Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cochise Head - Arizona

Cochise Head Hike
Chiricahua National Monument
Chiricahua Monument Wilderness
Mileage - 8.75
Time - 4:40
AEG - 3,074ft

Seeing it once was all I needed.  Two years ago when I first visited Chiricahua National Monument, all I could think was "I need to reach the top of that!"  Cochise Head is a fortress-like rock formation just outside of the park that commands attention when looking North.  Honestly, I cannot believe two years have passed since then, though I guess its better late than never.  Luckily I purchased at topographic map of the Chiricahua mountain range from the visitor center last time we were there because I couldn't find any other information on the route to the peak. 

Overnight temperatures made our camping experience rather pleasant in the national monument, and I would have to say that the Bonita Canyon Campground has to be one of my favorites in Arizona.  Our trek began around 8:30am from a pullout along Bonita Canyon Drive.  We walked two-tenths of a mile to a gate that led up an old mining road for another mile and a half to where the "trail" began.  I say it like that because it wasn't really a designated trail at all.  It was more like a game trail along a hillside.  At the three mile mark we crossed a wash and began the steep ascent along a ridgeline to the back of Cochise Head to make the final hand over hand approach to the summit at 8,113ft.  It was one of the hardest four and a half mile hikes to reach the top of a mountain that I've done in a long time, though well worth the effort.  I think the view trumped that of our hike the day before to Chiricahua Peak. 

The Horseshoe Two fire of 2011 ripped through the area, leaving most of the trail exposed to the sun and the trail that much harder to find.  Over 220,000 acres of wilderness burned and 93% of the national monument was affected.  If you're going to attempt this hike, I would suggest doing your homework.  Bring a GPS and a topo map, pack plenty of food and water, wear long pants and sleeves, and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.  It's not one to take lightly.   


Cochise Head (Summit is left of center)



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chiricahua Peak

Chiricahua Peak via Rustler Park
Chiricahua Wilderness Area
Coronado National Forest
Cochise County, Arizona
Mileage - 11.77
Time - 4:24
AEG - 2,712ft

Southern Arizona is home to some of the most unique and diverse mountain ranges in the Southwest known as "sky islands."  Named after the Chiricahua Apache Indians, this towering range rises high above the desert floor with the peak gaining over 5,000 feet of prominence, ranking it 4th on the top 100 list of prominent peaks in the state. 

I was eager to return to the Chiricahuas after a trip to the National Monument two years ago on this very same Thanksgiving weekend.  This trip would be a little more ambitious in terms of hiking, reaching two high points in the Chiricahuas and checking two more prominent peaks off the list; Chiricahua and Cochise Head.  I chose to drive, so Matt and Ben met at my place around 5:00am Friday morning for the 4.5 hour drive to the Rustler Park trailhead in the Coronado National Forest.  Just outside the national monument on AZ 181, we headed South on the surprisingly smooth Pinery Canyon Road to FR42/FR42D to reach Rustler Park at 8,300ft. 

At 10:00am we began hiking South along the Crest Trail #270 towards our first destination; Flys Peak (above right).  Even though there is extensive damage from the 2008 fire, the trail is in pretty good condition and very easy to follow.  It's sad to see the forest destroyed, although the views are now opened to see for miles in every direction.  Just beyond the wilderness boundary sign we made our approach toward the summit of Flys Peak.  It was a tough climb, and an off-trail scramble at times, but the view was worth the effort.  We signed the register and dropped down the Southern slope of Flys to re-connect with the Crest Trail to reach our final destination.  Chiricahua Peak is one of those anti-climatic summits with the entire peak being covered with trees and brush.  The real significance was knowing we reached the highest point in the county at 9,759ft.  On the return it was the crest trail all the way, and the three of us made it back to the car quickly so we could set up camp in the national monument before dark.

Silver Peak (Far Right)
Matt, Boone, and Ben on the Crest Trail
A glimpse of Cochise Head from the Crest Trail

Park Ranger told us there was an estimated 400-500 black bears in the Chiricahuas


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Table Top - Arizona

Table Top Mountain Hike
Table Top Wilderness Area
Sonoran Desert National Monument
Maricopa, Arizona
Mileage - 9.25
Time - 2:42
AEG - 2356ft

Cooler temperatures have finally made their way into the valley, and that means more opportunity to hike in the surrounding desert.  Table Top is considered a seasonal hike as the trail ventures up the Southern slope of the mountain rendering it unbearable in the summer with absolutely no relief from the sun.  Just to prove my point; we arrived at 9:30am and it was 58 degrees, when our hike was finished at 12:30pm, the outside temps rose almost 30 degrees!  I couldn't imagine what a scorching inferno this area would be in June or July.

Getting there involved a 15-mile stretch of unpaved road off of Interstate 8, which was mostly sand and rock.  Several signs were posted about land preservation and precautions regarding smuggling through the monument.  We were certainly on high alert as this area can be quite unpredictable.  Today was completely silent.  In fact, we didn't encounter another person or vehicle until Border Patrol stopped us less than a mile from the Interstate on our way out.

This hike is well worth the effort, especially when you're able to summit a peak (49th most prominent) within a wilderness area.  There are 486,000 acres of protected land surrounding Table Top, and the healthy desert life is evident of that.  Talk about pristine!  The first 2.5 miles of the trail starts out fairly gradual, and then it climbs 1,300ft in the final mile through a lava field to reach the end of what is listed as the Table Top trail.  A nice place for a break and photo opportunity, though our work was not done just yet.  The true summit lied ahead another 0.8 miles on the most Northern section of the mountain.  The three of us stopped briefly here to enjoy the view and soak up a little sun, then we were on our way.  An hour later we reached the car and congratulated each other on a successful completion of yet another prominent peak in Arizona!

Sonoran Desert National Monument

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Day in the West

That was the name of the company Brittney purchased a deal through for our first Jeep Tour in Sedona.  After several visits to Sedona, I figured it was time to see what all the buzz was about, or at least why those jeep tours are so popular.  I'll have to admit, I was a little skeptical at first.  Turns out, our 'Little Rattler" 4x4 trip out to the West side of Sedona was a lot of fun!  

It also helped to have a great guide (Pioneer Pete), and a well run operation to make all of our arrangements go so well.  I would certainly take another tour through this company, perhaps when it's not 40 degrees outside! 

Click on A DAY IN THE WEST for more information!

Soldier Pass Trail Run - Sedona, Arizona

On Sunday I ran up in the red rocks, here's a link to the new running version of this blog:

See Boone Go 2.0

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Daisy Mountain - Arizona

Daisy Mountain Hike
Anthem, Arizona
Mileage - 6.72
Time - 2:19
AEG - 1432ft

There's a small peak just North of town off of I-17 that's been taunting Matt and I for years.  It's one of those things you keep telling yourself you are going to do and never actually do it.  A little research determined we needed permits, as this particular hike is within state trust land.  So on Friday I drove downtown and purchased the required annual pass from the Arizona State Land Department to legally allow us to summit Daisy Mountain. 

I then looked at the directions to the trailhead one last time, and something seemed odd about the location of what we thought was Daisy Mountain.  I checked a topographic map of the area and as it turns out, that little mountain was actually Gavilan Peak!  Once again, it eluded us.  Since we had the permits, the real Daisy Mountain turned out to be a close second, so we went for it.  The trail begins in open desert, which then led us up an old jeep road for a mile to a nice trail on the Western slope of the mountain. It continued to climb steadily another 1.7 miles to one of three easily accessible peaks. From the summit, we determined a loop could be made down the North slope, so off we went in a counter-clockwise direction.  In less than 2.5 hours we were back at the car and excited to have found another great peak-hike so close to town.  It also gave us an opportunity to scout out the elusive Gavilan Peak.          

Daisy Mountain Summit (Left of center, 3,163ft)

Ben, Matt, & Boone at the first peak