Saturday, August 8, 2020

Slavin Gulch watering holes in the Dragoon mountains near Tombstone

Distance: 4.2 miles
Elevation:
Significance: hiking among hoodoos, wading through pools of water

Ellen had this hike planned a week ago, when we were slated for an intense rainfall that ended up bypassing us.  The rain this monsoon season has been minimal for our area.  Temperatures were also expected to reach near 100F, so I agreed to do this with caution.

The Dragoons are a popular snake habitat and they lurk among the cacti and rocks this time of year.  I left all dogs at home for that reason and also because I didn't want them to suffer from heat exhaustion.  I'm glad I did that.  I walked a mile with Sweetie, Zeke, Hansel und Gretel at sunrise to make up for their absence.  (Sadie stayed home and Minnie walked back to the Honda and waited for us there.)

I rode with Susan and we met Ellen on Middlemarch Road, getting to the trailhead at 8:50 and starting off from a campsite just before the dry wash.  This wash normally has water flowing in
it, so this dry wash was not a good sign.  There was only one car at the trailhead and no RVs anywhere.  Normally RVers take over all the dispersed campsites.

What we did see a lot of were cows wearing cowbells.  There was plenty of cow shit on the trail, too, perhaps because the cows were walking toward where they knew water would pool nearly 3/4 mile into this hike.



The first watering hole is a mile up the trail, just past a rusty barbed wire stomped down by hikers.  It's an easy step over this wire. This barbed wire is to keep the cattle out, and it seems to work.  This barbed wire, however, does not keep snakes out.  We had just looked at the first watering hole  and gotten our hair wet when right off the trail, under an agave, a pissed-off Diamondback was rattling and wouldn't stop rattling.  Susan and Ellen stepped back, but I grabbed small rocks to throw them at the snake so that it would slither off.  I didn't want to hurt the snake.  I just wanted it to get out of our way. It wouldn't move.

Ellen was ready to continue up the hill via the creekbed, but when we decided to go that route, I noticed that the snake finally slithered off.  We all did record-breaking 20-foot dashes to get around the agave and continue up the trail.  I was now branded the snake whisperer.

Most of the shallow pools had dried up.  I had not seen Slavin Gulch this dry in years.  We were not expecting the upper pools to have much water, either, but the three big pools were indeed tricking with water, enough for us to get our hair wet and dunk into the water for a refreshing cool-down.  Red and yellow dragonflies followed us along the water.

There weren't too many flowers in bloom, but the red desert honeysuckle lined the upper trail with its tubular flowers.  Susan got excited to see the flowers, saying "It's like an English garden in here!"





The farthest pool on the trail is two miles from the trail head and requires walking down a grade to the creek, dodging shin daggers that poked my legs bloody.  There was enough water here.  We had lunch at the pool, then lay in the 'bathtub rock that Ellen showed us.  Little tadpoles near the bottom were probably quite surprised to have their home disturbed by humans.  Susan was having fun in the water; it was nice to see her having so much fun.

We now were on our return walk, using the rocky creekbed to get back to our cars.  We stayed in the creekbed for as long as we could before getting back on the trail to avoid a big drop, got back on the creekbed and stayed there until the creek took a turn north away from the trail.  We got back on the trail one last time right before the barbed wire.

Clouds had been forming most of the morning and early afternoon, and this unexpected cloudcover made the heat more bearable.  We didn't feel the full impact of the heat until that last final mile, over the hot sand.  The heat was radiating off the rocks as well.  This hike would have been too much for any of the dogs.  Susan and I were glad we didn't have to worry about them on this hike.

We had hiked 4.3 miles in 3:5 hours.  We were all tired now, but glad we came afterall.  The Dragoons are a beautiful place, but they are best enjoyed in cooler, overcast weather when snakes aren't such a problem.  Susan wants to go back this winter and explore some hidden passes up the rocks.

Susan and I got together one last tine at 5:30 to walk the dogs for 1.25 miles along the river, up and down a stretch near the famed bed and breakfast.  This way all the dogs, including Sadie (!) got at least that much in exercise for the day.  They all enjoy the water

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