Coronado National Forest
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I want to go up Mount Graham and I want to do it right with some climb involved. It has 6300 feet of prominence, after all, and one should honor that. The sign at Round the Mountain Trailhead, the old summer CCC camp, says 17 miles to Columbine, the old winter CCC camp. I want to break off just short of that to take Deadman Highline Trail further up and across to finish coming down Noon Creek Ridge. I figure it for about 35 miles, which is too much for a day. That means Timmy, the cat, has to come with me, with all his limitations. He did a 5 mile day, hopefully he can do 7 mile days. That really slows me down to 5 days from probably 3 days. The big beautiful new kiosk at the trail says food has to be in the car or hanging in trees. I expect the bear canister is also okay and there do not look to be too many trees suitable for hanging food even where it hasn't burned, so that has to come. Oh, and there is snow up there and I got me some snowshoes, so those go too. The whole enterprise is almost certainly doomed to failure, but at least it won't be for lack of having an obviously necessary bit of equipment. There is a shorter loop heading up Gibson Creek after 5 miles, but I feel like when I fail, (er, "if", if you please) I'd rather have done as much Round the Mountain as I can.
Note: I hear rumors and innuendo about hiking in the "Red Squirrel Refugium Area" up at the top of the mountain. It says on OpenStreetMaps that all entry is forbidden, but there is an international observatory at the top and even if that thing is automated (as the winters here would certainly encourage) it still needs some maintenance, so that is obviously untrue. The Forest Service quad shows it, with very different boundaries, but does not contain the words "no public entry" as is common when public entry is not allowed, nor anything similar. I am looking at a shiny new kiosk with lots of room for more information at a trailhead that intersects a trail going to the top of the mountain in 5 miles, it certainly seems like the place to have information like that. It has a map that does not show the refugium at all, but does carefully highlight those trails within it as part of the "trail system". This rather strongly indicates hiking is legal. I will also enter the "Mount Graham Wilderness Study Area" in 2 miles. I don't know what a wilderness study area is, but there is noting to indicate it has the regulations typical of a wilderness. It's possible someone put the least amount of thought possible into the information presented here. There is a notice that pets should be on leash, which he is.
So I am off with my somewhat heavy pack and my handful of a leashed old man cat, down the steep path and over the creek. Oh, dear, why did I pack the hammock piece for carrying him? I knew he would need carried soon. He is not keen on getting carried across the creek, but I am pretty sure he would get even more unhappy if he got down in the middle, so I hang on while hoping the two big loose rocks along the way don't roll under me too badly when I step on them. He can walk again for the bit along the creek and the climb up into the burn. Very slowly.
|Looking down the valley, the burned south facing slope is quite distinct from the creek area and the north facing slope, but then it usually would be.|
|The trail and its destination, at least within what is visible from here. It goes up through the low spot on the ridge.|
A lot of the trees that burned died outright instead of regrowing from their roots here. Some have managed to preserve a little. Maybe these oaks do not have that ability. I want to stop hourly to give Timmy a chance to eat and drink. Hydration is important for him too, and he doesn't have a drink tube like I do. The first hour comes a lot closer to the trailhead than I was hoping. I started late and now I am even later if I really want to finish off 7 miles today. At least I can get out the carry sling that shouldn't have been packed.
|Up ahead, Heliograph Peak. It is a 10k foot peak a little shorter than Mount Graham.|