I was unable to attend any of the AZT Trek hikes and events since Sirena started her epic journey on March 14, so I was elated when she invited me to join her and Wendy as she trekked the Oracle Ridge portion of Passage 12 last Saturday. The three of us have had some memorable hikes in the past, including Frog Hollow and Elephant Head, so I knew this would be another great outing.
The hardest part about day-hiking sections of the Arizona Trail in a one-way direction is logistics and Oracle Ridge was no exception. Sirena had spent the night on Mt. Lemmon in Summerhaven so she was set to go. On the other hand Wendy and I were coming from afar and met up at the American Flag Trailhead at 6:30am after leaving our respective homes at 0-dark-hundred. We left Wendy’s truck at American Flag and shuttled in my vehicle up Mt. Lemmon via the Oracle Control Road (FR38). Although the Control Road was only about 25 miles in length its twisty, rocky unpaved route took nearly two hours. Fortunately FR38 was Subaru-friendly. Upon reaching Summerhaven we picked up Sirena and drove back down the Control Road a short distance to the Oracle Ridge Trailhead where we began our 13.2 mile Arizona Trail Trek.
As we began our hike at 8:45am the air temperature on Mt. Lemmon was in the mid 30’s under a clear, sunny sky. It wasn’t long before we had an impressive view down Oracle Ridge along which we would spend most of the day. Some of the “bumps” along Oracle Ridge include Marble, Rice, and Apache Peaks.
Most of Oracle Ridge is still recovering from wildfire over a decade ago. We wondered if it had been the 2002 Bullock Fire or the 2003 Aspen Fire that had torched the ridge, or perhaps both. There were many charred trees still standing tall among new vegetation.
Looking back toward Mt. Lemmon you can see the vastness of the burn.
The awesome views from the AZT on Oracle Ridge are a big benefit of the fire. Off to the east were the Galiuros and Mt. Graham. We could see as far north as Four Peaks, Weavers Needle, and the Superstitions. Closer in the Biosphere domes were visible.
Before we knew it we were at Dan Saddle and a little further down the trail we had a nice view of Marble Peak which we had skirted earlier.
There are so many amazing views along the Oracle Ridge portion of the Arizona Trail that it would be hard to pick a favorite. However, there probably isn’t a better view of the Reef of Rock anywhere else in the Santa Catalina Mountains.
Sirena and Wendy pointed out Canada del Oro, behind Reef of Rock, as they reminisced about backpacking in the past.
As we trekked along the AZT we observed impressive specimens of agave and hedgehog cacti.
After several hours into our hike we paused for a snack break along the trail where we enjoyed a grand view across the San Pedro River Valley toward the Galiuros and Mt. Graham.
Perhaps the most difficult part of the hike was around Rice Peak due to loose rock on a steep jeep road trail. We had a name for it which I can’t publish here 🙂 Glancing back and glad it was behind us…
Don’t tell AZGFD but we had a scary “wildlife incident” when Micro Chicken encountered a horned lizard in Sirena’s hand! 🙂
On the Oracle Ridge section of Passage 12 the Arizona Trail follows the Oracle Ridge Trail for 10.3 miles and the Cody Trail for 2.9 miles. Although the entire 13.2 mile section is in good shape and easy to follow the lower portion of the Oracle Ridge Trail and the entire Cody Trail had some recent tread work and were in super shape.
Along the Cody Trail the AZT winds through a scenic Texas Canyon-like boulder field.
A big highlight of this outing came late in the hike when we made a very short detour from the AZT/Cody Trail to High Jinks Ranch which is a National Historic Site once inhabited by “Buffalo Bill” Cody.
Nothing like a little bit of history to go along with a hike on the Arizona Trail!
Current owners Dan and Laurel invited us in for a visit as their dogs welcomed us from a rooftop lookout.
High Jinks Ranch is a pretty cool place and even has a hot tub and its own Arizona Trail portal.
From High Jinks Ranch it was a short but scenic 1.6 mile hike to the American Flag Trailhead which was our final destination for the day.
The sun was casting long shadows as we reached the 200 mile mark of Sirena’s Arizona Trail Trek.
Upon arrival at the American Flag Trailhead Sirena posed with an limited edition AZT Trek bandana.
Meanwhile Wendy unwound after a memorable AZT Trek before making the long drive back up the Oracle Control Road to my car near Summerhaven.
The Arizona Trail Trek is an 800-mile thru-hike across Arizona to promote the Arizona National Scenic Trail, the Gateway Communities and the new official AZT guidebook. In addition, the AZT Trek is using an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign with unique and exclusive incentives to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association to maintain, protect, and promote the Arizona Trail. So far almost $2,500 has been raised. I made a contribution and challenge YOU to do the same. If nothing else check out the great video by Matt and Sirena and browse the unique and exclusive incentives.
It was an honor and pleasure to hike along with Sirena (and Wendy) for a small portion of her 800+ mile Arizona Trail Trek and to be a guest blogger on Sirena’s Wanderings.
Great hike, great weather, and great trail companions! … just another crummy day in the Sonoran Desert 🙂