Saturday, March 17, 2018

Double peak bagging up Miller and Carr Peak with Ellen and Zeke

The cold blast that hit Los Angeles on Thursday, which was the reason I left a day early, arrived in southern Arizona overnight.  I could hear the winds howl.  It was 2am, I was wide awake, and I really didn't feel like hiking 14 miles today.  When the sun came up,I could see clouds racing across the peaks.

And yet we still did this.

Ellen and I met shortly after 7am to drive to the Sawmill trailhead.  I wore a dryweave shirt  under my sweatshirt but quickly realized that wasn't going to keep me warm.  A black raincoat  for the peak was put on before our hike.  We took off at 7:39am as clouds overhead blew by.

A mile into our hike we both questioned our sanity, but we trekked on.  We could see frost on the highest pines near Carr Peak.  Parts of the upper trail were still moist from melted snow.  Despite feeling fatigued yesterday, I had energy today and didn't slow Ellen down.  She said I was averaging 2.3 miles an hour.

The northern sections of the trail were calm, which broke up the blairing winds.  Ellen lent me a beanie to keep my ears warm.  When we hit the Tub Springs at 4.2 miles, the winds felt calmer.  We stayed there a bit to talk to an Arizona Trail hiker from Toledo, Ohio.  He was Frank, aka "Skink" who has until April 24th to finish the 880 mile section.  Last night was his first night  on the trail, and he told me how he was being followed by someone, but that someone moved back whenever he got close.  (I'd have yelled out in English to see if that was a USBP agent).  A man sleeping wrapped in a tarp was near the tub as well.

It was 10am and Frank was just getting ready to push on to Parker Canyon Lake 18 miles away.  We made it to Miller Peak shortly after noon. It was blustery here as we sat on the old foundation eating our lunch.  Zeke cuddled behind Ellen to keep warm.  He wasn't interested in eating his raw steak.  It was windy but there were no clouds overhead.  The trees below us all looked thirsty for a heavy rain.  I was glad to notice many new pines growing in the burn area.  The ridgeline is coming back!

At 12:36am we descended Miller Peak to return to Carr Peak.

Frank was long gone as we returned to the tub for another rest.  A yellow-eyed Junco seemed unbothered by our presence, as it circled around us pecking at the ground.
We got to Carr Peak just before 2pm.  Here is where we finally came across other day hikers.  Winds were calmer here, perhaps because they were broken up by the nearby brush.  We had another snack, took some photos, and descended this trail for the 3-mile finish.

 We got back to the car at  3:10pm.  This was a 7.5 hour hike with 13.9 miles, using Ellen's Garmin watch for data.  We were all tired, even Zeke.  We drove to Culver's in town for dinner.  Zeke rested all night long.  I gave the dogs that stayed at home a raincheck; I was too tired to go out and walk some more.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Day Six: Casa Grande Mountain Park at sunrise (5.75 mile loop)

My 5:05 weekday alarm got me up, but I didn't move until I saw the first greys of nautical light.  Then it was a quick 1.5 mile drive to the trailhead down West Arica Road, just past the Love's Truck Stop.  This is a gravel parking area.  There is one portapot but no water available.  A large map on a board shows the topography and color-coded trails. We started the hike at 6:28am

The trailhead parking is at 1500' feet, higher than the valley to the east.  I could stand in the parking area and take sunrise photos, but I opted to take the Spine trail (easy, color-coded green) north where it intersects with the more moderate-to-hard (color coded blue and black) to the Ridge Trail.  This Ridge trail doesn't actually go on top of the ridge, because the firing range is on the other side of the mountain.  A radio tower is on this ridge, but I didn't go that far.  I made a loop hike along the saguaro-cholla-studded rocky trail.  To the north one hears cars, trucks and trains pass by, to the south one hears the firing range.

I didn't wear a windbreaker and enjoyed this hike.  Yes, it was breezy and cool, but it was a dry cool.  Even with the sun up, it wasn't hot.  The dogs didn't seem hot, either, although they enjoyed their water break.  The sky remained overcast, which diffused the light to a comfortable level.  It became hazier a few hours later.

The firing range started up shortly after 8am as I was in my last mile.  It's easy to see the parking lot higher up, so I was not worried about getting lost.  There are a lot of trails, large and small, that intersect the main trails, but my GPS app kept us on track.
We got back to the van at 8:15am.  The lot had several vehicles around me; I was no longer alone.  And more cars kept coming!  Mountain bikers and dog walkers came and went.  (The sign says dogs must be on leash, but all the dogs I saw were offleash and well-mannered.)

Thus ended my last hike for this short road trip. I stopped in Tucson for gas, in Sierra Vista for flank steaks for the dogs, and was home by 1:10pm.  Kevin had been tracking my movement via our joint account, and had cheese burgers ready for me.  It was a lovely homecoming and we sat outside to chitchat.  Minnie and Sweetie were happy to see me, too, and I promised them their own dog walk later.  I just needed to relax a bit and eat.

At 5:30pm I took them and Zeke for another 2.3-mile walk around Ranchos San Pedro.  Sadie stayed behind.  And when I got home I, too, went to bed and slept soundly until 2am. (map of trails)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Day Five: a walk in the desert (heading home)

I had a sound sleep again.  I woke up to my alarm and looked outside to see a beautiful sunrise over the desert.  It was drizzling and the sky was overcast.  I ended up sleeping in and didn't even start my walk until after 10am.  It was cozy in the van and the windows were closed. Weather said it was 60F and breezy.

Skies cleared up quite a bit by 10 am.  My only walk option was taking a dirt road along the park's southern perimeter in a northeasterly direction.  I ended up walking six miles round trip in what turned out to be a rather boring walk.  Since dogs are not allowed in national parks,  the dirt road was my only option and it didn't offer much variety of scenery for me.  The road belongs to the Southern California Water District but public use is approved.  I stayed on the road to avoid any more contacts with chollas. There were still no wildflowers anywhere, but the creosote and some of the ocotillo were in bloom.

My plan was to eat at the Chiriaco cafe afterward, but I wasn't hungry yet.  Crowds were lined up at both the truck stop and the cafe and I ended up leaving to head east back into Arizona.  I was fighting fatigue, either because of the return to heat or my lack of caffeine, or maybe even both.  When I got to Quartzsite, AZ, I stopped at the Carl's Jr for dinner and three refills of my Large soda cup.  The dogs each got a double slider cheeseburger as a treat and rested.  I ended up staying there for over three hours; I had no desire to drive in the heat and waited until 7pm to drive on to Casa Grande, where I planned to spend the night in order to start a sunrise hike in the Casa Grande Mountain Park.

Eric sent me a text message:  his deployment is slated for July 11th.  He will get ECAC (Evasion, conduct after capture) and SERE (survival-evasion-resistance-and-escape) training beforehand, training that the USAF gives all airmen who will deploy and be outside the wire. Yikes.

Ellen also messaged me, wanting to know if I were interested in hiking Carr and Miller on Saturday.  I said "Yes!" but that now means tomorrow must be an easy day hike, to rest up for that challenging 14-miler.

I made it to Casa Grande and found a spot to sleep for the night.  Didn't really fall asleep until 1:30am.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Day Four: Bailey Canyon to Jones Peak, San Gabriel Mountains (6.7 m)

Getting that motel room was a wise decision.  It had rained overnight and it was cold in the morning!  I lingered in the room, watching the news from yesterday: the Pennsylvania special election senatorial race going to Democrat Connor Lamb with 49.8% (GOP Rick Saccone was expected to win bigly, according to Trump, but came in with 49.6%).  Stephen Hawkings, famed physicist suffering from ALS, died yesterday, and this morning's national Walk Out Day among school students protesting gun violence.  Many of Arizona's schools are on spring break this week so I'm not sure how effective that would be locally.

At 10:50am I signed out of the motel room and got on the way to the Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park in Sierra Madre, a foothills town 12 miles away.  The Jones Peak trail sounded like the ideal afternoon hike:  rated as "hard" at 6.6 r/t and 2240' elevation gain.  I could knock out that peak before the afternoon rains were forecasted to get started.

And yes, it was a tough hike.  The peak's only at 3386', much lower than the nearby Mount Harvard at over 5000'.  The trail switchbacked up through mountain laurel, past an old foundation, and arrived at a bench at the summit.  WTH?!  By then dark storm clouds were drifting in and the winds got cold.  I was in three layers but others I saw on the trail were in tshirts and shorts.

On a warmer, clearer day, with more time, I'd have done the Mount Harvard challenge, but today was not the day. 

The San Gabriel mountains are an impressive range, but the main rock seems to be sand.   The hillsides are not very sturdy and one can see remnants of former landslides.  The higher I hiked, the more I could see of the greater Los Angeles area.  There are plenty of flood basins in these foothills towns, and radio towers lined up in the lower peaks.  I would not want to be down below during a flood! I could spot the Hollywood Hills and Runyon Canyon.  I enjoyed my time there, but wish the weather had been more cooperative.  

Despite the increase in winds and darker clouds, people were still going up as we were going down.  I was now wearing my windbreaker to stay warm.

We detoured to the waterfall for a half mile on the way down, but the falls were dry.  On a hot day the box canyon would make for a cool break, but now I was just tired, and the dogs were, too.  Sadie went to sleep shortly after I got back to the van and snored a bit.  It was 4:20pm, too late to start my return drive to Arizona (more rain is due tomorrow and I'd rather just leave).

Stopped at a Starbucks in pretty historic Sierra Madre and then drove 150 miles east to Chiriaco Summit where I took a dry campsite for the night.  I was tired and went straight to bed, although I had to convince a stubborn Sadie to make room for me on the platform.
More when I get back home in a few days.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Day Three: Zuma Ridge Trail, Malibu

It wasn't raining at 6:30am so I drove down to the coast to hike the Zuma Ridge trail, a part of the Santa Monica Mountains.  Dogs are allowed here.  Unfortunately, it got foggier at the coast, so that my entire hike in and around the pretty canyon was damp.  The trail was very muddy and badly rutted from the nearby equestrians.  My shoes were heavily caked with mud, and sweat had soaked me under the raincoat.

All the cars were gone when I got back from my 4.5-mile hike.  The fog was clearing up and I could finally see the Pacific Ocean, but now I needed to find a place to change into some dry clothes.

More later

Monday, March 12, 2018

Day Two: The Bridge to Nowhere, (San Gabriel Mountains, CA)

The alarm got us up at 5:05.  By 5:20am we were on our way to the trailhead, which turned out to be 150 miles away.

I didn't hit congested traffic until I got on CA210.  I made it to Azusa, the trailhead town, at 7:15 and stopped at a Mexican bakery for coffee and a small cake.  A heavy marine layer fogged out the peaks.

It was the only place open that was on the route.  The route was the scenic San Gabriel Canyon Road.  My one dilemma was the ranger station was closed but I lucked out getting a $5 Day Pass from a maintenance man at the Camp Williams Cafe.  He opened the cafe for me to allow me to buy a pass.  I could now park legally at the trailhead.

There were a few cars in the lot, but no one else on the trail.  I saw anglers in and near the water, a few abandoned sites, but the trail itself was barren. At 9:20am we were on the trail, with partly cloudy skies and cool.  A perfect day for a hike.  This is a long hike but not a strenuous hike as the elevation gain is minimal.

The trail follows the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, along the old road that Nature has reclaimed.  The road was built in 1936 but two years later a massive flood took out the road a mile south of the bridge and it was never rebuilt.  Parts of the road are still visible in parts, but it's mostly a double track trail now, lined with plenty of agave.  According to one man I met on the trail, more flooding occured last winter and now hikers have to walk the riverbed; after heavy rain I would not want to be on this trail.
The trail is not marked, although I did see a 3 and a 4-mile marker post.  It was slow going at first because I stayed close to the river for the dogs' sake, but the trail is mostly on the right bank and high.  (I discovered that on the return trail).  There are five river crossings.  The water never got too high for me to use poles.

It took me 2.5 hours to reach the old bridge.  It's still standing, although it leans noticeably.  We made it down to the river and had a lunch.  I munched on tangerines and the dogs each had a can of food.  I enjoyed watching them frolic in the water.  It was at the bridge where I chatted briefly with two couples, but otherwise I was alone with the dogs and the sound of rushing water.

The hike out and back came to 10.4 miles and took me 5:55 hours.  We were all tired when we got back to the van.  I sat behind the wheel and drank two teas.  I didn't want to leave the mountains just yet. 

I drove into Los Angeles after the hike, taking I-10 and using my Waze app to find the trailhead for the Runyan Canyon Park off North Fuller Avenue.  This park is lauded as one of the largest dog parks in the country.  While I had to have the dogs on leash while walking to the park, once inside and past the "off leash area," both dogs were happily off leash.  Big and little dogs were running around.  I don't worry about Zeke, but Sadie can get aggressive around small dogs.

There were people, kids and dogs everywhere!  The main trails goes up and around a long ridgeline, but after the 10-miler I was a little too tired for another 3.3-mile walk.  I could see a line of people on the high western ridge. I took the East Ridge Trail that took me high enough, with a view over the city and the Hollywood sign.  The overcast skies made this walk enjoyable, but the exposure on a hot day would be harsh on a dog.  There are water fountains now for dogs and people. I would definitely come back to this park on my next LA visit.

More later; I'll add details later this week.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Day One- Chiriaco Summit, CA

I actually managed to drive off at 8:30am.  It was 57F and there was fog over the peaks.  While I'd rather be hiking in this kind of weather, the cooler temperatures across Arizona made driving easier, too.  My van's AC doesn't work well when it gets above 90F.

Traffic was steady through Tucson.  I stopped briefly at the Picacho State Park entrance to check on poppies, but didn't see any.  The only flowers in broom were the roadside bristle brush.

At 10:30am I stopped at the Casa Grande Mountain Park, right off Exit 200 and I-10.  It's a popular area for mountain bikers but there is no shade around these desert hills studded with saguaros, desert palo verde, and chollas.   One can see Picacho Peak and the Catalinas from here.

Turn off for the trailhead is at the Love's Gas Station and at the end of the street of new family homes.  The parking lot is a gravel lot, but from here one can walk any of the trails from easy to more difficult.  One side heads toward the interstate, the other toward an artillery range.  I opted for the artillery range since I've hiked the other way before.  I took the Blue-blazed East Butte trail for a 2.4-mile leg stretcher.  I just wanted to break the monopoly of driving up and give the dogs some exercise before it got too hot.

It was 71F and the dogs were panting.  It was warmer than I thought for them.  Even I got warm.  When I got to the Butte top, there were beer bottles everywhere. Not only that, but Zeke got a dead cholla on his paw. While trying to pull the thorns out, he got more thorns around his snout AND on his tongue.  Oh geez, this is a first, but he was a real trooper while I pulled them out of his snout.  One thorn on his tongue was a hard one, as the saliva made it slippery to pull out.

What a fun way to start a little road trip! The only poppy I saw was one solitary one in the middle of  trail.  What a disappointment after last year's big bloom.

I stopped briefly in Phoenix but the traffic was slow.  An attempt to see the historic downtown proved futile as the area was cordoned off for some kind of protest.  I wasted an hour just trying to find a quiet place. My stomach started cramping again the rest of the night.  I hope this isn't a bad omen for the rest of the week.

By 2:30 I just got on  I-10, stopped for dinner at a Carl's Jr in Quartzsite, and made it 20 miles to Chiriaco Summit before the sun set, cooling the desert down to 70F and making the short pee walk comfortable, although there was a lot of beer bottles and plastic along the dirt road.  The barren mountains briefly shone a golden glow before dusk set in.

The aroma of Creosote was strong tonight.  Chiriaco Summit was busy tonight.  There was a line for the woman's restroom at the truck stop, so that prompted me to take another desert walk behind the General Patton museum/ dry campsite to pee in peace.  Sadie didn't show an interest in walking much more and darted back to the van.

More later

Friday, March 9, 2018

Spring break plans: hiking around Los Angeles

My spring break begins on Saturday.  I normally go somewhere within Arizona to explore local trails.  Last March I was in Big Bear Lake, CA.  The year before that, in Prescott.  This year I wanted to drive up to Fairfield, CA to see my son Eric before his big deployment, but he told me he's on call all next week and can't leave the base.  That includes going off base to have a meal or hike a few local trails.  Being retired army myself, I understand military protocol and procedures.  Rain is forecasted for most of next week there as well, so when Eric said he's locked down on base, that freed me up to stay closer to home.  Plans to hike Briones Regional Park and Laguna Valley Park in a soft drizzle with doggie odor afterward in the van then turned to southern California and drier weather and happier dogs.  Los Angeles is 400 miles closer to home.

My choice this year is the San Gabriel mountains north of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign.   I've always wanted to hike up to that white Hollywood sign.  Why not?!  Both were plans from last year but I ended up heading into the Mohave Desert Preserve instead.  The Mohave Desert Preserve is an area I'd gladly go back again, even with a group, but I'm leaving that option for another time.

I started planning my hikes Thursday evening.  Hiking up Mount Baldy (aka Mount San Antonio at 10,069') is a no-go due to snow, but it's a mountain I want to do later this year, perhaps over Labor day weekend.  I know Sadie, Zeke and I can do that 12-mile hike. Three hikes I want to do for sure are the "Bridge to Nowhere" north of Azusa, CA, , a 10-mile hike where once the paved road was; hiking up to the Hollywood sign, a 6.5-miler with 1100' elevation gain  that includes a mile-long detour to Bronson Cave, aka the "Batcave" from the 1960s TV show Batman that I was a big fan of; and a 3.3-mile hike in the Runyon Canyon Park, Los Angeles's largest dog park with off-leash option  I found a myriad of great trail reports by several avid SoCal hikers covering many other dog-friendly hikes.

I'm finally convinced to do a bit of urban hiking, although the hikes are really outside the dense city of LA.  I have a few more hikes on schedule depending on the weather that include ocean vistas and waterfalls in Santa Monica and Malibu.  If I can get four good days of hiking in before having to drive back on Saturday, I'll be happy.  I'm taking Sadie and Zeke again.  I plan on leaving early Sunday.  As usual, I will hike a minimum of four miles a day.   There are also a few good breweries I want to try out.

I never spent much time in Los Angeles when I was stationed in Monterey with the US Army in the late 1990s.  I completed several marathons across the state, though:  San Francisco, Sacramento, Big Sur, San Diego Rock And Roller, Redwoods, Los Angeles.  The worst marathon experience was the one in Los Angeles in 1996.  There were a few spectators, but most people just gawked.  At the end of my 4:20 hour ordeal, all I got was a soft popsicle because the volunteers allowed the homeless to all the food reserved for the runners.  That was such a disappointment for me, starved, exhausted and having to drive back to Monterey on an empty stomach and not finding a decent eatery until I got outside of the city.  The way that race was organized turned me off to the city.  I know it's a strange excuse.  My return this coming week is a second attempt to try to at least like the city.  My dogs are country dogs that prefer the tranquility of wilderness to the pounding of asphalt and assholes.

I'm looking forward to seeing how true to my plans this next week will be.   Weather, road conditions and the health of the dogs will all play a part.  Wildflowers this March don't look as promising as they were last year, but I'll be on the lookout for those as well.  I plan on camping outside Joshua Tree National Park Sunday night to get up early on Monday for a sunrise stroll at Chiriaco Summit, CA (there's a free campground behind the George Patton museum) and then heading to the Bridge to Nowhere by late that morning.  Weather will be warm but cloudy.

Let's hope "The Big One" doesn't tear up my plans!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hidden social trails between Carr and Ramsey Canyons

It took me three days to fully recover from Saturday's hike.  I'm pretty sure my affliction was dehydration and not arthritis as my ankles weren't hurting.  I simply had no energy.  On Sunday, after laying horizontal in bed for most of the day,  I took the pack in my truck up West Hunter Canyon to hike up to the springs and back.  I barely managed 1.6 miles, stopping frequently to rest.  I didn't stay long once we got to the springs: I let the dogs drink and then turned around.

On Monday I felt a little better and doubled the distance to 3.2 miles, around ATV trails near the FS maintenance shed.

On Tuesday, Sadie's 10th birthday, I took the dogs to the Carr Canyon picnic area to hike some social trails into Ramsey Canyon.  There was no one at the picnic area as we took off on the unnamed trail that begins here.  This trail climbs gently up to a ridge before descending back into Ramsey.  Old trails used to go high and drop down into the preserve, but I'm told the property is now gated and locked.  I wanted to find that old trail, but to no avail.  We ended up staying low in the canyon, turning around at a barbed wire fence with Private Property on it.

This area used to be heavily littered.  I'd come across so many backpacks, shoes, cans, personal hygiene items along the base of the reef.  The hillside used to look like a garbage dump. I only saw a smattering today.

This is a secluded little area.  The hillsides are covered with manzanitas, scrub oaks, agave.   The tough terrain make it ideal for illegal border crossers to hide from
overhead helicopters. Lots of quartz as well dot the ground.

We came to what looked like an old dirt path that took us back to Carr Canyon Road.  We crossed the road, followed the creek and took the creek back to the picnic area where I had parked the truck, completing a three-mile loop.   We never came across another person.  Normally the picnic area has visitors in the afternoon.  I plan on exploring that old ATV trail next time.  Is this the trail that could take me high, rather than low, across the ridge and into Ramsey?

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Middlemarch trail to Stronghold East, Dragoons

Distance: 10.6 miles
Elevation gain: 1665' (5276' -> 5742' ->4698' ->5276'
Significance: rock formations, abandoned mines, historic Apace trading route
Trailhead: one mile north on FR4388 off Middlemarch Road (FR345) via old mining road.

This is a hike that Rod led with the Huachuca Hiking Club.  He gave me permission to cross-post this on the MeetUp, so I just cut-and-pasted the information:

Hike: 7.4 miles round trip Elevation: 616 ft (5158’ – 5874’). 993’ accumulated elevation gain.

It was anything like that!

I was up early and took my time prepping.  I opted to take Zeke, but then Sadie showed an interest in going and took her along as well.  She had had her Neutricks chew at 3am and it was already calming her down. I had a gallon of water and two cans of food.  Temperatures were forcasted in the low 70s so I just packed my yellow sweater.  This was our first warm day all week!

By 7:30am I took off for the meetup place at Fry's Foods in town.  Everyone was on time and off we were.  At the intersection of Moson and Charleston Road driving toward Tombstone, I met SusanM who was waiting in her white Jeep Cherokee off the side of the road.  We were a convoy of four white SUVs.  Off Middlemarch Road we met a fifth car, Krisanne from Tucson.  She had driven down via the east Dragoon exit off I-10.

I could tell that last week's rain has added a slight tinge of green to the otherwise dull colored landscape.

I had not driven on Middlemarch Road (FR345) this far east in years.  It reaches a high ridge by Soren Pass before it descends, S-curving around a narrow pass and opening up views toward the west.  For people with acrophobia, this is not an easy road, although the grade wasn't too bad.  ATVs and hunters were out with their loose hounds, causing us all to stop and drive slowly as to not hit the dogs.  We all agreed at the trailhead to drive back via the eastern paved roads on the return home.

We had to turn north on FR4388, which at the intersection of Middlemarch Road looks more like a sandy wash.  If Rod hadn't stopped and waited for all the cars to turn here, finding the group would have been hard.  We were a group of 15 people.  We finally reached our starting point and began our hike at 9:13am, on a sandy wash past an old mining site, a place that Kevin and I explored with Sara and Sammy back in 2005.  A green hue coated the eroded site.  One can find malachite and iron ore here.

Melted snow had now moistened the ground, but only a few thin patches of snow were still around in shadowed patches along the way.  We even came across a dead cow slumped over the side of the road.  We wondered if it was injured by a speeding ATV as there were no predatory marks on the critter.

I don't like sandy wash trails.  The loose soil slows me down.  We were on FR277 that lead us to the official Middlemarch Trail.  It was finally showing signs of returning to a singletrack as it slowly ascended up a rocky pass of loose, decomposed granite.  One has to watch one's footing here.   Years of harsh monsoons have helped erode the scarred hillsides even more.   I was not expecting this route to be so hilly, based on Rod's trail description.  He later admitted that he had merely guessed at distance and elevation gain.

One nice surprise was the water in the drainages that we crossed. The dogs stopped at all the water breaks.  I never had to stop to water them on the way out.  This was surely from snowmelt and a seasonal treat.  The farther north we hiked, the more mature the trees became, providing for shade.  The trail, along with the assorted rock formations, were finally coming into view, and are, in my opinion, the highlight of this hike.  This is where the hike became scenic.

Rod even stopped at a large stockpond visible from the highpoint, where Mata, David and Karen's heeler, could fetch sticks.  Sadie and Zeke enjoyed the water and Sadie barked for a stick, but wouldn't head into the water like Mata did so gracefully.  Sadie did annoy the group with her barking, which she luckily stopped once we resumed our hike to the East Stronghold campground.

The stockpond was not far from the intersection with the East-West Cochise trail.  From here the trail sign said we were two miles to the campground. I was hiking with new SVHikers member Galen, a heavyset retired postal clerk from Hawaii who joined to lose weight hiking.  He looked to have some trouble on the elevation, but seemed to enjoy the rocks.  I reassured him that the main Cochise Trail was no where as rocky or steep as the Middlemarch Trail.

We were now passing other hikers.  I had to leash the dogs before entering the campground, which of course the dogs resented. We found an empty picnic site where we took three tables and sat to eat.  The dogs got their canned food, I ate several tangerines.  (I had left --Surprise!--my wrapped hamburger on the kitchen counter again.)  The shade felt good.  My legs were a little tired, more than I expected.  I blame that on dehydration.   I really need to drink more during the hikes.  My GPS read 4.1 miles to this point, a bit longer than Rod's write-up.  I knew then that this hike would be longer than 7.4 miles.

We didn't stay long at the campsite.  Our group of 15 was now a group of 14 (David decided to turn around at the crest) and now SteveA offered a two-mile detour back via the Horse Trail outside the campground.  I volunteered to explore this, as did Holly, SusanM, Krissanne, Mel and SteveS.   The rest of the group went back the way we came.  We never saw them again.

I didn't realize that the trailhead was a mile outside the campground on the edge of the national forest boundary, down the dirt Stronghold Road, past a few historic homesteads and the old family home of Richard J Shaw, born in Illinois in 1905 but whose parents moved to the area in 1916 to relieve his asthma, a tactic many pioneers used to settle here.  Pancho Villa and his boys were still raiding the area, though, so it wasn't ideal living.  The family returned to Illinois but then came back in the 1920s, grew an orchard and expanded the stone homes.  When Shaw died in 1994, he donated four acres of his property to the Fort Sill Chiricahua-Warm Springs Apache tribe.   The historic ruins are now fenced off and no one is allowed in them.

The Horse Trail begins just before the Shaw house on W Ironwood Road.  It doesn't look like a horse trail nor did it look heavily used.  Usually horse trails are covered in horse shit, but this trail was clean.  It was a scenic single track that skirted the valley we were now climbing gently out of.  We did meet an equestrian who stopped to chat, perhaps surprised to learn we were locals.  He was a friendly, loquacious man, but the dogs were getting warm and I moved on to find shade and wait for the group.

The Horse Trail added 2.5 miles.  I'm glad I did this trail as it gave me a perspective of the small valley the Shaws lived in, but that extra mileage started my fatigue.  Even the dogs were slowing down and showing fatigue, digging into the soil after every break to cool down.  When we got back to the Middlemarch trail I noticed my left ankle was tingling.  Had I pulled a tendon in it?  The right one was also tingling, but not as much.  I had to stop more than usual, and Holly, Susan and the rest waited for Mel and me.

By 3pm we got a radio message saying that the other group had arrived at their cars and were taking off.  We were still an hour away.  We came back the same way on the trail as we hiked going out.  Now the dead cow smelled stronger, the snowmelt was less obvious, and everything looked dryer than this morning.  I was glad to be back at the truck.  The hike was 5.55 hours long and 10.6 miles, over three miles longer than what Rod had posted. Even with the agreed to Horse Trail addition, this was a long hike. I hope this didn't dissuade new members from joining.  I reminded Holly and Susan that SteveA's Horse Trail detour was an option we agreed to and not a fault of the hike leader.  Luckily the water in the drainages kept me from running out of water for the dogs.  The 71F and cool breeze also kept us refreshed.

We drove toward US181 toward Pearce and Gleason and took Gleason Road back to Tombstone.  This is a popular Ghost Town route, as many of these small ranching communities have historic sites open to the public and old mining trails meander up open hillsides.  The extra 50 miles around the mountain range took as long as if we had driven back via Middlemarch Road.  We got to Tombstone by 4:45pm, ate a mediocre meal at the Longhorn Restaurant (best known for its historic building; the food is just OK and overpriced).

We didn't get out of the place until after 6pm and by then it was too late for me to stop by and visit Chip.  The best part about this restaurant was seeing the costomed actors in 1880 attire come in and eat.  Tombstone's economy is based on Old West tourism.  To me, the town is a redneck hotbed of rebels and renegades, but that's my local perspective.

The sun was setting as I left the town at 6:25pm.  I stopped at Fry's for raw meat for the dogs, who were both now exhausted in the back.  Once home, both slept soundly.  Neither one moved the rest of the night.

My ankles only got worse as the night went on.  I sure hope I didn't pull something in both feet.  Despite the long day and sore ankles, I'm glad I did this hike with the group.  I have hiked the Cochise Stronghold trail several times and always wondered where that Middlemarch trail led.  Now I know!  I can cross that trail off my bucket list.  I probably won't be jumping at the next chance to do this trail again, though.  This hike really taxed my feet going uphill on the return hike.

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...Put me on a highway
And show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time...

(R. Meisner, D. Henley, G. Frey)


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