Archive for July, 2009

Horton Springs

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Part of our ongoing series of behind-the-hike profiles.

NOT part of the 10-day run. We’ll get back to that.

See my profile on Upper Tonto Creek Campground on Examiner.

DATE HIKED: 7 October 2007

COMPANIONS: Ben

START TIME 10:45am

END TIME: 5:15pm

ACTUAL MILES:9.5

This was the very first hike I undertook for the book, and while I didn’t get lost, I learned a lot anyway.

This hike takes the Derrick Trail #33 up the Mogollon Rim to the Highline Trail to the lush and reliable Horton Springs. It then takes the Horton Trail #285 back down to form a cool loop.

October 7th, it turned out, was the last day the campground was open. The caretaker was in the process of closing up for winter. He did take the time to show us the trailhead, which is still not well marked in the campground (at least, not compared to the giant sign that signifies the Horton Trail). It remains, though, across the road from the outhouse. It’s a six way intersection, but every corner has a campsite except the one with the trailhead.

If you do this as a loop, you’re far better off starting up the Derrick. The Highline is unmistakable as you come up the Derrick. You can, however, easily (and repeatedly, as I did years ago) miss the Derrick from the Highline. If you just want the easy up and back, stick to the Horton trail.

Ben had a tough journey. He ripped his pants crossing a log on the Derrick, and then fell into Horton Creek as we crossed it a few hundred yards down from the springs. It was cold enough that wet socks wer an issue. He made it down the Horton sans socks.

The entry in the guidebook on this hike is by far the most heavily edited couple of pages in the book. The original editor, Russell Helms, made me write multiple drafts trying to beat me into Menasha Ridge Style. (Menasha Ridge actually has a 60 page style manual they give to authors. I didn’t really read it.)

Among his many notes, I couldn’t just write “big trees”. I had to describe what kind of trees. I can now tell an Arizona Sycamore from a cottonwood on sight, but at the time, they were all either pine trees or other trees.

This site helped me suss out that mystery.

We also, after some negotiation, settled on the term “horse apples” to our mutual satisfaction.

Still one of my favorite hikes.

Mescal Ridge

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Part of our ongoing series of behind-the-hike profiles.

NOT part of the 10-day run. We’ll get back to that.

Mescal Ridge Trail #186 is in the Hell’s Gate Wilderness. It is essentially a spur to the much longer Bear Flat Trail. If I ever get to revise this book, I’ll likely profile Bear Flat Trail instead.

DATE HIKED: 29 May 2008

COMPANIONS: None.

START TIME: 3pm

END TIME: 6:30pm

ACTUAL MILEAGE: 6.5 miles

If I had read my guidebook, I’d know to cross Tonto Creek right near the bridge and look for the wooden sign on the opposite bank. Since I didn’t, I bushwhacked along fishing trails on both sides of the bank before finally stumbling upon te trail at the top of that first ridge. Along the way, I lost my notebook. “A new standard of incompetence…” as I reported to my DVR.

If you find the notebook (it was in a plastic bag, and may yet be intact) – that’s worth a free book. My contact info is at the bottom of the About the Blogger page.

Once on the trail, it as an easy hike, ad I had space to embellish about Mescal cacti and the Pleasant Valley Wars. A correction: while Billy the Kid was involved in similar disputes in New Mexico, he was not part of the PV wars. That was all local boys.

The Tonto is perennial through here, and in good flow offers several fine swimming holes if’n yer not in the mood to hike.

Bear Flats “campground” has no fees, no services, and reliably fills to capacity every weekend with good weather.

Hell’s Gate

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Hell’s Gate Trail #37 leads in and out of one of the best swimming holes in the Tonto, at the bottom of the canyon where Tonto Creek flows in Haigler Creek. The approach from either direction is precariously steep, and the march out of Hell’s Gate is an infamous trial of endurance.

This was part 4 of the 10-day Run, where I took a week of vacation and just banged out as many hikes as I could just car-camping across the National Forest.

HIKE DATE: 14 June 2008

COMPANIONS: Rally Toad (a guy from Hike AZ), and Jayson.

START TIME: 9am

END TIME: 3:20pm

ACTUAL MILEAGE: 11.9 miles.

Another hike that got wiped from my DVR, and was reconstructed from notes and memory on the banks of Fossil Creek.

No photos either. Sorry. But if you’re a Hike AZ member you can see Rally Toad’s photos here.

Most people do this as an out and back from the Hell’s Gate Ridge (north) trailhead, and a lot of them spend the night. That half of the trail was fairly crowded (of course, it was a weekend), and I’m certain that all the campsites filled up at the bottom of the canyon. We had the southern half the the trail, going out south towards Smoky Hollow TH to ourselves.

The FS info on Smoky Hollow TH neglects to mention that any road there is unmaintained, and you need HC at least, and a 4WD if there’s any moisture in the dirt.

We were able to do this because Jayson, who is a 4WD enthusiast, agreed to pick us up there that afternoon. We beat him to the top by a couple of hours (he got lost), so while we were waiting under a juniper tree, a real-live cowboy came over the ridge with a horse, and a rifle, and four dogs. He offered us a ride (his pick-up truck sat a few miles up the road) if our friend didn’t show.

But Jayson made it. The note about the mislabelled forest road going up and around the ridge – that’s Good Advice from (his) Direct Experience.

Two bumpy hours from Smoky Hollow to Hell’s Gate TH, and that’s with a driver who’s fairly aggressive with his Xterra. Plan for longer if you fear death and such.

And so you know, the dining options in Young are slim. Rally Toad hopped off the bus at the TH, because he had to be back in civilization. We pushed on to a Mexican restaurant in Payson, where I was happy to pick up the tab.

Hell’s Hole

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

[Part of our ongoing series of Behind-the-Hike for Day and Overnight Hikes in the Tonto National Forest]

Hell’s Hole Trail #284 is mostly within the Salome Wilderness. It is concurrent witht the longer but less famous Denton Trail for the first thrid of its travel from Reynold’s TH.

This was part 3 of the 10-day Run, where I took a week of vacation and just banged out as many hikes as I could just car-camping across the National Forest. Ben went with me for most of them, including this one.

This is one of only two destinations (Fossil Springs is the other one) in the Tonto NF that qualify for the Arizona 20/20 challenge – though I would take issue with their exclusion of Hell’s Gate.

DATE HIKED: 13 June 2008

COMPANIONS: Ben

START: 8:50am

FINISH: 5:15pm

ACTUAL MILEAGE: 12.4

First, yes, people live and work in those rickety buildings down by the creek.

The Denton Trail is on my list of trails to return to.

Our actual time on the trail was about 7 hours. What took us so long was about an hour of skinny-dipping (we had the canyon to ourselves) and then bushwhacking downstream until, we found a little waterfall that fed the main drainage. This was Ben’s first skinny dip as a voluntary participant. I know he went a few times as a toddler, but he doesn’t remember. Some troublesome footing in spots, but worth such trouble.

Remembered the can of oysters. Forgot the fork. Ate them with sticks while watching the water bugs try to sort things out after we had finally exited their ecosystem.

A lot of folks camp down there, but IMHO, you can adequately exlore the place in a day, and then face the switchbacks with a relatively lighter load.

Tonto News Round-up July 2009

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Our monthly round-up of news affecting hiking and camping in general and the Tonto NF in particular.

Fire Restrictions Have Been Lifted in the Tonto National Forest – just in time for the hottest weekend of the year. Early monsoon humidity has reduced the overall dryness of, well, everything enough to allow open fires once more in the Tonto.

“Although campfires and smoking will now be allowed throughout the forest, visitors should properly extinguish cigarettes in ashtrays, and ashes in a campfire ring should be cold enough to touch before they are left,” said Tonto NF Fire Staff Officer Clay Templin.  “Campfires should be put out by drowning with water and stirring with a shovel to ensure the fire is cold.”

Forest Supervisor Gene Blankenbaker extended special thanks to the visiting public during the fire restrictions which began May 14.  “We want to thank everyone for their patience and understanding while we had to restrict access and activities on the Tonto during this fire season.  We appreciate our visitors’ support of the restrictions.”

Heading out to the desert lakes for the 4th weekend? Well – don’t forget your Tonto Pass, because there isn’t much you can do at any of the lakes without one. Also, be aware of stepped-up enforcement of drunk boating laws.

Oh – and the Bald eagle restrictions have been lifted from most of the desert lakes. As you may recall, portions of the lakes and other desert waterways are closed to traffice throughout spring to allow the more-or-less endangered Southwest Bald Eagles to nest in peace during breeding season. They’re done now. Have at it.

Look Out for Bears! Encounters between bears and humans are becoming more common in the high country, as humans expand their range and the bears stubbornly refuse to evaporate into thin air. The chief instigator in this would be food, which, from the bears’ perspective, includes the garbage.

“We don’t have any habitats devoid of humans. They don’t exist. Bears are large, powerful and unpredictable animals. If a bear constitutes a public safety threat in one location, a change in geography is simply not going to alter or diminish the threat,”

He adds later, “We don’t have any habitats devoid of humans. They don’t exist. Bears are large, powerful and unpredictable animals. If a bear constitutes a public safety threat in one location, a change in geography is simply not going to alter or diminish the threat,”

Speaking of human/animal conflict…

The deadline for the big game hunting Super-raffle has been extended to July 12th. You can stalk and kill (or attempt to anyway) all sorts of critters from elk and buffalo to bears and mountain lions – if you have a permit. More Information here.

One last thing: Native Fish Cam.

Enjoy.