Added 2 September 2012
Sunday, 5 February 2012
Arizona Trail Passage 2: Canelo Hills East - Parker Canyon Lake to Canelo Pass, Arizona
I arrived and Jerry and Andrea's at six o'clock this morning to hike AZT Passage 2 with them and two of their friends, Raquel and Shaun Downs. I thought we were going to get an earlier start on the trail today, but we ended up starting our hike at almost exactly the same time as last weekend. At least we had fewer miles to cover though. It was another beautiful day, and another beautiful area. The trail starts with beautiful views of Parker Canyon Lake and the Huachuca Mountains at your back, and then starts diving in an out of drainages. The hike continues over hill and vale for the entire duration of the hike.
Shaun and Raquel were really nice and I enjoyed talking with them a bit as we hiked or at stops. I took up the position at the back of the pack so I could stop to take photos or look at the birds, so I talked mostly with Shaun, who was generally behind the others as well. Unfortunately, it's hard for me to carry on conversations when I'm hiking behind people though, so I think I missed some parts of conversations. I was able to participate better when we were on a road and hiked in a bunch rather than a line. And of course, I'm not all that talkative anyway . . .
For unknown reasons this passage was less birdy than Passage 3, at least on this day. Not only were there fewer species, there were fewer individuals. I also stopped less because we were already moving at a slower pace than usual and I didn't want to further hold up the group.
We encountered a fair amount of water on this passage, but I suspect that most of it is less reliable than the water on Passage 3.
One of the highlights on this passage was the view from the long ridge climb near the end of the passage. It offered views to the east of the Huachuca, Mustang and Whetstone Mountains and to the west over the Canelo Hills and Meadow Valley. It was from here that we realized the grand scope of Meadow Valley. From the higher vantage point it became clear that it was many times larger than we had envisioned it being from Passage 3.
Meadow Valley is part of the headwaters of the Santa Cruz river as it flows south into Mexico, then loops around and flows north through Tucson on it's way to the Gila River. It's truly an amazing sight.
From there, we descended down to the truck. We had started the hike at 8:35 a.m. and arrived at the truck at 4:00 p.m., with a 45 minutes stop for lunch, and quite a few short breaks. We milled around the truck and talked for quite a while, then eventually loaded up and went back to Parker Canyon Lake to pick up my car. Everyone else headed back to Tucson and I took a relatively quick detour down to Parker Canyon Lake to see if there were any interesting birds there. The sun was already down by that time though, so I didn't have time to walk one of the lakeshore trails and do any birding in earnest.
I probably should have just gone straight home myself since I was exceptionally hungry and somehow ended the day with only my sweet snacks remaining in my pack, which sounded wholly unappealing at that moment. The sunset over the lake was phenomenal though, and watching the colors change was a good way to wrap up the day. I ended up stopping at the little market in Sonoita and bought some saltine crackers to munch on and calm my stomach down for the rest of the drive home.