Archive for March, 2012

afternoon at rucker canyon   6 comments

Posted at 8:13 pm in Uncategorized

The approach to Rucker Canyon along Rucker Canyon Road on the west side of the Chiricahua Mountains.

Last week, I took Sage and Sabrina and headed up to Rucker Canyon, which lies on the west side of the Chiricahua Mountains. For those who are unfamiliar with the Chiricahua range, here’s a link to a map.

That morning, I set out with some trepidation about what we might find when we arrived at our destination. All winter, I’ve been asking friends around town whether they’ve been over to Rucker since last summer’s catastrophic Horseshoe 2 fire that burnt up over 222,000 acres of the Chiricahua Mountain forests. I had read some of the fire reports and was quite sure that there must be at least some of the canyon that remained undamaged, but no one seemed to know for sure. Rucker Canyon is among my favourite places in Cochise County and I looked forward to a vist, but I didn’t really want to drive all the way there only to be disappointed.

During the approach along Rucker Canyon Road, it was difficult to know whether the mountaintops had been burnt off by the Horseshoe 2 Fire, or by the Rattlesnake Fire of 1994. The earlier fire resulted in major destruction in the canyon, causing silting that destroyed Rucker Lake and a nearby campground. I turned off into the Cypress Park campground which is shaded by a number of massive Arizona Cypress and a few Ponderosa Pines. It remains relatively undamaged as the older trees are somewhat impervious to fire damage if it passes through quickly. However, small trees and underbrush in the area had been burnt out, so the site wasn’t quite as I remembered it from my last visit.

one of the campsites at the Rucker Forest Campground

Arriving at the Rucker Forest Campground, I breathed a sigh of relief as I found it relatively unscathed, although once again, smaller trees around the periphery were damaged. It’s a small campground consisting of about 15 sites nestled against the canyon wall and Rucker Creek. The sites feature that classic style of stonework characteristic of campgrounds built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s.

a glimpse of the rocky crags of a nearby peak, framed by tall Ponderosa Pines

On this day, a stiff breeze blew through the canyon, chilling the air and whistling through the branches of the towering Ponderosas and Arizona Cypress. I parked and found a sunny spot at a picnic table and lunched on homemade chickpea and cauliflower salad and halved avocados with lime juice. Then it was time for a hike up the trail along Rucker Creek.

Setting out from the campground, the trail is wide and level, closely following the creek. A few elegant, pale-skinned Sycamores joined the pines and cypress. In places, ornate rock formations give the landscape a feel akin to that of a Japanese garden.

Occasionally, the trail crosses the creek which, at this time of the year, rushes through between the boulders. During the summer rains, I can well imagine that one might get more than wet feet.

fire-blackened bark on the trunk of a large Ponderosa Pine

Further along, the trail begins to rise and occasionally narrows to barely shoulder wide as it skirts areas where there have been rock slides down the steep talus slopes. In those sections, it’s wise to keep your eyes on the ground and not do too much sightseeing as a trip or slip could send you tumbling to the boulder strewn stream bank beneath.

As mentioned above, smaller trees were often badly burnt to the point where recovery was unlikely or impossible. The character of the forest is changed by lack of understory, but new vegetation could be seen here and there.

The above poor young Ponderosa Pines put me in mind of Dr. Seuss’s truffula trees. Somehow, I doubt that they will ever grow to tower above Rucker Creek.

Written by bev wigney on March 8th, 2012

dragoon mountains   9 comments

Posted at 11:07 am in Uncategorized

Where did the winter go? My lack of posting might seem to indicate that not much has been happening. In a way that’s true. Not too much exciting in the way of news. However, plenty of days out hiking around the region. Evenings playing music. Spare time in the past few weeks making art for the Central School’s fundraiser Mystery Ball (more about that in my next post).

My time in Arizona draws near to an end. Another three weeks or so and I’ll be on the road again, camping my way toward the northeast. A few more weeks beyond that and I’ll be back to working on the old house in Nova Scotia. I have a pretty ambitious season planned – more house restoration work, new garden patches, some trail improvements to make it easier to wander over the property. While I’m determined to enjoy the last days here in the southwest, I must confess that I’m anxious to get back to work at Round Hill.

Just a few photos this time. All of these were taken on the west and north sides of the Dragoon Mountains in Cochise County. I don’t believe I’ve ever written about them in past years, but this is one of the areas where I have taken a good many hikes with friends, or alone with my dogs. The mountains are a wild jumble of granite boulders unlike just about anything I’ve seen while traveling in North America – with the one exception of the Alabama Hills outside of Lone Pine, California. There are some strong similarities to that landscape of gigantic weathered granite boulders.

Aside from the fantastic geology, the Dragoons are of particular historic interest as well. They were the last refuge of the Chiricahua Apache peoples led by Cochise. The range forms a natural fortress, which is known to this day as Cochise Stronghold. When hiking along the network of trails it is easy to imagine how Cochise’s people were able move about the confusing canyons and washes, successfully evading capture for many years. It is also a place of natural mystery – of great mounds and peaks in strange zoomorphic and anthropomorphic shapes contorted by the ever-shifting shadows.

Written by bev wigney on March 6th, 2012