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Parker Canyon Lake Camping and Hiking
Huachuca Mountains
April 23-26, 2015
by Bill Zimmermann

Thursday, April 23

Windy. Eight hikers car caravanned to Sonoita where we met Karen. After topping off our vehicles we stopped for lunch. We were entertained by a friendly waitress who, to put it mildly, did not speak the king’s English.

Let me tell you all about it. [photo by Quy]

At about 1:00 we arrived at Parker Canyon Lake. The campground was mostly empty. We had our pickins for sites. The hillside tapered southward down to the lake with few trees to block the view ... or wind. Did I say wind? Setting up the tents was a challenge. Well beyond chewing gum, it was ropes and rocks everywhere. At about 3:30 most all of the tents were up. Eileen and Sandy had driven from Sierra Vista to say hi. Some went for short hikes before it was time to eat. As the sun was setting we started to add layers to stay warm. It was too windy for a big fire. KG even tried to add a layer to her tent. Me laugh? Oh, for sure!

Hmmm. I think the line goes this way.
Now here’s how to pitch a tent.
So, the tent goes this way.
Gary has it all figured out.
Lakeview Campground does have a fine view of Parker Canyon Lake.

Friday, April 24   GPS Map 

We left camp about 8:30 to meet the other four hikers at the Ramsey Canyon Trailhead. It was about an hour and a half drive to the east side of the range (including the wrong turns and entry requirements at the fort). The road surface was blacktop. We arrived about 10:00 and got two of the last three parking spots.

What’s this? Playing footsie in the tent?
Dawn of a great day in the Huachucas.
I never miss a trail sign!
A cheerful waterfall beside the trail.
Come on. This is an easy stream crossing.
O.K. Bill, this is a good spot for a break.
Farther up, the trail gets rocky.

The hike was out and back. It was go at your pace as far as you want. Twelve of us stayed together. We had lunch at the old Hamburg Mine site (2.6 miles, 1200 feet). It was nothing more than a big pile of tailings. Six hikers headed back down. Six headed up. Yanis wanted to see a view. The forest changed from oak to a collection of maple, pine, and fir.

Bill and Yanis at a well-signed junction.
Mexico, that a’way.
Yes, I assure you: this is the right trail.
It’s a pleasant walk through the woods. [photo by Quy]
We found a pioneer’s cabin. [photo by Quy]
Water of life! [photo by Quy]

It was cold and windy near the top. We met a backpacker as we reached Bear Saddle. It was our end point. It was the intersection with the Crest Trail #103 (passage #1 of the Arizona Trail). After a quick gaze at Mexico, Bill, Yanis, and Rudy headed back down.

After the hour and one-half drive back to the campsite, 11 hikers enjoyed their first potluck. The Sierra Vista contingent did not join us.

Bill has had it. How about the rest of you?
bottom:  Linda S., Eileen, Bill, Quy, Monika
top: Rudy, Suzanne, KG, Debbie, Linda Z., Karen, Gary, Cyd, Yanis, Sandy
There’s nothing like a warm campfire.

Saturday, April 25   GPS Map 

The published hike was a loop hike on the Sierra Vista side. Bill changed plans, and offered several hikes on the Parker Lake side. One proposal was an easier "C" hike around Parker Lake. A second proposal was a loop climb to Huachuca Peak. A third proposal was to hike Scotia Canyon #127 back to the campground. Around the fire Friday night, the lake hike morphed into a trip to the Nature Conservancy at Patagonia.

This is my home.
Now if I were in your shoes ...

After breakfast Bill and Rudy scouted out FR 228 to the trailhead. We discovered that Scotia Canyon was actually part of the Arizona Trail. Linda S. and Monica joined Rudy, Yanis, Bill, and Quy. At 9:30 we arrived at the trailhead, Yanis choose to hike Scotia Trail. The other five hikers headed out on Lyle Canyon Trail #120. Wind was mild to none as we spent most of the time in canyons. Bill found an egg on the ground. He picked it up. “Bird grows up with hiker” — wow what a story, almost, but Bill lacked the skills of Horton the Elephant.

Let’s make these trail signs right.
Bill finds an egg. [photo by Quy]
Rudy calls the ducks.
Fallen logs call for some fancy footwork.
Flowers light the way in a streambed.
The peak is in plain sight.

When we reached the Huachuca Trail #127 we found the intersection sign broken and strapped to a tree. We continued up the canyon past Lyle Spring. Water was flowing. Beautiful. The farther we hiked the fainter the trail. With many trail choices all resembling animal trails, it was time for lunch before making a decision. Full stomachs always make better choices. We aborted the loop and headed back.

Lyle Canyon hikers.
What better way to unwind after a great day of hiking? [photo by Quy]

We arrived at camp to find Yanis in his tent. As we emptied the vehicles the Patagonia gang pulled in. It wasn’t long before a second feedbag was in full swing. Another great campfire was enjoyed before we headed off to bed. We tried to sleep as the rain poured and the wind blew.

Sunday, April 26   GPS Map 

Tents were wet. Cloudy skies became party sunny. Wind. This time it was enjoyed as it helped dry the tents. Eileen and Sandy joined us. With gear packed and good-bye hugs complete, eight hikers headed out for a trip around the lake.

Trailblazers enjoy a sunny hike around Parker Lake.
Eileen finds the perfect camera angle.
The lake has many inlets in the forest.
Watch your step! [photo by Eileen]
Parker Lake hikers finish a fine weekend.

After completing the hike more hugs and good-byes. We left Parker Canyon Lake as we found it ... windy.

→   More pictures, by Quy Nguyen.
→   More pictures, by Eileen Root.
→   More pictures, by Suzanne Holman.

Supplemental Report
by Cyd Cassel and Suzanne Holman

Cyd started the talk around the campfire on Friday night about Patagonia for Saturday. There was a lot of laughter around the fact that most everyone who heard of a possible trip to Patagonia responded with the comment they were not interested in a shopping trip. Cyd pulled out her books that talked about the amazing birding in the Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. It is a streamside oasis nestled between the Patagonia and Santa Rita Mountains of Southeastern Arizona, just an hour from Tucson.

According to the Nature Conservancy brochure, it was established in 1966 and is The Nature Conservancy’s first preserve in Arizona. It is a cottonwood, willow riparian forest with trees as old as 130 years and as tall as 100 feet. More than 260 species of birds call the preserve home, including the gray hawk, green kingfisher, and violet-crowned hummingbird. There are also white-tailed deer, javelina and coyote.

Cyd, Debbie, Karen and KG took the lead in Cyd’s “little red truck”. Eileen and her crew, Sandy, Linda, Suzanne, and Gary were right behind in the non-shopping caravan to Patagonia. Since none of us had been there, we had no idea of what to expect except what we read and saw in the Nature Conservancy brochure we picked up at Ramsey Canyon.

What a wonderful surprise was awaiting us 12 miles out of Sonoita. There is a delightful town named Patagonia where the nature preserve is.

At the Nature Conservancy Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve we were given a map showing 9 Trail Markers giving info about that particular area. It was so relaxing to sit and watch the hummingbirds come to the numerous feeders as we waited for all of our troops to get their gear.

Once we got started it was a great opportunity to enjoy the sound of the water and the birds as the trail followed the creek. We ran into a couple of women who were very helpful in our seeing some great birds.

house hikers

KG was studying the bird book. Sandy was intently concentrating on finding birds. The host at the Visitor Center had told us that the trees were “leaved over” meaning there were so many leaves, it would not be easy to see the birds. The Vermillion Flycatcher was one of the many, many birds seen at this spot. We also saw a male cardinal and a nuthatch and more. After all, it is the premier birding place in the United States.

Sandy, Debbie, Karen, Eileen, Cyd, Gary and Linda with KG in front. [photo by Suzanne]

It was leisurely hiking but we still had 6.09 miles walked that day with 67 floors of elevation climb (according to Suzanne’s device which measures such things). That includes all of our time at the campground as well.

Cyd is to be applauded for coming up with the idea, not having an inkling of what was there. She had just heard that it was a wonderful destination so it was time for an ADVENTURE! She advocated for the trip, giving information and dispelling the notion that there was shopping! Wrong! We came to find out that there actually is a charming little town named Patagonia and would have probably enjoyed just hanging out having coffee and exploring parts of the little town.


Really impressive describes the great spread of baked goods created by one of the owners of this wonderful little restaurant, The Gathering Grounds, in Patagonia proper.

Our lunch was delicious. Gary wanted a milkshake but had to settle for a wonderfully whipped thick and creamy mocha. Cyd had a beautiful to look at (and taste) blackberry Italian crème soda. KG had some wonderful rhubarb pie! Debbie got a piece of their delicious apple pie for the road.

Linda, Sandy, and Karen apparently enjoyed their lunches because I didn’t hear much from them until their plates were empty.

There is just one word to describe “The Gathering Grounds” ... MMMMMMMmmmmmm!!!

Debbie, Cyd, Eileen, Karen, Suzanne, KG, Sandy, Linda, and Gary

And, last but not least ... there really is shopping in Patagonia!! LOL. Suzanne spotted this incredible botanical wreath created by Folk Artist Susan Corl at the Creative Artists Studio (group of six artists sharing this space). Susan happened to be the cashier and let Suzanne know she had just hung that wreath ... just completed.

She still had the bandages on proving how rough it is putting these wreaths together with Devils Claws.

In the corner of the shop, was a wonderful selection of High Spirits flutes.

On a quest to buy a new bandana, Karen and Cyd found one at Red Mountain Foods. This place rivals (and quite possibly) exceeds a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables at the best market in Phoenix. And to beat it all, a majority of them were organic!!


With full bellies and our shopping under our belts, we regrettably had to leave Patagonia and return to the campground for our 2nd and final potluck.

Patagonia ... what a wonderful place that we all hope to visit again.

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updated April 17, 2020