Scheelite Canyon

Scheelite Canyon is relatively small but is deeply carved in its lower stretch which allows a high diversity of vegetation and gives it a different feel than most of the other canyons in the Huachucas.  Parts of this trail are not well constructed or have degraded, possibly as a result of smuggling and immigration traffic, but it doesn't present much of an issue.

May 15, 2011
Started this hike at the same time as some border patrol agents who were working with a much larger group of agents along the crest chasing some immigrants since the previous the day.  This kind of activity is pretty common in the Huachucas and the surrounding region.


The beginning of the trail is fairly steep and shaded by oaks and walnut, with deep leaf litter covering the trail.  The adjacent sunny dry slopes stand in contrast with the riparian canyon bottom.  


Canyon walls narrow in on the creek until it is lined by short cliffs of limestone and the trail basically disappears into the stream.  At this point some large Douglas-fir start showing up in the creek.  These two are a little farther upstream where the canyon starts to open up again and gives views to the drier rocky slopes above.


Farther up, the canyon broadens and the forest fills in with Douglas-fir and Arizona Pine.

 
Eventually the trail leaves the creek and starts climbing up the head of the canyon to the crest trail.  It steepens quite a bit in this part and some of the lower stretches are more like a route than a maintained trail.  I only saw a handful of White Fir near the top, such as this one to the right of a blueish Douglas-fir.  This is in contrast to Ramsey Canyon just to the south where White Fir are common at similar or lower altitude.  The Huachucas seem to have a strong north-south rain shadow gradient along the crest of the range rather than perpendicular to it, with the drying trend starting around Ramsey Peak just south of Scheelite Canyon. The Dragoon Mountains are in the distance across the San Pedro Valley.


An isolated patch of aspen nearby, also a rarity on this trail.


Once at the crest trail I explored the ridge leading to Ramsey Peak.  I started up the south side of the ridge which was a mistake, the north side is much clearer, though I did get some good views into Ramsey Canyon.  Ramsey Peak is on the left with Carr Peak across the canyon to its right and Pat Scott Peak is the close high point on the right across Pat Scott Canyon.  Nearly all the slopes show evidence of a variety burns going back at least several decades.


Looking north from the other side of the ridge into upper Scheelite Canyon and across the big expanse of Garden Canyon to Huachuca Peak.  The Whetstone Mountains are farther to the north and the Santa Ritas are to the northwest.  


I took the crest trail down towards Garden Canyon to connect up with the dirt road and make a loop.  Walking the road back was somewhat tedious and not as scenic as I had hoped.  The road has pretty much obliterated miles of what must have been an incredible natural area along the stream, as evidenced by a few isolated spots that have recovered to some extent.  In this view Sunnyside Canyon is on the left of the crest ridge at center and Garden Canyon is on the right.  The north end of San Rafael Valley is at center, bound by the distant Patagonia Mountains and the nearby Canelo Hills. 


Here's the GPS file for this hike, scheelite.gpx.