Signal Peak, Mount Ajo, Cerro Pinacate
By: Paul Freiman
As Barbara Raab and I drove home, we reminisced about what an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday we had. Prior to meeting our companions fort he Ajo/Pinacate/Kino trek, Barbara & I did Kofa via the 2nd class route rather than to brave the 4th class Palm Canyon route. For this, we followed Ron Jones' write-up deriving from the pioneering efforts of Wes Shelberg and headed up the Kofa Queen Canyon. All autos can make it to the large parking area described by Ron at the mouth of the Canyon. Barb had been on Ron's trip therefore knew the route Igor had previously lead. I, however, like loop trips and decided to go up one way and come down Igor's route. We spotted three beautiful Rams as we reached the summits for this - my Emblem. I believe Igor's route is the best. Takes 4-5 hours RT plus 45 minutes to drive in. That night we had turkey dinner at the intersection of Hwy 8 and SR-95. This place has nightly buffets for $5.50. The food is decent, and it's the only restaurant close to the freeway. We drove to Organ Pipe that night to be in position for Ajo and where we met Vi Grasso's group. In the morning, we began to see the appearance of familiar faces while waiting for Doug Mantle and Don Sparks to arrive. (They had flown into Phoenix and rented a car. Doug is the only peakbagger who has earned enough bonus miles to qualify him for an around-the-world trip.) In drove Bobby DuBeau with Caroline West and several others. The trails sure are getting crowded when you run into friends 500-700 miles from home. Doug and Don arrived to join Vi, Mary Sue Miller, Barb and me and away we drove to Ajo. In Bull Pasture, we saw a critter, about the size of a baby deer but with a large floppy cottontail, large ears and it hopped. We figured it was a jackalope. We ascended close to the traditional route so for the descent we chose a brushy class 3ish fun route. As we hit the Bull Pasture trail again, a couple in their early 50's came up the trail. There were no children around but the man was carrying an "Alf" doll. Doug asked him how much it cost and he softly responded, "It's priceless." (Note: $19.87 at Target Stores.) Vi grumbled something about stupid men who never grow up and we chuckled down the trail to the cars.
Next up was Cerro Pinacate. Don left the rental car in a Lukeville trailer park and we followed Gene Olson's instructions about the drive in. At about 8 miles there is a very high rock in the middle of the road that has been chipped from the underbellies of every car that passes. The camping area by the wooden cross is superb. Mary Sue put her covered spare tire down in the middle of the chairs to act as a tray and a "campfire" focal point. Out came Vi's turkey and dressing after the appetizers were gone. This was washed down with wine and champagne. I had heard that Gene Olson was going to appear with his group (more crowded peaks!), but the next day we left without seeing him. Was the wooden cross in Gene's honor we wondered? After five minutes on the trail someone approached us - no, not Gene. It was a guy from Tucson who had a group that was going to hike Pinacate and he wanted directions. We pointed to Carnegie Peak (Pinacate is behind it), and mentioned that we were going to go around to the left (Ron Jones' write-up) rather than the right (Gene's route). On we ventured over the lava flow. We met this Tucson group again at the base of Carnegie. They had found a drainage that bypassed most of the lava. The route to the left has a trail until the saddle by the base of Pinacate, then it was up a steep hill to the top. We enjoyed the summit view of the Sea of Cortez and waited for the Tucson gang, who had gone up Gene's route. After 1/2 hour we grew tired of waiting and started the descent. We made very good time by returning via the drainage they had ascended. Upon our return, we found Gene and Jay Holsuh's cars but we never saw the group. Don Sparks almost didn't make it back into the U.S. The border agent looked suspiciously at him while slowly reaching for her gun with her stubby fingers. What country were you born in?" she snapped - "Cleveland, Ohio", was the icy reply. Her fingers relaxed and waved Senor Don on through.
We had just parked for the night at Kino when Caroline's group drove out. Randy Bernard, who had joined the group, apparently had been given a warning citation for parking off the road in a National Monument, plus not paying a day use fee. At their suggestion, we drove back four miles until we were outside the boundary. In the morning we drove to Bates Well and parked in the wide area at the park volunteer's house, then started hiking by walking through his back yard. We were not cited, so this is the suggested route (you can avoid his backyard, if you wish). We soon hit a nice trail that took us to a saddle east of Kino. Here we met two Tucson hikers who were just returning and had spent the night on the peak. we contoured along the "seemingly impossible" hidden ledges (class 2) to the summit. Now Vi needs four more peaks and Mary Sue needs seven. Their finish date is April 9 in Old Woman (finishing on Virgin was discussed, but determined to be inappropriate). No one has any excuses to miss their finish!
I would like to thank Vi for inviting me on this trip. It's nice to hike with someone who is finishing the list because whatever happens, you know they are going to bag the peak.
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