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Kartchner Caverns
Whetstone Mountains
September 11-13, 2022
by Billie Horn

Day 1, October 11, 2022: Drive from Phoenix to Kartchner Caverns.
group
Trailblazers ready to hike. [photo by Billie]
Heather, Neil, Teena, Rudy, Joan, Jim, Yanis, Terri, Deirdre, Martha, Yu Ling, Debi, Robbi.

Traveled independently to Kartchner Caverns State Park, where we had reserved cabins, campsites and RV spots.

Reservations for the cave tour were for 1:40, and all members arrived at least ½ hour early.

After the tour and viewing the informational video the group separated and had time to unload and settle in before our scheduled happy hour at Billie and Neil’s cabin. The happy hour progressed into dinner where we grilled and shared food with each other.

sign
Kartchner Caverns State Park. [photo by Billie]
hikers
Some of the cabins we rented. [photo by Billie]

At about dusk we reassembled at the campsite of Rudy and Yanis where they built a nice fire. We were entertained by Texas Shorty (AKA Rudy) and his guitar.

fire
Entertainment. [photo by Billie]

Day 2, October 12, 2022: Ramsey Canyon.

Carpooled to Hereford, AZ, and Ramsey Canyon Trailhead. The area is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and a ranger told us we would be fined if we hiked from there, so Plan B was implemented and we caravanned over to the Brown Canyon Ranch Trailhead, where we encountered a border surveillance balloon (blimp) tethered to a platform. No one in the group knew exactly what is was, so guesses were many.

It turned out to be one of two Border Surveillance Balloons in Arizona.

The federal government has been using aerostatic surveillance balloons at the Southwest border since 2013. Seventeen systems are deployed throughout the border, but this is the first in eastern Arizona.

view
Illegal crossers will get Blimped. [photo by Yanis]

The 72-foor long balloon is helium filled and tethered to a 7.5 ton platform. It has day/night vision and can rise to 3,000 feet for high and low surveillance.

We knew that this trail would link us up the Ramsey Canyon section where we had planned to hike. Although this hike offered the same views and conditions, we never made the connection to RC, but it turned out to be a very nice 6 mile alternate hike.

view
Foothills Trail. [photo by Yanis]
hikers
Conferring on the hilltop. [photo by Yanis]
hikers
Hikers behind bars. [photo by Yanis]

Back at KC in time for a rest and clean up, we again set up the shared meal. I asked everyone to grab some food and then pull chairs around in a circle. I handed out paper and pencils. Neil and I had made a list of 20 popular hikes in and around AZ. I read off the hikes one by one and points were given for most hikes completed. Deirdre and Rudy won the prizes. That was fun because we shared a bit of information about each hiking area.

Logs were thrown on the fire pit and another great evening of chatting, sharing and entertainment (Texas Shorty) ensued.

hikers
Kicking back with Rudy. [photo by Yanis]

Neil shared a poem by Shel Silverstein called The Man Who Got No Sign. This fit in perfectly because there had been an interesting discussion about birthdays and Zodiac signs (thanks for sharing the info, Teena).


Day 3, October 13, 2022: Ocotillo Loop.

After loading cars and checking out of cabins, We caravanned to the other side of the campgrounds to hike the 5 mile foothills and Ocotillo Loop Trails.

hikers
Ready to go at Brown’s Ranch. [photo by Yanis]
hikers
Into the woods. [photo by Yanis]
Billie
A gentle trail. [photo by Yanis]
view
Soft meadows. [photo by Yanis]
hikers
Return to Brown’s Ranch. [photo by Yanis]
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What lovely scenery! [photo by Yanis]
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Clouds over the hills. [photo by Yanis]

The weather on this trip was perfect, and so was the company.


Side Note:

There is a lot of joy and happiness in sharing our love of the outdoors and nature with like minded people. Planning and leading hikes can seem a bit daunting at first, but with a group like we have, everyone chips in to make it safe and enjoyable. If you have ever thought about leading a hike you’ll have a great support system and it can be a gratifying experience. Try it!

Billie

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updated October 19, 2022