Category Archives: Black Range

July 2015 – Noonday Canyon

Beat the heat!

It was time to get some dirt trapped in my treads, so who better to call than the guy who came up with the name of this column (Trail Mix). Steve White, a friend, hiking buddy and past co-worker, was the guy who made the office fun to be in. Not all offices were lucky enough to have such a guy, but we sure were!

Steve has been hiking for years and had a few interesting memories to share. A few years ago when he and a companion were hiking towards Hillsboro Peak, they heard a weak call; “help!” Scurrying down the steep embankment, they found a man collapsed in a heap. With some effort, they were able to get him on the trail and provide aid. After witnessing the Gila hiker heave up a fair amount of red wine, they realized that he would not be able to get back to his vehicle on his own. They half carried, half guided him back. Steve later learned that the man, who was from the T or C area, had recently changed blood pressure medications and fainted while alone on the trail.

Steve also told me about a recent backpacking trip that he really enjoyed. He and a few friends spent three days in the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness area just west of Safford, Arizona. He described awesome canyon walls, pristine flowing water, and widely varying geology and vegetation.

He explained the beauty of the canyon like this: “one side of the canyon was mostly granite and had pockets that had been gouged out by boulders and runoff. These pockets were filled with water when we explored it, and from above they glinted like jewels. We also found a number of “hanging gardens” where ground water would seep in through the canyon walls. That portion of the canyon is relatively narrow with the walls rising to around 300′. Looking up from the bottom you can see saguaro cacti along the top of the mesas; there is also one place where an incredibly thick stand of giant saguaros runs all the way from mesa top to water’s edge-one of my more impressive views.”

OK, reader, I know you’re stuffing your backpack and ready to check it out. But go online and get a permit because they only issue 50 permits per day. Their website is: http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/arolrsmain/aravaipa.html. I suggest you take the below hike while you wait.

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Name: Noonday Canyon

Distance: 4+

Difficulty: easy to moderate

Directions: Take 180 to Highway 152. Drive just under 24 miles on Highway 152. You will see brown highway signs indicating hiking trails 747 and 795. On the left you will see a dirt road (if you pass the “MM24” marker, turn around, you just missed it) with a brown marker noting FR 4087B. Pull down into this road, bear to the left and park. Down to the left you will see a wood sign on a tree indicating the start of Trail 747 going towards Rabb Park.

Hike Description: Spray on some bug repellent and begin your hike. For the first minute or two, you will be walking on an old dirt road which runs into the creek for a minute or two. Then you’re back onto the road. At the .7 mile mark (about 10-15 minutes), you will enter a clearing with a few downed logs, a campsite and such. If you look to the left, you will see a brown wood sign guiding you to the Rabb Park trail. Make a note to go back in cooler weather and investigate, and now look to the right of the main road where you will cross the creek and find another dirt road. This road will take you past an inhabited cabin. Please respect people’s privacy and don’t disturb any belongings. Continue walking along the road or trail, which may be challenging to find at some points. We were able to walk along Noonday Canyon with trail or road most of the way. When you’re exactly half way finished, turn around and return the way you came.

Notes: Be aware that there may be water running if it’s rained recently. Also keep an eye on possible rain clouds building to avoid being caught in rain or flooding.

There’s a sign at the trail head that warns of blocked and eroded trails and downed trees. We didn’t encounter any such problems along the way. We did walk through some burn areas where several dead standing trees looked like they could come down eminently.

About Noonday Canyon: There are apparently two Noonday Canyon’s – one in San Lorenzo, and this one which is off of Highway 152. I was curious about how it got its’ name and so after a visit to the library, I found some information. According to T.M. Pearce, when the mining boom was taking place in Pinos Altos and Kingston, people travelling between the camps always tried to reach this reliable water source by noon.

 

 

Note: This article first appeared in “The Independent” on July 23, 2015

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Hike #94 – Gila National Forest – Emory Pass area

Trail #79 to Trail #146 –The Grandview Trail

Yeah, yeah, I know. I said we were going to do Sawyer’s Peak. If I told you we changed our minds due to the weather, would you believe me? Or would you think we came to a “Y” in the trail and didn’t know which way to take and took the wrong one? And with the map in the car. But it worked out well, because the weather was cloudy which turned into fog and then started to drizzle. So Sawyer’s Peak would be better to do on another day. Like any of the other 363 days around here, all of which are sunny!

To get to this trail, take Highway 152 to Emory Pass. Park in the small parking area on the highway next to all the forest signage talking about Emory Pass. You will see a trail on the east side of the parking area. Take it up, up, up. When you get about 2 miles up, there is a “Y” in the trail. The trail to the left, Trail 79, is the one that goes to Sawyer’s Peak. The one to the right, Trail 146, goes down into Silver Creek Canyon and comes out at a stunning vista – ergo the trail name “Grandview Trail”.

This trail, right from the highway, is heavily wooded and shady. It rises over a 2 mile distance from an altitude of 8200 to the highest point (where the “Y” is), at 9100. As we turned onto 146, the trail goes decidedly downhill into Silver Creek Canyon. There is lush landscape with moss on the tree trunks, mushrooms sprouting up, fungi on trees and many interesting plants and flowers. We even saw some Blue Spruce. At the end of the trail, we were rewarded with a…. well….. a grand view. The area started getting rocky with boulders and cliffs along the edges of our canyon. Suddenly, the sky is visible, the canyon drops down dramatically and looking out, we saw far into the distance to the Kneeling Nun. We pointed out little caves to each other, sat and had lunch, and wished Cody had joined us.

On the way back, we were challenged to an uphill trek (nailed it!) and then a long downhill, rain-sodden ramble through fog to the car.

I’m tired, but happy. And now I’m going to make my husband his birthday meal, Burnt Macaroni. Take boiled cauliflower and pasta, drain it. Add way too much butter, salt and pepper. Put in a very hot oven until it’s very brown on top (an hour, hour-and-a-half). Add romano cheese and devour!

 

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6.58 Miles / 5.0 Hours

94 down /6 to go

Hike #80 – FR 4085E – Off Georgetown Rd.; Gila National Forest

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Today’s hike was in the Georgetown Rd area. There’s many side roads back there so April, Dora and Cisco joined me in an exploration. We climbed up Forest Road 4085E and ended up on a ridge overlooking the Santa Rita mines. It’s a pleasant, sunny trail with scrub oaks, junipers and the like.

The area was full of rabbits that Cisco unsuccessfully chased. We saw quite a few along with some turkey, some horny toads and a tarantula. Rainy weather brings out more than just the grasses!

 

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5.21 miles /2.0 hours

80 down /20 to go

Hike #70 – Railroad Canyon – 129 to 128, The Black Range, Gila National Forest

The Black Range is in the eastern part of the Gila National Forest and consists of over 550,000 acres of wilderness. Highway 152 works its way through the mountain range, reaches up to Emory Pass, and then cascades down the other side toward Interstate 25. Locals and visitors know this area well and discuss “going over the Black Range versus going around the long way”. The road can be brutal for folks who get car sick – it’s a windy one – but beautiful. I’ve only been through here a handful of times on my way to or from Albuquerque or Magdalena. I’ve always found it to be stunning. There are many dramatic vistas and outcroppings, valleys and canyons to ooooh and ahhh over.

I wanted to make sure I had at least one of the 100 here in the Black Range (more, if feasible) so we got up early and drove an hour to the Railroad Canyon trailhead. Another reason I wanted to check it out is because it’s the backdrop of the book, “Fire Season” by Philip Connor. It’s a fascinating look at the management of forests and a peaceful description of living in one. If you want to understand more about fires and forests, it’s a fascinating read that will get you thinking.

We parked in the ample lot that had a bathroom, gravel drive, picnic benches and shade. There are several trails to choose from, some staying along the canyon floor and others branching to other canyons or up the sides to the ridgeline. It was promising to be a hot day; we stayed under the trees and walked Trail 129 to 128 and then returned the same way. This trail rises slowly; we started at an altitude of around 7000 and by the time we turned back, we were over 8000.

Now I’m reading “A Walk In The Woods” by a funny man named Bill Bryson. It’s the story of a man who attempted to hike the Appalachian Trail and his experiences with it. It is helping me keep motivated to reach my goal; the guy has my sense of humor and it’s good to laugh at the way he tells the story.

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5.32 miles /4.0 hours

70 down /30 to go