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4/27 - 4/29/2013 Tucson Trails: Charouleau Gap, Chiva Falls, Chimney Rock

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trip's over, pics soon!

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teaser pic, this was just after visiting the falls:



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Oh, so you gonna just leave us hangin? Lol! Cant wait to see the pics. Hope you all had a good time!

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Day 1 (Saturday)


i left pretty early from Phoenix since i needed to get breakfast, gas and firewood. i'm sure Sarah and Chris were still snuggled in bed since they live just a few minutes from Oracle.







first views of the mountains where we would be playing the second day:





i had breakfast at The Oracle Patio Cafe where the staff was friendly and prompt. the Monte Cristo and fresh fruit were excellent.




a 94 XJ sat across from the restaurant for sale. they owner wanted an ambitious $6k for it! it did have a no-name winch, and Olympic 4x4 Top Hat roof rack and some lights, but was a bit beat down otherwise. i left an ORP card for whoever might stumble across it.





Gearhead and the Bradywgn crew arrived at our Circle K meeting spot early, so we were able to get rolling before 9:30. i announced that the trip was officially "exploratory" since we had only 3 rigs and i had mapped out some potential "shortcuts"!


instead of heading East to Reddington Road and then taking it all the way South to Chivo Falls and Chimney Rock trails, i wanted to head South on Mt. Lemon Road (the Oracle Control Road trail) and then take some unknown trails South-East. my maps (even the official Coronado National Forest map) were unclear on what the main trail i wanted to take was called or if it went all the way through to Reddington Road. looking at Google Earth, i was optimistic, though you can't see locked gates and small washouts so i've been fooled before with aerial maps.


it turned out the main shortcut road was a 2wd graded road just as wide as Mt Lemon Road.




we passed a few side roads which i'd like to explore some other time. one trail headed towards a very green looking crevasse cut into the desert landscape. i stopped to check on an older couple that were stopped near the turn and they told me it was Alder Canyon and that the trail did go to it. they had just returned from hiking there.


we saw views of the desert foothills for quite some time, occasionally passing cows or horses.









before the main shortcut road reached Reddington Road, i turned off taking us South where we began a series of smaller 4x4 trails. the first portion followed near to the gas pipeline, then diverged into several other more established but narrow trails. we finally emerged further South on Reddington Road, near to where the pipeline crosses it.





once we reached the Chivo Falls trail we found it to be rough and bumpy, but still on the easier side of "moderate". we stopped for lunch in the wash where you turn off on a spur of the main loop to head for the actual falls.




there was massive debris stacked in the trees. the water here must sometimes reach 3 car heights.





the spur to the falls is more difficult than the rest of the loop. here's Chris going through an optional obstacle at the end:




next was a short hike/boulder-crawl to the falls. we took our time, being careful where we placed our hands and feet as the area is critter-central. fortunately we only ran into a small water snake:




here you can get a feel for the size of the falls with Mike standing at the base:




only a small trickle of cold water was flowing down, but the wind blew the spray around and made the entire area pretty cool on a hot day.




Chris and Sarah found that the "air-conditioned room", a small shaded alcove that the wind blew spray into occasionally. a flower grew straight out of the rock wall above them:







as we left, we discussed whether we wanted to take the optional spur to the top of the falls, noting it had looked pretty rough.




it turned out to indeed be challenging. since i was on point, i should have walked the hill, but instead just felt it out slowly with the Jeep. about half way up i took the wrong line and ended up in a position where i had to back down. Chris helped guide me backwards on the loose, steep, and off-camber path. at one point the nose of my Jeep slid sideways causing a front tire to lift in the air. Chris grabbed my window sill quickly and was just enough counter-balance to keep me down until the Jeep settled. i believe Sarah has some good pictures of this to post.


after the hillside debacle, Bradywgn crew and i continued up while Gear patiently waited at the main trail. the road split and we didn't know which went to the "pools" Chris had heard about, so we took a left and ended up at the top of the falls instead.


since it was getting late and Mike was waiting for us, we headed back to the main spur, and eventually back to continue on the loop.



Three Feathers is the only truly "difficult" obstacle on the main loop. we all took variations of the middle "easy" line and made it up without any problem. here Mike spanks the obstacle without waiting for a spotter:




the Three Amigos at the top of Three Feathers:






the exit to Chivo Falls is only a few miles from the entrance to the Chimney Rock trail. we hauled tail hoping to make it to the actual Chimney Rock formation in time to setup camp before dark. it worked out perfect; we arrived about an hour before sunset.


our camp areas:








the Chimney Rock formation:





Aimee and Brady had prepared an excellent dinner for me before i left home, which had been heating in the engine oven for a few hours. the menu was home-made meatloaf, bacon macaroni & cheese, and asparagus in butter sauce. it came out moist, hot, and just plain perfect. everything was in foil so i didn't even have a plate to clean - awesome!




we sat around the fire for a few hours where we BS'd and watched stars & satellites. we even saw a massively bright shooting star with a long green tail. it appeared to burn up within just a few hundred feet before an impact.


we were also visited by low & slow flyover from a helicopter, likely border patrol. we all waved to their heat-vision to let them know we were friendly US Citizens and to please not send the attack drones.



next up is day 2, exiting Chimney Rock and beginning Charouleau Gap...

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Neat. I really think your engine stove and that meal are awesome!

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I am still uploading the pictures but here is a brief video of Kris attempting The Step on Charleau: http://youtu.be/r16rVLz5UxU



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I am still uploading the pictures but here is a brief video of Kris attempting The Step on Charleau: http://youtu.be/r16rVLz5UxU




thanks for posting. needed my tail over just a bit more driver, but 1 attempt was enough for me at 7:30 AM!

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thanks for posting. needed my tail over just a bit more driver, but 1 attempt was enough for me at 7:30 AM!


You found it! Can't wait to hear from you about where exactly that is. Funny from the video it looked like you needed to go passenger but of course I didn't see it from the other side. Looks like that'll wake you up!

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Day 2 (Sunday)


everyone in the group were early risers and quick packers, so we were rolling on the trail just after 7AM! soon after the Chimney Rock formation, the route changes from easy 2wd dirt roads to a rocky 4x4 trail.




we had great views while we all finished waking up.




in the middle of one steep descent, we found a shot up Ford Explorer that looked like it might have rolled. sadly there was a baby seat in the back. we hoped it was just a stolen joy ride and no-one important was hurt.





after one high pucker factor off-camber area, we entered a dry creek bed for several miles. the trail is very tight and brushy. coming around a corner i went to move over to avoid a strange looking limb in the trail, which turned out to be a decent sized Gila Monster.







while closing one of a million gates on this trip, Gear heard air escaping from his driver front tire. once we got to a flat area we found a split right in the edge of the sidewall/tread area. with a few plugs and some air, we were back on our way.




while stopped we noticed this nice windmill and if you look closely on the right you can see a solar panel. we joked about the secret missile silo we must be standing on out there "in the middle of nowhere".





after reaching Reddington Road again, we drove the thousand miles of washboards back to pavement, aired up, and returned to Oracle. after a quick stop for gas and firewood, we soon found the Northern entrance to the Charouleau Gap trail. we ate lunch while airing down and stood in the shade of this interesting looking (but ant filled) tree.





the first major obstacle was the Elevator Shaft. this loooooooong steep climb is intimidating as you can only see sky during some parts. the sound of your tires slipping occasionally in the loose rock gives you mild heart attacks as you wonder when you might loose all forward momentum.




here we are, all having safely reached the top floor:





Gear's tire was soon loosing air again. after about 15 plugs, we were sure that the split was just going to continue growing and so he changed to his spare. he not only had the full size spare, but also a bottle jack and a board to use as a base for it... we gave him props for being properly prepared.







after the tire change we noticed that we could see the Biosphere 2 project. Chris had taken the tour there so he filled in the rest of us over CB regarding what was inside. it sounded like a neat place to visit, so it's on my list now.





we soon dropped into the main creek area where our last expedition to The Gap had camped. we continued past this camp site looking at a few more tree covered areas i had marked in Google Earth. just as i announced that we needed to turn around and head back to one of the spots we had passed, we saw an excellent shaded flat area with a well built fire-ring.


it was around 3PM when we started setting up camp, but everyone looked like they might enjoy a nap.







messing with our plans a bit, a herd of cattle decided we where in their path. we attempted to discourage them from coming on through but they kept getting closer. with the bull mad-eyeing us, and several young calfs in the heard, we weren't eager for them to come right into camp. the baby's were pretty cute though.




after a long staring contest the bull finally gave a snort, turned, and headed his herd around us in the rocks instead of via the tasty grass path they so desperately wanted to be in... or so we thought.


happily ready for that nap, i threw in my earplugs and crawled into the Tent-Cot. meanwhile some of the herd returned to graze right next to me. i was blissfully unaware. Chris and Sarah were napping in their Jeep as well but woke up to see all this, including one of the calfs looking right in my Tent-Cot window (probably wondering what the snoring was all about)!



by the time i woke up, the herd was completely gone. after naps we took a stroll over to the stream, gathered firewood, and just visited a bit.






i enjoyed some relaxing views while sitting near the fire ring:






with it being warm weather and our camp near water, plenty of bugs joined us:




soon it was dark and time to put that fire ring to use.




we gabbed even longer than the previous evening, but it still didn't take too long before we were out of wood and all starting to yawn.


i woke up in the middle of the night hearing small footsteps in the leaves just a few feet from my head. i figured it was best to not spook whatever it was with a flashlight. so i put in my earplugs and went back to sleep. when i awoke the next morning i found myself still intact with no chew marks. whatever had been prowling was apparently not interested in human meat that night.



next up is the final day, exiting the Charouleau Gap...

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