China PeakDragoon Mountains

November 21, 2010

A couple of weekends in those golden globular mountains north of Tombstone were enough to turn us into DRAGOONIES!

When you mention the Dragoon Mountains, everyone immediately thinks of Cochise Stronghold. But there's a whole lot more to explore in this range. Last week we hiked Slavin Gulch Trail, and enjoyed it so much that we returned early Sunday morning and pointed our headlights toward China Peak, a 7100-foot summit on the southern end of the Dragoons.

Like much of the Dragoons, this area was heavily mined, but China Peak has an interesting twist. Deposits of silver, gold and lead were discovered in the Abrigo limestone on the south slope of China Peak in 1913. Yee Shang, a Tombstone shopkeeper, purchased the claim from a local prospector and incorporated it into The Dragoon Mountain Mining Company, owned by a consortium of Chinese merchants in San Francisco. So the owners were Chinese, but apparently all the laborers were Anglos!

The San Juan, or Gordon, Mine included over 1000 feet of underground tunnels, and ceased operation in 1952. Today the only access is via a hellacious 4wD road that runs two very slow miles to the former mining village of Gordon Camp. Here the road improves, but you still need to watch out for man-eating century plants!

This was the maiden voyage of "Chirp", Dennis' new low-power backpacking ham radio.* Tipping the scale at a mere six ounces (plus several pounds of cable and 10 AA batteries), Chirp wowed hams from Payson to Silver City with its robust 80-meter signal. Was it our elevation (over 7100 feet)? Or was it because he anchored the cable in a big steaming pile of bear squat?

Either way, it looks like Chirp joins the handi-talkies, the GPS, the Nikon D-300 and the FRS radios in Dennis' backpack. So much for ultralight backpacking!

*In ham parlance, "QRP" stands for low-power, and since "Q" is pronounced "ch" in Albanian ....