Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Patagonia’

It was my hope from the very beginning that  I’d be able to share a bit of the glory and adventure of Sirena’s through hike on the AZT.  After all, she’d become so much more than just a hiking buddy and fellow blogger over the last year – she was one of my closest friends.   The fact that I am insanely envious barely plays into it at all (wink).  So, when my schedule shifted about a bit and opened up an opportunity for me to not only join her for Passage 4, but to also get to guest-blog about our adventure, I grabbed at it.  An overnight on the AZT…with my celebrity friend…just the two of us and the foothills of the Santa Rita mountains on one of the most beautiful weekends of the year?  Oh yeah.  I’m in!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Filming at the Patagonia Visitor Information Center

I met up with our roving woman of wonder in the small southern Arizona town of Patagonia for the AZ Trail Trek event on Thursday night.   With music by Jamnesia, Arizona Trail Ale from That Brewery in Pine and a beautiful evening provided by mother nature, it was a smash success.  Fudge and treats from the Ovens of Patagonia (can you say Key Lime Meringue?) kept the festivities going until after darkness set in.

IMG_0354

IMG_0359

A festive atmosphere in Patagonia

While I was camped out in the grasslands near my exit trailhead at Kentucky Camp, Sirena had secured accommodations from a pair of trail angels in their teardrop trailer just outside of Patagonia (thanks to Maggie, Patrick and their very friendly kitty).  Sirena’s connection with the folks in Patagonia is amazing, and she had even more help coming, from Helen who agreed to shuttle yours truly from Kentucky Camp to our starting point on Temporal Canyon road.  This warm support from the members of this active gateway community is a part of what will continue to make the Arizona Trail a great experience in years to come!

IMG_0362

Sleeping snug in a teardrop!

IMG_0002

Helen, Bear and Shadow see us off

Passage 4 of the AZT follows the Temporal Canyon Road in Patagonia for the first 13 miles.  For most through-hikers, road walks are similar to unwanted chores: often necessary, rarely enjoyed.  Sirena had taken care of the first 7 miles of the road walk the day before to speed things up, so we had only about 6 miles to go before we truly got off into the wilds.  Luckily, even road walking in this area can be scenic and rewarding.  Winding through the oak forests and over the pools of Temporal Gulch wasn’t such a horrible chore at all – and the terrain offered enough distraction to keep us contented as we hoofed along.

As road walking goes - this really wasn't bad at all!

Along the Temporal Canyon Rd.

IMG_0009

Water sources were surprisingly ample and clear considering the drought conditions. This little slot just off the road sported some inviting, cool pools.

Our favorite peaks with Temporal Gulch road cutting up

The road climbs into Walker Basin with Josephine (left) and Baldy (right) Peaks in the distance.

From here, you could see the road we walked winding down into the valley below

Looking back down into Patagonia from near the top of the road walk.

 

IMG_0025

The trail sign at Walker Basin looks as though it has seen better days.

Throughout our walk on the road, we were amazed at the amount of water that we were finding.  The spring boxes were full, and there was often a slow trickle in the bottom of the canyon.  Although it has been an unusually dry (and warm) winter and early spring in southern Arizona, it seems that a few well-timed storms have really helped out these riparian areas.  It’s unlikely that the pools will remain long without more moisture coming from the sky and soon – but it was a real treat to know that we would not have to worry about running dry on this particular piece of trail.

Once we turned off onto the Walker Basin trail and got back to our preferred single-track hiking, the mountains rewarded us with even better vistas and diversity.  Mt. Wrightson, the highest mountain in the Santa Rita range, is topped by Baldy Peak at 9,453 ft.  This barren, granite summit presides over the entire range like a patriarch, and it’s steep wooded flanks have always called to those seeking solitude and adventure.   Both Sirena and I have visited the summit on multiple occasions – but somehow it’s even more impressive to see the mountain this way – wandering about at it’s base staring up.   Although the Arizona Trail does not climb to the top of this range as it does with the Rincons and the Santa Ritas further north, it does provide hikers with an intimate experience with Wrightson just the same.

IMG_0034

The massive eastern flank of Mt. Wrightson and Baldy Peak

Posing with the peak

Our intrepid through hiker is dwarfed by the mountain

16 miles into Passage 4 (9 for us today), we arrived at Bear Spring.  Our initial plans were to camp near the spring, as Sirena had often wanted to but schedule often didn’t permit.  The spring is a beautiful spot – cold, clear water from the tank and a sycamore-studded stream babbling just down the hill in Big Casa Blanca Canyon.  There were some ideal tent sites near the creek, and plenty of trees for my hammock.  We took our hiking shoes off and dunked our feet in the icy creek,  filtered and drank our fill of the delicious water and considered our options.  It was still early in the day, with hours until sunset, and our feet now felt refreshed and ready to go again.  We decided that while the spring was an ideal spot, we’d take our chances on the trail ahead and keep moving just a little while longer.

Partaking in Bear Spring's bounty

Collecting water from Bear Spring

Flow in Big Casa Blanca Canyon below Mt. Wrightson

Looking up Big Casa Blanca Canyon from Bear Spring

Just past the spring was a wide, open campsite along the side of the creek where we found the Seeds of Stewardship group.  We knew they’d be in the area, so we were glad to find them happily settled in for the evening in the perfect spot.    The leaders and students were really enjoying the passage – particularly the ample water we were finding in the drainages – and they were excited to meet the celebrity through hiker in the flesh.  We spent a little while swapping stories and recruiting for future events before snapping a picture and heading back out.  It’s always great to see young people learning to love the outdoors!

IMG_0391

Sirena and the Seeds of Stewardship Group

 

My rising star doing what she does best!

Afternoon light hitting the walls of Big Casa Blanca Canyon

Beginning at Bear Spring, the trail follows a historic drainage feature called a “flume”.  This ditch was dug into the mountainside in the early 1900’s as a part of an effort to provide water to a gold mining operation in nearby Kentucky Gulch.  Water from Bear Spring was diverted into the flume and ran in the ditch for 2 1/2 nearly level miles to the next improvement at Tunnel Spring.  Because of this historic engineering effort, the trail feels almost dead-flat, and contours high above the steep floor of Big Casa Blanca canyon.  At one point, Sirena began telling me, it’s supposed to duck through a hole in the rock – but she missed the spot back in 2008 by accidentally taking the bypass built for equestrian use.  She was just finishing the story when we came around a corner and found the “hole-in-the-wall” – a small tunnel through the conglomerate rock that makes up the canyon walls.  Her excitement made passing up the Bear Spring camp 100% worthwhile!

IMG_0061

Between a rock and a hard place

As the sun got lower in the sky, we began to look for a spot to camp.  Since the trail is carved into the mountainside, we started to scan the ridges and slopes that ran perpendicular to the trail for a spot. I spotted a faint foot-path heading off onto one such ridge, and we followed it out to one of the finest campsites we could have hoped for.  A small fire ring, cleared spots for ground sleepers, trees for hammocks and drop-dead amazing views to the south, west and east.  We arrived just in time to settle in before the evening light show started, then made ourselves a modest fire and ate Thai green curry chicken and rice by its glow.  For girls like Sirena and I, it simply does not get any better.

We found a camp off the main trail on a ridge top with GREAT views

Mt. Wrightson casts a sunset shadow on the Mustang Mts.

The shadow of Mt. Wrightson falling across the Mustang Mountains

Whispy clouds make the BEST sunsets!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking back at where she’d started a week before – the Huachuca Mountains

One of my best hangs ever.  Just perfect geometry - slept like a log!

Hammockers would call this a “perfect hang”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sirena got to spend the night under the stars and the morning looking back at the Huachuca crest

The next morning we didn’t get an early start (which is SO typical of us!), but we were on the trail in plenty of time to cover the 10 miles remaining to our base at Kentucky Camp.  We had more historic flume hiking ahead, followed by a series of small ups and downs along the historic water system, and ending with a short but wearing road walk from Kentucky Camp to my trailer just down the road.  We were low on food (Sirena’s finally got a through hiker’s appetite), and eager to get back before her family arrived at camp.  Never the less, we hardly hurried.  The trail is just too much fun to rush!

Throw one for me!

We call this “Throwing A Wendy”: check it out on Facebook!

Sirena makes her way across the flume on the opposite side of a drainage

Sirena hikes ahead around the contour of a minor drainage

IMG_0109

Overview of the flume system from the tunnel at Tunnel Spring

The sparkling Santa Ritas on a gorgeous day!

Panorama of the Santa Rita crest from Baldy to Mt. Fagan and McCleary Peak

Cool thing...on the Gardner Canyon Rd.

In Gardner Canyon

What exactly is this gate supposed to be stopping?

What exactly is this gate supposed to stop from passing?

IMG_0138

The sign’s mileage is incorrect, but the idea is a good one… This trailhead in Gardner Canyon marks the end of Passage 4 and the start of Passage 5

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Along the ridgeline with amazing vistas

 

 

At last we catch a view of Kentucky Camp in the valley below!

Finally, we could see Kentucky Camp in the gully below the trail

We're coming, Gilbert!

and our base camp – a 1961 Aristocrat travel trailer named Gilbert – waited on a hilltop just beyond

Kentucky Camp was originally built to support the Greaterville mine – which was based on a placer gold vein that never played out.  From the early 1900’s to 1960, it served as a ranch headquarters after which it was purchased by the US Forest Service.  Today, visitors can explore the historic buildings and learn more about the history of the area or even rent a small “bed-and-no-breakfast” cabin.  There was plenty to see, but the trailer full of food was calling us home so we didn’t linger.

Finally at the trailer, we were ultimately joined by Sirena’s dad, husband, brother and friend.  We camped out luxury style, with spaghetti, salad and garlic bread followed up by smores and beer.  In the end, though, Sirena and I still slept with our heads under the stars and our hearts full of the landscape we love.

IMG_0152

Approaching Kentucky Camp from the AZT

Sirena rocked the "hoody and a hat" look on this passage

Our superstar!

Sirena's remote, and roving, HQ

Approaching mobile HQ

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Posing with the family as the sunlight brightens up the mountains beyond

 

 

IMG_0447

Sitting down to a civilized meal

IMG_0167

Hammocking just below Gilbert

The next morning, I packed up base camp and Sirena lead yet another group on a dayhike from Kentucky Camp to Oak Tree Canyon.  Her brother and his girlfriend joined the group of 5 to make the journey across the grasslands.  As I drove back to Tucson, I only wished that I was continuing on the adventure and heading for Utah on foot.  Maybe another time…

IMG_0450

Dayhikers from Kentucky Camp

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Trekking through the foothills

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Together in our element

…Thanks for the adventure Sirena!

Wendy Lotze 3/2014

 

 

Read Full Post »

Image

Arizona Trail Trek

What a start to the Arizona Trail Trek! On March 14th at noon, 28 people gathered at Montezuma Pass in the Coronado National Memorial to hike with me to the Mexican border and back. You see, there’s no driving to the start of the Arizona Trail, to get to it you have to hike almost two miles down to Monument 102 that marks the border and the southern terminus of the AZT.

Image

Starting out on the AZT

Image

Looking into Mexico at San Jose Peak

Image

Border Monument 102

Image

A rare trail appearance by my wonderful husband Brian

We had a wonderful hike to the border, took the requisite starting out pictures, and then I read Dale Shewalter’s poem The Arizona Trail. The views from the hike and border are spectacular looking into Mexico.Image

After hiking back up to our cars, we went into Sierra Vista for the first of the Gateway Community Events at the beautiful Garden Place Suites. We enjoyed blues by C.J. Fletcher, tasty appetizers from the Sierra Vista Food Co-op, and Arizona Trail Ale from That Brewery in Pine, AZ. It was great to see folks from all over the state coming together to talk trail and make new contacts for future adventures on the AZT.

Sierra Vista Arizona Trail Trek Event

Sierra Vista Arizona Trail Trek Event

Tasty appetizers from Sierra Vista Food Co-op

Tasty appetizers from Sierra Vista Food Co-op

C. J. Fletcher playin' the blues

C. J. Fletcher playin’ the blues

Good crowd for the first Gateway Community event

Good crowd for the first Gateway Community event

Gateway Community

Gateway Community

The next morning, nine of us and a mini-donkey met at Montezuma Pass once again- this time for a 15 mile dayhike up and over the Huachuca Mountains. The mini-donkey’s name is Jasmine and her person that she hikes with is Leigh Anne. They were both a blast to have along, as was the rest of the group. We had a tough but rewarding day, starting out with a climb up to 9000 feet on the Huachuca Crest. The trail rolls along the crest, stopping at one of my favorite water sources, Bathtub Spring. Here we met up with BASA, Birdnut, and Norm, thruhikers that had come to the kickoff party and started the trail that morning.

Climbing to the Huachuca Crest

Climbing to the Huachuca Crest

Miller Peak junction and the top of the day's big climb up to 9100 ft.

Miller Peak junction and the top of the day’s big climb up to 9100 ft.

Not much snow for March at 9000 ft.

Not much snow for March at 9000 ft.

Bathtub Spring

Bathtub Spring

Taking a break on the Crest Trail

Taking a break on the Crest Trail

Through my first of seven wilderness areas on the AZT!

Through my first of seven wilderness areas on the AZT!

We had incredible views on the crest before taking the Sunnyside Canyon Trail down the west side of the mountain. The trail finally leveled out to an old road in the canyon and I saw more bear scat than I have ever seen in one place. Pile after pile after pile. They really liked that canyon!

We ended our hike in Scotia Canyon and were met by shuttle driver extraordinaire Bernie with cold drinks, snacks and cookies for the folks going back to Montezuma Pass. My dad, who is out from Chicago to help with my hike, met me and I packed up my backpack for the next three days into Patagonia.

I spent the night in Scotia Canyon with Rick, who was hiking to Patagonia with me, and Levi, who was filming the AZT Trek for our upcoming Indiegogo campaign. We had a wonderful full moon and were treated to a fantastic falling star.

Camp in Scotia Canyon

First camp of the Trek in Scotia Canyon

The next morning, I was finally able to relax in camp for a bit and we got a leisurely start of 10:30. We would have left earlier, but there were three cowboys and their dogs making a giant scene trying to rope a cow in the forest. It was one of those wild-west holdovers that make you realize that some people still make a living roping cattle from the back of a horse. After they’d subdued the cow, they came over to say hi. The one asked, “You all hiking the trail?” And I said yes, that I am hiking the entire AZT. He looked at me from his horse and said, “Didn’t I just see you on T.V.?” Recognized by a cowboy in the middle of nowhere!! Cracked me up.

Cowboys

Cowboys

Rick and I finally got on the trail, tailed by Levi, our enthusiastic videographer. We all hiked to the Parker Canyon Lake Trailhead and the end of Passage 1 where we found mountain biker Steve, who had been at the kickoff party. He had put some water out for me at the trailhead that said “Go Sirena!” and we stopped to chat for a while. We were joined by thru hiker Jim with his adorable dog Chance for a lunch break.

Parker Canyon Lake

Parker Canyon Lake

After lunch, Rick and I hiked for a while, up and down through the Canelo Hills. We had a great break along the flowing creek in Parker Canyon to filter some water. Nothing like flowing water in the desert. There was a climb to a small ridge with incredible views in every direction and we called it camp. Not too tough of a day, which was nice. There will be plenty of long, tough days ahead.

The full moonrise was spectacular and lit up the sky like it was daytime again. I slept like a rock and was treated to an amazing sunrise from my sleeping bag. I love cowboy camping under the stars- who wants to look at the inside of a tent? Not this girl.

Moonset and sunrise at Canelo East ridgetop camp

Moonset and sunrise at Canelo East ridgetop camp- click to enlarge

The next day was up and down, up and down through the Cinnamon Hills (Canelo in Spanish). The landscape is one of oak-dotted grassy ridges, every so often giving views of the surrounding Sky Island mountain ranges. We could see the Santa Ritas, Mustang, Rincon, Catalina, and Huachuca ranges from high points of the trail. The Catalinas looked so far- and I’m going to walk there and beyond!

From the right- Mustang, Rincon, and Catalina Mountains

From the right- Mustang, Rincon, and Catalina Mountains

Middle Canyon break spot

Middle Canyon break spot

Canelos from the highpoint

I felt really good, finally settling into the fact that I get to live outside for the next two and a half months. I was giddy with excitement- finally, after 7 years of dreaming of thru hiking the Arizona Trail, here I was! In the intervening years, both the trail and I had changed a bit.

One of the highlights of the Canelo West passage is the hike through Meadow Valley. Rick and I marveled at the wide expanse of golden grasses bathed in afternoon sun.

Rick enjoying Upper Meadow Valley

Rick enjoying Upper Meadow Valley

Upper Meadow Valley

Upper Meadow Valley

Meadow Panorama

Meadow Panorama

Canelo West

Canelo West

Down Under Tank

Down Under Tank

As it got later, we were looking for a place to camp and chose this nondescript clearing on a grass and catclaw covered hillside. It turned out to be much better than we had expected and we were treated to a colorful sunset followed by yet another picturesque moonrise.

Sunset from Canelo West camp

Sunset from Canelo West camp

Moonlit silhouette

Moonlit silhouette

The next morning, we hiked to Red Bank Well and got water from a solar-powered windmill that shot water out of a pipe on a tall green tank. These passages are in open-ranching territory and we passed many bovines, some with impressive horns.

We were dropping elevation and as we got closer to the Harshaw Trailhead the temperatures soared and poppies and other wildflowers began to appear. Springtime is here!

Red Bank

Red Bank

Red Bank Well- when the solar is working, water shoots out of a pipe on the big green tank at left.

Red Bank Well- when the solar is working, water shoots out of a pipe on the big green tank at left.

Wildflower season!

Wildflower season!

Micro Chicken on the AZT

Micro Chicken on the AZT

One last gate before dropping down to Harshaw Rd.

One last gate before dropping down to Harshaw Rd.

We reached the trailhead, still three miles outside of Patagonia. I was planning on staying with the couple who runs the visitor’s center and owns Patagon bike rental and Maggie was kind enough to meet us and take our packs into town. I stopped to adjust my right shoe after she drove away and the entire tongue of the shoe pulled right out!! Shoes are the most important thing when you’re walking across the state and I immediately started thinking about what I was going to do.

This is not supposed to happen to new shoes.

This is not supposed to happen to new shoes.

We walked the road and the first thing we saw when we got into town was a poster advertising the Arizona Trail Trek event in Patagonia on the 20th! Exciting that I’ve just walked 52 miles into my first town from Mexico. What a great five days on the trail. We had a paleta (Mexican ice cream bar) from Ovens of Patagonia to celebrate.

First thing I saw when I got into Patagonia is an Arizona Trail Trek poster for the event on the 20th

First thing I saw when I got into Patagonia is an Arizona Trail Trek poster for the event on the 20th

Thankfully, I had gotten into Patagonia a day earlier than expected, and Rick was having a friend of his pick him up and bring him back to Tucson, where he’d parked his car. I caught a ride and before I knew it, I was back in Tucson and buying a new pair of shoes. Brian, my husband, was ecstatic to get to spend some bonus time together and I slept in my own bed. Not exactly what I was expecting, but not the worst thing that could happen by far.

IMG_0336

Brian, my ride to Tucson, and Rick, my traveling companion from Mexico to Patagonia at the end of a successful first leg of the Arizona Trail Trek.

Now I’m back in Patagonia and the second Arizona Trail Trek event is happening tonight at Plaza de Patagonia, 277 McKeown Ave from 5-8 pm. Music by Jamnesia, tasty food from Ovens of Patagonia, and Arizona Trail Ale. Hope to see you there!

To donate to the Arizona Trail Trek’s mission to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association, click here

The Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign with exclusive incentives kicks off on Friday, March 28th at Sky Bar in Tucson- 536 4th Ave from 7-10 pm. Come out for music by Cobracalia and performances by Midriff Revival, Belly Dance Tucson, Brandye Asya, Dragna, Troupe HipNautic and Black Sun Tribe! I am pretty sure that I am the only thru-hiker that comes off the trail for belly dance performances. That’s just how I roll.

Don’t forget, you can also follow the Arizona Trail Trek on the Arizona Trail Association’s Facebook or on Twitter @AZTRAIL- see you on the AZT! Full list of Gateway Community events and public hikes at www.aztrail.org/azttrek

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: