Sunday, April 12, 2015

Thompson Peak saddle (Ash Canyon)

This morning I was supposed to help photograph dogs at the annual Tombstone Small Animal Shelter Pet Parade at 10am, which marks the end of the town's annual Rose Festival. This is one of many fund raisers for the shelter. I got up at 6am to a cold, overcast morning. Rain quickly followed and it rained most of the day. The parade was cancelled but I went to Tombstone anyway.
Valli, a friend and also former volunteer of the Huachuca City Animal Shelter was there as well as a few other diehard supporters of the shelter. The town was quiet. This was the most abandoned-looking Rose Festival event that I attended. No shelter volunteers were there, no set-up. No spectators along the streets cheering on the pets. No one told me the event was cancelled. Valli and I had our own one-woman parade. I took a few photos of disappointed parade fans, had lunch with Valli at the Longhorn restaurant, and drove home around 12:30pm. Storm clouds were all around me.
I stopped at the Charlston Bridge to photograph the river and noticed two brown chickens pecking around the parking lot. This area is a popular place to dump unwanted animals, but chickens?!? Today was proving to be a strange day. I posted the photo on Facebook on a local animal site. Within an hour another local woman drove to the parking lot and was able to retrieve the two chickens. She now has them in her yard.
I thought today as going to be an entire wash-out, but the rain subsided by 4pm. By 4:30pm I had the pack en route to Ash Canyon to hike up the mining road to the saddle, just like I did two weeks ago. I didn't bring a back-pack or anything for the dogs. It was 51F and the dogs were fine.
It took me 45 minutes to make it to the saddle. My shins felt the work-out, but I felt better than last time. This 3.7-mile grade may become my regular training route! The path is little-used and void of vehicular traffic. This was once a very popular smuggling route, but the banditos are now going across the border further west. I didn't see any trash along this route, just new flowers popping up. The clouds were a deep grey overcast, but they provided a cool shade not common this time of year. I didn't have to worry about snakes, either.
A young couple was out digging for crystals as I got back down the path. It's odd to see people out here, but rumor has it that there has been placer gold found in the area, since the 2011 fire. Even the federal government has mining claims posted, with "PRIVATE PROPERTY" signs in some areas that were not there before the fire.
I got back to the van at 6:54pm, just as the setting sun was pinching out the last of its rays for the day.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bisbee Loop

I've been rather active lately hosting hikes through the local hiking MeetUpdotcom "Sierra Vista Hikers" group. I either host a hike or join others on a hike in the area. This gets people new to the area familiar with the terrain and shows them some of the nicer ones. The woman who created this Meet Up site, Nina, has become a friend of mine. I enjoy the hikes but I wish other members would also host a hike. I tend to lead hikes during the week.
I'd been wanting to do the Bisbee loop with a group for a while and finally got it tonight. There were five of us: Nina, Claire, Eric T, new hiker Holly and me. I had this scheduled for 4:30pm but we didn't get started until 4:45pm. Everyone seemed to need to use the bathroom before taking off and used the Old Bisbee Brewing Company for that. I didn't mind too much, as long as we could get the hike done before sun set at 6:46pm or end of twilight at 7:18pm. That means we had to hike at an easy-to-moderate pace of over two miles an hour. That's easy to do on level terrain, but that one exposed mile along a mine road can task the best of hikers.
This time I took Minnie since Zeke went yesterday on the Brown Canyon loop. This is about as far of a distance for her now, as she is getting a bit winded too often. Perhaps I need to place her on a special diet, which means no more grazing from the community dog food bucket. She still loves her hikes, but gets tired easily and pants loudly.
Holly had lived in Bisbee for many years and was able to tell us some history of the homes as we walked uphill through Brewery Gulch before entering Zacatecas Canyon. Her recollection of old neighbors, many who had passed on, added a certain charm to this hike. I like walking up this road as I always discover something new, whether it's fresh graffiti or new yard art.
We were in the cool shade of the canyon in the beginning while the trail stayed low near the drainage, but once we meandered uphill, we were in the exposed, hot grassland. There was no water here. This I knew would slow us all down. Minnie panted from the start. I was up front looking back at the others and stopped when the slower hikers got too far behind. I made the first saddle Minnie's first water break, and she drank her bowl dry.
The wind was strong here and stayed this way until we got to the return trail at 6pm. We were now fighting not just the wind, but the setting sun in our faces. The return trail is below the ridge line and out of the blowing wind. Maybe this is why I didn't notice a rattlesnake hiding under an agave as Minnie and I walked by. Eric yelled at me about the snake after we were passed it, but of course I had to go back and see what kind of snake it was. Luckily Minnie showed no interest in the snake and left it alone, but this is just a reminder to get her rattlesnake vaccinated in May when her three-year-shots are due.

It was windy at that first pass, but mellowed quite a bit once we got on the ridge for the return hike into town.