Got up early and was on the road east from Tucson at 6am... the morning was cold and clear, and when I pulled off for the requisite Egg McMuffin in Willcox the car's thermometer read 25F, brrr... good think I didn't camp out here!

They're paving the road to the top trailheads, so I headed out at 8:15 from the visitor center parking lot in the canyon bottom, something I hadn't done before. Little snow shavings littered the ground--does the snow here melt, or just sublimate away?--I tried to recall phase transition diagrams for water and failed. Again, sunny and cool, but moving up in elevation had warmed things up, those valley floors in this part of the desert really catch all the cold air draining off the mountain. Of course, 34F isn't really 'warming up', so I put on my t-shirt and midlayer and skimpy yet super-warm down jacket (yay for the Ghost Whisperer). I was fine.

As the trail climbed up and up, the ground got crunchy, then just frozen, and dirty ice appeared, yuck. I slipped on the first patch and went 'whaa' but then I went 'duh' and figured out what it was. Above 6000 feet or so the ice became covered with an inch of snow, an unfortunate combo, but nothing difficult at all.

By 10 I was up in the 'Wonderland of Rocks', which sounds so mid-20th-century; I'd prefer another term like 'Heart of Rockness' or 'Planet Deneb IV' or something. The mile-long loop trail at the top was mercifully free of religious terms, though, prefering features to be named like like 'Balanced Rock' and 'Punch and Judy' to the archaic 'Lots Wives' and 'Devils Bumpkiss' type of namings you see all over the western US. Though come to think of it there was a "Thor's Hammer", but I don't think anyone is practicing Norse mythology.

Anyways, back down a snowy ravine to a broader canyon, past a creepily large cat pawprint, easily the largest mountain lion print I've seen, though some part of me secretly pretended it was a jaguar. The broader canyon was warm and sunny and pretty, and I walked below a wonderful palisade of weird rocks, taking my time and taking pictures and imagining they were some weird alien skyscrapers, a much more romantic thought than 'eroded volcanic rock'.

Back down to the car, 11 miles, then off to Sierra Vista. Tomorrow I want to do a quick look-see up Ramsey Canyon, home to maybe a dozen hummingbird species in spring and summer, then back home late in the day.


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