Woke up not too cold along Turkey Creek, made coffee and drove out while I drank from the thermos. Stopped at the intersection of highway 181 to catch up on texts, the border patrol stopped and watched me for what seemed like 10 minutes, but I probably did look pretty sketchy.
The road continued on through a sea of grass that got more sparse the further you get from the mountains. I feel like I should have hiked chiricahua peak while I was there. Dipped way down south to the town of Bisbee, the drive was nothing special, but the town was actually really cool and crowded. Its buildings winding up the side of the mountain with european style streets and density, but with an American Western feel.
I got groceries at Safeway which still sucks compared to HEB and talked to Jessie for a bit in the parking lot. I also drove thru tombstone which was practically an amusement park and crawling with people, once again I didn’t bother stopping. Lots of cyclists on the road for some event, traffic swerving around, seems dangerous. Stopped in Sonoita for lunch at “The Cafe” which was really good, tuna melt fries, hefferveisen and key lime pie, 20$ with tip. I asked the bartender about Mt. Wrightson, said he had climbed it and told me how to get there.
To get there I took Gardner canyon road which lead to a beautiful ranch, the Arizona trail and apparently some great ohv roads. I grabbed the closest camp to the trailhead and got on the bike. It was really the first time I had ridden trails, it was scary, but really fun, and so close to Tucson, I may have even caught a little air. Riding for 1.5 hours made me exhausted. I didn’t bring my GoPro for some reason, but really wish I had.
Back at camp, I looked at the map, did some reading and continued to organize the truck. Hopefully will climb the peak in the morning.
Woke up at my Garner creek road camp, made instant coffee, which seems to get worse everyday, ate some yogurt and a granola bar. The truck was packed for the most part and I made the quick drive down the road and across the stream to the trailhead.
It was around 7AM when I started hiking, cool enough for a sweater especially in the shade. The trail started as a 4 Wheeler trail, but was well graded and soft underfoot, after a mile or so there was a gate baring all entry except horses and hikers, slightly further down was another portal signifying the wilderness boundary.
The trial dipped in and out of the creek canyon for a bit, but steadily climbing the whole way. Finally breaking out of the deep forest it followed the edge of a ridge further up and the peak came into view. After the first junction unfortunately began a burn area, in various states of recovery although some of the areas were quite pleasant, with small pines and tall golden grasses grown in thick. After the second junction I spotted someone else on the trial, there were no other vehicles at the trailhead. The girl had all the ultralight gear and stated she was on the Arizona trail but they were on a detour, I wished her well and continued on, soon passing her partner just exchanging small talk.
The trail went got increasingly steep, Baldy Spring near the summit approach was dry, and on up to baldy saddle which had nice views but allowed for winds from the north to sweep over. Someone had constructed a lean-too shelter blocking the north wind, and probably makes for a nice camp site.
The final mile was the most challenging as the grade was steeper and the trail now was solid rock, chipped and blasted away. The summit awarded wonderful views of all the surroundings, very much the highest peak in the area. You could see a grass fire in the distance and growing quickly, looking as though it originated along highway 83 that I drove down the previous day. I signed the log book and read the plaque about the former fire watch station on the peak, the foundation of which was still partially intact.
Growing cold and windy I started my decent. I passes 2 older guys on the way down, a bit more than a half mile from the summit, they we’re tired but close. I could see a paved parking lot on the north side of the mountain where I would assume most of the hikers come from. I soon passes the girl again and asked if she needed anything. Soon passing the guy to whim I asked the same. We got to talking about the PCT which he hiked with Carrot in 2013! His name was “Hikerbox”, we exchanged pictures and he told me of a side trial I should do and the next junction.
When I got to the junction, I took the other trail down 1.5 miles only to realize that the side trip that he thought was so great was actually the one I came in on. The 1.5 miles I did went down to the AZT junction and were not fun at all. 3 miles added to the hike. I was tired and sweaty back at the truck. The road was just as horrible on the way down. My truck is not set up to deal with washboards.
At the pavement I headed up highway 83 towards Tuscon. A quick stop in Vail for gas and a dairy queen that does not serve food I was on my way to Saguaro national park. I quickly stopped into the visitor center. This side of the park had an 8 mile scenic drive loop. Before I had even started I had already decided that I was going to grizwald this place, mostly because it was late and I had no idea where I was going to camp that night. The drive was beautiful but a little stressful. It was a one lane, one way road full of old people going 5 mph. It took well over and hour. The flowers were in bloom and the saguaros are impressive. I was starving by now and found the closest McDonalds, which for some reason I keep craving, and headed off towards my lemon.
I have been to a lot of sky islands all over the southwest but the road that goes to the top of Mt. Lemmon blows them all away. The scenery is spectacular and changes from a cactus forest to a ski resort in 28 miles, its impressive to say the least if not too overdeveloped. It reminded me of a southwestern Blue Ridge Parkway. I paid 5$ to camp at a national forest campground, the highest elevation one open this time of year.