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Battle Axe Butte 2008

Battle Axe Butte- Arizona Trail 2008

Every year for my birthday, I like to go on an adventure to a place I’ve wanted to go for a long time. Recent birthday events have included climbing Weaver’s Needle and visiting The Wave. Earlier this year when Wendy and I spent a night on The Spine, we visited the artesian well and I looked up at Battle Axe and knew that this would be my birthday present to myself.

Sunrise on Battle Axe from The Spine

I had to work at the Superior Eco-Tourism Fest on my actual birthday, so I planned on hiking it sometime the week before. I contacted John to see if he was interested, and we found a day that worked for both of us. I thought it would be a good idea for him to get a preview of the Grand Enchantment Trail and was excited when he said he’d never seen the area before. John and I hadn’t met before, but I have exchanged messages with him on HikeArizona.com. Last year, he hiked the entire Arizona Trail as dayhikes from south to north. Then he hiked it all again from north to south! Incredible. Some days he hiked over 30 miles- the speed required to cover that kind of terrain that fast boggles my mind.

This is one of my favorite places in all of Arizona, the striped cliffs, the artesian well, and the toothy ridge of Battle Axe. I have admired it for years and have countless pictures of it from all directions. It is on the old Arizona Trail route and when I hiked through here in 2008, it was covered with so many wildflowers that they completely covered the trail.

Up the ridge

Up the ridge

We parked at a spot that I’d camped in 2008 and made our way up the ridge. I told John that it was going to be a little different pace than he was used to because I require silly things like breaks and water. He was more than gracious and patient. As we neared the first scramble, the scenery got ever more interesting.

John waits patiently

John waits patiently

John sped through the scramble, I went a little too far right and had to backtrack. There are plenty of ledges to hike up and the brush isn’t too bad. We saw the spire from the description and headed for the chute to the right of it. The slickrock chute was great and then we followed along the wall toward the saddle. The whole route was a lot more stable than I’d expected.

Juniper!

Juniper!

We reached the saddle with great views to the south and took a minute to look at the route. John was able to scramble straight up from the saddle on the ridgeline and I followed. I carefully picked my way along the jumble of white rock. To my left was a massive sheer drop, so I tried not to look that way. We reached a spot that gave me pause. To get across it, I had to climb up over one of the ridgeline rocks and lower myself down onto a small catwalk to get across. Fortunately, John found a way to lessen the exposure by climbing down and around instead of all the way across. Still a move that got my heart moving.

Looking at the lower summit

Looking at the lower summit

John right before the catwalk

John right before the catwalk

Summit Ridge of Battle Axe Butte- photo by John

Summit Ridge of Battle Axe Butte- photo by John

Once past the catwalk, it was smooth sailing to the summit. We signed in the small, rarely used register and took what was probably John’s longest break ever. The views from the top were spectacular! I was so excited to be atop Battle Axe- something I never thought I would do 5 years ago, looking up at it from my campsite on the AZT. I showed John where the GET route he would be hiking went and eyed up peaks to hike in the future.

Summit view to the southeast

Summit view to the southeast

The Spine

The Spine

Pinals and Battle Axe Rd.

Pinals and Battle Axe Rd.

The scramble down was no problem at all and we went back through the chute near the spire and down to the ledges. We stuck to the ridgeline on the way back and found two large cairns. In no time at all we were back to the trailhead. Afterward we drove up Battle Axe Rd for a bit. Never get tired of this area, always more to explore!

View of our route

View of our route

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, baby bunny season has started and we rescued a Great Snowy Egret who had been caught in a fishing line. They had to go out with a boat and cut it out. Poor thing. Here’s Janet Miller, founder of Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson giving it some food. This year’s Birds, Blues, and Bellydance fundraiser will be on April 20th 7-10 pm at Sky Bar- 536 N.4th Ave in Tucson. Mark your calendars, it’s going to be a great time!

Janet feeds a Great Snowy Egret

Janet feeds a Great Snowy Egret

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Picketpost Mountain- the route to the top goes up the large gully in the center

Picketpost Mountain- the route to the top goes up the large gully in the center

First of all, the most exciting thing happened- I got my camera back!!! I lost my camera this summer at the end of my season working on the river in the Grand Canyon. It dropped out of my pack in a side canyon and I thought I’d never see it or the photos again. I hadn’t backed up the SD card, so out of 6 trips I did on the river, I only had pictures for two. Then a couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Arizona River Runners saying that they’d been contacted by someone who found my camera. I don’t yet know how or when they found it, but I am so very happy to have the irreplaceable photos back. The best part is the camera still works! I must have accumulated good camera karma from finding and returning the one on Table Mountain in December. Here’s one of my favorites, I’ll put together a blog post of some more soon.

Archaeology hike on the Unkar Delta

Leading an archaeology tour of the Unkar Delta

I went on three overnight trips in January: another Night on The Spine near the Gila River with my friend Wendy, a night on Battleship Mountain in the Superstitions and a night on the summit of Picketpost Mountain off the Arizona Trail near Superior, AZ. For a great writeup of our trip on The Spine, visit  Around the Next Corner with Wendy.

Wendy on The Spine

Wendy on The Spine

The trip up Battleship wasn’t to the summit, but to the deck of the boat for the night. When I’d hiked here in 2011, I thought it would be a great place to spend the night. Other than the bizarre January mosquito population, I was right!

Atop the deck of the Battleship

Atop the deck of the Battleship

My camp with a view of the Superstition Ridgeline

My camp with a view of the Superstition Ridgeline

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Battleship Sunrise

I was in Superior planning the Legends of Superior Trails Eco-Tourism Fest coming up onFebruary 16th and figured since I was in the area, why not spend the night atop one of Arizona’s iconic peaks. It was going to be a little cold, but three days of rain had resulted in some of the best visibility I’d seen in a while. The top of Picketpost Mountain was just the place to take in the views.

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Beautiful colors and textures

I started out in the afternoon from the Picketpost Trailhead on the Arizona Trail. My pack weighed down on me the first bit of the hike. I had thoughts of just continuing on the Arizona Trail and picking a nice campsite instead of scrambling straight uphill. Once I warmed up, I got in the zone and all was well. I didn’t see anyone after I left the parking lot- nice to have such a popular hike all to myself.

Base of the first scramble

Base of the first scramble

The temperature was perfect for the climb and I enjoyed working my way through the various obstacles. There was water running in the chute and patches of ice that were easily avoided. As I neared the saddle, the trail got mushier and mushier. It was easier to rockhop than step in the squishy mud.

Waterfall

Waterfall

Ice in the chute

Ice in the chute

The trail had water running down it on top of the mountain and the whole summit was saturated from the previous days of rain. As I hopped from rock to rock, they sunk into the trail. Made things a little unstable.

View from the saddle

View from the saddle

I reached the summit mailbox and the fancy new bench and was so glad I’d decided to spend the night. The views from Picketpost on an ordinary day are outstanding, but the absence of dust in the air made it truly spectacular. I could see so many Sky Islands from here- too many to name. Mount Wrightson, over 100 miles away, was as clear as could be.

Mailbox register and fancy bench

Mailbox register and fancy bench

Catalinas in the distance

Looking toward the Gila River with the Catalinas in the distance

Santa Ritas visible to the right in the far distance- over 100 miles away

Santa Ritas visible to the right in the far distance- over 100 miles away

I decided to camp right at the summit, rather than look for a more sheltered spot from the wind because I wanted the 360 degree views. There is room for one person right next to the tree that is free of rocks and I called it home for the night.

I hiked out to the cliffs overlooking Superior and was pleased to find a scattering of junipers, my favorite tree. Then it was time for the sunset- some clouds had rolled in making for a beautiful show. The temps plummeted as the sun went down. Since I was staying at the summit, there wasn’t really anywhere I could make a fire without making a huge mess, so I opted for a hot water bottle instead for heat. My dinner from Los Hermanos tasted even better than usual.

Found a juniper!

Found a juniper!

Looking down on Superior

Looking down on Superior

Picketpost sunset

Picketpost sunset

Great place to watch the sunset

Great place to watch the show

I settled in for a long, chilly night. My trusty Exped Downmat had broken and I was awaiting a replacement. I never appreciated how much extra warmth it gave me until I used a friend’s air mattress for this trip. It was breezy and I slept in fits and starts, once waking up for a couple of hours to write in my journal and admire the moonlit landscape. I also got to read through most of the logbooks in the mailbox, which were quite entertaining. Lots of familiar names and one thing that was interesting is how many small kids had been up to the summit.

Micro Chicken on the mailbox

Micro Chicken on the mailbox

By morning it had changed from breezy to full-on gusting wind. I ate a quick breakfast and made my way down the hill. The scrambling wasn’t too bad, as my pack was a lot lighter after having eaten my dinner and consumed a bunch of water.

Just enough room for one

Just enough room for one

Windy morning

Windy morning

I reached the turnoff from the Arizona Trail and met a group of guys who hadn’t been up before. They looked apprehensively at the mountain as I told them where the route went. I told them that there were folks as young as 4 and as old as 85 years old that had made it up there and they went on their way.

What a great night on the mountain, worth every bit of cold and wind for those killer views. It’s definitely a place I’d sleep again.

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, it’s the time of year when I start planning the Birds, Blues, and Bellydance Fundraiser to benefit Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson. The third annual event will be held on Saturday, April 20th and once again at Sky Bar at 536 N. 4th Avenue has generously donated their fantastic venue for all the fun! Here’s a pic of Elfie and Raja from last year’s event.

Elfie the Elf Owl

Elfie the Elf Owl

Raja

Raja

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Battleship Mountain

I met Kyle and Joel at First Water Trailhead on February 7th after a lovely drive up Highway 79. We started hiking around 8:15 am and after turning on the old roadbed of the Second Water Trail, we passed a large group of hikers. Other than this group, we hardly saw anyone else all day. We hiked through the flats of Garden Valley with a view of the Four Peaks in the distance. Soon, we descended to reach the junction with the Boulder Canyon Trail and took it south. There was running water in the creek and several larger pools. Temperatures were warm enough that I wet my head at one of the creek crossings before we started our ascent of the Battleship.

Hiking through Garden Valley

Boulder Canyon

We reached the turnoff for the route, marked with a cairn, and crossed the creek one last time before going up a steep slope that led to a use path on the left side of a side drainage of Boulder Canyon. The path curved around and took us to a saddle where we could look down into the Lower La Barge Box. From the saddle, we continued northwest on a path that took us to an alcove at the base of the rock formation that makes up the back end of the ship where we took a break before the real scrambling began. There were great views of the Weaver’s Needle from the alcove. I stashed my hiking poles at the alcove and put on gloves to follow Kyle as he scrambled up on solid rock with good ledges and handholds toward the top of the back end of the ship. Suddenly, we were on a flat expanse of mesa, with incredible views in every direction. The ridgeline of the Battleship stretched out in front of us, looking a little more than daunting.

Battleship Mountain

Atop the first part of the Battleship

We wove our way through the rock formations- it was nice to have Kyle along, who had been here recently. However, the route was pretty well beat in and there were cairns in questionable spots. I knew the “scary spot” on the connecting ridge that all the triplogs talk about was coming up, but when we got there, it didn’t look so bad at all. Here’s a video of Kyle on the scary spot:

Then it was my turn. I decided to use one of my favorite techniques when faced with a spot where a slip or a fall would ruin your day. Some call it Butt-Hiking, I call it La Rompage. Here’s a video Joel got of me crossing:

Looking back at the connecting ridge

After crossing the connecting ridge, we continued scrambling up the ridgeline. There were some places that looked like a tight squeeze between boulders, we found it easier to travel along the top of the solid rock of the ridge. We reached a set of cliffs and the route dove down and to the left on horrible, loose pea-sized gravel on top of solid rock. There was no good way to get down it, so I tried a controlled slide which worked okay- another area the gloves came in handy. I couldn’t wait for the ball-bearing slopes to be over- in retrospect, if I wouldn’t have left the poles at the alcove, I would have gotten them back out for this part. A little more scrambling and then we were able to see Canyon Lake in the distance.

Good rock for scrambling

Kyle and Joel on the ball-bearing slopes

Canyon Lake in the distance

The route wrapped around the mountain to the right and up on a good path and all of a sudden, we were at the red summit register box. 360 degree knockout views in every direction! Here’s a video from the summit:

Wow. We made the summit just before noon and took a long break to explore and soak in the incredible views. We could see the Weaver’s Needle, which I am going to attempt to climb at the end of the month. We signed the summit register- I always enjoy reading the various entries and there were a lot of names in there that I recognized. It was a perfect day, with blue skies and a slight breeze. We saw two large birds soaring above and diving- I later determined that they were a pair of Prairie Falcons.

View south with Weaver's Needle

Atop the Battleship

After our summit break, it was time to reverse our route down the ridgeline. The most unpleasant part was short stretches of the ball-bearing slopes. The temperatures were increasing and we could feel the rocks were warm to the touch. I wouldn’t want to try this hike in hot weather. We found our way back to the alcove, having gotten through the scramble with only minor scrapes and bruises. The path was easy to follow from the saddle down toward Boulder Creek, and after one last steep section we were on the Boulder Canyon Trail.

Hiking down from the Battleship

Great views from the ridgeline

One of the first wildflowers of the year- a fairy duster

It was pretty warm on our hike up out of the creek, so I got out my umbrella. Crazy that we’re sweating, when only four days before the high had been right around freezing. We had an enjoyable time on our hike back. I could tell that we were nearing the trailhead because shirtless people carrying no water began to appear. Just before the trailhead, I said good-bye to Kyle and Joel and took a half-hour to myself on some pretty rocks near the trail before getting back in my car and driving back to Tucson. I really enjoyed the hike and the company and would like to try coming in from Canyon Lake to access the Battleship the next time.

A moment to myself

For today’s Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser animal, we recently got a Western Yellow Bat that was found in someone’s garage. Here’s Janet Miller, who runs Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, giving the bat some food:

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Last light on Thimble Peak

Towering over Sabino Canyon at 5323 feet, Thimble Peak is a prominent feature of the front range of the Catalinas. For those of you not acquainted with sewing, (which I’m guessing is at least some of my readers), a thimble is a sewing aid that you wear on your finger to help push a needle through fabric. I was talking to my friend Bill Bens at a recent Arizona Trail trailbuilding event and mentioned that we should try for the Thimble soon. He said that he had a standing invitation from someone who knew the route- Steven, a man known in Tucson hiking circles as “Mr. X” of the X Hiking Club. As it got closer, Bill said that there would be 10-12 people going in the group including Matt Nelson, a friend of Steven’s and a professional guide that would help belay us up to the actual summit of Thimble Peak (most hikers only go to the lower, non-technical summit). Steven had scouted out a route to Thimble Peak that scrambled up all 7 Falls toward a drainage coming off the base of the peak. After summiting Thimble Peak the plan was to hike over to the NNW to a drainage that would deposit us at the end of the tram road.

Blackett's Ridge and Saddleback visible from the Bear Cyn TH

On January 19th, ten of us met at Sabino Canyon and shuttled over to the Bear Canyon Trailhead, starting our hike around 8:30 am up the access road. We reached the Bear Canyon Trail at 9am and made our way up the canyon. I remember years ago when a hike to 7 Falls was the whole hike, today it was just a means to get to the real fun! The group spread out a bit and I was happy to get a little time to myself. There was a fair amount of water in the creek, giving a nice sonic backdrop to the easy stroll. Bill and I stopped before the descent to the falls to eye up our route across the canyon before continuing to the falls for a break.

Cathedral Rock and the Front Range of the Catalinas to the left

Across flowing Bear Creek

View of the drainage above 7 Falls

This is as far as most people go, but it was just a warm up for the hike to come

After some snacks, Steven went over our plan for the day and some pointers about the scramble ahead. Then it was time for us to start scrambling up each level of 7 Falls. It was so neat to see each of the pools and look at the waterfalls from a totally different perspective. There was one that was quite large, with a rainbow visible in the spray. There were a couple of tricky spots, but Steven and Matt were there to spot us and talk us through the best way to go. We crossed the stream a couple of times and finally we reached what Steven calls “The Penthouse”. It was a gorgeous set of pools that I must revisit in the summer with my inner tube for some quality floating time. Here’s a video:

Scrambling up

Gorgeous upper waterfall

Steep terrain ahead

Matt and Steven spot and lend a hand- a slip here would send you down the large fall in the previous pictures

Today, there was no time for dawdling because we had places to go and a Thimble to climb. We bushwhacked up the drainage, which started out as series of broad ledges that made for easy scrambling. The drainage split and we followed the right fork. Pretty soon, our next objective came into view- a notch between the rocks that make up the base that Thimble Peak sits on and a tall rock face. I’d scouted the route on Google Earth the night before and it looked like it was going to get super-steep and nasty as we got closer to the notch. The scramble got progressively steeper and as we neared the notch, our nice ledges were replaced by unstable rocks and boulders. It was tough going, but we took our time and stopped for a couple of short breaks for shade and to catch our breath. Even though it was the middle of January, it was unseasonably warm and I  was glad that we weren’t attempting this in any hotter weather. The views down to the Bear Canyon Trail and beyond were incredible. Here’s a video:

Scrambling up the ledges in the drainage above 7 Falls

David eyes up our notch on the right

Grasses on rock make for a beautiful but slippery combination

Ledgy

Getting closer!

Looking down the steep drainage

Saddleback

Conditions deteriorated further after we regrouped at the notch. The steep, loose, and nasty terrain made me long for the unstable boulders of the upper drainage. The rock wall that made up the east side of the notch was beautifully striated and dwarfed the hikers behind me. But the terrain was so steep that before long, I was towering over the rock wall with a wonderful view of Helen’s Dome and Mica Mountain in the Rincons.

The higher we climbed, the more loose and crumbly the terrain

Glad we weren't planning on coming down this way!

Steven is just a small red dot compared to the giant cliff

Oh Helen- what a glorious sight!

After thrashing up the hillside, we reached the base of the rocks that Thimble Peak sits upon and contoured around on jumbled pink, white, and black-striped boulders to meet up with the conventional route that most hikers take to Thimble Peak from the upper Bear Canyon Trailhead at Prison Camp (Hiryabayashi). This point in and of itself is quite the destination at the base of Thimble Peak- great views of the Catalinas. By this time it was 1pm, and though we all wanted to be up top, we took a short, well-deserved lunch break first to refuel before the final push to the top of the peak.

Our route around the base of the Thimble toward the notch between the two summits

Wonderful Catalina views

After lunch, it was time to tackle the final chute and then climb a ten-foot wall to attain the summit. The chute was filled with giant boulders and had plenty of good hand and footholds. At the top of the chute, I put on a harness and lined up with the rest of the group to take my turn at the final obstacle. I was happy to have Matt belaying us up the wall to the actual summit, most people have to be content with the nearby non-technical summit which sits 10 feet lower. A couple of well placed feet and hands later, and I was hiking up the final slope to the flat-topped peak of the Thimble!

Scrambling up the chute

View from the top of the chute

Bill climbs with help from Steven and Matt

People at the Thimble Peak vista point on the Catalina Highway could be looking at us right now!

What a place- the summit is quite large and would make an incredible place to spend the night! The 360 degree views are spectacular in every direction and we all amused ourselves by pointing out different landmarks and trails. As we enjoyed the summit, we were visited by a soaring Peregrine Falcon. Here’s a video from the summit:

Matt marvels at the views

A victorious group atop Thimble Peak

Bear Canyon, Agua Caliente Hill, Mica Mtn. and Rincon Peak

After many photos were taken, it was unfortunately time to descend. I watched as Matt and Steven showed how to get down the wall. It was my first time rappelling where I wasn’t in charge of letting the line out myself. I’m trying to get better at trusting the rope- but it is always a struggle, as I am pretty afraid of heights, especially descending. The reason that I push through it is that every time it has proved to be worth the momentary discomfort.

We went back around the base to where the grassy slope extends northward. The conventional route goes back to the upper Bear Canyon Trail via a route that contours to the northeast. But we weren’t doing anything the conventional way today. Instead we took the western slope of the ridge toward some large rock towers on our way to a drainage that would deposit us at Tram Stop #9, at the end of the Sabino Canyon Tram road. There were great views back to Thimble Peak and more scrambling.

Coming carefully back down the chute

I love the vegetation at this elevation

We were up there!

The bushwhack toward the drainage took us past some wonderful rock towers

Bill says: "Just another crummy day in the Sonoran Desert!"

As we found the correct drainage and started heading down it, the split between the two summits of Thimble Peak became visible. Tram Stop #9 would come into view every so often but the rugged terrain in the drainage made for slow going. Finally, the front people in the group reached the tram stop and radioed back, asking if we’d be interested in riding the tram out to the parking lot. I was surprised that there was a tram there at all, as it was almost 5pm, and radioed back that I was definitely on board. I walk the tram road pretty often as a night hike, and wasn’t really interested in a 3.7 mile roadwalk on hard asphalt to cap off an already tough day. Some in our group insisted on hiking the road, but a bunch of us hopped on the tram and enjoyed sunset views of Thimble Peak on the ride out.

Looking back

Scrambling

'Shwacking down the drainage toward the tram road

Split between the two summits

Looking back up the drainage that we descended

View of Thimble Peak from the tram- no shame in my game for catching a ride on the last tram out and saving myself a 3.7 mile roadwalk that I've done a million times before.

Click the picture below to see the whole set of pictures from this hike:

Thimble Peak 1-19-11

What an adventure this day turned out to be- we had hiked from 8:20 am until 5pm and only covered 6.4 miles with 2600 feet of elevation gain. It was a great group and I had a smile on my face that lasted the rest of the week as I visited family in chilly Chicago for my grandmother’s 80th birthday.  And now for something completely different: pictures of non-hiking situations on my visit to Chicago!

Me with my two younger brothers, Shawn and Sanjay Rana out to see Shawn's band play

My Nonna at her surprise party

My nephew Devin and my Dad

Me and Mom

Olivia and my husband Brian

It was good to see my family and friends and everyone’s children. Brian and I did typical Chicago-in-the-winter things like sit at peoples houses and eat. Thankfully, we flew out before the “Snowmageddon” hit (or “Snowpocalypse” if you prefer) and buried everyone for two days. Now, for the Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser picture, here’s a trio of young Cooper’s Hawks that we had at the rehab in 2010. These three are among the 543 animals total that went through Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson last year: 113 bunnies, 124 quail, 54 hawks, 23 falcons, 38 owls, 13 waterbirds, and a whopping 267 songbirds!

Baby Cooper's Hawks- 33 came through the rehab last year

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This week, I teamed up again with Bill Bens, who runs the Tucson Hikers Yahoo Group, and Mitch Stevens (my companions for my Ragged Top hike) for a hike up Elephant Head in the Western Santa Ritas. I have never been to this part of the Santa Ritas before, but have always been intrigued by this peak:

Elephant Head

Elephant Head and Baboquivari

The description of the hike mentions 2nd and 3rd class scrambling, so I definitely did not want to attempt this peak solo for the first time. Bill had been up here a number of times and was helpful to figure out the route on the last part of the hike.

The parking area for the Agua Caliente route is in grasslands and oak trees at 4200 ft. I just love the vegetation at this elevation. You get these tall yellow grasses, with oak trees and the occasional juniper mixed in for good measure.

Mount Hopkins from the Ocotillo forest

You can see Elephant Head if you are driving on I-19, it’s the closest peak in the Santa Ritas to the freeway.  Although from the freeway it looks precipitous and fully improbable that there is a hiking route, a very well-beat-in path exists to the top. I would rate this hike as advanced, but the trail in and the route up to the top are both pretty well visible and cairned along the way. The first part of the hike takes you along an old roadbed that crosses Agua Caliente Creek, which was running from the recent rains. There were a number of places along this hike that would make beautiful destinations unto themselves.

Bill and Mitch crossing Agua Caliente Creek

The old roadbed climbs to a saddle then contours around to the junction with another route into the canyon, the Elephant Head Bike Trail.  We also passed the turnoff to the Little Elephant Head summit. There were many purple Santa Rita Prickly Pears on this part of the hike, some that were purple on one side and green on the other.

Purple on one side, green on the other

There was also a healthy population of Arizona Rainbow Cactus, like this one growing out of the rock:

Arizona Rainbow Cactus

We met the only other people on this hike at the Quantrell Mine Junction, which was all decked out with a brand new sign.

Quantrell Mine Tr. Jct.

After contouring on the roadbed, it’s time to work for it as you approach the Chino Canyon hiker’s route. As you contour around, you will see a very deep, rugged canyon between you and Elephant head. This is Chino Canyon and the end of the nice, contouring trail. The turnoff was marked by a collapsed cairn which we rebuilt. The turnoff is just as you round the corner and reach a rocky outcropping. Here is the view:

View from the turnoff into Chino Canyon

From the Chino Canyon trail junction, it had been described that the trail was a well beat-in path steeply down Chino Canyon to the creek crossing that had several nice little waterfalls from the recent rains.

Waterfall in Chino Canyon

I was really impressed with the condition of the hiker’s route in Chino Canyon, it was more well-defined than some trails I’ve been on, and it looked like there had been recent maintenance. From the Chino Canyon crossing, it is a steep but well-marked trail up to the ridge that goes up to the summit. This is the most difficult part of the hike in my opinion. We took it slow and made it up to the saddle where the true routefinding and scrambling begins.

Summit Ridge

If you use hiking poles, this is a good place to stash them for the return, from this point to the summit requires the use of your hands to pull yourself up and through the cairned maze of rock. I was happy that I had Bill along, because he had been up here before, and had placed many of the cairns that we were using to find our way.

Chino Canyon and Little Elephant Head behind me

The scrambling part of this hike was a lot easier than the Ragged Top hike we’d done last month. The rock on Elephant Head is grippy, and stable, with big handholds. There are ample cairns to follow on this part of the hike.

There was a couple of tight squeezes past oak trees, and some 3rd class scrambling, but on the whole there was very little exposure.

Tight Squeeze

Mitch is excited to be on the Elephant!

Every time it looked like we could go no further, a route would appear to lead us to the next section, until we reached the actual summit ridge, which was very easy because it was solid rock.

Summit ridge of Elephant Head

We reached the 5641′ summit in about 2 1/2 hours, and the views were spectacular!!

I added my elephant pendant that I made to the other elephants in the summit cairn, and we all enjoyed the view for a bit. We couldn’t linger too long, however, because it was an afternoon hike, and we wanted to get back before we lost daylight. The rock made for solid footing on the way down, and there was only one part that made me a little uncomfortable, but the obstacle was easily solved once I figured out where to put my hands and feet.

Carefully descending

I love this shot that Bill took of me and Mitch, it really gives a neat perspective on the summit ridge:

Summit Ridge

The descent didn’t take very long, and soon we were back at the saddle, ready to cross steep and deep Chino Canyon once again. The bottom of Chino with its waterfalls would be a great place to come back and camp someday. One last 500 foot climb out of the canyon back took us back to the wide old roadbed of the Quantrell Mine Trail. We caught the last vestiges of the sunset and made it back to the truck just as the light was fading.

Last light

The hike took us 5 hours total, and my GPS showed 2700 feet of accumulated elevation gain. Not too shabby for an afternoon’s work! Speaking of my GPS, a 6 year old Garmin Etrex Vista, it looks like it may be on its last legs. It has been turning itself off even with full batteries, and the screen sometimes won’t come on. Not a great thing for someone starting the Grand Enchantment Trail soon. A new one is a bit out of my price range right now. I was wondering if any of my readers might have an old GPS that they would like to sell or donate. I can be contacted at aztrail4fms@live.com.

And now for another picture from the Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser- here’s a beautiful Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

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