Added 3 May 2008
Day 1: Friday, 20 July 2007, Miller Peak, Huachuca Mountains, Arizona
(Hover over images for captions. Click images for larger versions.)
The plan for the morning was for everyone to meet at my house at 8:00 a.m. pile into two cars and drive south to the Huachuca Mountains. Shan had decided not to go on the trip, so the participants were to be myself, Jeff, Brian D., Marisa, Kyle and Alice. The trip started to shake a little bit the night befpre when Jeff called and said he couldn't make it due to severe arm pain. At around 7:30 this morning, Shan decided she DID want to go. Yikes. I had to totally re-arrange my gear, make sure I was prepared for two people, and help her get packed in very short order. In packing at the last minute, I'm always worried that something important will get left behind.
Then as we were scrambling around trying to re-pack and re-organize at the last minute, Brian D. called and said that Cherokee was limping badly and wouldn't likely be able to handle the hike, so he might have to back out. When Marisa arrived, she mentioned that she had a dog-sitter taking care of her dogs, and that Cherokee could stay with her dogs. That problem was solved, but it meant a significant delay, in that Brian had to bring Cherokee over to our place so that he could go with Marisa back to her place. It was somewhat of a mixed blessing, in that while it delayed our start time by a couple of hours, it also gave me some more time to incorporate Shannon into the trip.
Brian and Marisa returned at around ten o'clock, and we headed down to Sierra Vista, where we ate a quick lunch before continuing on to the trailhead for the Carr Peak Trail. As we hoisted our packs to start the hike, the sky appeared as though it might bring some rain down upon us before we reached camp. Sure enough, a mile or so up the mountain, it started to rain lightly. It didn't last long though, and most of us soon removed our rain gear to stay cool.
I thoroughly enjoyed the trail, as it was swarming with wildflowers. We also saw numerous butterflies and quite a few lizards, including some beautiful Yarrow's spiney lizards (Sceloporus jarrovii). The trail was in really good shape, too.
The trail is fairly steep, though my compatriots would probably disagree with that assessment and upgrade it to very steep, or extremely steep. Kyle and Alice struggled most, at least in part due to the fact that they were suffering from altitude sickness. Altitude sickness was not even something that crossed my mind as something that I would need to be concerned about when planning the trip. I had never heard of it occurring at such low elevations, but upon researching it later, it can occur at elevations as low as 6000 feet. The Carr Peak Trail starts out at about 7,200 feet and ends at around 9000 feet.
After a while, Brian D., Shan and Marisa hiked on ahead and I stayed back with Kyle and Alice to make sure they were ok, eventually carrying their tent to help Kyle shave some weight.
It wasn't long though, before we reached the spine of the Huachucas and set about to find a decent place to set up camp. I anticipated some difficulty in this matter, as there isn't a great deal of flat ground along the ridgeline of the Huachucas. It didn't take us long, though, to find a relatively level area large enough to accommodate all of us. There were nicer camp sites to be found, but they were all too small to accommodate four tents.
Since it appeared that some rain my be arriving eminently, our first order of business was shelter and we hurriedly set up our tents. While others considered food the next priority, mine was getting the tent a little organized and making sure that any gear not inside the tent was well protected from water coming from both above and below within the vestibules. It would prove to be a worthwhile effort. That done, I prepared dinner, which we ate as the sky started to spit at us a bit. Not long after dinner, right around sunset, it started to rain in earnest.
Not long after that, I began to wonder what materials I might have to make a boat, for it seemed that the valley below might actually fill up with water and drown the entire mountain! We lay in our tent during what was the most intense storm I've been in for quite a number of years. It appeared (and sounded, and felt) like we would be tent-bound until morning. The lightning was so close and intense, that once, with my eyes closed and a shirt over my eyes, not to mention two layers of tent fabric, the lightning flash was so bright that I saw stars.
Sometime in the middle of the maelstrom, Shan desperately had to go to the bathroom. She was equally desperate not to leave the tent, however. I reminded her of the plastic Gatoraide bottle that we cleaned up from the trail earlier in the day, and suggested she put it to use. She hesitated, but decided it to be the lesser of three evils, the other two being getting blown off the mountain and wetting the bed, both of which had dire consequences for me as well. Still, I predicted a minor disaster. To my relief, no pun intended, disaster was completely averted. In the morning, I couldn't resist telling the story about her "Shannon-Aide" to the rest of the group.