Friday, February 20, 2015

Miller Canyon Huachuca, Mountains February 14, 2015

                             Cascade on Miller Creek

Miller Canyon is located south of Sierra Vista, Arizona, along State Route 92 near the Hereford Road Junction. Other popular canyons you will see on the way include Ramsey Canyon and Carr Canyon. Miller Canyon Road to the trail head is mostly dirt. It is passable to sedans in dry weather if visitors look out for potholes and wash boarding.. The parking lot accommodates 10 plus vehicles.

The Hike: Miller Canyon is one of the popular routes for hikers to climb Miller Peak. It is four miles to the Huachuca Crest Trail and another two miles to the summit. This trail is steep and gains elevation quickly. The first part of the hike the trail detours around private property before descending to Miller Creek. Here the trail is forested but the it can be hard to follow because it is washed out in places from a disastrously flood a couple of years ago. If hikers are observant a path can be followed by visitors. On the hike also look for a pipe descending along the creek. This brings water to Tombstone, Arizona, from the Miller Peak Wilderness. Last summer Tombstone officials won a prolonged fight over fixing this pipe and using mechanized equipment to accomplish the task. Last summer 2.5 miles in I almost stepped on a Mohave rattlesnake. When I reached this section of the trail I hiked through with trepidation even though the snake had long departed. Around the Huachuca Crest Trail I noticed patches of snow. It is always surprising to me how the mountain ranges get wetter and colder as you go south. I hiked a half mile to a mile toward the summit of Miller Peak on the Crest Trail before turning around because of threatening clouds. I didn't have my rain coat and knew rain would almost certainly lead to hypothermia. My wife and I left quickly from Tucson and the coat didn't make it into my pack.  I descended back into the canyon and decided to explore waterfalls along Miller Creek when the sun came out. While exploring I saw at least eight small waterfalls. I have included some of the pictures in this post. Total mileage was about nine miles with 2000 feet of vertical change.

                      Abandoned mine

                              View east from Huachuca Crest Trail

                  Patches of snow and pine trees. This part of Miller Peak burned so shade can be hard to find.

                             Cascade along Miller Creek


                               Scenery along the canyon walls

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Little Bushmaster Peak Tucson Mountains February 7, 2015

                      A map created in ArcMap showing my route in red; an ESRI Basemap is used
Gates Pass is located in the Tucson Mountains on Gates Pass Road. To get to the main parking lot take Speedway BLVD away from Tucson to the west. Gates Pass Road is two-laned and drivers can be aggressive.

My objective for today was to hike until I reached a high point with views east and west. The summit I reached does not have a name but I called it Little Bushmaster Peak because it is on the same ridge as Bushmaster Peak. From Gates Pass there is an established trail that travels west descending out of the mountains. For this hike I will be on well-worn but un-established trails.I departed the parking lot and hiked passed the old CCC huts. These are great examples of stone work from the 30s sadly visitors have spray painted some of the walls and the inside floor has trash. From here I easily found a trail that ascended farther into the mountains and skirted most of the Devil's cholla that is brutal for hikers if you brush up against it. The unincorporated trail was easy to follow but there is one section that is steep with precarious footing. I also had to side step some cholla, Barrel cactus and Saguaro in this seection. At the top of this section,  the  trail switch backed some more before wrapping around the peak to the summit. This last section the trail is faint in spots and easy to miss. From the  top the top the view was extraordinary in all directions. The hike back was uneventful but I did get off this main trail onto an underused faint path which took me into a Devil cholla forest. At this point my hiking stick became useful in keeping me from brushing up against this nasty plant. During the Spring and Fall watch for rattlesnakes.

               Tucson Mountains scenery with chollas in the foreground

                  The steep and precarious section. The trail side-steps around the left side of the cholla

    Golden Gate Mountain on the right with Gates Pass Road far below

               Summit rocks with Golden Gate Mountain on the right and mountains in the background

                  The trail in the foreground with Golden Gate in the background

                Desert vegetation in the foreground with Kitt Peak in the background

                               On the slope of the mountain with the David Yetman Trailhead at the bottom

                               Dead Saguaro

Benchmark Mountain Tucson Mountains, Arizona February 6, 2015

                     Map showing my route in red with an ESRI Basemap in the background

Gates Pass is located to the west of Tucson in the Tucson Mountains. Take Speedway BLVD away from downtown. At the end of Speedway visitors will see the turnoff for Gates Pass Road.

Today I drove over Gates Pass and parked at the David Yetman Trailhead. The parking lot was full when I arrived and had to scramble to get a space when somebody left. The first half mile is on the David Yetman Trail which ends at Starr Pass. This trail is easy to follow and popular with visitors. At a small divide I departed the David Yetman and hiked the Golden Gate Trail which climbs on the side of the mountains and ends at Gates Pass. The scenery from this trail is very beautiful but hikers do need to watch for cholla polyps (or cholla bombs as they are affectionately called by hikers). The trail is also rocky so please watch your step.After a 1.5 or two miles about there is a small divide where hikers are rewarded with views toward Tucson. At this point I decided to summit Benchmark Mountain  I noticed a steep but hikeable trail leading up the slope of the mountain (cross-country hiking in the Tucson Mountains is not advisable because of all the cacti in the desert). After an initial steep pitch I noticed a nice well-maintained trail that wrapped around the peak to the summit, From the top I could see the Rincon Mountains and the Tucson basin to the north and Kitt Peak to the west. After eating some lunch I departed the peak to find some shade.

                      On the Golden Gate Trail looking toward the Old Tucson Studios and Kitt Peak

                                Sonoran Desert scenery

                Top of Benchmark Mountain looking toward Tucson

                               Right below the summit

                       Cool effect with the sun right behind the hill

                       Looks like the grass is lit from behind

Friday, February 6, 2015

Gadsen-Pacific Model Railroad Museum Tucson, Arizona Late January and February 2015

                      Photo taken by Tara Stauffer

Directions: The Gadsen-Pacific Model Railroad is located on Miller Road in west Tucson. From I-10 take the Prince Exit and turn east crossing the Union Pacific tracks. Drive until you reach Romero Road and turn left. Drive until you reach W Price Street and turn left again.Price Street is the industrial area of Tucson so you will be around warehouses.At the end of Price Street you will see the museum on Miller Street.

This museum is hard to find out about because they do very little advertising. Recently I have just started seeing their brochures around town. If you talk to individuals who live in Tucson most of them still have no clue their is a model railroad club in town. This is a shame because the Gadsen-Pacific is a great place for adults and kids.

The Gadsen- Pacific started as a small private organization in 1980; Historically they were located in Foothills Mall operating an O-scale layout and small HO.In 1997 the club moved to their present location.Today they have operational G-scale, Standard Gauge, S-Guage, HO, and N scale. Outside they have a larger 7 1/2 scale that kids can ride as well as a RIO Grande Caboose. They are currently building a G-scale garden railway outside. They are open on the second and fourth Sunday's of each month from 12:30 to 4:30 pm. They operate additional weekends in December, January and February. This year they will be closed in June, July and August for improvements. The Gadsen-Pacific Museum does not have an entrance fee but a donation is appreciated.  (Information from

                         HO Layout   Photo taken by Tara Stauffer

                        Quintin watching the HO layout (Taken by Tara Stauffer)

                           Great Northern Locomotive Photo taken by Tara Stauffer

                    O-Scale train (Taken by Brett Stauffer

                 O-Scale layout (Taken by Brett Stauffer)

                             O-Scale layout (Photo taken by Brett Stauffer)

                                 O-scale steam trains

                    Part of the O-scale yar

                    HO Layout trains and display


                Tara and Quintin at the S-scale layout

               S-Scale Model train

                        O-Scale layout is their bigges

                 Quintin playing with Thomas

                   HO Layout

              Picture of O-Scale layout scenery

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tucson Botanical Gardens January and February 2015

                 Inside the orchid and butterfly display

Direction: The Tucson Botanical Gardens are located on Alvernon Road. To get to the gardens from the University of Arizona take Grant Road east towards the Rincon Mountains. Turn right onto Alvernon Road. Look for the entrance and parking lot on the left. Admission is $13 with three and under free. If you are going to go more than once I would definitely suggest a membership as it is very affordable.

 These gardens are small in acreage. Where most botanical gardens can be 35 acres Tucson's are 5-10 however, staff do a good job in utilizing the space they do have. I read online that Tucson's has the same number of plant species as the Phoenix Botanical Garden's but Phoenix's is about 35 acres. Definitely the highlight is the butterfly and orchid exhibit. At any given time in the Greenhouse there can be about 300 butterflies with many different species from Australia and New Zealand. I enjoyed this exhibit as much as my son Quintin. Keep an eye out for Dart frogs as they can be seen hidden among the plants.  For the railroad enthusiast they do have a G-scale Garden Railway based on a fictional town of Thornville. Other highlights include the Cactus and Succulent Garden, the Zen Garden, Historical Garden and Prehistoric Garden.

                     Butterfly on orchid


                      Love the pattern on this one

                     Garden railway

                  Train coming around

                   Buildings in the town

                        Quintin siting on a rock

                              Love the composition of this photo