Saturday, February 21, 2015

Arizona National Scenic Trail ~ Part 14 ~ Patagonia, Arizona to the Mexican Border at the Coronado National Memorial

We woke up especially early and got into Patagonia on the road system by 7 am. 

By 9 o'clock we had eaten a wonderful breakfast and had bought 55 miles worth of food from a small convenient store to reach our final destination on the Mexican border.

On our walk out of town we witnessed some hunters driving by with a buck on top of their vehicle as they drove by a spiritual retreat center.

Flash floods apparently had washed away some of the trail along certain creeks in the area of Redrock Canyon. We could see Chris's footprints in the wash with flowing water as well as the tread from a mountain bike who had also lost track of where the trail was supposed to be.

At Gate Spring we realized the trail was just above us, and so we bushwhacked to rejoin it.

Meadow Valley made us feel as if we were in yet another country with its wide open and dry grasslands.

Deer Hunters were scattered everywhere. The border patrol was probably going nuts with all of the activity and sporadic movements that were occurring in so many directions.

Both day and night, unmanned drones flew above us.  They would methodically circle one area a few times and then would move on to scan the next adjacent area. Apparently, our lack of movement during the night made us an unlikely target of investigation.

Passing by Parker Canyon Lake and Store, we began our final big ascent into the Huachuca Mountains and the grandeur of the Miller Peak Wilderness Area.

The deciduous trees lining the flowing creeks were complete in their colorful fall splendor. Old mining operations haunted the terrain as we approached the crest for our final approach towards our anticipated completion of our 800 mile trek across Arizona.

Having camped at Bear Saddle for our final night, we were approximately eight miles to the border.

Bathtub Springs provided us with pure water for our final water source on our journey.

This sky island high above the desert provided for the perfect ending to a long trip of ever-changing diversity.

Mexico was now in clear sight as we entered the realm of Coronado National Memorial.

The date is October 26th, 2014 and it took literally and metaphorically 40 days and 40 nights to cross through  the plains, the plateaus, the mountains, and the deserts of Arizona.

It was now time to hibernate, as our autumn was fully completed, leaving us with our personal winters to digest fully that which was undertaken.

At Montezuma Pass the Border Patrol said they knew we were coming. We had tripped some vibrational ground sensors, which then allowed their radar to watch us descend the mountain. However, we were cleared and officially approved to approach no mans land at the end of the Yaqui Ridge Trail at Monument 102. Our ending is only the beginning to new adventures upon the ever expanding horizon of living a True Life with an open mind and an open heart. Here lies the Secret for seeing the beauty in All things Great and Small.


Arizona National Scenic Trail ~ Part 13 ~ Interstate 10 to Patagonia, Arizona through the Santa Rita Mountains

We had arranged by phone for my parents to pick us up in Sierra Vista once we completed hiking the Arizona Trail.

Water was still not an issue for us.  We didn't even have to use any of the water from the Twin Tanks.

Instead, we were able to find slowly moving seeps of water gathering in small pools up some of the canyon washes.

This spider was calling the trail its home and we certainly didn't want to get tangled up in its web.

These grassy barren hills seemed to be a roller coaster of constant up and down and around.

Huge Oaks provided for ample shade.

Good drinking water was gifted to us in many forms.

Before we headed up into the Santa Rita Mountains, the trail traveled through the Historic Kentucky Camp.

Not only was it an important place with potable water, it was an old gold mining operation that used water cannons to find flakes of gold.

The pressurized water for these cannons came from the mountains and route that we were about to ascend.

They spent a fortune channeling and piping water that found no profit and too little gold to pan out all the costs.

Flowers literally carpeted the landscape.

However, as soon as we neared the top, it was time to immediately come down again on the other side of the mountain.

This collared lizard was safe, but tomorrow it would be deer hunting season. Many, many hunters positioned themselves in camps just north of Patagonia. Once again, we hiked into the cool night and would be in Patagonia for an early breakfast.

Arizona National Scenic Trail ~ Part 12 ~ Saguaro National Park to Interstate 10 near Vail, Arizona

Since camping in Saguaro National Park requires a permit, the goal was to hike through the park and over the mountain in one days time to Rincon Valley just outside the park.

New species of flowers and shrubs were again blooming for our inspection.

Awesome views of the desert basins were beyond compare.

And once we reached the ranger station at Manning Camp, it was all down hill to Rincon Valley.

I loved the forests up high, but they offered no real viewpoints of interest.

The greatest views in the park are from the Saguaro and Ocotillo habitat zone. 

Rincon Mountain would be seen for days to come even as we neared the Mexican border.

We were to stay at the lower elevations undulating up and down hills and ridge-lines until we would reach the Santa Rita Mountains to the south of us.

We made it into Rincon Valley and out of the National Park as the sun was setting.  

We walked a couple of miles into the dark so that we would have more time to spend at La Posta Quemada Ranch near the Colossal Cave. There was virtually no traffic in the morning, and so we ended up hiking four of the five miles down to Vail, AZ where a Walgreen's store would be used for our resupply.  However, as we approached our destination, the manager of Colossal Cave identified us as thru hikers and immediately picked us up to help us in our resupply efforts. 

This kind gentleman then offered us a free Mexican meal from a local eatery and promptly returned us to the Arizona Trail.  We then talked for an hour or more until we once more walked into the night.

However, this time we were not the only ones traveling through the dark. A whole series of mountain bikers were descending the hill on the trail with some of the brightest headlamps one could ever imagine. Our next and final resupply was soon to be in Patagonia, AZ in a few days time.

Arizona National Scenic Trail ~ Part 11 ~ Oracle, Arizona to Saguaro National Park

The owners of the Chalet Village Motel graciously offered to drive us to where we left off near Oracle State Park.

Ascending up Oracle Ridge, our next rest stop was to be Summerhaven high above Tucson at the end of the road system.

We procured enough food to hike all the way to Colossal Cave Mountain Park near Vail, AZ.

Indeed, we did make it in for a wonderful breakfast in Summerhaven and bought a few additional supplies from the local store who caters to tourists and recreationists.

In these high and treed Sky Islands, we were reminded that autumn had just begun.

Water flowed and seeped everywhere.  The greater region around Mt. Lemmon with its rock outcroppings and infinite varieties of boulders wasn't anything short of being magical. 

This Santa Catalina Natural Area was appropriately named the Wilderness of Rocks.

We were now High above Tucson whose residents come up to Mt. Lemmon in the winter time to ski.

Sabino Canyon offered us our next steps of wonderment. 

I don't believe the temperatures rose above the high 70's anymore for the rest of the trip. The hiking weather was near perfect.

We did however use the abundance of water to cool off and relieve the body from any built up strain or charges. It was often good to clean the feet from all the desert dust that could build up in one's running shoes and socks.  I can see why some people wear gators in the desert.

Interestingly, this area also housed an old World War 2 Japanese Internment Camp.

Crossing the Mount Lemmon Highway, where one can descend into Tucson to resupply, one soon leaves this impressive mountain range in moving forward towards the undulating hills of Redington Pass.

The Rincon Mountains and the Home of Saguaro National Park loomed ominously in the distance as thunderstorms rolled through the area.  Supposedly, a good amount of rain fell in the region, but only landed us some sprinkles.

We walked with great stride through the dark to reach the Italian Spring Trailhead where we camped for the night just outside of Saguaro National Park. Tomorrow we had a 4000 foot climb up to the top of the mountain at Manning Camp.