Added 2 September 2012
Arizona Trail Passage 3: Canelo Hills West - Canelo Pass to Patagonia, Arizona
I arrived at Jerry and Andrea's house at six o'clock this morning to do another segment of the Arizona Trail. We drove down to Patagonia, dropped off my car, then drove to the trailhead for Passage 3. The three of us and their 2 dogs, Bessie and Kintla, started hiking at around 8:40 am for a 17 mile day hike. Because of the distance, we planned on hiking at a slower pace than our last day hike. I also expected to have more reasons to stop and truly take in our surroundings. The scenery was beautiful right from the start, but it became amazing once we crested a saddle, thus allowing us views of Meadow Valley, with the Patagonia Mountains beyond.
I was seeing quite a few birds as we hiked, and I briefly stopped here and there to ID them. At days end, I ended up with a fairly good list considering my primary purpose was not birding.
At one point we came across an old feeding structure that looked like a miniature cabin. Jerry joked that it was the Old Keebler Ranch. We also saw a pretty cool old mine shaft, well, mine adit, actually. It only went about 50-60 feet back into the hillside, but the entrance was almost prototypical for a mine entrance.
We weren't paying much attention to our maps and so somewhere near the Old Keebler Ranch and Prototypical Mine, we got off route. We reconnected with the AZT without knowing we had gotten off the AZT in the first place, BUT, we were now headed the wrong direction down the trail. We didn't realize our mistake until we had hiked a mile off-track through the Cott Tank Exclosure, which is a protected area with a really nice grassy canyon bottom with a live (though tiny) stream running through it. The area is closed to camping to help protect it.
While I don't think I would have voluntarily added 2 miles to a 17 mile day hike, and it turned it to be a really long day, I am actually really glad that we got "a might confused for a spell" and explored the Cott Tank Exclosure a bit. It added another wonderful element to the beauty of the journey.
By the time we got back on track, we had hiked about nine miles, and it was around 12:30, so we took a break for lunch. We hit the trail about 45 minutes later, and made our way down Redrock Canyon. As the canyon was opening up a bit, we encountered an older couple who were quail hunting. Or, as they put it, they were doing some walking around without actually firing their guns. They said that they hadn't seen any quail, perhaps because there was much less water in the canyon than usual. I found that interesting, because I wasn't expecting nearly as much water as we had seen. But then, I'm not familiar with the area. But to a certain extent I find any water that I find in Arizona to be an abundant blessing.
By the time we had hiked 11 miles or so (9 miles of AZT and 2 miles of extra, scenic route), we realized that we were probably going to be bumping up against sundown by the time we got to my car in Patagonia. The scenery was no less beautiful, but we tarried less and tried to maintain a fairly steady pace. We stopped every mile or two to give the dogs water, but otherwise didn't stop much.
Eventually we hit the portion of the trail where Andrea (aka Cheetah) and I first met. It was a segment where Jerry, Andrea, Shannon and I had volunteered to do some trail maintenance a number of years ago. It was fun to walk along this section of trail and think, "I remember putting those rocks there!" or "I remember cutting that drainage swale!"
Most of Passage 3 is a downhill hike, but not long after the segment that we had done trail maintenance on we had one last little bit of climbing to do to get over a saddle and into the Harshaw Valley drainage. By this time, we were a bit tired. I'd say we were mostly foot sore, but Cheetah's knee was bothering her as well. If Jerry had other complaints, he didn't share them.
As we descended to the paved Harshaw Road, Kintla was pulling Cheetah down the mountain a bit and I sensed impending disaster given her hurting knee, so I took Kintla's reigns for most of the rest of the hike. When we finally hit the pavement, we still had 3 miles to hike to get to my car. We could have parked where the trail intersects the road, but we decided early on in our AZT discussions that we wanted to hike everything that a through-hiker would have to hike, so plod along the paved road into Patagonia we did. I offered to drop pack and run ahead and return with the car, but even after a long day neither Jerry nor Cheetah wanted to skip an inch of the AZT. Pansies Jerry and Cheetah certainly are not. Bessie and Kintla didn't have a say in the matter.
I suspect they wouldn't have complained anyway, because as we entered Patagonia and encountered other dogs in yards, both Bessie and Kintla exhibited a surprising amount of energy as the inevitable excitement ensued. I was feeling pretty good as we approached the 19 mile mark, I suppose, but I wasn't exactly pulling at my leash either! For me, really, I just wanted to get off my feet. It was around 5:30 by the time we got to the Post Office in Patagonia, and the welcome sight of my car. Excluding our lunch stop, we were on the trail 8 hours.
When we got back to the car, we took a quick "post trip group shot" then got organized and fairly quickly hit the road to pick up Cheetah's car back at the trailhead. I waited until we got back to the trailhead to have my celebratory libation. And after a brief pause there, we drove home, where I had to quickly eat, shower, and get my gear together to do some Weed Free Trail volunteer training with some new volunteers at Saguaro National Park the next day.