Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cochise Stronghold 11/27/10

Cochise Trail - Hike/Trail Run
Dragoon Mountains, Arizona
Mileage - 9.77
Time - 3:07
AEG - 2200ft

The weekend adventure continued as we departed the national monument and drove West across the high desert toward the Dragoon Mountains on our way to Cochise Stronghold. This has to be one of the most interesting places in Arizona for a number of reasons. The geology of the mountain range is stunning and very alluring for photographers, technical climbers, and even us hikers. These same formations provided refuge for over a decade during the mid-1800's for the Apache Chief Cochise...hence the name Cochise Stronghold.

When the pavement ended, and the 10 mile gravel road began to draw us closer to Cochise campground, the massive granite formations commanded our attention. I truly couldn't wait to immerse myself into this mystical wilderness area, I've just never seen anything quite like it before. Matt, Tiffany, and I decided to hike/trail run the 10 mile Cochise Trail around the south side of the range to catch a glimpse of all the giant monolith structures that make this place so aesthetically appealing. The weather was perfect for our run, although a little brisk at times when the sun wasn't directly upon us. Besides the steep climb on the return, I think the most difficult part of this trek was trying to decide which place I liked better, Cochise or Chiricahua.

Chiricahua National Monument 11/26/10

Chiricahua National Monument Hike
Chiricahua Wilderness, Arizona
Heart of Rocks Loop
Mileage - 13.43
Time - 5:11
AEG - 2600ft

The weekend adventure in Southern Arizona came to fruition a couple days prior to Thanksgiving, after making the decision not to join the members of our hiking group on their trip to Zion National Park. It was a good call too, Utah was blanketed in snow. So instead, Matt and I threw a few ideas together, organizing our own camping and hiking trek into some of the most spectacular wilderness areas the state has to offer.

Friday morning came and we had one other taker, Tiffany, who signed up last minute. The three of us hit the road early, arriving at the monument around 9:30am. We set up camp, stopped by the visitors center to get maps and talk to the ranger, then prepared our packs for a long day of hiking. Our plan was to make a big loop through the park to see all the famous rock formations before the sun went down. I really felt like a kid climbing on the boulders and making up our own characters in the different shapes and spires.

The ranger recommended a shorter 5 mile hike to the only natural bridge in the park. Since we had enough daylight left, it seemed worth the effort, especially after she said it was the best area to see wildlife. The route took us up along a ridge for 2 miles, then dropped down into flat wooded area that felt eerily quiet. I made a comment about this being our best chance of seeing something, and just as soon as I opened my mouth, two large Black Bears stormed across the trail approximately 50 feet in front of us! Frozen in our tracks, with no time to re-act (or get a camera ready for that matter), the bears raced into a side canyon and were gone in just a few seconds. With less than a quarter mile to go until the bridge, we played it safe and headed back the way we came.

At dusk we began to prepare dinner and get everything ready for what would be a frigid night in a tent. Arizona had a cold front move through recently, and with the campground sitting at 5,300ft, the overnight low dipped to 25 degrees. Brrr! I was awake first of course, fired up the stove for coffee and oatmeal, and began breaking down camp and loading the car for our next adventure...Cochise Stronghold.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Boulder Canyon 11/13/10

Boulder Canyon Trail #103
Superstition Wilderness
Apache Junction, AZ
Mileage 12
AEG 2356ft

Without any real agenda on Saturday, other than hiking 10-plus miles, Matt and I got in the car heading eastbound. I was literally paging through the Hiker's Guide to the Superstition Wilderness on our way out of town, trying to decide where to go. We eventually chose to hike from the marina at Canyon Lake, up Boulder Canyon and over to the Second Water trail.

The weather today was incredible, sunny yet chilly at times. It's nice to get back on the trails in the Superstition Mountains, after a 5 month absence due to scorching summer temps. As the sun passed through the southern sky, the canyon began to come alive with color, and completely changed the view on our return trip. There were quite a few people on the Boulder Canyon trail, including a few guys from our hiking group, several boy scouts, and my good buddy Ken, who was taking a newbie backpacking.

The highlight of the day had to be the giant Sonoran Desert Tortoise we stumbled upon during the final mile of our hike. This truly was a rare sighting as these tortoises spend 95 percent of their lives in burrows, and typically enter hibernation before this time of year.