Flys Peak

The hike from Rustler Park to Flys Peak along the crest trail offers immediate access to forests that better resemble those of mountains farther north.  This is especially true of the north face of Flys Peak which has a good amount of large Engelmann Spruce and Quaking Aspen.  The Engelmann Spruce of the Chiricahuas are the southernmost population in the US, though they may also be the northernmost of the subspecies mexicana which is slightly different than the engellmanii subspecies common to the Rockies and Cascades.

July 3, 2009
There was a good surge of monsoon moisture coming up from the south which made it incredibly humid and ripe for storms to form, so we headed out with the expectation of being turned around by lightning.

 
A little way outside the campground the trail crosses through a moist area with lots of thimbleberry and gooseberry on a north facing slope.  There's a small stretch at the base of some cliffs that's been cleared of shade by a fire, which allows wildflowers to carpet the area.  In the first photo, Michael is standing in this area with Coral Bells along the trail and a large surviving White Fir just past him.  The second photo is the view to the north through the thick humid air.  Rustler Park is down in the basin below, hidden behind the trees in the foreground. 

   
Not sure what species the columbines in the first photo are, they seemed sort of like the common Golden Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha), but the reddish orange color is something I haven't seen before.  Maybe they're hybrids with the red columbine in the third photo which was nearby.  The second photo is of some Coral Bells growing straight out of the cliff without much soil, which they frequently do.


Wallflowers of varying shades were everywhere but these two happened to be next to each other and were an example of the yellow and orange extremes.


View from south to west from a portion of forest burned by the Rattlesnake Fire.  The clouds were already starting to pop up around the mountains.  Rock Creek Canyon is immediately below, and across the ridge to its left is Turkey Creek Canyon.


View through more burn towards Flys Peak on the left and a strip on surviving forest on the ridge.  The yellow flowers along the trail are primrose. 


View along the trail as it heads up the north face of Flys Peak which is covered in a dense forest of old spruce and aspen as well as Douglas-fir and White Fir.  The spruce trunk at left shows the typical slight fluting at the base and a collumn-like form that reminds me of Sitka Spruce in the Pacific Northwest.  Michael is on the trail in the background for some sense of scale. 


The summit of Flys Peak used to have a lookout but now only has some foundation remnants.  The views are limited but the open park-like setting gave the summit an interesting tranquil feel which was accentuated by some deer that popped through the trees and kept walking by without taking much notice of us. 

 
View to the south towards the next highpoint on the crest which is unnamed and blocks the view of Chiricahua Peak beyond it.  The young aspen in the foreground are repopulating the slopes after the burn and will soon hide the only view from the summit.  The second photo is of some late blooming iris on the summit, the last of the season.  I wanted to check out Centella Point which some other hikers we met earlier told us was accessible by an obvious trail from the summit, but we didn't see anything that obvious up there.  So we continued on the trail over the summit to the south and reconnected with the crest trail and headed back.

 
The crest trail wraps around the west slope of Flys Peak and crosses a large patch of raspberry that were just starting to set fruit at the time.  The storms were really starting to develop and there was a bit of thunder so we started to pick up the pace on the way back.  The first photo is looking south across the broad canyon of Turkey Creek to Monte Vista Peak as rain starts to fall.  The second photo is to the north towards the Dos Cabezas Mountains.


View back across the spur ridge that sticks off to the west of Flys Peak, towards Monte Vista Peak which has now been shrouded by the storm.


A little farther to the north up the trail and looking back on Flys Peak with the storm gaining on us as it wraps over the ridge on the right.

 
Looking down Rock Creek Canyon again with the storm dropping in.  The storm collapsed behind us as we dropped back onto the east side of the crest.  A chunk of the clouds blew down the canyon just behind us and then surrounded us, but we thankfully managed to stay dry and avoid any lightning. 

July 4, 2009
We decided to head out again with the goal of reaching Centella Point before the storms could move in.

 
The trail to Centella Point splits off the trail to the Flys Peak summit on the north side.  From there it contours along the north slope through some really nice stands of aspen and spruce that at times formed a thick canopy that the sun could barely penetrate.  The first photo shows some of the tall aspen and the second is of the area around the first spring that the trail crosses, which is also fairly open and sunny so it supports a variety of plants.

 
These are some of the flowers near the spring.  The first photo is of some violets, probably Canada Violet, which are scattered along the crest.  The second is of Crimson Monkeyflower with gooseberry right behind it. 


A good portion of the ridge leading out to Centella Point has been burned by a fire that occurred before the Rattlesnake Fire.  This is some of that burn with young pines and Engelmann Spruce well on their way to replacing the forest.  In the background to the west is Flys Peak which the ridge is an extension of.  The storms were looming overhead so once again we picked up our pace to make it out to the point before heading back.


Some of the rock outcrops that become more frequent towards the end of the ridge, with an unidentified penstemon that is one of several dozen species that occur in Arizona and some other smaller red wildflowers.


Pan towards the south with storms looming over the crest.  I think the highpoint near center is the ridgeline that extends east of Chiricahua peak and not the summit itself.  Cave Creek flows down the main canyon in this view on its way towards the Portal area.  


This is the view from east to southeast across the Cave Creek basin that separates Silver Peak at center and Portal Peak to the right from the rest of the range.  Portal lies in the canyon between the two peaks and is well known for its scenery and as a bird watching hotspot.  We didn't take the time to go out to the point on the right which may have slightly better views.  Centella is spanish for lightning and it seemed to be an appropriate name for this ridge that is extended so far out above the surrounding canyons, especially given the weather at the time.

 
Looking southwest through the burn at the broad ridges extending east from the crest.  The second photo is of some Rocky Mountain Maples (Acer glabrum) that were catching the sun just right in a forest opening on the way back.