canyon--a mostly singletrack Tour de Sierra Vista.

A bad omen at the outset of Perimeter--a slow-leak flat. I replaced the tube and pushed on, but didn't put in my best performance on the trail's rockier passages. Don't know whether it was the loss of mental-momentum or the poor traction of the rear tire. (I dutifully followed the sidewall arrow, despite a strong intuition that it'd grip better reversed.)

Lunched in the shade at the Carr Canyon trailhead, then headed off to battle the wind on pavement. Heading west up Ramsey Road was a trial; it was a relief to turn into Brown Canyon and start climbing in earnest.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wheelset Musings

Lately I've been considering a new wheelset for the Redline D460. On a par with Breakfast is the most important meal of the day is the bike wisdom that New wheels are the first upgrade you should make.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rincon Peak

The objective, seen from a creek crossing on Mescal Road. Snowmelt is over, and the streams have slowed to a trickle.

Wild grapes near the trailhead. I examined some of last year's raisins and it appears that the vines produce pea-sized fruit. Probably sour as all get out, but it'd be fun to pick and eat a few in season.

Miller Creek Trail. Pleasant, sandy passage with more shade than you'd expect. It crosses the (now mostly dry) creek a few times before climbing up toward the ridge.

"Wheaties." I saw several different species of these cereal-headed grasses nodding in the breeze. It'd be wonderful to have this stuff growing in the yard, but I suspect that it requires Happy Valley levels of water to thrive.

Heh. Even with a good trail, I make sure to do a little bushwhacking. In this case, boulder-whacking. After a creek crossing, I followed a branch of the creek instead of the trail and had to adjust my course. Wasted about a half-hour in this fashion, but got to clamber around on some big rocks.

Back on track and steaming up the flank of the ridge on this solid trail. After my initial mistake, I followed cairns through rocks and faded boot prints over sand.

Heartbreak Ridge Trail. Got some elevation now, cool breezes and shade. Delightful, except for the persistent and plentiful swarming black flies.

First good look at Rincon from the ridge. Come to think of it, maybe the last view, too, since the trail is primarily a tunnel through piney woods the rest of the way to the peak.

Wore sandals for the whole trip, though I brought along some foot gloves (VFF KSOs) as a backup.

On final to the peak, looking back to see whether the trail looks as steep as it feels. Nope.

Obligatory Kilroy shot with the Giant Heap of Stones.

Hike stats (map-based; GPS track is too messy to use): 16.2 miles roundtrip with 4500 feet of elevation gain covered in about 7:30 (with a half-hour each of stopped and off-trail time).