Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Blue moon hike in Brown Canyon

We started the new year with a full moon and ended the month with a second one, a blue blood moon.  This morning on my drive to the high school, I caught the end of the lunar eclipse as well.

I scheduled a 4:30pm hike and 11 people showed up, including three teens.  Yesterday only one person showed up for a moonlight hike.  I took Minnie and Zeke.  Today I took Sadie and Zeke.  We had a strong group tonight with no lolligaggers, although I stayed in the back to chat with Susan and later KD, neither of whom I had seen in a while.  It was still warm at the start, mid 60s, and I wore my hoodie tied around the waste.  I left the water in the truck for later.

I had a few regulars tonight.  Robert, SusanM and KD were there.  Nina was late (as usual) and met us walking in the opposite direction.  She joined us above the ranch on a low hill facing the Mule Mountains.

The moon rose as forecasted at 6:24pm.  The Belt of Venus, that brown shadow of the earth along the horizon, wasn't too bad today.  The moon's halo preceded the moon's rise.  Watching it made me miss my creative photography.  Tonight's moon was a photographer's delight.  No clouds obstructed the view.

We all stood on the hill for a good ten minutes, chatting and gawking at the moon.  The sun set at 5:55pm so I didn't want to stall too long and risk walking down the steep hill in the dark.

We all were done before 7pm.  The teens and their parents quickly departed, Susan left to get back home to husband and GSD, while Robert, Nina, Janet and I had a post-hike meal at Native Wings.  We got here during their weekly Trivia game.  This is a popular and very loud game.  I'm sure it's fun for participants, but not so much fun for casual diners wanting a decent meal.  The game ended just before 8pm.  The place quickly emptied and we were able to converse again.

Monday, January 29, 2018

San Pedro House Loop (4.3 miles)

Elevation: ~ 4000' (67' gain)
Distance: 4.23 miles.  Many options for longer distances
Significance: popular birding site, especially in the mornings and along the river

A misunderstanding on my part created an employment issue for me.  Instead of teaching English, I had a day off.  I used the opportunity to walk with Kim CF and three other women who had signed up for this meetup along the river.  We met at 9:30am at the San Pedro House to walk one of the circular loop walks popular with morning birders.  I took Sadie and Zeke.  (Sadie pushed herself out the door to join me; I only wanted to take Zeke.)  The last time I did this little loop walk, it was with Nina at a last-minute hike last fall.  Not much has changed, but this time the owl nest in the huge cottonwood by the house is gone, and some of the native plants around the house have been removed to allow space under the cottonwood.  The tree was trimmed of its damaged branches and with the branches went the owl nest.

It was initially a chilly morning under clear skies.  I wore my fake leather jacket over my work clothes.  We never got the high winds that were forecasted for today.  Sadie and Zeke were offleash once we got away from the San Pedro House, but I soon leashed them.  Both were running front and back and annoying us all.  The trail wasn't wide enough along the river for their antics.

It was an "all girls" hike.  Janet, Anna, Gina and I rounded out the fivesome.  I hadn't seen Gina in months, so that was a little reunion.  Turns out her fatigue from three years ago was from undiagnosed Lyme's Disease that she caught while visiting family back in North Carolina.  At least now she has closure and is on proper antibiotics!  The first doctor told her she had some mysterious blood disorder.  She suffered for three years under this "mysterious disease;" I hope she doesn't have long-term damage to her body because of the neglect.

The walk was a chatty walk, as if we all were trying to catch up with each others' lives.  Kim and I discussed future hikes.  I don't mind leading hikes in our cool winter mornings, but it will all get hot come March.  We are running out of weekends!  One hike discussed was me leading the 10-mile flat hike down to the border and back.  The last half-mile is down to the river.  I only do that in the winter due to the exposure.

The walk went quickly, up and near the river, along a wash and past some huge cottonwoods, and then back on the wide maintenance roads built by the BLM.  It was a figure-eight hike and each loop was just over two miles.  The more northern loop was north of SR90 and none of the trails were marked.

At 10:30am we finished the first loop.  I put Sadie and Zeke in the car to rest and drink water.  The heat was getting to them. Neither minded the shade with their water bowl.  I took off my jacket and left it in the truck, then continued with the gals for the second loop and finished by 11am, making this a quick leg stretcher.  Not too many people were around the house, and neither were there many birds, but it was still nice to have an excuse to walk around and take a few photos.  The river looked shallow due to lack of any rain.   The plastic bouquet of flowers placed at the spot where a dead border crosser was found last year still has not been replaced by a more ornate memorial cross.

We were done with our walk shortly after 11am.  We all chatted a bit but then departed.  Everyone was in a hurry to get back home.  I did the same.  The one walk that is followed by a social lunch is the Tuesday mornng walk up Carr Canyon Road, but I'll be working during that one.

At 5pm I went out again to walk Minnie and Sweetie. Sadie and Zeke insisted on coming as well, but this time Sadie waited for us in the truck while I walked a brisk 2.43 miles with the pack.  This makes my day's mileage 6.77 miles, a decent distance considering I did not walk the dogs twice last week.

The blue moon will be here Wednesday evening, but the ample moonlight is lighting up the night nicely.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

China Peak, 7125', Dragoon Mountains

Distance: 9.27 (added 1.4 miles for exploring)
Time: 5:10 hours
Elevation: 5316' - 7125'
Weather: Clear skies, 42F at peak
Significance:  old mining site, views, solitude
Caution:  Be careful in the summer, as the Dragoons are notorious for rattlesnakes.
Trailhead is two miles past the Coronado Forest Sign on Middlemarch Road.  FR697 veers off to the left (north)  Park off the road; you may be sharing this with RVers and hunters.

The entire weekend was beset by cold temperatures and high winds.  It even rained yesterday in the evening.  I didn't hike yesterday because of the winds, although the overcast skies would have been ideal.  I don't trust our fire-charred trees to stay intact during high winds.  Blowing sand in dogs's eyes is also not good.

I couldn't let today go without a hike, though.  The Dragoons always have been a favorite winter destination for me.  The rocks are enigmatic and there are no nasty rattlers on the trails this time of year.

I took Minnie, Zeke and Sadie in my Ford Escape.  I had been reading up on China Peak last week, but couldn't find any recent trail reports to the peak.  I wanted to know:  was this road hikable?  The only good resource was a trail report from 2009.  Wasn't there anything more recent?  So I went out there to explore.  My conclusion:  it's a great winter hike!  Just be aware that the road is very rocky and/or steep in sections.

Yesterday's rain left no snow on the Huachuca Peaks.  When I got to the trailhead off Middlemarch Road and FR697, again there was no sign of any rain from last night.  The roads were dry.  The Dragoons aren't as high up as the Huachucas, so I wasn't expecting snow-capped limestone hills, but I figured I'd see some water in the dry drainages that snake around these rocks.

Looking north toward the rocky hills, it was hard to gauge which trail was FR697, as there are so many unmarked ATV trails at this spot.  A Bowhunter getting ready to head to his spot told me he had seen a vehicle drive up that old mining trail earlier, the same road that veers toward a domed, limestone peak near a saddle.  Aim for that saddle and the nearby domed limestone peak. I opted to park the truck at the parking area and walk in.  This was a wise decision.  There is ample parking here, even with an RV parked on one side.   It is also open grazing, and lots of cow paddies littered the area.

FR697, the main road, is the whiter one, reinforced with white gravel for better traction. Smaller dirt roads branch off on either side and meander around the foothills. One can see mine trailings from Middlemarch road. On a hot day, this hike would be uncomfortable with no shade the first mile.   This road meanders in a north-northwest direction. Looking back toward the rocky western hills, one can see dry drainages and the ample valley behind a private ranch, which has an entrance just off Middlemarch road a half-mile west of FR697.

FR697 would be passable in a high-clearance vehicle orATVs, but there is no turn-around for two miles.   I didn't trust my truck to make it when I saw the first uneven dip in the road.  Actually, I didn't trust ME!  The road touches precariously close to the steep edge, too.  It's not a road for speed!  The road snakes up along the edge of the upper grasslands before nearing the big rocks.  After a heavy monsoon, there would be pools of water in the rocky depressions.  Views open up to the west, and the higher one climbs on this road, the more the valley opens up.  Tombstone and Whetsone are visible.

I actually found this hike rather easy.  The grade isn't bad at all.  After the first mile I hit the first overlook toward Sheepshead Rock, then the road takes a slight right, passing a rock wall on either side.  Once past this rock wall, I was now on the north side of the hill.  Small patches of icy snow from last night remained in the shaded area.  Vegetation goes from ocotillo, agave, and spinybrush to oaks, junipers and yuccas.  It is a much different landscape here.  Minnie appreciated the cooler north side.  I stopped a few times so that the dogs could eat some of the snow.  I was now in a small, shaded area that was the old site of the San Juan camp, also known as "China Camp" because so many Chinese were laboring here.  Two old slabs remain of that camp.  It's now a campsite for ATVers. The three-mile hike to this old camp would be a nice enough destination.

The dogs seemed to have fun.  I watched out for Minnie, as this was her longest hike in a while.  I knew the cold weather would be a plus for her.  The added snow, and later water found in a closed mine shaft cooled her down. Minnie stopped a few times to rest, but never panted like she normally does in warmer weather.  I brought her on today's hike because I know she does much better in colder weather. The only problem I had was that I kept getting whiffs of either dog fart or skunk while walking behind Minnie. However, she was a real champ today, staying with Sadie and keeping pace with the pack.

The old China Camp (Gordon Camp) is set up against the east side of a rocky protrusion, where evidence of intermittent waterfalls are.  What a lovely area this would be in the summer!  I want to come back here and explore it. The small valley is surrounded by hills and a creek bed.  This creek bed I'm sure once provided the water needed for the nearby mines. There was no water in it today. China Peak pokes its way ahead, above the old mine.  I now saw snow in shaded patches under North-leaning trees, in agave stalks and in depressions.  This was a treat for the dogs.  I never had to stop to give them water from my half-gallon supply.

The road is mostly passable up to the mine.  FR4390 turns off to the right while the main road takes a sharp turn west past the waterhole and then quickly switchbacks steeply above the mine to the peak.  There are no road markers anywhere and I wasn't sure where to go.  I realized after one dead end to stay mostly north.  The only road marker anywhere indicating FR697 is on the return hike pointing south.

The views along this trail are impressive.  The east side of Sheepshead Rock exposes itself.  Slavin Gulch and the Cochise Stronghold are to the north.  The snowcapped Chiricahuas are to the distant east, and the Huachucas and the valley are to the south.  I could see the Middlemarch trail climb a hill north from my viewpoint, before descending into the Stronghold.  (The hiking club will be doing that hike on March 3rd)

It took me 2:20 hours to get to the peak.  I passed a few mine holes on that last ATV trail. Lead, zinc and silver were once mined here in the 1880s.  I lost some time going up that dead end. It was only 42F on the peak and winds were from the northwest at 19mph.  If it weren't so cold, I'd have sat here longer, but my hands were getting numb.  The peak is conical in shape with no shade other than some low-lying shrubs under which the dogs sat.  From China Peak, it's a gentle ridgeline covered in scrub oaks and large boulders to several other peaks of around the same elevation. Minnie wanted to play fetch with some sticks she found. It's good to know she still has that playful energy, but I needed to think about the return hike.  It was 2:50pm and I wanted to get back to the truck before it got too dark.

I explored FR4390 for a half mile but turned around when I realized I was regaining elevation I had at China Peak.  FR4390 road goes up an unnamed peak.  There were some tire tracks here, the only ones I noticed, but never saw another vehicle.  I will leave this trail for another day.  Perhaps a half-mile bushwhack from China Peak to this unnamed peak is doable?  The elevation gain wouldn't be too bad.

It was now 4pm and the sun was low on the western side of the hills and casting shadows on our path.  This was good for the dogs, not so good for me. The yellow raincoat I wore as my outer layer today thankfully kept the chill away from my core.  The wind was minimal on the return hike. The lower sun did create a softer hue, though, which is nice for photographs.  I could see Middlemarch road snake off toward Tombstone.

I stopped at China Camp briefly to check out the rocks.  It was tempting to stay here, and I would have, had I more daylight left.  The dogs found a pool of water in a small rock depression.  A faint trail led off into the rocks, and a rock circle indicating a fire ring was nearby: a popular campsite.

We made it back to the truck at 5:10pm.  All the vehicles that were here at 12:30pm were still here!  I fed the dogs each a can of food and got on my way.  There were many more hunters parked along Middlemarch Road and scoping the hillsides for prey to kill.

The truck provided relief for the dogs.  They were finally off their paws!  They were so well behaved on the drive back.  But now I was cold since the truck has no heat.  I caught the sunset against the western Dragoons at 5:30pm.  The rocks briefly turned a stunning orange and red just before the sun dipped behind the western horizon.

 I stopped by the Tombstone Brewing Company again and this time met the second bartender, Jon, an older man from northern California.  He only works weekends. A young man with a long beard had stopped in to try the variety of ever-changing beers and was sitting at the counter.  I took a seat a few stools to his left.  He was a young man; surely he'd be annoyed having me talk with him!

The bearded man had been on the road for 41 days and was slowly heading back to western Michigan.  He visits National Parks and was upset that Saguaro National Park was closed due to the government shutdown. (You can still enter the national parks in AZ to hike and bike; you simply can't drive in and park.  You can, however, get a parking ticket if parked on a road designating no parking.)  Another couple from Littleton, CO came by and admired my three napping dogs.  Jon was kind enough to invite the dogs in.  I was so proud of them for being so well behaved.  Three more men walked in at 6:35pm, 25 minutes before closing.  "Yeah, sometimes I stay open past 7pm" explained Jon.

I think this brewpub is going to draw craft brew lovers to Tombstone via word-of-mouth; the German-trained brewmaster really does make great beers!  If only Sierra Vista's chamber of commerce would realize how many wealthy beer lovers would want to visit a good brewpub in town.  It's embarrassing that much smaller towns like Bisbee and Tombstone have such good breweries and all Sierra Vista gets are Bud Lite endorsements.  Ugh.

I made it home by 7:15pm.  The dogs rested as soon as they got home.  It was quite cold out, and overnight lows will be in the low 30s/high 20s.  Brr!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Council Rocks via Slavin Gulch with Kel, Steve and three dogs

This is the same route I took on Thursday afternoon.  This time I started the hike at 8:57am and had some human company.  Kel and Steve and their dogs Rudy and Trace, along with Zeke, went on this hike.  I kept the other dogs at home to keep this hike from being overrun by dogs.

We left from the Quail Ridge RV campground in Whetstone and drove east on SR82, which takes us a mile north of Middlemarch Road off SR80.  Steve rode with me; Kel rode in his Toyota.  It's about a 32-mile drive from Whetstone.  We were the first vehicles in the parking area.

It was considerably cooler this time and that made the route easier to hike.  I never put on my windbreaker today. This time I made sure I was on that unmarked horse trail off Slavin Gulch, .85 mile from the start.  That faint trail is just past the (dry) creek to the left, camouflaged with tall grass and thus hard to see.  Staying on the trail from the start made the trail easier to follow, although the catclaw was as poky as it was on Thursday and Kel was wearing shorts.   My new Carthartt jeans took a beating, and my driweave Royal Robbins shirt (I love their hiking shirts!) got a few new snags in it.

We stopped several times for water breaks.  Trace flushed a few quail a few times.  Rudy stayed on the leash the entire hike.  Zeke stayed by my side, and Kel even told me he was impressed with that.  The three dogs got along.  Minnie would have harassed Rudy and Sadie would have kept her distance from the others.  We all followed the trail/wash as it hugged the rocky mounds.  For a first-timer, walking around the hoodoos must be a thrilling experience.  Neither complained about the catclaw scratching their skin.

We spent some time at Council Rocks so that the guys could check out the pictographs.  We sat in the shade by the cubical rock where there still was some water in the depression.  Half of the water has evaporated since Thursday.  Trace and Rudy sat in the water while Zeke sat next to me.  He wasn't being very playful here and refused most of his duck jerky treats which Trace more than enthusiastically took instead.  Hopefully, Zeke was just tired, or perhaps warm from the sun and just needed a break.

A large group of what looked like Apache women came to the rocks as we started on our return loop, going the same way I went on Thursday, along FR687, until hitting that horse trail again. This time there were cattle in the area. Kel found a nice rocky area to rest and take in the views from here.  The RVs I passed on Thursday were no longer there.

We got back to the trucks at 1pm, making this a four-hour hike. My app said it was 6.27 miles, shorter than Thursday's track, but I feel this is more of a 6.5-mile loop.  Even the write-up for the Huachuca Hiking Club, which will host this loop in two weeks, says it's 6.5 miles.   I need to find a reliable GPS app; MapMyHike doesn't work well for me as my track read we hiked 2.06 hours when in fact it was four hours.

There were three more vehicles in the parking area now. We still had plenty of time to eat lunch in Tombstone, but then Kel's truck got a flat in the front right tire which took the guys a bit to fix.  Some green slime and a pump-up with Kel's Viair compressor did the trick.  I was impressed with that little Viair!  My front right tire looked low on air as well and Steve got that one filled for me.  He said PSI was down to 15 (!!!) when it should have been 30.

Kevin was already asleep when I got home at 4:40pm, but the other dogs wanted their walk, too.  I took the pack back to my usual walking area by Rancho San Pedro, but then none of the dogs wanted to hop out to walk.  Huh?!  Turns out they didn't want to walk on the pavement, they wanted to walk on the dirt road a half-mile away, so I made that our destination today.  I started feeling tired and only walked .83 miles.  That seemed to satisfy my pack today.

Weather next Saturday looks to be partly cloudy with temperatures in the low 50s.  Sounds like a perfect time to head back to the Dragoons and do some exploring.  I've come across old trail reports to China Peak (7100', 7.8 miles) but there's nothing more recent than 2010.  It's an old mining trail that takes one to the mining camp and the rocky peak.  Another area I'd love to explore with the guys is El Pilar dam in the Santa Ritas.  The hiking club did that last November.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Bog Springs-Kent Springs Loop in the Santa Rita Mtns (5.3 miles)

Distance: 5.3 miles
Elevation: 5060'-6700'
Hiking time: 4.5 hours (slow on purpose)
Elevation: 5060' - 6700'

The Bogs Springs-Kent Springs Loop hike in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson makes for a challenging hike.  This is not a hike for the faint-of-heart either, as elevation gain  is close to 1700', making the 5.3-mile hike seem more like a 7-miler.  Robert and I had wanted this to be a special hike with Nina's friends from her time in Sierra Vista.  She now lives in Sahuarita, 90 miles away, and hasn't hiked with the old meet-up group since moving in November.

Nina, Robert, HollyW, SteveT and I, along with canines Trace and Zeke met at the trailhead parking area within the upper Bog Springs campground at 10:30am and started the hike at 10:38am.  One has to know that the trail starts here, as there are no signs leading drivers to this location as it's in the campground. I last did this hike a few years ago with the Huachuca Hiking Club and remembered just a few details:  that it was steep in parts, rocky in others, and that the return hike was all downhill.  We hiked this clockwise, going up to Bogs Spring first, then Kent Springs.  This way the grade is not as steep, and views are just as plentiful.

Weather promised to be in the mid 70s in Sahuarita, meaning more like upper 60s at our elevation. I wore my blue hiking shirt and never felt the need to put on my windbreaker.  I warmed up enough on this hike.  Skies were mostly clear with no wind.

The hike was not as busy as I expected it to be.  We were the first in the parking lot.  This trail goes down into a dry wash but then gradually climbs up an old mining trail before turning off on a single-track up to Bog Springs.  The old mining trail goes up to Kent Springs and is rocky, with loose rocks, and exposed. An old metal sign for the Bogs Spring Trail comes at the .8-mile mark and leaves the crowds behind.  This is where the fun begins, as one climbs up to see views west into Green Valley-Sahuarita.  Emory Oak trees along the way provide for relieving shade.

Robert, who's been lamenting being out of shape since last August, stayed up front.  He'd dash ahead and then wait for the others.  I was second.  Holly, Nina and Steve were in the rear. The trail takes on a gradual grade the entire time and we rested often, but the steepest grade is the distance from Bogs to Kent Springs beginning at the 1.4 mile mark as the trail takes a steep switchback route to a ridgeline that eventually descends into the lush sycamore-filled ravine of Kent Springs.

Robert and I somehow missed the actual Bog Springs (it was just behind the sign; we had just gone uphill from there).  This was an oversight, as it would have been the first water stop for Zeke. Here's where we stopped for lunch.  Water was flowing from the springs into the drainage and refreshed the dogs. We were in a cool, shaded area.

This was everyone's first time doing this loop and everyone enjoyed it.  No one complained about the elevation, distance or difficulty.  We had agreed as a group to do this hike as opposed to the Elephant Head mountain bike trail because of the shade, and this was a wise decision. Everyone did say what a beautiful part of the Madera wilderness the loop went through.  I am curious about The Four Springs trail off Kent Springs. This trail continues uphill to the Florida Crest Trail via the saddle just north of McCleary peak to an elevation of 8127'.  There are so many trails in the mountain range that I have never done.

The hike from Kent Springs now takes a downhill grade, looping back to the mine trail we took at the start.  The trail is more reminiscent of an old mine trail, wider and rockier than the singletrack we had left.  There were pools of water but the drainage was dry by the time we crossed the creek, neared Sylvester Springs, and finished off back at the campground.  There were more people in this last mile of the trail and I put Zeke back on his leash.

Our destination post-hike restaurant was Pub 1922 in Sahuarita, a place Nina had been wanting to try for its gluten-free menu.  I don't go to Sahuarita often at all and know nothing about the area's restaurants, but it was a nice place for a group of six.  We sat away from the noisy bar area.  Service was slow but the food was decent.  The dogs rested in a shaded parking area.  Robert and Holly drove back to Sierra Vista, but Steve and I visited with Nina and Mark in their new home.  They have a panoramic view of the Santa Ritas along the drive there.

Nina is interested in doing the Bogs-Kent Springs loop on a monthly schedule.  I'd like that, too, and hopefully explore other trails in her area.  Keystone Peak is 50 miles to her west, the highest peak in the Sierritas and once a busy mining area.  The land is still owned by the McGees. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Council Rocks via Slavin Gulch (Dragoon Mountains)

Distance: 6.36 miles
Elevation: 4746' - 5022'
Elevation gain: 561'
Time: 3 hours overall
Terrain: Grasslands, foothills, some rock stepping
Significance: Cochise met with Capt Howard here to negotiate a peace in 1872.  Ancient pictographs on rocks
Directions: Drive east on Middlemarch Road north of MM316 on SR80 N of Tombstone.  Turn left at FR687 for three miles.  The road is passable to sedans. Trailhead parking is at a rise by a large boulder outcropping just after passing a wash. Trail sign is visible on the trail.

I stopped by Chip's place at 11:15am as a courtesy check.  He was on the phone with a suicide prevention counselor and crying.  "I can't care of these cats anymore!" he told me between sobs.  This was quite an ominous start to the day.  I was there for two hours, cleaning all the kitty boxes, giving the cats fresh water and kibble, and mopping up some pee in the kitchen.  The dogs were getting restless and wanted to go hiking! I stayed until he felt better again.  He thanked me for stopping by.

Minnie, Sadie, Zeke and I didn't get started on this hike until 1:49pm. I left Sweetie at home since she is unpredictable around wildlife.  (Turns out, we only came across birds.)

It was a cloudless and cool day of 66F; a perfect day for an exposed hike among the rocks.  I was the second car at the trailhead.  I hadn't done this loop since 2009 and used my phone app to guide me.  I remember only that we hiked along the foothills and along a wash, but had forgotten the details. Two other men were returning from a hike to Abril mine in Slavin Gulch.

The trail begins going northeast along a singletrack through a grassy area flanked by interesting hoodoos.  This is the easy part.  One has to watch one's footing, though, as there are many loose rocks in sections.  In the summer one may also come across rattlers here.  On one visit, I came across two adults within a short distance of each other.

Elevation start is 4746' and gains just over 50' at the .86 mile turnoff to the cutoff over the pass.  It's easy going here and fairly level: the trail parallels the creek, which can overflow during the summer monsoon but which was pooled in small sections today.  This was the only water for the dogs. But then the trail changes as it takes a turn to the northwest, away from the main trail and following a wash.

This first turnoff goes through a dry wash for most of this second mile, with much prickly overgrown shrubs that get caught in soft clothing. The trail here could use some maintenance.  This is a horse trail used by people nearby.  Without my GPS app to guide me, though, I'd have a hard time following the unmarked trail due to the many snags and crevices along the way, and the soft sand in sections.  This slows one down for the second mile, which ends at a barbed wire fence by two oak trees.  Once past this fence, the trail clears, the Dragoons are to one's right and the only annoyance now is the cow paddies.  This second mile goes through tall golden (dead) grasses. By the third mile we approach the 687A parking area, go through a green gate for another .3 miles.  I remembered the green gate from my first time hiking this path.  I also remember the large rattler on this trail under the shade of an oak tree.  The Dragoons are a popular habitat for rattlers, which is why I prefer hiking here in the winter. The big rocks are visible from here.  Some rock stepping and boulder hopping are required, but the well-trodden path is easy to follow.

Minnie panted during the entire hike.  She always slows me down as I have to give her rest breaks, but she also needs the exercise.  I need to take her out more on these longer hikes, but she doesn't do well in warm weather. We came across a shallow pool of water, a perfect rest break after 3.2 miles.   This water was from an early morning rain that collected in a natural rock depression.  I used this water spot for a short break.  I carried 16 pounds of water with me and didn't give the dogs any until we got back to the truck. All that water against my back gave me a sore spot on my lower spine.

Council Rocks makes a lovely destination hike.  While I walked along the foothills for three miles to reach it, there is a parking area just below the rocks for those who just want to explore the ancient rock art. Views toward  Cochise Stronghold (another great hike!) to the northeast, north and west open up here.  The Huachuca and Whetstone mountains scrape along the western horizon.
The big rocks provide shade and a view.  A Coronado National Forest sign in front of the pictographs describing the history is the only proof one is in the right spot.

I didn't stay long.  I knew the dogs were tired and the route back is more exposed as one mile is on the main forest road 687, a popular ATV route.  Despite two parked cars in two separate areas, I came across no one on my hike.  The dogs enjoyed their offleash time.

I walked the .3 miles back to the 687A parking area and took the road from here.  It was after 4pm and the winter sun was low, blinding me as we walked in a southeasterly direction.  The only shade we had here was from the shade of mature oak trees along the road.  I was happy to get back on an unmarked trail taking us southeast and out of the waning sun and over a low pass back to where my truck was.  This trail is the second part of the horse trail.  Here we had more shade again.  This trail comes back to the main Slavin Gulch trail .1 mile from the trailhead.

We got back to the truck at 4:48pm.  The dogs were happy to rest their legs.  I stopped for five miles on the drive back to Middlemarch road as I chatted with a San Diegan interested in the abandoned Bachman Springs* development that cost the developers $32 million.   He was parked off Middlemarch Road trying to find the location of the site. While I don't know why the project was scrapped, I'm sure nearby homeowners didn't want to lose the quiet desert appeal, the rolling grasslands and the views of the enigmatic Dragoons.  It was a wise decision.

The dogs slept quietly as soon as I got home. Minnie hasn't hiked this much since she hiked up Carr Peak last spring.

I stopped at the Tombstone Brewing Company on my way home.  Steve has raved about this place and I must say the beers are quite good!  The place is small, with just indoor seating for 72.   I can still smell freshly-cut wood used for the long tables and chairs.  I tried two beers: the pilsner (5.3% ABV) and the smoother oak ale (4.2% A).  The brew pub has been opened only 13 months and is getting excellent reviews.  Leashed dogs are allowed in the small uncovered patio on the building's east side.

There were only three customers at the bar, including me. The available beers on tap change almost daily.  The bar manager, Lincoln, who brags to everyone who comes in about his acting roles with Kevin Costner and Johnny Depp, and a small speaking part in Deadwood, also let me know without provocation on my part that he loves our current president for speaking his mind.  He certainly is an interesting character.  Just don't call him President Lincoln.

(I'll get the photos up over the weekend.)

The Bachmann Springs Master Development Plan was approved on May 1, 2000 by the Cochise County Board of Supervisors, and included a proposed Resort Community consisting of 1,709.43-acres. A Final Plan divided the parcels into ‘Tracts’, and Common Areas,. including a 322-acre golf course, 1,125 custom home sites, 400 Hospitality rooms, and 74-acres of open space. The density of this development was 0.66 dwelling units per acre, with the golf course and the 120-lot subdivision planned as Phase 1. The golf course and pumps had already been installed but have now gone back to nature. The project was set back as a result of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and lacked willing investors. Based in Los Angeles, Bachmann has developed hotel and condominium projects in Switzerland, Germany and Florida. He's been interested in doing something in Arizona's high desert country "for decades," Boland said. He found the Tombstone-area site in 1998. Home sites in Bachmann Springs were priced in the $500K per lot and UP.