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).