Added 27 March 2011
Arizona Trail Passage 8: Rincon Valley - Gabe Zimmerman TH to Hope Camp Backpack
Today Jerry, Andrea and I started our goal of hiking the entire Arizona Trail (in segments). I met Jerry and Andrea at their house at seven o’clock this morning and we caravanned out to Las Cienegas. We left Jerry’s truck there then took my truck to the Camino Loma Alta trailhead at Saguaro National Park. We started hiking at nine o’clock, but in order just to get to the Arizona Trail itself we had a three mile hike. The defined trail ended at Hope Camp, which is a compact collection of broken down buildings and a windmill.
There was what appeared to be a makeshift trail south from Hope Camp, and having nothing else to follow, we took it until we reached a fenced property corner. There were no gates in the fences and we couldn’t see any sign of a trail beyond the fence, so we ended up bushwhacking through prickly pear and catclaw towards the Arizona Trail. As we neared the trail, we saw a National Park Service trail crew and one of the guys came over to talk to us. They were working on the trail connecting the Hope Camp Trail to the Arizona Trail. He said they were about 98% done so if we done our hike a week or two later, we wouldn’t have had to bushwhack!
Once on the Arizona Trail it was all smooth sailing. We were all very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the trail. Not that we expected an ill-defined mess, but the tread was almost entirely rock free, and the trail had a perfect blend of interesting sinuosity without wandering aimlessly and making the hike longer than it needed to be. It was also well signed at junctions where necessary (with one exception). We encountered a couple of folks along the way, but it was pretty quiet. That is, at least from a human encounter perspective.
The wind made our journey less than quiescent. With wind gusts probably in the 30-40 mile an hour range, we were getting blown around a bit. Despite the head wind, we still made good time. Of course, anytime Cheetah (Andrea) is in the group, you’re bound to get to your destination fast, and that we did.
When travelling southbound on the trail, Pistol Hill Road is the only place that we found the trail to be a bit confusing. There is an information kiosk across a cattle guard to the left, and trails that continue south from there, but the Arizona Trail actually continues on west (right) of the cattle guard, up the road a ways. There is an AZT sign about 50 meters off the road to verify that you're on the right track. Going northbound there shouldn't be any confusion. After a 45 minute lunch break at Pistol Hill Road, we completed our 10 mile journey to La Selvilla Campground at Colossal Cave Park, arriving at 1:30 p.m. The camp sites at La Selvilla, while close together, are quite nice, and since there was only one other group in the whole area, we chose a spot next to a ramada so we would have some shelter, if needed.
I'll interject a few words about Colossal Cave Park, where we camped. While we didn't visit the cave, many people to, and many people have, going all the way back to the Hohokam circa 900-1450 A.D. The Hohokam reportedly used the cave as a shrine. The Sobaipuri, Apache and Tohono O'odham have also used the cave. It was reportedly first found by a white person in 1879 when Solomon Lick was searching for stray cows.
The expected winter storm was just starting to bring the first drops of rain while we set our tents up, but it ended up doing nothing more than sprinkling very lightly all afternoon. The wind was the killer. It definitely kept things cool, so instead of just standing around getting windblown, I decided to hike down the Posta Quemada Wash and do some birding. There wasn’t much activity, but I did take some time to watch the beautiful black-throated sparrows that occasionally came out where I could see them clearly. The wind made birding difficult because the birds were staying low and under cover and the vegetation was blowing all over the place. It was still a very enjoyable little jaunt though, and it kept me focused on something other than the wind, which is my least favorite weather phenomenon.
I eventually wandered back to camp, not because I was tired of wandering, but because I hadn’t drunk enough water and didn’t bring any with me. I hydrated myself and talked with Jerry and Andrea for a while at camp, then at dusk I went birding again. This time it was colder and it seemed like the prospect of me seeing much of anything was pretty slim, so I soon returned to camp.
Not long after dinner, Andrea took shelter in their tent to read a book while Jerry and I talked for a while longer. We didn’t make it past eight o’clock though. I read for a bit, then gave up on trying to stay awake. I woke a few times in the night, sometimes to the sound of a dozen or so raindrops hitting my tent, but the weather never really amounted to much except wind.We hiked 10 miles today.