Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Arizona Forest Fire Tour - Mount Graham, April 16, 2012

The previous night's most unwelcome interruption caused me - among other things - to throw up in my mouth and kept me awake for awhile.  That led to a late start Monday morning. 

I left the campground around 10, driving the remaining 10 miles up the scenic, windy Swift Trail Parkway to Forest Road 507, where I parked.  This old road - which is gated just a few hundred feet from the Swift Trail Parkway intersection - was pretty overgrown and there were pretty deep snow drifts - I started the hike at 9160' and the summit is at 10,720', the highest altitude I'd see during this trip.  It was a pretty typical road hike, with only two things of note. 

First, keeping to the theme of forest fires on this trip, huge tracts of land were burned here, and the ugly summit appeared not to be spared.

Some ugly pictures from Mount Graham thanks to a 2004 forest fire.

Second, I passed a sign at about 9600' on my way up, an non-descript black and white laminated sheet of paper.  I could tell it was a topo map from a distance, so I kept on the other side of the road, trying to make good time.  On the way back down, I walked right next to it and stopped - it appears this is a boundary for a red squirrel "refugium," and there was a small box of text that said "all entry prohibited."  Oops.  I did some research on this later, and apparently the high altitudes of Mt. Graham is the only place this species of squirrel still exists.  Unfortunately, huge swaths of this refuge are burned - I didn't see or hear any squirrels - hope some are still left up there. 

Trip stats:  10 miles, 1620' elevation gain, 4 hours 10 minutes - I was mostly slowed down by some of the big snow drifts, especially near the summit.  Not much to recommend on this one, unless you like Arizona county highpoints or are a 5000 foot prominence peak bagger.  I'm guilty of the second.

Not bad - 44.7 miles, 14,100' of elevation gain over 4 days and only one little blister.  And yes, I wore these pants (and feet) every day.  Sorry about your eyes.

After getting back to my car at about 3:00, I canceled plans for another boring 4 mile hike to the top of Heliograph Peak and instead headed for my Uncle Don's place in Tucson.  I don't think I cut a very impressive figure.  Upon my arrival, I think the second thing he asked me was "do you want a shower?"  I took him up on the offer, considering it had been over 100 hours since my last one. 

Had a great visit, some beers and a great dinner.  It was good to catch up with him and my Aunt Sheryl - I hadn't seen them in more than six years.  I also slept in a bed for the first time in five nights - highly recommended over the Crown Victoria back seat. 

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