By Kevin Franklin
A SCORE OF cars lay strewn every which way alongside the road, seemingly crash-landed in the ditches. Three different kinds of music blast the air as dirty barefoot children run around screaming at each other. A half-crocked bearded man stumbles around and gives me a menacing look. Farther ahead a dog tied to a rope struggles to break free and rend us apart. A smoky haze hangs over everything.
Some third-world shanty town? Nope--welcome to your National Forest.
This scene is what greets the Out There gang at General Hitchcock Campground.
This collection of campers brought all the urban ills one would think they sought to escape by coming here. Like a metropolitan monkey on their backs, it follows them wherever they go. Tents, barbecues, radios, chairs and a world of other crap lies strewn about. Without cars they never could have brought all this junk.
The monumental task of building a road up this mountain range was one of the worst things that could have happened.
Promptly shoot any miscreant ever suggesting such a thing for the Rincon Mountains. A couple days up there in the lonely forests and open country contrasts deeply with the Catalinas. The National Park Service bureaucrats' decisions not to build a road, and the peaceful result, ought to temper the undying desire of the Forest Service management to build more and wider roads.
The logic in these two scenarios is self-evident. If you build it, they will and do come. If you don't, they won't. If you dismantle it, perhaps they will go away. The Forest Service heads ought to reflect on this, or at least consider renaming themselves the Roadway and Parking Service.
Zak Woodruff, wonder dog Shelby and I wade through the emissions of a dozen grill fires in quest of the trailhead. A few false trails run up the north side of the gulch that contains the campground. Ignore these and head east through the camps and alongside the stream bed. You'll see the trail on the south bank 50 yards in or so.
Once you move past the campground, the air begins to clear, the people disappear and the synthetic noise dissipates. As with all wild places, if you add a little difficulty, the masses dwindle.
The trail leading from the valley of the damned is Green Mountain Trail and gets its name from the mountain it wraps around. This hike follows Horse Camp Spring for about a mile, and the 6,000-foot elevation makes an ideal hike. The water from the spring should continue running for a few more weeks.
Zak and I plan to head for Guthrie Peak and make a six-mile, half-day hike out of it.
Stately ponderosa pines, thick silverleaf oaks and granite boulders hedge the trail. Occasional breaks in the forest permit splendid vistas westward into Sabino Basin and the rolling mountains beyond.
After 1.8 miles we encounter the junction for Guthrie Mountain and Green Mountain. Here we bear right and head toward Guthrie Mountain.
Although this is a linear trail and not a loop, it makes for a nice hike because it travels uphill on the way in. The semi-
steep climb in carries the added benefit of repelling the cigarette-wielding hamburger-scarfing crowd below. Today is a warm and bright Sunday and we encounter only two other pairs of hikers.
The trail itself makes for some rough hiking. Erosion has carved it several feet deep on a few slopes and a great many loose cobbles fill the fledgling wash. Boots with good tread on them will be helpful in navigating this.
After a half mile or so on the Guthrie Mountain Trail, the topography takes a dive and we start hiking downhill to a slight valley. When we begin to ascend again we're making the final assault on Guthrie itself. At one point the trail winds over a large granite face. The climb is relatively easy, especially if you take your time, but the slope might give pause to some.
Now the panoramas from the east call our eyes. The remote Galiuro Mountains and winding green thread of the San Pedro River fill the landscape.
A short distance after scaling the granite face, we encounter a fork in the trail. A sign marking Guthrie Peak directs us to the right. The trail to the left continues on for a ways then dissipates.
We eat lunch at the top of Guthrie and scramble around on the granite spire that caps its southern slope.
The wind is blowing hard and forcing the trees to rustle like a thousand creeks. Some ravens croak at each other.
How pleasant it is to finally get some peace and quiet.
| © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth