I scheduled a MeetUp hike up Carr Peak for today when I read in a hike report from the Huachuca Hiking Club last weekend that hikers spotted ladybugs on Pat Scott Peak. That means they were also on Carr and Miller Peaks and I just had to schedule a hike to see. The mating season for ladybugs on our local peaks is around the third week in July after the monsoon kicks in. I had to act now as the window is only two weeks long.
I scheduled the hike party to meet at 7am in the lower Carr parking area, a large lot shared with the Perimeter trail. One man never showed up, but another man, Cole, who didn't RSVP, did. We were thus four strong hikers. It was sunny and clear around us in the parking lot. We didn't see any clouds until we got to the 7100' trail head.
We drove in two cars and started the hike from the Sawmill trail head parking by 7:38am. Two other cars were already there. I noticed a new trail head sign. This trail starts out steep the first .2 miles, with much loose rock. While the same distance, this makes the Sawmill trail appear steeper than the Ramsey Vista trail near the campground, but I prefer this trail because of the Sawmill springs .5 mile up the path. The dogs always drink from this spring both going up and coming down. The trail is also shadier than the Ramsey Vista trail and is especially colorful in the fall.
It was cool and foggy but no storm clouds in the mountains when we started. In the 60s, overcast and with no wind make for ideal hiking conditions. The aerostat tethered on Fort Huachuca was in the air, and that's a good sign no storms are near.
We kept a good pace. The dogs stayed close but were ahead of me. We heard a large hiss-clacking sound in the grass in front of us early in our hike and that's when I realized, OHSHIT, that's a rattler! A big one, too. I didn't bother investigating it or taking its picture. I leashed the dogs and made a wide berth around it. It was a black-tail rattler, one of the more docile snakes. Sadie had walked right past the snake, totally oblivious to it (again, the third time for her!) The guys all stayed back to try to get a photograph. Rick did.
Rick turned around after a mile. He had hiked four times this week and felt tired. The rest of us resumed our pace. Wildflowers are just now blooming and the Yellow Columbines along the aspen grove are just now coming up. They are my favorite, but it will be another two weeks before they open up.
We reached the fog at the 1.5-mile mark, just below the lower aspen grove. Fog adds a nice eerieness to a lush landscape but limits vistas and visibility. Someone spray-painted the switchbacks on rocks and tree stumps, a new thing since my March hike up Carr. The person didn't even get the sequence right. There are 12 switchbacks in the lower 1.5 mile, but that's counting from the Sawmill trail head parking area. It may be more from the Ramsey Vista parking lot. The trail becomes less curvy in the last 1.4 miles.
To my surprise, the waterfall source was still dry, but there were plenty of ripe raspberries. Black bears eat most of them when people aren't around. I eat the rest when no one is looking. I was hoping there'd be water for the dogs after the mountain rains this week. I carried 64 ounces and gave the dogs half that, but not until we got to the peak. There was a small water puddle in a rock crevice near the spur trail that I let the dogs drink from. The only free-flowing water today came from Sawmill Springs.
I never was worried we would get caught in a storm as long as we were in the fog. We also didn't linger long at the top, though. It took us 1:52 hours to get to the peak; not exactly a record time. The ladybugs were clustered in the shrubs as predicted. I gave the dogs their chicken treats, had some water, and we began our descent 10 minutes later. That's when the sky cleared up some and we caught some blue patches. It continued to clear as we continued our descent and we were able to see Miller Peak briefly. Lots of people were still going up as we were going down, including a young family with a baby backpack and a father with his young son. We counted 20 people going up. I hope they all were safe.
While we had patches of sunlight in a small break in the clouds along the Crest, we also saw dark clouds moving in from the southeast. We weren't worried of getting caught in any storm, but now we knew we couldn't lolligag. When we got below the aspen grove we noticed that the aerostat was no longer flying and now securely back on the ground. That was a sign to us that these dark clouds were storm clouds.
We made it back to our cars in 3:47 hours. This is one of my better times. By now rain was over Bisbee. It began to rain over me as I turned east on Hereford Road and ten minutes after coming home, I heard the thunder. It never stormed, though.
I'm so glad I hosted this hike, had a strong team and made it back down safely. I will do this hike again next month when the wildflowers are bursting with color.
My feral cat Willie made an appearance late in the afternoon. I'm always so happy to know he's still around. He's close to six years old and has lived outside for almost five of those. I made sure I gave him an extra can over his kibble I keep outside for him. He meows when I call his name, and he even looks at me and stops, but that's as far as he'll ever let me get to him. I'm glad he survived the lean month while I was away. Our neighbor on the corner have a new chihuahua puppy that barks non-stop during the day. I'm sure Willie is really liking that!
Fellow hiker Bill King took the photos with me in them.