Sunnyside Canyon

This canyon was home to a small mining community that didn't leave much of a structural trace other than the old dirt road that the trail follows initially.  I would guess most lived in what is now a ghosttown farther down at the mouth of the canyon rather than in the area that this trail goes through.  This trailhead takes a little time to drive to from Tucson but the winding dirt road is also one of the most scenic in southern Arizona.  The roads near the trailhead are not well marked and confusing so be prepared, plus they can be a bit rough.

July 24, 2009
Even though I hadn't hiked here before I wanted to explore the untrailed left fork to check out some areas that looked interesting in satellite images.  Storms were likely in the area for the day so I made an effort to get on the road early.  By the time I got to the trailhead the clouds were already starting up though.


The lower portions of the canyons in this area form a large area of Madrean pine-oak woodland which is typical of the Sierra Madre in Mexico but also extends into border regions of the US, especially southeast Arizona.  This photo shows an example of this forest type near the trailhead. 


There were a lot of onions in bloom on the rocky sunny slopes, this patch was up the left fork a little way past the trail.

 
I followed the creek until it steepened dramatically, at which point I decided to head upslope to meet the trail on the ridge rather than head back or continue up the creek.  Part of this decision was due to a slip on some slimy wet boulders in the creek that I would later realize did some actual damage to my leg.  The first photo is the view back down the left fork of the canyon from where I left the creek bed.  I also happened to notice after a while that just a few feet away there was a very well camoulflaged Rock Rattlesnake tucked up against a rock.  By the time I got the camera out the snake was already on its way into hiding, so in the rush I didn't get a great shot.


The slopes were very steep and in some places reduced to exposed rock as in this photo looking down canyon to the north.  It wasn't too far from this spot that I saw an area of supplies dropped by immigrants along a small drainage.  This was unexpected since it was well off the crest trail above and was in a direction inward towards the mountains down a difficult route to traverse, but I suppose this was on purpose to avoid people.  This seems odd too though, since a much more popular section of the crest trail would have been hiked from the border for miles, whereas this area is much less visited.

 
There was more ridge traversing than I expected once I was near the top, but eventually I met up with the trail again.  Just before the trail meets up with the crest trail it passes this very serene meadow lined with Southwestern White Pine and Ponderosa Pine in the first photo.  By the time I got to the crest trail the storms were advancing quickly so I headed to the south a short way to see if I could get a view into Ramsey Canyon.  I didn't have to go far before the views popped open at a grassy meadow.  The second photo looks south along the crest to Carr Peak on the left with clouds racing up its slope, and Miller Peak beyond on right.  Some large White Fir are visible at the edge of another opening in the forest at center, and Gambel Oak are in the foreground.


View down Ramsey Canyon with Ramsey Peak on the left and Carr Peak on the right.  The San Pedro Valley is veiled or totally obscured by the downpour coming out of the thunderstorms.  


Looking back down Sunnyside Canyon on the quick descent as the storm rolls through.  The monsoon rains have made the pine-oak forest look like a fuzzy thick green carpet covering the mountains.  The switchbacking trail on this descent was surpisinrgly well designed and in good smooth shape.  Chihuahua Pines are in the foreground and the Santa Ritas are in the distance to the northwest.


Some red columbine growing on the face of a boulder covered in Apache Pine needles in the bottom of the canyon.

 
Views from the drive out looking back into Sunnyside Canyon with the ridge that I had been on earlier on the right of the first photo.  Apache and Chihuahua Pine congregate near the bottom of the mouth of the canyon where water is concentrated.  The second photo is from farther out at the foot of the mountains looking to the south at Miller Peak.