Youngblood & Chihuahua Hills • Mule Mountains
• Cochise County


The "B" overlooking Bisbee. This is Chihuahua Hill
 

The shrine atop Youngblood Hill. Juniper Flats Peak is in the back
 

More detail of the shrine
 

Close-up of two of the grottoes
 

Now looking over at Chihuahua Hill
 

Now atop Chihuahua Hill, looking back at Youngblood Hill
 

Zoom image of Old Bisbee. The Copper Queen Hotel, where we stayed, has the red roof
 

Montage: Happy face rock art on Chihuahua Hill, Buddhist shrine on Youngblood Hill, street view of the Copper Queen Hotel, and another image of Bisbee as seen from the ridge
 

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Date: December 27, 2016 • Elevation: 5,880+ feet (Youngblood); 5,896 feet (Chihuahua) • Prominence: 120 feet (Youngblood); 176 feet (Chihuahua) • Distance: 3 miles • Time: 2 hours • Gain: 1,020 feet • Conditions: Cool but clear, some snow on the ground

My beautiful wife suggested that we spend Christmas and her 50th birthday in Bisbee, the old mining town that never ceases to fascinate us. We were last here in 2012, four years being too long between visits. We lodged in style, staying at the Copper Queen Hotel, the biggest and grandest of the old city's hotels, located in the heart of downtown, where Main Street meets with Brewery Gulch.

We left our place in Scottsdale on Christmas day, figuring traffic would be light. It was, and the drive went well. There were a few drunks on the road. We left late in the day, so drove most of the 220 miles in the dark. We arrived in Bisbee a little after 9 p.m., checked into the hotel and got situated. It was cold—below freezing—when we arrived. It had snowed yesterday and a little today, but fortunately, the roads were clear and also ice-free.

The 26th we spent close to the hotel. I made a few walks in the immediate area, down to Brewery Gulch, up some random roads and into thin alleyways, marvelling how they somehow built all the buildings into whatever nooks and crannies they could locate. Beth and I then walked the short distance to the Historical Museum, spending about an hour in their research library, where Beth wanted to follow up on some ancestors of hers who lived here in the late 1800s, early 1900s. We also visited a few shops in the area.

The next day was Beth's big day, her 50th birthday. So I celebrated by going for a hike this morning. My destination was modest: a trail up to a ridge that connects two small bumps called Youngblood Hill and Chihuahua Hill above town. Youngblood Hill hosts an elaborate Catholic shrine on its summit, while Chihuahua Hill features a big concrete "B" that is visible everywhere from town. The two peaks are logically done as a single, relatively short hike.

I left the hotel about 8 a.m., walking up OK Street, the main road that parallels and overlooks Brewery Gulch on the gulch's east side. The road is narrow and passes many homes, some so high up there that they may require over a hundred stair steps to get to. In about 10 minutes, I was at the end of OK Street, where I met a man walking.

I knew exactly where I was headed but figured it would be wise to stop and greet him and ask about the trail, just to let him know I wasn't some guy up to no good, and to gauge his response. He was totally cool and pointed where to go. I followed a new dirt road-cut up about 20 feet to the obvious trail on the right. I estimate I had walked a half mile from the hotel to here.

The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. It curls clockwise around the west and north slopes of Youngblood Hill. The trail then starts earnestly uphill, bypassing a number of shrines. Some are modest, a small cross with simple adornments held up by rocks, to ones elaborately painted and ornately decorated. It's an ecumenical shrine area in the broadest sense. One was a Buddhist shrine, for example. None are graves, as far as I know. They all appear to be tended and kept up, and some even held images of the person from whom the shrine was built.

The top of Youngblood Hill hosts the largest of these shrines, a big rock and concrete structure topped by a big cross and about twenty smaller ones with statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary tucked into the small voids. Many also held photos and trinkets and all seemed to be looked after. I don't know how old these shrines are, or who started it all. It appears to be something the locals all take care of when they can. It's not messy or vandalized. It's quite well done, obviously a labor of love to those who tend to it.

I spent a few minutes checking out the shrines, then sought out the top-most rocks. The summit is a small ridge about 200 feet end to end. The shrines are at the northwest end. The higher point, in my opinion, is to the southeast end. Here, there are no shrines, just a mound of rocks. My next objective, Chihuahua Hill, was visible just across the way, looking south.

I found a good trail from the lowpoint along the summit ridge that led down to the saddle between Youngblood and Chihuahua Hills, a drop of about 150 feet. At the saddle, a road from the east side comes up here and on to the summit of Chihuahua Hill, a gain of about 150 feet and a little extra. I was on top of Chihuahua Hill in no time. The top was marked by a metal post and a "smiley face" made of rocks.

I wanted to look at the B from up high, so I followed some paths through the light brush, dropping elevation down the southwest slopes of the hill. But the footing was not solid. Rocks would slide from under me and the ground was still moist from the recent storm. I decided I don't really need to tag the big B. I know it's there and that was good enough for me. Sighting between the two peaks, I felt that Chihuahua Hill was slightly higher.

I retraced my steps for the hike out. Once back on top of Youngblood Hill, I met a woman who had jogged up. She lives in town and was kind, pointing out some other areas good for hiking. I was back to OK Street soon, and then back to the hotel not long after. Some online sources indicate that the trail segment from OK Street up to Youngblood then to Chihuahua and back is about 1.6 miles round trip. Add in my segments from and to the hotel, I figure it was close to three miles total. I was gone two hours.

It was just 10 a.m., so I stopped in to the coffee shop to get my wife a coffee and me some snacks, and was back to the hotel a few minutes later. I showered and rested, and we relaxed, watching a couple episodes of "American Pickers". Later, we went for a stroll along Main Street.

Beth had recently purchased a roller-walker, which we have dubbed "the toodle". This isn't some old-style walker, but a beefy unit with ten-inch wheels, hand brakes, pockets for things, the ability to get narrow for tight passages, and can turn on a dime. This would be her first time using it for a long period, and what better place to try it out on than Bisbee, with its sloping roads, uneven pavement and random bumps.

We walked a mile, about a half mile up Main Street then back down, stopping in to the shops for shopping. The toodle proved to be a fantastic aid. Beth was elated, as it gave her stability and the ability to walk an extended distance for the first time in over a year. For those of us who take walking for granted, it's hard to understand what it's like to lose that ability. Beth gained some of it back and was extremely happy... as was I, to see her in such high spirits. Not everyone reading this will comprehend what I am trying to convey and some may even scoff. But I hope that one can appreciate the arc of this story and see the thrill in being able to gain back some measure of freedom in this manner.

We left for home the 28th, arriving about 2 p.m.. The trip had been a great success, for reasons both big and small. I am fortunate to be married to such a lovely woman, and admire her strength as she battles her torticollis virtually every moment of every day. Plus, for 50, she looks damn good!

(c) 2016 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.