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.)

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