30 April 2019


I actually sketched a few times last month. Okay, one was actually from March, but it's still better than the previous months.

I stopped on my way back along the roads in the Goldfield Mountains to sketch.

I studied the terraces a little more on the way down from Silver Peak.

I rejoiced in the apple blossoms while hoping Timmy would nap.

29 April 2019

Dragonfly Route

Gila National Forest

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There are other destinations to be had starting at the Dragonfly Trailhead, but the claim to fame is clearly the petroglyph somewhere along a loop of trail a little over 4 miles long. This is still in the area that was once cavalry pastures for Fort Bayard but is now administrative pastures for the Forest Service, so is well fenced around the edges. The shape of the petroglyph is repeated along the fence as decoration, so you'll know what you're looking for if you choose to try to find it. A sign on the gate warns that the area is under surveillance to try to catch vandals because it is getting abused. It has the only mention of how to treat the art site: look but don't touch. Yes, even petroglyphs degrade too quickly under a constant stream of people walking up, stabbing their finger into it, and shouting to the rest of their group, "Here it is!"

gate to start the hike with dragonfly on the fence
Gate at the start of the trail. There is a dragonfly to the left on the fence and the paving doesn't last very long.

One trail heads out of a different gate onto an old road to the south toward the actual Fort Bayard. Another trail breaks off early on going north toward Twin Sisters Creek Trail, then Fence Line Trail, and finally the Wood Haul Wagon Road Trail I was on a few days ago. Not much further, the Dragonfly Loop splits. A sign at the first split says it is 2 miles to the petroglyph, but nothing at the loop split indicates which direction that mileage is measured along. I take the left, and that makes all the difference, which is probably none at all. It sends me past a shallow and dry vernal pool and a couple of the "wrong" junipers (they don't have alligator bark), and over some very easy rolling hills. The other direction would have done the same. Trails keep breaking off to the north as if people suddenly realize they actually wanted that instead quite frequently. Or maybe there are other, unnoted art sites along the way. That seems unlikely, but then none of the area seems likely for an art site.

Twin Sisters in the distance
Twin Sisters where the Continental Divide Trail passes in the distance. There are lots of little purple flowers blooming in the grass nearby.

27 April 2019

Big Tree and some Knobs

Gila National Forest

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The pastures of Fort Bayard, where cavalry were once stationed, seem to now be the administrative pastures of the Gila Forest, although it is questionable if they are used as any such thing now. Upon them sits an alligator juniper of such unusual proportions that it has been placed on the map. The "big tree" is only 1.5 miles along the trail from the Big Tree Trailhead, but I have found some other map markings that seem worth at least a brief visit and will stretch the trip out a bit. The large and empty gravel lot has two trails leaving it, one generally north and one generally west. The one generally north is the Big Tree Trail, so I head out on the one generally west. My first major stop will be Signal Knob, but there are some benchmarks along the way I'd like to visit so long as they are not too far off trail.

trailhead signage
The trailhead includes gate and fencing to keep the horses, if there are any, out of the lot as well as nice signage including a map and mileage signs for each trail.

old road as trail
Trails are mostly old roads, many with "wood haul" as part of the name. Most the tracks are mountain bike.

The trail across the old pasture is long and fairly flat. As it crosses a shallow gully, Stephens Creek when it flows but for now it just shows a little mud, there are some signs of attempts to improve the trail route against erosion. There seem to be two routes to the Wood Haul Wagon Road, both through ranch gates in mystery fencing. The pastures seem to have been split up once. There are ancient stumps all over the place, though most are so far gone it is getting hard to say if they are victims of the wood hauling. Probably. There are more junctions than I am expecting based on my map. Some aren't signed and look like mountain bikes have simply decided they need more miles to roam, but some are signed. Oh, and I've already missed looking for a section corner that should have been about 2 steps off the trail, but there is a roadside benchmark nearby I could look for. Trouble is, it doesn't seem to be where it's marked or in any of the rock outcrops nearby. Oh well. I just keep taking corners until I am traveling north on the Sawmill Wagon Road Trail.

northerly peaks in a long line
Some higher ground out to the north.

24 April 2019

Burro Peak

Gila National Forest

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Time for some firsts, at least as far as I can remember. My first miles on the Continental Divide Trail and first New Mexico peak. Neither of them very big. Burro Peak stands just over 8k feet and the peak is just a little way off the trail after something more than 4 miles from the trailhead near the highway. The peakbaggers say I can drive a long road braving sand and rocks to make the hike about 1.6 miles, but that sort of thing just makes it seem smaller and less meaningful to me. Anyway, this bit of trail actually follows the divide, after an initial scurry over to it, then on up to the peak. Everything drains to the Pacific on the left and the Atlantic on the right (while headed north).

sign at Jacks Trailhead
Jacks Peak CDNST Trailhead sign. Jacks Peak is slightly closer, shorter, and topped with antennas. Those searching for a shorter hike use the service road.

So I start the gentle climbing. The divide isn't all that high around here, in a relative sense, but it's getting higher. Thus the mountain. The plants are looking a little more high desert and a little more familiar, though I'm not sure they are. With the junipers, that's because the alligator bark is starting to look usual. With the mountain mahogany, it is because they always seem to be on the fringe of normal without quite ever getting familiar. Maybe it's that the medium distant hillsides look distinctly like soft chaparral. There's still a few cholla, but these have very short spines and seem to know how to keep their distance better.

Continental Divide
Getting up around the Continental Divide, which goes over the hill to the right.

ranches along the highway
Looking to the Atlantic side. Quite a few ranches are along the highway and some big mountains on the horizon.

18 April 2019

Basin and Snowshed Loop

Coronado National Forest

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Even though I know the "parks" around here are just saddles, I have this urge to go up and see Pine Park. It's just 3 miles along, just past a junction at the ridge. For a little extra incentive, there's a Fossil Saddle and Fossil Seep a half mile the other way. It's the way I would have gone up had I done Chiricahua as a day hike instead of a backpack. And I might could just make a loop out of it and maybe get some different viewpoints of Cave Creek Canyon. Maybe. I'll get to the top and decide. I would have waited another day to let my poor legs rest a little more after the 32 mile overnight backpack, but the storm that started as I was finishing put down a bit of snow all over the higher elevations and I wouldn't mind getting up there while it still is. Starting at Herb Martyr just like for the loop past Ash Spring, I head directly across the campground to the large sign across the creek skipping that early section of confusion altogether and getting to follow a well used trail instead.

big sign with various destinations
Oh, the places you'll go. Done Ash Spring, now to check off the others. Well, already been on Showshed Trail some too.

This time, at the second sign, I stay straight. The trail quickly crosses Cave Creek and starts up the other side. The signs say Little Dam is this way and indeed, there it is. Rising only about a foot high, I almost miss it. It is indeed a little dam. Past it, the trail enters the fenced wilderness with a mystery trail coming down the fence line. I may have to check out where it goes when I get back.

Cave Creek
Snowshed Peak above (give or take) and Cave Creek below. Little Dam is a line of white water just into the trees.

Once in the wilderness, I am surrounded by scrub regrowth after a burn. Snapped, blackened pine trunks suggest it was a little more forest like before. The trail is showing some signs of water wear, but seems to be putting up a good fight against becoming a wash. It seems a little easy on the climb for something that has to rise 2000 feet in 3 miles, but it eventually gets going. Cave Creek looks like it could be a difficult thing to up cross country, but it could be worthy. Besides all the great rocks, it also has a waterfall, but it keeps its much more hidden away from people than Winn Falls on Cima Creek but more exposed to the sun.

Cave Creek among some cliffs including one it launches off, and Chiricahua Peak
Chiricahua Peak shows a bit of yesterday's snow on its flank above Cave Creek. The waterfall, quite tiny from here, is a little left and lower than center.

long band of tall and taller cliffs
Trying to take in the cliff band that holds the waterfalls.

Pines return in the higher elevations, still showing where the fire bit into them. It would be miserable to get to Pine Park and find no pines. Coming around one corner on a shoulder of ridge, there is the fattest madrone I have ever encountered. I had read that Santa Barbara was the southern end of their range, but maybe that is just the coastal ones. They certainly grow tall and thin in the wetter northern climates. Maybe it's not a madrone, but look at the bark and the leaves, it has to be! Someone has been up here with a McLeod working on the trail in the last couple of years, too, and it is nice to have no difficulties finding the trail and walking on it.

16 April 2019

Cave Creek: Showshed, Chiricahua, and Flys Peaks

Coronado National Forest

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Start with the FIRST DAY <<
(Day 2 of 2) I have pudding with chia seeds and pecans requiring no cooking to eat, but I want some hot cider so I have to pack up camp first. There just isn't a single bit of flat area not already occupied. The rock wall I am below is interesting. At first it looks like a bit of old river bed, but it is actually volcanic with minerals leeching through. I'm not sure what the structures I took for rounded river stones at first are. The "impact crater" is where the water lands as it rushes over the top of the rocks in the rain. The spout is dark from water stains. Back along the crest are many patches of snow including some in among the bigger tuft of trees near where I first thought about stopping for the night.

southerly along the crest, gentle long humps rise and fall
Plenty of little snow patches for emergency water. The first possible camp was the saddle two humps back. The trail travels on the other side of the humps.

My first goal for the day is Snowshed Peak, so I head right back to the saddle and start up the peak. The saddle is grassy, but the peak quickly becomes a mess of regrowing aspen as I climb. I struggle a bit through it all until suddenly finding myself on a built trail. Big rocks have been moved to the side and everything. It is a little easier to follow up, but I must be doing a bad job of it because I am having the sense that there are actually two of them that I keep switching between. Thickets of aspen and fallen trees make it difficult to stay exactly on the trail and for a bit I find myself actually using the berm of large rocks beside it. Toward the top, someone has made a few token cuts at clearing the trail. The top itself is full of fallen logs that simply must be navigated to the high point.

southerly along the trail
Views to the southwest along the trail in a spot where it moves freely, but somewhat invisibly, along the side of Snowshed Peak. The little dome looks interesting.

top of Snowshed Peak
Arriving at the top of Snowshed Peak. It is the far west spot on a long, easy up.

main fork of Cave Creek
Now looking down Cave Creek (the main fork) which is directed northeast along here.

I do a better job of following the trail back down. Whoever had done the work at the top did a lot of work a the bottom before I found the trail. They probably ran out of energy or time and popped up to the peak, then did a few more things after a rest at the top.

15 April 2019

Cave Creek: South Fork, Horseshoe Ridge, Sentinel Peak

Coronado National Forest

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(Day 1 of 2) By my estimate, it would be 20 miles to go up to Chiricahua Peak and also go for the Chiricahua benchmark on Flys Peak in a tidy little loop going up Basin Trail to Snowshed and down Greenhouse Trail. This could be done, but I'm not quite feeling like a 20 mile day and there are some more things along the way that might be fun to hit. Of course, just hitting the peak via the shorter of the routes (probably Greenhouse) would bring it down, but then there is even more I am missing out on. But then I found an overnight kitty sitter, which opened up some options. In fact, if I could get a ride over to South Fork, that would let me go up Sentinel and Finnicum Peaks, estimated 18 mile round trip on a loop, as well. Then I noticed at 4AM that I better get going today because the kitty sitting offer wouldn't last forever and Wednesday has a 10% chance of rain to make it a bit dreary as a hiking day. So, finally packed a few hours later than desired, I am at South Fork with some climbing to do and somewhat less research on the state of the trails and various springs around the halfway mark than is desirable. Both are a little worrying since these trails have burned recently and it is a desert.

high cliffs high on the canyon side with shallow caves
The canyon around South Fork Cave Creek is amazing along the road, but hard to look at with trees and driving. This bit near parking shows some of the reason for the name.

Parking for South Fork is almost a mile short of where it shows on the map because the rest of the road got washed out and they truncated it. There is no camping and restrictions against recording and it all makes me feel generally like if I tried to leave a car here overnight, I would come back to a ticket, so I'm glad I'm not. Hopefully they don't notice me recording images and a GPS track. (Apparently the "no recording" is for video and audio and includes no playback of bird song.) Trail climbs over the side of the tall berm that ends the road now, then drops back down on the rocky remnants of road on the far side. There are a few creek crossings along the way to the end, where the vestiges of South Fork Campground have been removed, and where a second trail sign, this one with destinations, followed by a wilderness sign signal the closing in of the trees.

plowed road
The remnant road that we follow. It was probably crudely remade for campground removal rather than what is left of the old one.

cliffs with lovely round bits missing
Some particularly nice shaped cliffs on the shady eastern side. Did Geronimo hide among these particular ones?

13 April 2019

Ash Spring

Coronado National Forest

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The loop, generally on the Basin Trail, past Ash Spring seems like a good one to try to get Timmy more familiar with being on trail. It is just three miles long with the spring about halfway with a nearby apple tree for taking a long rest, perhaps. Maybe a nice middle of the day nap is what he needs to keep going. (Odd, what things can be found marked on OpenStreetMap. There seems to be another apple tree on the South Fork Trail at the spot it gets bad.) There are two lots at Herb Martyr with trail parking above and walk-in campground parking below. Currently it is officially dispersed camping, but there are still tables and a toilet for anyone to use.

trail sign
Actually an access trail to the Basin Trail. I wonder what destination has been removed from that sign?

I start down the trail, which winds around the far side of the camping area across one old foundation and down a set of stone steps to Cima Creek below. It has good flow and a log bridge a short way up. It looks like a comfortable enough crossing, but does get a little less so while holding a cat who is not so keen on being carried. On the far side he is difficult because there are many patches on the ground that apparently smell extremely interesting to the point of actually tasting the dirt. One spot has ants also taking an interest. There must be something actually there, but it is not something that I can sense. The trail is also difficult as it crosses the flood area of the creek and gets lost in the rocks. Eventually I spot a small "trail" sign and get far enough downstream to come to a large sign. A very large path leads far more directly to it from the lower lot with a nice rock hopping crossing of the creek.

built steps down to the creek
More stone steps, whose building is undoubtedly to do with someone called Herb Martyr, lead from campground picnic table to Cima Creek just before it empties itself into Cave Creek.

a bit more creek with sycamores just budding
The sycamores are barely budding along the creek. Herb Martyr Dam is a little way down it from here with the green willows growing in the filled in space behind it.

The trail follows near to Cave Creek among the alligator juniper with its distinct bark and the silver oaks with leaves dropping and budding. There are only little glimpses of the canyon and its impressive rock outcrops on the way to the junction with the actual Basin Trail.

tiny bits of rock walls visible high in the canyon
There is a canyon out there past the odd versions of familiar trees.

11 April 2019

Silver Peak

Coronado National Forest

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I'm not quite sure Chiricahua is a reasonable distance for a day hike from this area or if I'll have to move around for a different approach, so for now I'll start a little smaller. Silver Peak was the site of a lookout tower and has a trail rising 3000 feet in 4.5 miles going up it. That's a very reasonable day hike and it could put me on a much better overlook for the canyons than the short thing done yesterday. The start is easy to find by the big carved wood sign information showing an area map and Smokey and various other very Forest Service things. Although no road signs show this is a trailhead, smaller signs give quite a bit of information about the two trails that are here.

trailhead for Silver Peak
Just past the visitor center is an information turnout and trailheads.

The nature trail is most obvious, but through the fence is a little track. It is delightful not to have to fiddle with a ranch gate and instead step a bit to one side and then the other around a corner that the typical horse or relative can't do. Less delightful is that there is something, probably horses, getting kept in and there are a number of extra trails. There are signs in some key spots, but it can be difficult to decide on what is actually the route and what belongs only to whoever has left all the road apples. A sign pointing to an viewpoint seems to be following one of the extra trails. Another fence (where I can again just step around the ranch gate) puts a stop to it all leaving just one thin trail presumably climbing to the top.

Cave Creek Canyon
Looking up Cave Creek through the canyon to the mountains above.

layered rocks stick up
The rocks below Silver Peak. One set to the east (right) is marked as "The Fingers" and it seems pretty obvious which ones those are.

10 April 2019

Crystal Cave route

Coronado National Forest

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If you want to go into a cave, then stop right here because you can't get into Crystal Cave without at least a chat with a ranger way down in Douglas. It is locked up and left a bit obscure although the trail to it is the only thing on the map. Across from it is parking for the Snowshed Basin Trail that connects Snowshed and Basin Trails. Or maybe it's the Herb Martyr Trail. They sign actually says "Snowshed Basin Trail / Snowshed Trail / Basin Trail / Herb Martyr Campground / Road 42" which is a lot of things to be, but none of it has arrows. Oh, and there's a warning about entering a burned area because this part of the forest burned not too many years ago too. It would be nice to get away from burn, but it's getting harder and harder to do. I turn around and there is a clear, narrow trail. It passes a blank sign board on its way to places unknown.

the only signage
The signage is for other trails and destinations.

Silver Peak in the trees
Silver Peak, just visible in the trees, shows some caves and overhangs.

Cathedral Overlook

Coronado National Forest

Locate the view point.

I took off to a new sky island of the Coronado National Forest. This one is called the Chiricahua Mountains and as I was roaming the map I noticed "Cave Creek". Obviously I had to go there. I also noticed the Chiricahua National Monument in one corner, but somehow "Cave Creek" has just a little more appeal. In the visitor center, one woman says she's here for the birds, "obviously," like there could be no other reason to come to a place like this. The fellow there recommends everyone stop by the overlook just down the road where you can, after a hike of a few hundred feet, look up a few of the canyons and "see why it's called Cave Creek." It doesn't take much time, so why not?

telescope and sign
The overlook is actually Cathedral Vista. Cathedral Rock is one of those down the canyon, probably a little more left of what I've captured.

Cave Creek and South Fork
You can look up the canyons rather easily. The south fork is on the left and Cave Creek is on the right.

shallow, large cave in the rocks
Not all that many caves are visible, but across the canyon looks like the biggest to be seen here.

South Fork and a short drainage
Another cave is high in the rocks between South Fork Cave Creek and a stubby drainage.

I think there might be some reason other than birds to come here. Maybe.

©2019 Valerie Norton
Written 21 April 2019

05 April 2019

Round the Mountain Spring

Coronado National Forest

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Round the Mountain Trail has been left largely undone, and even if I don't really want to go all the way to Columbine (17 miles one way) as a day hike, I could go out and see Round the Mountain Spring where I was proposing to have my first night. It does sort of illustrate the problem of even wanting to deal with backpacking with the cat that I couldn't even get as far for a first day as I can for a day hike. Still, I don't know what he would be capable of if I were to just let him get more familiar with the idea of moving along a trail. Anyway, today he won't get any practice as I try to get some miles in, see if Marijilda Creek is passable or not, and find out what sort of camp I chose before marching right back.

signs to begin
Information at the trailhead covers both camping and the trail.

It certainly is easier to go ahead and take a photograph without wrangling a cat, but I still forget to get one of Noon Creek, which is running quite nicely. It is a brief, less burned area before getting out onto the ridge where darkened skeletons still stand.

above Noon Creek
Just hitting the ridge above Noon Creek. The picnic area is tucked in down there.

big rock along the trail with Heliograph Peak in view
Looking up at Heliograph Peak from Timmy's first rest point, still not even a mile in. And still lots of snow in large patches on the mountain.

02 April 2019

Mount Graham

Coronado National Forest

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The same caveats apply as when I was looking to backpack the mountain except now I have seen evidence that the map creator did know a thing or two about the local trails, since some that are part of the "trail system" are missing from the USGS base map used, so thoughtlessness or ignorance in the creation seems less likely. There doesn't look to be all that much snow, but plenty in spots, so I'm heading out with the same microspikes that call themselves "crampons" that I used yesterday for Heliograph Peak. While it saddens me to take the usual route up when I could do something extravagant, I can at least change it up by taking the trail down to Hospital Flat on the way back. I only pulled to the side of the pavement to park, but it is wide enough for travel and parking both. It also seems to have been a place snow was plowed to and a couple campfire rings have been built right in the middle of it, so it seems unlikely anyone will be trying to drive it anyway. No signs mark the start, but the locked gate just around the corner is a good clue. Even the gate is approximately placed on the Forest Service map. It has it a little way back the way I came just after Shannon Campground.

nice solid gate past the snow
For those who might try driving, there is a gate. Also a warning about entering a burned area. They aren't kidding.

So I start up the road with plenty of footprints in the snow. I ran into a pair who were through hiking the Grand Enchantment a couple days ago and saw four more hiking down the road today as I came up. I wonder if it goes this way? Sporadic voice only signal greets me whenever I try to look up the route and although I've heard of it, I certainly didn't pay attention to where it goes. Also, big yuck to walking the highway, even if it is a highway to nowhere. (The couple said it was developed by someone who had just about run out of trails to hike and that they too have just about run out of trails to hike, but when I mentioned that there is a traverse that parallels the John Muir Trail they first thought I might be talking about the High Sierra Trail which is neither traverse nor parallel to the JMT then said they'd look into it, so I suspect they have some to go on the list Trail Journals will let you choose from. Oh, I should have pointed them at the sticker on the back of my car, too. They certainly haven't done the Condor Trail.) The creeks are running nicely and a copper pipe sticking out where it says "spring" on my map is running well too. I wonder why they would bother to pipe a spring just to dump it all in the creek?

burned ridge from burned forest
There is lots of burn and it really can come down with the slightest provocation.

road surrounded by burned tree
A bit of yuck to walking road surrounded by standing dead, burned trees, but at least there is no traffic.

I am just getting back from poking around a ridge at the very edge of burn for the only remaining geocache of two along the road when I notice a backpacker headed the other direction. With his poles. Where are my poles? Leaning against the unburned pine instead of in my hands, of course. That was lucky. The one time I leave my poles behind, someone comes along to remind me of them! Although going back for them did sort of distract me from trail courtesy.

aspen among pines on the ridge
The aspens on the ridge attracted the attention of the geocacher who left a cache here. My poles are around the back of the pine.

Ecological Staircase to the Pygmy Forest

Jug Handle State Natural Preserve Click for map. I noticed an Earthcache that looked interesting as it asks for study of an area wi...