The Walking Posts

The posts labeled with the little “Truckin’ ” man are from my Walking Journal, which I've been keeping since January 1, 2012. What began as a simple New Year's Resolution to exercise more quickly morphed into a hiking addiction. Below are some running totals.

  MILES TIME CALORIES
January 2016 31.64 17h 36m 3091
Year-to-Date 31.64 17h 36m 3091
Jan. Avg. 38.57 17h 52m 3751

Council Rocks and the Dragoon Mountains

Posted By on January 29, 2016

Council Rocks and the Dragoon Mountains

3.2 miles; St. David, AZ

Today was our last full day in Arizona, our host took us out to the Dragoon Mountains, which he has been visiting for 40 or more years. He showed us some wonderful spots, and even treated us to a campfire meal of beans and tortillas. What an amazing and special day.

The Trail

The Trail

It was another sunny, gorgeous day in Arizona. The trail was uphill a bit, but the grade was very comfortable.

Oasis

Oasis

Our host led us on a side trail down to some rocks with a stream. He walked barefoot in the water, and the hubs followed suit, and promptly shrieked. The water was, apparently, COLD. I sensibly kept my shoes on.

Spectacular Views Abounded

Spectacular Views Abounded

No matter what direction you looked, the views were spectacular. We could see distant Sierra Vista, and the snow-covered peaks of the Huachuas, and the Whetstones, and the Dragoons themselves were beautiful.

Council Rocks

Council Rocks

 

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs

We visited a site called Council Rocks. This area and all of these mountains were considered a stronghold for the Apache Chief Cochise, but experts think the mortar stones (there were several) and the petroglyphs are much older. It was fascinating and beautiful.

More of the Dragoons

More of the Dragoons

There were fantastic collections of boulders everywhere, and some were intriguing… like, just how did that rock end up on top of the other one? So cool. It reminded me a little of Bryce Canyon, but not as vast.

Campfire Sunset

Campfire Sunset

Our host lugged a bottle of wine, tortillas, a can of refried beans, cheese, olives, lettuce… we had a perfect ending to the day with a campfire dinner.

You can find out more about the Dragoon Mountains and Cochise Stronghold at this website.

Lower Miller Canyon Trail

Posted By on January 28, 2016

Lower Miller Canyon Trail

2.37 miles; hereford, az

I had to kind of squeeze this one in, so it wasn’t as long as I would have liked, but it was so beautiful. I really hope I get to come back here someday.

Hikes with Bathrooms!

Hikes with Bathrooms!

This is another in my continuing series, “Hikes with Bathrooms.” There was a lovely Clivas installation here at the trailhead.

Natural Beauty

Natural Beauty

I’m hiking here in the foothills of the Huachuca [pronounced wah-CHOO-ka] Mountains. Even in winter, as I walked along bubbling little Miller Creek, which, from the terrain, can at times be a raging torrent, there was green and things in bloom.

Alligator Juniper Juniperus deppeana

Alligator Juniper, Juniperus deppeana

During an earlier hike over the Mule Pass, I mentioned a tree I’d noticed with interesting bark, and then never took a photo of the bark. Well, here it is, the Alligator Juniper. It also lent a wonderful spicy scent to the air.

Stream Crossing

Stream Crossing

I haven’t had a lot of hikes lately that involved stream crossings, but this was one. I also encountered quite a character here… a guy who was obviously living his cowboy fantasy. He wore a big ol’ ten gallon hat, cowboy boots, and most alarming to me, a pair of shootin’ irons on his hips. He stopped at the stream crossing and filled his canteen (ew… can you say giardia? I knew you could!) and took a deep swig. He was on the trail just ahead of me, and I took my time, not wanting to catch up.

Miller Canyon is part of the huge (1.7 million acres) Coronado National Forest, and is managed by the U.S. National Park Service. You can read more about Miller Canyon on their website. I got a fantastic waterproof map of the trails in this area at the Sierra Vista Ranger Station at 4070 South Avenida Saracino, in Hereford. It’s right off State Route 92, and the map was only $5.

Mule Mountains Crest Trail

Posted By on January 26, 2016

Mule Mountains Crest Trail

2.85 miles; bisbee, az

Over the last week I have been doing a lot of non-blog-worthy walking into town, but today the hubs took me on a trail he walked with one of the neighbors. Our route started from the end of High Road and climbed School Hill. Old Bisbee is nestled in a high valley surrounded by the Mule Mountains. We followed the long [endless!] uphill trail to the crest and then followed a clear, nearly level trail for a mile or so above the town. When we came upon a trail intersection marked by a cairn, we decided to follow it back downhill It came out on a road not far from our rental, and the hubs headed off to go get the car while I explored some more. I managed to find my way, albeit not particularly legally, to the head of a set of steps that came out at the corner of the street where our rental is. This town is so much fun!

View from the trailhead

View from the trailhead

The trailhead for this hike was closer to the “downtown” of Old Bisbee than our rental. It included a great view of the massive mine pit.

The trail

The trail

Once we got to the top of the hill, or mountain (your choice; I’m going with mountain), after what seemed miles and miles but was barely a half mile, the trail straightened out and became almost level, with only gentle uphills and downhills. The views were astonishing. We saw snow-capped mountains to the east in New Mexico and a range of mountains south of us in Old Mexico.

Pointleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos pungens

Pointleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos pungens

It was amazing to find flowers in bloom in the hills in January, but these pointleaf manzanitas were blooming and a-buzz with bees. These plants are related to bearberry, which are native to my home woods.

Mine adit

Mine adit

We passed several exploratory holes and even this one mine adit (there’s that word again). These mountains were exploited first for their copper and then gold was discovered, so there are lots and lots of these little mines. We saw another from a distance on a far hillside. They’re as common here as cellarholes are back home.

Odd pool

Odd pool

When we were in the hills almost above our rental we noticed a side trail marked by a cairn, so we decided to follow it down the mountain. It ended up following one of the many washes that surround the town, and ultimately led to a road. At this point we split up and the hubs went back to get the car while I continued to explore. I knew from studying Google Maps that there was one of the dozens of stairways that dot this town nearby, and that it came out on the corner of the street where our rental is. I also knew I had to follow the perimeter of this pool to get to the top of the stairway. What I don’t know is what the heck this pool even is. Maybe a cistern or water storage for firefighting? Who knows? I do know that it was posted as “Authorized Personnel Only” by the city of Bisbee. But at this point I was determined to find the stairs, so I soldiered on.

Stairway

Stairway

These stairs, as I may have mentioned in an earlier post, are all over the town. They were constructed in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration, or WPA. Much of the town’s infrastructure, in fact, dates to this period, from the seemingly hundreds of check dams that dot the washes to the stairways to the bridges and water channels through the town. I was so happy to finally walk these steps, as I had noticed them a few weeks ago, and they were one of my persistent itches I needed to scratch. Consider it scratched. Another fantastic day in Bisbee.

Fairbank Loop

Posted By on January 20, 2016

Fairbank Loop

5 miles; fairbank, az

I went back again to the San Pedro Riparian etc. and this time it included a trip through the ghost town of Fairbank, which was the railroad depot that served the mines in Tombstone. This trail loops by the Fairbank Cemetery and the remains of the Grand Central Ore Stamping Mill, and back down along the river to the railroad tracks.

Signs on all the buildings

Signs on all the buildings

I wasn’t overly impressed by the ghost town. It was too tidy; it’s owned by the Bureau of Land Management, and appears to be a popular stop along the road to Tombstone. But I did get kind of a kick out of these signs, which were on all the buildings. I didn’t see any, though. I think it’s just too cold for snakes.

Some stabby, bitey vegetation

Some stabby, bitey vegetation

This loop trail is pretty clear and heavily travelled, but the vegetation on either side is kind of typical for the high desert—very stabby and bitey.

Fairbank Cemetery

Fairbank Cemetery

 

Grave site

Grave site

The historical cemetery wasn’t quite what I’m used to. It was pretty messy and overgrown, and no real proper tombstones, which is really kind of ironic when you think about it. The grave site above with the stuffed animal on it must have been a child’s grave, but I couldn’t find any stone or marker, just the little lamb.

Ore stamping mill

Ore stamping mill

According to the very informative interpretive sign at this site further along the trail, this is the back wall of a giant ore stamping mill. The sign says the mill ran day and night with a loud, thunderous booming noise. Hard to imagine now.

Another mine site

Another mine site

Again, these ruins are very tidy. There was an open mine shaft nearby that was fenced off with barbed wire and emphatic signage. You can see, by the way, the cottonwood trees that line the river in the distance in this photo.

San Pedro River

San Pedro River

The return section of the trail follows the San Pedro River, until it comes to the old railroad bed, where it turns to follow the tracks back into the town.

You can find more information on Fairbanks here.

Picacho Peak State Park

Posted By on January 18, 2016

Picacho Peak State Park

2 miles; eloy, az

We met some friends here for a hike and picnic. The climb was too much for me, both because I couldn’t use the provided cables to pull myself up with my wonky shoulder, and because I simply couldn’t keep up. Short legs, ya know. So one of our party and I wandered around the easy trails through the park while the 2 hubs climbed most of the way up to the peak.

Picacho Peak

Picacho Peak

This Arizona State Park is at a much lower elevation than we’re [recently] used to; most of the park is in the 2000–2500-foot range, while the peak itself is 3300 feet. At this elevation, the temperatures don’t get cold enough to kill the lovely saguaro cactus that are everywhere through here.

Teddy Bear Cholla

Teddy Bear Cholla, Cylindropuntia bigelovii

Saguaro aren’t the only cactus in the park. We came across this little teddy bear cholla, too. Doesn’t it look fuzzy and soft? It’s not—those spines are sharp and barbed. I’m guessing the name Teddy Bear was ironic.

Brittlebush Encelia farinosa

Brittlebush Encelia farinosa

There were even some flowers… this is a shrub called brittlebush. It is an herb that is used medicinally, and glue and sealants can be made from the resin. And said resin was even used as incense by missionaries.

You can find out more about Picacho Peak State Park at the Arizona State Parks website.

Sky Islands Traverse

Posted By on January 13, 2016

Sky Islands Traverse

3.83 miles; Hereford, Arizona

It’s been remarkably difficult to find hiking trails here in Southern Arizona, or rather, I should say it’s been hard to find hiking trails of the kind I’m used to. There’s little public land that isn’t owned by the federal government, and what trails I can find don’t seem to have very good maps online. That said, I have found that there are several long-distance trails in Arizona, one of which winds its way quite near to Bisbee: the 490-mile Sky Islands Traverse.

Sky Islands Traverse map

Sky Islands Traverse map

Sky islands are what the mountain ranges that seemingly rise up out of flat plains are called, rather like islands out of the sea, and that characterizes the mountains in this part of Arizona. That long straight stretch of trail to the immediate west of Bisbee is the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area, and I explored a bit more of it today.

Sky Island in the distance

Sky Island in the distance

This time I started from the Hereford Bridge trailhead, about 8 miles from the Mexican border, and headed north as far as I could go in 45 minutes, while the hubs took a 90-minute bike ride. And once again we were in the valley where the temps today were in the mid-60s.

Blaze? Boundary Marker? Who Knows?

Blaze? Boundary Marker? Who Knows?

Trail blazing seems to be a foreign concept here. Between the other day and today I saw maybe a dozen of these markers, but it’s unclear what they are, exactly. They’re not plentiful enough to be trail blazes, and I guess it’s possible they are boundary markers, but I’m not sure. Who knows? It’s a mystery to me.

Flash of Color

Flash of Color

Saw this little flash of orange amid the grasses on the trail. No idea what it is, but it caught my eye.

Hereford Bridge

Hereford Bridge

This trail, like the earlier hike, generally follows the San Pedro River, and passes under the bridge on the road where the trailhead is located.

You can find lots more about the Sky Islands Traverse trail at this website.