25-Nov-2004 -- With similar motivations and constraints as David and Susan Mitchell had exactly six years earlier, my wife and I would sample another Arizona confluence on Thanksgiving Day.
Examination of the imagery and topographical maps showed two possible approaches. An approach from the west with a much nicer road (my interpretation and analysis) but it would require crossing the spine of a major ridge (>300 feet) or, from the north. The TerraServer imagery showed a smaller road splitting off from the main road and leading south directly towards the confluence and ending about the same horizontal distance away as the option from the west and no ridge crossing would be required.
In my other research for this point, I discovered that at the northern end of the Dragoon Mountains there is great controversy over the proposed Alpha Calcit mine. According to one web site: “The mining operation would drill, blast, and remove 100,000 tons of ore per year for 20 years. This mine would be a terrible abuse of the land and community, just to fatten the stock portfolio of a profiteering German company.”
From my maps, I think the quarry on the much nicer road to the west of the confluence is the proposed location for this marble mine.
I also came across another interesting historical tidbit on a website titled Hiking the Dragoon Mountains written by George Stocking:
“It's easy to see why Chief Cochise and the Chiricahua Apaches favored the rugged Dragoon Mountains in Arizona as a haven when fleeing the U.S. Army more than a century ago. The Apaches could easily disappear into this vertical labyrinth and still be able to observe any intruder's approach from the safety of the peaks. Clear springs seeped year-round, and the hillsides produced enough sustenance to revitalize the warriors after their long overland treks. Mesquite beans, piñon nuts and the fruit of the banana yucca supplemented whatever small game could be found.
But the ultimate victors in this chapter of frontier history are reflected in the name of the rugged range itself -- the Dragoon Mountains. (A dragoon in the U.S. Army was a cavalry soldier outfitted with the heavier armaments of an infantry soldier.)”
We continued south from Dragoon on Lizard Lane, a dirt road leading into the Coronado National Forest. It split near the power lines at N32 01.147 W110 00.809. Should we approach from the west or the north? Since the roads looked the same here and we wanted to save ourselves the ridge crossing, we continued left and would approach from the north.
It was fairly easy going, but we did put our Tahoe into 4WD. We came upon a wash that at first looked impassable. Stopping here would add almost a mile and a half to our planned hike. As we got out and started to pack up our day packs, we quickly realized that we had been fooled by an illusion from the early morning sun casting a shadow making it look like the wash had about a 2 foot vertical edge. Once we understood what the shadow was doing, we got back in our vehicle and attempted to drive through it. The wash had another trick in store for us.
While the far edge was did not have a vertical slope it was still pretty steep. The width of the wash would have been sufficient for just our Tahoe. However, it was not wide enough for our Tahoe with a hitch mounted bike rack (and my bike attached) to cross it perpendicularly. As the nose of our Tahoe started up the far edge of the wash, the hitch mounted rack pitched down a similar amount and dug a nice trench through the relatively soft dirt of the other edge of the wash. Luckily, my bike pivoted along the top part of its frame and sustained no damage.
Other than some paint off the bottom of the hitch and laughter from my wife, little damage was done. We took the hitch and bike off and put them in the back before continuing.
We stopped just beyond the end of the road at a point 537 meters away from our objective. We were on the west side of the very deep Wood Canyon. The desert was very lush and green here from recent rains. It was also very quiet except for the sounds of birds and the occasional train heard way off in the distance. We were able to follow animal paths and only in a couple places did we have to bushwack our way through. We realized that this was the far easier approach. Up on the ridge to the west was very thick brush – passing through that brush would have been very slow and painful. The confluence itself was in a small clearing about a quarter of the way up the hill. My wife did the confluence dance while I took pictures.
Picture #1 looks north across Interstate 10 and towards Mt Graham. Picture #2 looks east across Wood Valley. In the extreme lower left of the photo part of the sheer drop can be seen. It was a good 100-150 feet deep and very narrow in places. Picture #3 looks south and shows typical plants at the confluence. Picture #4 looks up the ridge to the west. This is the ridge with much thicker brush than you can see here that you would have to cross if you came from the west. It may be easy if you were a bird or small rodent but much harder for humans. Picture #5 shows all zeroes at the confluence!
Total hike was just under a mile and took 1:17 with 232 feet of elevation change. Total time off Interstate 10 was 2:15. We were back in Tucson well before noon and had plenty of time to prepare (take a nap) for Thanksgiving dinner.
Another great confluence adventure!