25 April 2012

A Day on the Mountain

Less then two mile from the Preserve we are volunteering at there is Salaro Canyon Road, another unpaved mountain road heading north into the Santa Rita Mountains.  About 4 or 5 miles up the road Squaw Gulch Rd turns off to the east and several mile up that 4-wd road is the base of Squaw Peak.  On top of Squaw Peak there is a geocache, Native American Women Peak by name.   And since it is a fairly high peak, clearly not the highest, I figured it would offer some great vistas with beautiful picture opportunities!  So off we went on one of our days off.  This was actually our second time to target this geocache.  But, several week earlier we had tried it and found out that shorts were not the uniform of the day for this adventure. 
On Salaro Rd with Squaw Peak in upper left
We enjoyed the ride up and could see the peak in the distance grow closer as we headed up Salero Canyon Road.   Once we turned onto Squaw Gulch Rd however it was time to shift into 4 wheel drive and not long before it took granny low to proceed!  But, the Gray Ghost handled it well and we enjoyed the ride (well at least I did – BJ walked part of the way)!

Squaw Gulch Rd - BJ in front walking instead of riding
So we got to a parking spot at the base of the peak, GPS said we were about .35 mile from the GC (geocache) and we noted it was all up hill (very uphill) from here!  
We shortly ran into a wash (dry creek bed) that was heading in about the right direction. So we headed up it for aways then took off to the left climbing a pretty steep gulch toward the peak.   Kept hoping to find a trail, but all we ever saw was game trails.  They helped some but not a lot. 
Note the trails - NOT!
Finally we were about a third of the way up and BJ decided this was not for her.  She found a nice shaded flat spot near a wash and said she would rock hound while I finished the hike.  So I continued.  It did not get any easier and several times I thought about rejoining BJ and abandoning this geocache quest!   Especially when I was finally about 500 ft from the ridgeline and figured out I was working my way up the wrong wash.  I needed to be in one to the left which entailed a change in direction and increased effort. 
Finally got to the ridge line and the peak was still too my left a about 500 ft but walking along the broad ridge line was a piece of cake compared to what I had been doing.  The views were magnificent AND my camera battery was dead!  I had brought along spare batteries for the GPS, but camera took a special battery and I did not bring one.  I did manage to take some pics with my camera phone but they are not nearly as good as the "real" camera! 

Nearing the crest!
The GPS took me to a spot that was in the middle of a triangle formed by two gnarly trees and an agave bush about 20 feet below the peak on the opposite side that I came up! While I was glad to go down for a change I was not relishing the 20 foot clime back to the peak so I could go down.  At any rate I spent about 20 minutes searching for the  geocache in the triangle with no luck and getting discouraged.  All that effort with no find was not a good feeling.  However, it had been nearly two hours since I had left BJ and I knew she had left her phone in the Jeep and I knew she would be concerned about me.  I took one last look around and decided to check out a tree up the slope from the triangle I had been searching and viola there was the geocache in an sturdy small ammo box ( a common container for geocaches)! I quickly signed the log, finished the short climb back to the peak so I could start the descent! 
View from the top!
So I started down, thinking/hoping it would be a quicker and easier trip down!  Wrong, the lack of trails and the very rocky surface made it no easier going down, just a little less effort!  But, the views remained great all the way.

However, a little less then half way down I see the Jeep below starting to move!  I had visions of our trip to Mt Vesuvius several decades ago.  BJ, the kids and I had hiked from the parking lot to the rim of the volcano across the barren rock surface.  The trail wound around the mountain top.  As we descended the trail and came around the side of the mountain the parking lot came into view still way below us!  And, we saw vandals plundering our car!  Not much we could do about it and when they heard me yelling they calmly got into their car and drove off – with all our stuff.  Interestingly we had seen that same Fiat parked along the road on the way up to the parking lot.  I young couple was sitting in the front seat making out!  We got a laugh over that.  But, they got the last laugh. 

Anyway, back to Squaw Peak.  I remembered BJ's phone was in the Jeep so I called and she answered!  She had gotten tired of waiting for me – it had been close to 3 hours by now and decided she needed to get to the car in case she had to direct a rescue operation to me!   Well, I was not in need of that but I was still a long way from her time wise!  However, she made it easier as that meant I would not have to cross over the ridge to the gulch I had left her in hours ago!  I eventually reached the wash we had initially worked our way up to the gulch we had worked our way up until she stopped.  This wash was broad and relatively easy to navigate and I knew that it eventually crossed the Squaw Gulch Rd we had come in on some distance behind where the Jeep was parked. 
The "waterfall" from the bottom!
I was grateful for the easier going and decided I would follow the wash to the road crossing rather then tackle the two ascents to go over two other small washes to directly reach the Jeep.   BJ & I had exchanged several text messages progress reports as I was coming down but in this wash I was apparently not receiving a signal.  So I continued on down enjoying the trip and the beauty of these washes.  THEN, I reached what was probably a beautiful waterfall when there was water!  It seemed like it was a 1,000 ft drop, but was more like about 45-50 feet.  I did not feel like climbing out of the wash to get around the drop so I studied it carefully and decided there was some foot holds down the face of the stone front of the waterfall!  I made it down about half way and ran out of footholds but I sure as hell was not going to turn around now (as if I could)!  So I tried for a very tenuous foothold and it held – for a few seconds then I slid down the rest of the way.  Fortunately, I had noticed that at the bottom of these drops there was always an accumulation of loose sand left by the waterfall and I had noted it was a bigger and deeper pile here because of the greater drop.  So I landed on the pseudo beach and just laid there for awhile and rested.  I took the picture with my phone while I was laying in the sand at the bottom of the "waterfall" wishing there had been some real water to land in!
Some cactus flowers in wash!
I continued along the wash until I noted the road was about 20 feet up one side of the wash and I found a spot that was a quick climb so I made it.  Then I walked back up the road about 350 ft and there was the Jeep.  I tooted the horn and BJ shortly returned from a rock hunting expedition to another nearby wash! 
We thought the adventure was over for the day and with her driving we headed home.  Successfully drove back down Squaw Gulch to Salaro Canyon Rd, a downtown city street in comparison.   However, about a mile down the road we found out the adventure was NOT over!  We had a flat tire!  Just what I wanted!!
At any rate by the time we got back to the RV we had a full day and deceided we didn't need to seek any further geocaches as remote as this one was!  (But, I would still love to get back up there with the good camera rather then the camera phone!!)
Always at home no matter where we are!

06 April 2012

Travelling in SE AZ!

We are doing fine in SE AZ finishing our first month of a 3 month volunteer gig at a wildlife refuge in the beautiful AZ high plains surrounded by stunning mountain views. 
<<Roads are a little rough sometimes in the mountains!  BJ decided she was going to walk instead of riding with me on this road!

Sometimes the traffic is pretty heavy on the mountain roads! 

You get water where you find it sometimes.  Don't ask questions!>>>

This is Sonoita Creek, a major element of the wildlife refuge where we are volunteering.  It is one of the few perennially flowing creeks.  This time of the year it starts at the east end of the preserve and flows west but the dry wash extends for a dozen miles further east and during the monsoon season the wash and the creek will be full of water, normally 3-4 feet of water vs the 6 inches we see now.  One of the veteran hands here says he has seen it with 8-10 feet once. some years ago!

I have been attending the Patagonia-Sonoita Rotary Club since we been here.  The two small towns are about a dozen miles apart and each one has less then 1,000 residents so they combined to make a club.  They meet the first two Thur in Patagonia for breakfast and the last two Thur for an evening meeting in Sonoita.  Nice club and they have a fund raiser later this month.   Their biggest fund raiser is connected to KY Derby day and held at the county fairgrounds where they apparently have horse races leading up to the Derby.  Not sure exactly how it works yet, but I have volunteered to work it that day so we will see.  They apparently net $25 to $30K each year on it and it attracts a lot of people even from as far away as Tucson! 

Always at home no matter where we are!!