Saturday, April 23, 2016

Arizona National Trail—Passages 14-15 Scouting Trip (April 23, 2016)

Black Hills and Tortilla Mountains

Passage 14 – Black Hills

The southern access is at the Tiger Mine Trailhead…off of AZ route 77, east of Oracle.  You can access the AZT right from the turnoff of the highway, or drive in to the Trailhead, a nice large parking lot with a view.


I drove to the trailhead, but did not hike this section.


Why do they have to shoot the signs?


The trail leads off down that ridge and I lacked the motivation to hike it. The next access points were Mountainview Tank which required a high-clearance and 4-wheel drive vehicle, and Freeman Road which was a good 16 mile drive one way on dirt roads.  Breaking down out there, I probably could not get road service. 

The book says on page 129, “All available water along this passage is owned by ranchers, whose permission you must secure before using it.  You have two alternatives: either cache water along your route prior to your outing, or arrange for people to meet you along the way.”  Note: This passage crosses Arizona State Land, and you must have a permit to venture outside the 15-foot trail corridor.

I carry a second guild book with me, one on Rocks – Gem Trails of Arizona and it indicated there were a number of rock hounding places nearby so I opted to check them out rather than make the 16-mile trip to Freeman Road trailhead.  I went rock hounding in Dudleyvile, Winkelman, Hayden areas.  More on that in another post.

After my rock hounding urge was satisfied, I decided to drive on to check out Passage 15.

Passage 15 – Tortilla Mountains


The southern end of this Passage began at Freeman Road trailhead which I skipped as stated above.  The book describes this as “quite remote and many miles from common landmarks.”  There really is no other place to access this Passage except at the northern end of it at the Kelvin-Riverside Bridge.


Here is the bridge with trail going off on the left.  Go that way into Passage 15.  Go across the bridge and head north into Passage 16.


I’d like to kayak that.


This is a very nice trailhead and arriving late in the day, I decided to stay the night.  Road is very wash-boardy.  First night I have been away from  noise in awhile.  In the morning I heard a lot of buzzing… bees everywhere.  A closer look showed some of them to be very large bees flying low to the ground.  I never heard so many bees.


My sunset was lovely out the rear door of my van, from my bed.  I even got a surprising number of T.V. channels and just relaxed and enjoyed them.


Next morning I hit the trail early, my first day on the trail with a full pack.  I have to see if I can carry this thing.  First thing I saw, hidden out of site from the parking lot, is a water cache box.   Signage clearly says not to leave any trash, but people had.  I will collect it on my way back out and get rid of it.


People are pigs, we all know that, but I expected more from AZT hikers than that.  Really.


The next thing you notice the the trail registry.  I see that the young man Nick Gomez was there ahead of me by five days… but what happened to Rob Steady???


I like this Passage a lot.  I was wondering what this shade shelter is for, camping???  It was very nice and roof make from Ocotilla branches spines.


The variety of Saguaro is amazing and you have to wonder what has happened to some of them… disease, attacks of insects???


Signs all along the way of small scale erosion control efforts probably by Trail Stewards and volunteers.


The trail is well designed and I enjoyed it a lot.  Small cactus have been encircled with rocks to protect them.


The views were awesome.



I found a plant I have never seen before and wonder what it is.


Signs of man.


I love the cactus.  Small mammal bones on the right.


A Saguaro bloom had fallen off.  And I found a nest, the entrance was on the bottom of the nest.  I stuck my finger in a little ways… but was chicken to put it in all the way.


A number of cactus were rooted on the low side of the trail, which almost put these blossoms at eye level. Click to enlarge photo and you can see the bees buzzing around the blooms.


Barrel cactus fruit developing.


Back at the trailhead, I collected the trash left by others and left the box better than I found it.

NOTES to self:  I began at 7am, no breakfast, turned around at 8am and was back at the van by 8:50am.  Did not get hungry.  Right foot hurts, and left hip a little.  Used one bottle of water.  My breathing is better, my balance is better. There is no cell signal out here. Saw some lizards and rabbits, but they are very fast out here.  Also made some adjustments to my backpack.  Need to add extra pockets to my shirts.  One for camera, one for water bottle.

The guide book says:  “One of Arizona’s largest mining corporations, ASARCO, has purchased a large tract of Arizona State Land for the purpose of storing excess tailings from nearby mining operations.  Although it may be many years before waste rock is piled in the area near Ripsey Wash, the project will severely affect the current AZT.  The ATR is currently developing a scenic and sustainable reroute for the northern portion of this passage.”

OK, a couple days after hiking here, I drove by ASARCO open pit mining operation and was sickened by what I saw.  More later but here is one photo.  This should not be allowed.


This concludes what they call the Southern Section of the AZT.  The Central Section begins with Passage 16 and ends with 27.

Last: Passage 13 – Oracle

Next:  Passage 16 – Gila River Canyons

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Who is Swankie?

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Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
Visit me on In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles in Spring 2017. In training now for the hike.