February 25, 2007
Photos by Dennis, Jim and Marion
The under-visited Chiricahuas offer enough great hiking opportunities to last several lifetimes. We are privileged to the explore the area with our friends Jim and Jacki from Willcox, who have been hiking in the Chiricahuas for more than 30 years.
Last Sunday they introduced us to Price Canyon on the far east end of the Chiricahuas. It was our first exploration of this area aside from a backpacking trip to Horseshoe Pass in October, 2004. The trailhead is at the end of Price Canyon Road, which takes off from Route 80 about 32 miles north of Douglas. From Granite Gap we had a great view of the Chiricahuas, still covered in snow.
A well-maintained gravel road runs up the canyon through magnificent high desert country.
With his mastery of the first position, maybe Jim has a future as a ballerina? Okay, but probably not in this time/space continuum ...
Like Cima Creek, Price Creek has a milky irridescent cast. Is this the Tyndahl effect (light reflected by particles of suspended dolomite)? The creek has ample opportunity to absorb minerals while it disappears repeatedly into the streambad on its way up the canyon.
Snow in the upper elevations has been feeding the normally dry canyon, producing a delicate curtain of water and ice at Price Spring.
We all stopped to take photos. Jacki and Dennis on the left, Dennis and Marion on the right.
The stream disappears repeatedly, but invariably reappears with enough force to supply countless waterfalls.
Marion and Jacki at "Margarita Falls".
Price Canyon has thus far escaped the extensive fire damage that afflicts most parts of the Chiricahuas. The trail is heavily shaded by huge Arizona cypress, ponderosa pine, and Douglas fir. Mountains of bear plop make it clear that other large mammals also find this canyon very much to their liking. We also found some trash from migrant traffic.
Above Price Spring, the streambed contains many unusual stones that must have been swept downstream from other formations. We found geodes, huge chunks of obsidian, and weird pink and black conglomerates with rhyolite "marbles".
Because of the long drive back to Tucson, we had to turn around at the junction with Baker Canyon trail.
With more time, we would continue up the canyon to the junction with Rucker Canyon Trail 3.9 miles from the trailhead (official distance — actual distance may vary). It's also possible to make a loop over Sentinel Peak, returing via Baker Trail.