Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Miller Canyon, Huachuca Mountains August 16, 2014

                                    Sonoran kingsnake

Hike Location: Drive south from Sierra Vista, Arizona, on State Rout 92 for nine miles. Turn right onto Miller Canyon road and drive until the trailhead, This road is an improved dirt road and it will accommodate passenger vehicles.

Miller Canyon is a nice alternative to the more popular Ramsey Canyon. It is about four miles and an elevation gain of 2700 feet to the Huachuca Crest Trail. This route also offers an alternative to the summit of Miller Peak. This canyon like the others in the Huachuca Mountains traps cooler air making it a nice microclimate for Syacamores and Douglas firs along with many species of pine. Most visitors do not realize that the mountains get cooler and wetter as you go south in this part of Arizona.

After leaving the trailhead the trail skirts around a private ranch at the base of the canyon. Past the ranch the trail returns to the canyon floor where it joins an old dirt road. Here the forest is delightful with shade from large oaks, After a half mile a trail to Hunter Canyon exits on to the left. In this part of Miller Canyon the trail can be hard to find because of floods in the canyon therefore, look for yellow flagging on trees which will mark the route. After about two mile the trail leaves the bottom of the canyon and climbs the right wall of the canyon. In this section of trail I came real close to almost getting bit by a Mojave rattlesnake. Luckily, I was hiking in front of two people who could have helped me if I had gotten bit. This part of Miller Canyon is heavily forested and high in elevation not the usual habitat for a Mojave.  I would have bushwhacked around the snake if there hadn't been Poison ivy along the trail. After ten minutes it became apparent that the snake would not move and I made the decision to turn around. I decided to hike the Hunter Canyon Trail because it was still early in the day. This trail ascended the southern wall of Miller Canyon before descending into Hunter Canyon. This canyon trail turned out to be a surprise because it gave me great views of Miller Canyon along with Miller Peak. As I returned to the trailhead a storm blew in over Miller Peak. At this time of year these storms are capable of producing lots of lightning, hail and rain which can be fatal if hikers are not prepared. Total mileage for the day was about seven miles with 1700 feet of elevation gain. (Information from Hiking Arizona's Cactus Country by Erik Molvar)


                          Mojave rattlesnake

                           A beautiful but deadly snake.

    Hunter Canyon

                 North wall of Miller Canyon

                       A beautiful lizard right off of the Hunter Canyon Trail.

                               Great picture of him on a rock.

Oracle Ridge Catalina Mountains August 9, 2014

                          Corral bells

Location: Take the Catalina Highway about 23.5 miles and turn right onto Oracle Control Road. Follow this road downhill passed the Mount Lemmon Fire Station. The trailhead is another 100 years along the road. If you have a jeep or all-terrain vehicle it is possible to drive down to Oracle, Arizona, by an unimproved dirt road.

The Hike: The trail along Oracle Ridge is actually the Arizona Trail which starts along the Mexican border and ends at the Utah border. This section is about 13 miles one-way and it ends at the American Flag Trailhead near Oracle, Arizona. It follows the ridge that extends northward from the Santa Catalina Mountains. Along the way are splendid views of the San Pedro Valley and Catalina Mountains. Many people hike the ridge to see its wildflowers which can be abundant in August.

Immediately after leaving the control road the trail climbs to over 8000 feet through a burned forest. Here I saw many species of wildflowers including Paintbrush, Corral bells and Sunflowers. The trail then descends to Stratton Saddle where it intermittently joins an old jeep trail for the descent to Dan Saddle. Make sure to keep an eye out for the wooden trail signs and the Arizona Trail blaze. At Dan Saddle a trail departs to the left descending to Catalina Camp and the Red Ridge Trail. The trail passed Dan Saddle is overgrown in places so watch your footing. The trail ascends precipitously climbing 500 feet in a half-mile. Keep an eye out for the Biosphere to the west. I would also watch for rattlesnakes because they like to sun themselves on the rocks. I hiked to the old Jeep trail near Rice Peak about four miles and turned around. Total mileage for the day was about eight miles with 1500 feet of elevation gain. (Information from Hiking Arizona's Cactus Country by Erik Molvar).

                 Along the ridge

    Looking west toward the reef.

      This truly is a beautiful trail.


     A burned forest with Red Ridge in the background.

        Vegetation along the ridge with a tall Century plant.

    Looking east across the San Pedro Valley.

                 I cannot go a summer without seeing Paintbrush.

   Corral bells