Sunday, November 9, 2014

2 Peaks, 1 Hike

November 8, 2014
Carr and Miller peaks

Arizona's 20-20 challenge - 20 diverse and prominent peaks and canyons throughout the state of Arizona. We have hiked the #1 peak - Mt. Humphreys - and the #11 - Mt. Wrightson. We've also been to the peaks of Heliograph (#6) and Mt. Lemmon (#17), but those are both easily done by driving up the highways that take you up a significant amount. We know we won't be able to complete all the peaks and canyons in what time we have left here, but we like to take any opportunity to check some off the list. Miller (#10) and Carr (#16) are both found in the Huachuca Mountains, South of Sierra Vista, about 1.5 hours Southeast of Tucson. Curtis found an easy way for us to hike them both in one trip, as only a 4 mile long ridge lies between the two.

Facing toward Sierra Vista. If you enlarge, you can see the Aerostat, which is just a speck high in the sky.

We had two options for doing the hike: we could drive to one trailhead, hike to both peaks, then hike back to the car. The other, more complicated option was bringing 2 vehicles, parking one at a trailhead for one peak and then driving to the other peak's trailhead, hike both peaks to the other car, then drive back. We ended up doing things the easy way with one vehicle, mostly because the trailhead for Miller peak is rather close to the Mexican border. In the end, we were glad we did it that way - it didn't add on too much of our hike, and saved a lot of driving time and logistics.

Facing East

We decided to begin at the trailhead for Carr Peak. In our group was Mitchell, our friend Anna who lives in the Phoenix area (though we've known her for many years back in Iowa!), Curtis, Charlotte and I. We arose early and took off at 5:30. After seeing a glorious sunrise and passing through Sierra Vista, we took Carr Peak road up the mountain for 5 miles to the trailhead. This may have been the hardest part of the whole trip - the road is very rough and rocky, and one way for a good portion. Thankfully, we didn't come across any other cars (it was too early for that!) and made it safely to the trail parking lot around 7:15. As hard as the road was on Mitchell's Jeep, we were all very grateful that we wouldn't have to walk up this distance - driving up took over 2000 feet of elevation off our trail! It was chilly and windy for a while, but felt great while we were walking. 

Facing West, at the ridge that we would soon be hiking to get to Miller Peak.

The first 2.4 miles were gradually ascending the rest of the way up the mountain. The trail was very easy by our standards - hardly any boulders to climb over and very well maintained. The trail started in a forest with aspen and fall colors all around, then opened into walking along a ridge around the peak. The sky was perfectly clear and the visibility was great for the whole day. It made us all encouraged and it was so easy to enjoy - even for Charlie!

At Carr Peak, facing North toward Sierra Vista.

After the first 2.4 miles, we came to the intersection with the short trail leading up to Carr Peak. It was a bit steeper than before, but we believe that anyone could probably make it - it was only a mere .3 miles up to the top, and the reward was so great for such minimal effort!

Facing West, toward the other mountains in the Huachuca Mountain range.

At this point, it was quite windy at the top, which was at 9250 feet above sea level. It was only around 8:45 by the time we reached the peak. We had a 360 view from the peak, and we were the only ones there, making our time at the top very enjoyable!

Facing South, looking at Miller Peak - we're coming for you!

Panorama of the East, with Miller peak on the far right.

Peak picture #1 for today!

After spending a little time at Carr Peak, we continued on - we still had a long ways to go to reach Miller and hike back! However, this was really some of the easiest hiking we've done. The ridge had its ups and downs, but it wasn't ever strenuous until we reached the half mile trail to Miller peak. 

Ridge hiking is a breeze, and so much fun!

Even though it was so easy, the trail didn't seem like it was hiked very often. The brush was very overgrown, so make sure you're wearing long pants!

We walked on part of the Arizona Trail on the way to Miller.

Our trail joined with the Arizona trail maybe 1 ½ - 2 miles in. We've hiked bits and pieces of it while letterboxing, but this was probably the most secluded and quiet part that we've been on. Up till this point, it was around 10 - 10:30 and we hadn't seen anyone out here yet.

Bathtub Springs

There is one very unique part of the far South part of the Arizona trail, and it's called Bathtub springs. Curtis heard about it several years ago, and he's always told me about how someone brought a bathtub out to the AZ trail to use as a water source. We just so happened to come across it today, and I think it was one of the highlights, right up there with reaching the peaks! 

At Miller Peak! Facing East - about ⅔ of this picture from the right is Mexico. Just above the saddle in the foreground, you can see a black line running diagonally upward from right to left - that's the border fence!

After the springs, the trail starts ascending little by little, until we came to the trail intersection with the half mile trail leading up to Miller Peak. The last half mile was steeper and we stopped a few times to catch our breath, but it didn't take long before we made it - ahead of schedule!

Facing East - our view while we enjoyed lunch

The moment when you reach a peak after working hard for it and anticipating it the whole way is such an exciting and breathtaking moment that is always worth looking forward to. Even on my hardest and worst hikes, that moment always cheers me up and gives me a little burst of energy. Today, we got to experience that "moment" twice, and both times were incredible.

Facing Southeast

Facing South

Facing North- Carr is off on the left, Sierra Vista is in the center.

Facing Southwest 
Charlie snuggling with her Uncle Mitch

When you're at the top of a peak, time seems to stop. After hiking for so long (around 6.5 miles at this point),  we're able to finally sit, relax, and take it all in. It doesn't matter what we brought to eat - everything tastes good! Somehow, we always spend about an hour at any peak. It's always worth it.

Facing Northwest - toward the other Huachuca Mountains

Facing Southwest into Mexico

This picture captures the whole area we just hiked through - from North of the mountain on the right, up to that peak, and across the whole ridge up to Miller.

Most of the time after doing a hike, I really feel no desire to go redo it another day. Once is usually enough - however, this is one hike that I would love to do over and over again! I know the weather we had and the peace of the trails may not ever be as perfect as they were this day, but the trail and views alone made it worth it!

Family peak picture #2

Who has no thumbs and has hiked 3 of the 20/20 AZ peaks? This kid!

Charlie was able to hike most of the way from the beginning to Miller peak, and she walked quite a bit on the way back, but Curtis and Mitch took turns carrying her so that she wouldn't wear herself out. We rewarded her with peanut butter and PB cookies along with her food. :)

The guys enjoying Bathtub Springs :)

After spending an hour at the top eating, enjoying, throwing rocks, and picture taking, we began heading back. It was about 12:30 at that point. We ran into one small group on the way down. They were only hiking to Miller peak, and they had started in Miller Canyon. This meant that they had to hike up the 2000+ feet that we had skipped by driving up - and it showed. We all agreed that we loved the way we did it, and didn't feel like we missed out by hiking up the whole way. The hike we did on its own was 12 miles - plenty for one day!

Charlie enjoying the springs!

Looking back at Miller peak and that park of the ridge.

We made it back to the Jeep at 3:30, still feeling great and gushing over this amazing new hike we had found. We highly recommend it to anyone looking for a moderate day hike in Southern Arizona! Hiking it in early November was a great experience, no promises that it'd always be so easy, but the views and experience is worth every step!

Workout details from the Map My Hike application. I only paused our time at the 2 peaks, so our total hiking time plus several short breaks ended up being less than 7 hours - not bad for 12 miles!

The elevation changes throughout the hike. This is why it was so easy! Once you make it to the intersection with the Carr Peak trail, it's all gradual changes, very easy and so worth it!

One last note - at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, there is a tethered balloon surveillance system called the Aerostat. It was visible almost the entire hike, though in these pictures it turned out as a tiny speck. We joked about how it was watching us the entire time. It is visible in 4 of the pictures I posted - can you find them all? Click on the pictures to enlarge and look for them!

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