Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ramsey Canyon Loop to the Crest of the Huachuca Mountains November 28, 2013

                                 Map showing my route with trails in different colors

Last Friday I returned to Ramsey Canyon to complete the ten mile loop I had set out to do in early September. On the September hike I encountered a horrendous hail and rain storm as I retreated back to my car. As shown by the map above this hike combines four different trails. The first trail in red is the Hamburg Trail which begins at the Ramsey Canyon Preserve and goes up the canyon to the old Hamburg Town site where only foundations remain. The first half mile of this trail is the most popular with visitors because it goes up to an overlook. The trail also follows Ramsey Creek so watch out for small waterfalls and beautiful pools. The second trail of the loop is the Wisconsin Canyon Trail (green on the map). This trail is about 1.5 miles and it takes visitors up to the crest. This trail is is considerably steeper with many more switchbacks.  From the crest the next two miles is along the Huachuca Crest Trail. This trail gives great views of Miller Peak, Ramsey Canyon and mountains to the west. It starts near the Mexican border and goes the whole length of the range. The crest trail provides the first leg of the Arizona trail which runs from southern Arizona to its northern border. The final link of the loop is the Pat Scott Canyon Trail. This trail is steep with many switchbacks the first mile and half before it gets to the bottom of Pat Scott Canyon. The upper part of the canyon is especially beautiful with tall Douglas firs and looks like it hadn't been logged. Near the junction with the Hamburg Trail is the remains of the Hamburg Mine. Today there is not much left but a few rusty pieces of metal and small tailings piles. I was told by people working for the Nature Conservancy that prospectors looking for gold and silver worked this mine for a short time.

I love the Huachuca Mountains because of its flora and fauna diversity. In the lower part of the canyon Big tooth maples, Silver leaf oaks and Sycamores are prevalent. In the upper part of the canyon White fir, Douglas fir, Arizona pine, Southern white pine and Pinyon pine are abundant. Fauna include hundreds of species of birds and mammals. In fact Ramsey Canyon is famous for hummingbirds during the spring migration. Today I saw four White-tailed deer, a Wild turkey, numerous nuthatches and a Downy woodpecker.

Finally, I return to the debate about whether these mountains are safe to hike in. While in Marana, Arizona, I talked to a Arizona Highway Patrol who said he would not hike in the Huachuca Mountains because of drug runners and drug smugglers. While at the Nature Conservancy Headquarters at the base of Ramsey Canyon I asked about safety in southern Arizona mountain ranges. They said in the 90s it was more common to see illegal immigrants begging for water and asking about far off destinations such as Chicago or Boston however, since Border Patrol stepped up enforcement along the border in the 2000s these interactions are rare. It is smart to present common sense such as watching your surroundings and not hiking after 5 pm. I probably would choose other ranges in Arizona to backpack.

                              The crest of the Huachuca Mountains

                             Looking north. This part of the Huachuca Mountains burned and has a oak-scrub woodland.

                                    Looking down Ramsey Canyon toward Sierra Vista from the crest.

                               Trail junction on crest for Sunnyside Canyon. Notice the beautiful pines and firs in the background.

                                  Douglas firs in Pat Scott Canyon
                             Looking up Ramsey Canyon from overlook,

                                         A Silver leaf oak with leaves that have turned colors.
                                                                  Late afternoon sun on tree with yellow leaves.