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6/7/03: Huachuca Canyon Hike

June 7, 2003

Huachuca Canyon Hike
Round-trip distance: 1.8 mile

Dad and I took the dark green Olds across the street to the main gate, where we stopped and got a five day pass for the vehicle. Then we continued on to Huachuca Canyon. On the way back through the canyon, we passed a runner, and I also saw three fawns scurrying up the bank.

We somehow missed the uphill dirt road that Nolt, Ridlon ad I found and used to walk on back in November. But, we knew we couldn’t be too far beyond it when Dad finally stopped the car. We couldn’t go any farther anyway, because a rough creek bed crossed the road and would require a 4-wheel drive to cross. There was actually a trickle of water here, and we found a couple small flags pinned here labeled “environmental test area.”

Anyway, we got out of the car, crossed the mostly-dry creek bed and started left up the mountainside. Above we could see the peak Nolt, Ridlon and I hiked to in November. We aimed to the right of this, trying to see if we could get even higher, up actually above the rock cliff that formed most of the peak. We were in for quite a hike.

The first third or so of the way up was nice walking. It was probably about as steep as most places in the Cove, but fairly open with plenty of nice deer trails to follow. But, as we began to get higher, it began to get steeper.

We were pretty much going straight up the mountain and we found ourselves in rougher terrain. For one thing, it was rocky. But not just large boulders– small pebbles littered the ground. That coupled with the steepness had us taking about two steps forward and one “slide” back. From the time we first reached this kind of terrain until the time we reached our highest point, we were constantly holding on to branches or whatever we could grab to pull ourselves up. It was interesting.

We crossed above a skri slope and the flora became even thicker. We found ourselves nearing the “gap” we had viewed from the bottom of the mountain. This we had hoped would lead us up a back way to the very top. We came to the base of an unclimbable rock wall, so we headed right toward this “gap” to see if it would indeed lead us upward. Instead, as we rounded the corner, we realized a humongous hollow lay ahead, and the top was still far above us. Across from us, on the other side of the hollow, were massive cliffs of solid rock, and I snapped a picture of them with my digital camera. There also appeared to be a cave down in the hollow, but we never got that far.

Instead, we decided to turn left and try to find a way around the ridge to the ledges Nolt and Ridlon and I had climbed to. As we switched directions, two red-tailed hawks soared above us and shrieked loudly as if bidding us farewell (or good riddance).

We came into some tricky territory then. There were a couple places we had to squeeze between steep rocks and tree trunks/branches, then we came to a final uphill slope of stones, pebbles, and loose dirt. Going up this was quite a workout, not to mention dangerous. We did finally make it up the belligerent pass, but not without some difficulty. Our sliding feet had to go up a natural treadmill, and they shifted a number of pounds of the debris downhill on the way.

After this we came out to a flat of sorts, still far from the top, but at least some easier walking for a few steps. As we came into a large grove of thick oak saplings, I knew we were nearing the area we were looking for, but I still wasn’t sure how close we were.

As it turns out, we weren’t as close as I thought. I had almost given up on finding the spot when I suddenly stumbled across the well-used vertical trail that I remembered well. Following this, I led Dad right up over the first ledge to the second one, where I had stopped to enjoy the scenery last November. Dad loved the tremendous view, and I loved being back there. It made the whole hike worthwhile for me. We took a break there and ate a snack as we took pictures of the scenery. We also visited the other ledge (the first one Nolt, Ridlon and I had come upon) and took a few more pictures before heading down. We had spent nearly an hour at the “top.”

It had taken two and a half hours to climb the mountain, and our descent took only an hour and a half. Our down route was pretty much identical to that of the November hike. We followed the trail straight down through the thick oak and locust saplings, sliding helplessly along the way. This led straight down into the open pine forest, just as I had remembered. Dad and I like this area for deer hunting prospects, should I get stationed here. Who knows?

We continued down through the steep ravine, then to the dirt road down to the base of the canyon and out to the car. We both snapped a number of pictures along the way, and it made for a beautiful but quite tiring hike. Dad said this was definitely more of a challenge than Mount Washington!

On our midday drive out through the canyon, just after I had mentioned our lack of wildlife sightings, we started seeing deer. A number of single, or groups of two or three deer, were walking along or across the road different places. Altogether, we counted nine different does, but no bucks. This was the most deer I’ve seen here in such a short period of time, let alone at midday on a near-100-degree afternoon. Besides the deer and two hawks, all we saw were a couple lizards.

Mom had spent the morning shopping, and she was at the pool when Dad and I got back to Gateway. We all three took showers then and got ready for our next event. We watched Crocodile Hunter as we discussed our ever-changing plans.

Then, just like that, we were off to Tombstone. About a half hour drive from here, Tombstone is a tiny place situated in the middle of nowhere. It is known of course for its deep western history, including Wyatt Earp and the OK Corral. Mostly though, it is a commercial tourist trap. We floated through several stores and bought a few small things. We saw signs for gun fights and activities like that, but by now it was mid to late afternoon and we had pretty much missed everything. It was all very old fashioned and neat to see.

I took a number of pictures. We even saw where “the world’s largest rose bush” is, but we figured we could pass for $3 each. After walking the streets a while, we were pretty much convinced we had seen everything there was to see.

The Boot Hill Cemetery was just down the road, so we went there to look around. There were a number of bizarre, unusual, and even humorous tomb markings here, and I photographed a number of them. For example, one of them reads, “HERE LIES LESTER MOORE...FOUR SLUGS FROM A 44, NO LES, NO MORE.”