Added 11 September 2004
Jeff and I had planned on leaving for the trailhead after work on Friday, September 3rd, but Jeff got delayed at work, so we get out of Tucson until around 10 o'clock Saturday morning, with storm clouds brewing. The drive to the White Mountains through Safford and Morenci took us through rain that was occasionally quite heavy. It had been quite a while since I had been on that very familiar route from Tucson to Morenci, and this was a welcome return. That part of Arizona is gorgeous and, I think, woefully but thankfully ignored. As we passed through Morenci, Jeff was very interested in the mine and asked a lot of questions about the operation. I answered him as best as I could remember from the days that I did some reclamation work at the mine as an environmental consultant. When we got out at the mine pit overlook, it was very cold and windy, I think giving both of us a little pause about whether we were prepared enough for the next four days in the wilderness.
As it turns out, we were fine. By the time we got to the dirt road that lead us down to the Blue River the rain had stopped. On the way down, there was a sign that we were entering wolf country, as Mexican Wolves have been reintroduced into the Blue Range. Yippie!! I dearly hoped (but did not expect) to see a wolf on our trip. By the time we got to the river at the XXX Ranch the clouds were clearing, making way for a beautiful afternoon. After reading a story about Fred Fritz at his grave site at the XXX Ranch, we hoisted our packs and started hiking up the river.
We didn't start hiking until about 3:30 or so, meaning we didn't have time for a nice leisurely walk, as I would have liked. Though we did stop a few times to enjoy the sights we kept up a pretty good pace. The river corridor was far more vegetated than indicated by the aerial photographs I studied before the trip, so the going was slower than I expected.
About 5 miles up the Blue River we crossed over into the Blue Range Wilderness Area, though the sign for it still says it's a Primitive Area. We saw a few critters along the way, including a beautiful ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus) and what I likened to a prehistoric potato bug. We were both amazed by the number of wildflowers in bloom as well. It was gorgeous!
On we hiked, trying to make it near the confluence of Little Blue Creek and Hannah Creek. In the end, we weren't able to make it quite as far as I had hoped before the darkness started closing in. Instead of pushing on in the dark, we decided to call it quits before total darkness closed in. The following day was set to be a leisurely one anyway, so it wasn't like that last mile would really gain much for us, except some camp tear-down and set-up time.
We did find a nice, though small, area to camp for the night about a mile up Little Blue Creek. While Jeff set his tent up I inflated my sleeping pad and threw my bag down. I did have a moment of hesitation about sleeping out on the open ground when I saw this HUGE spider on my backpack (picture at right). For reference, that strap that he is partially under is one inch wide, making this guy about three inches across. Without a tent to set up, I finished first so I started setting the kitchen up and set to making my dinner. After dinner we settled in and did our own things. Jeff was out like a light by nine o'clock, and I didn't last a whole lot longer.