Archive for September, 2009

AZ288 Road-trip

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

The week before last, I had a camping trip all arranged – and then everybody backed out but me.

I went anyways, free from logistical negotiations (or the company of others).On my journey, I stopped to take pictures for my ongoing camping blog [column?] for Examiner.com. These will all eventually turn into articles, and I’ll link them here as they go online.

North of Globe, state highway 288 splits from 188 just past the east end of Lake Roosevelt, and begins to climb up into the Sierra Ancha Mountains. Don’t let the highway designation fool ya, AZ288 winds and dips and is only partially paved. I stopped and took photos of Sawmill Flats and Rose Creek campgrounds.

To the west is Salome Wilderness where lies Hell’s Hole. To the East is the Sierra Ancha wilderness, where I hiked the Sierra Ancha Superloop.

North of the wilderness areas, the road rolls through juniper scrub and finally into Pleasant Valley, where lies the town of Young. Finding a meal in Young has always challenged me, but I came upon Buddi’s Gas and Minimart, where the nice lady sold me a microwaved burrito. That’s the best meal service I’ve ever gotten in that community, built mostly by and for retirees and their hobby ranches. Tourists are somewhat beside the point.

Just north of Young, I split left to take FR 200 up Haigler Canyon to visit two more campgrounds. I stopped to read a sign about the Heber-Reno Sheep Driveway, a 3 mile wide corridor through which Basque herders drive sheep up to their summer pastures on top of the Mogollon Rim in the spring, and then back down to their winter pastures outside of Chandler in September. I literally thought to myself, “It’s September. Maybe I’ll see some…”

And there they were, on the other side of the road. The herder I talked to said they’d been on the trail for about three days. Photos on my other blog (because I’m outta space here): What Have We Learned.

It was raining on and off, but the gravel of FR 200 held firm. Alderwood Campground is remote, despite being tucked behind a small housing development. Haigler Canyon is more developed, but was empty save for cows when I visited. Even the hosts were gone.

FR200 dumps into FR 291, which dumps into AZ 260 – which is a real highway. I took that to the visitor’s center atop the rim, then cut through the FR 171 camping area, where a number of numbered campsites sit right on top of the Mogollon Rim. This is where I was with the kids when we were rained out prior to our General Crook Trail hike a few years ago. (Still one of my favorite articles.)

FR171 joins – yep – AZ288 on the other side, where I turned south towards a quartet of campgrounds in the NE corner of the Tonto NF. I had been warned that the Rodeo-Chedaski fire of several years ago had devastated the whole area, but I can report that while you can certainly see wide swaths of damage, the campgrounds are just fine.

Colcord Ridge

Airplane Flats

Valentine Ridge

and Upper Canyon Creek, where I ultimately camped.

There is a listed trail near Valentine Ridge (#550) which was scratched from my itinerary late in the guidebook days. It is geared (and graded) towards mountain bikes, so now I’m glad I skipped it.

The next morning I woke up, got to wear a jacket for a few hours (those not from Phoenix do not realize how special that is by September) and burned back to the valley to take care of other things.

Next time – more behind-the-hike stuff.

Tonto News Round-up September 2009

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Payson is burning!

No – not really. But it came close last Monday when the Wagon Wheel Fire torched the forest around Diamond Point, north of Payson and south of the RIm. This has forced some closures of roads and campgrounds.

You can track the fire management progress here.

A Lion in Kofa

AZ Game and Fish caught and killed the lion that had been killing off bighorn sheep in the Kofa Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona. The lion, a male fitted with a telemetry collar, was known to have killed 15 bighorn sheep, 11 within the predation management area, since being collared in late February. The Kofa herds, which once numbered as high as 800 in 2000 are now estimated at around 430 animals. The lion was tracked down in  the nearby Eagletail Mountains.

“This one lion was averaging a bighorn sheep kill every 10 days,” said Pat Barber, supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Region IV office in Yuma. “At that rate, an estimated 37 bighorn sheep would have been lost to this lion in a year.”

With other mountain lions remaining in the Kofa  region, Game and Fish biologists will continue to take an active role in monitoring bighorn sheep losses attributed to predation.

“The goal is not to remove all mountain lions from the management area, but to limit predation until the sheep population recovers,” said Barber. “Mountain lion populations throughout the state are healthy and they are neither rare, threatened or at risk. The same can’t be said for this bighorn sheep population.”

Public Lands Day Volunteer Opportunities

In addition to the calls for help published in the last news round-up, a variety of agencies are collaborating in cleaning up the Boulders OHV area on September 26 (Public Lands Day). The Boulders OHV area is located along State Route 74 (mile marker 11.5) from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. To get to the Boulders from the Phoenix area, head north on I-17 to the Highway 74 exit (exit 223), then head west on Hwy 74 to mile marker 11.5. Go north 1 mile to the staging area. Road access into the area is good for most vehicles.

The public is encouraged to volunteer (under the terms of an agency agreement) to assist with clean-up, outreach and sign installation activities. Volunteers are asked to bring gloves, snacks and water.

Cycle Gear, a motorsports gear store, will have prizes for top volunteer efforts. The Arizona Trails Riders will be conducting courtesy vehicle sound testing and will help repack mufflers. The Arizona OHV Coalition and OHV Ambassadors will provide you with maps and informational materials. The Arizona Game and Fish Department will have their mobile OHV learning center on hand to help inform the public of the new OHV laws as well as places to ride.

What could be more fun?
Federal stimulus dollars to help Arizona wildlife

[Below is verbatim from the press release – TP]
Funds to employ rural contractors and purchase Arizona products

The Arizona Game and Fish Department Landowner Relations Program (LRP) will use $110,000 in economic stimulus funds to actively support private land improvements that will benefit both wildlife and the people of Arizona. These dollars came to the department from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Grassland restorations, riparian area protection and pond improvements are just a few of the four or five new projects that could be completed in the next year because of these funds. The projects must also benefit federal trust species that includes things like migratory birds, threatened or endangered species, and to improve water quality.

Landowner Relations Program Manager Sal Palazzolo said, “Projects that can put greater numbers of people to work will probably get chosen over others. For example, it takes lots of people and materials to put in a new fence as opposed to a project that might only take one or two people.”

For more information about the Arizona Game and Fish Department Landowner Relations Program go online to www.azgfd.gov/outdoor_recreation/landowner_relation.shtml

Doe shot with arrow and left to die

The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Operation Game Thief program is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the individual(s) responsible for illegally killing a doe.

Game and Fish personnel are investigating a case in which a doe was shot with an arrow and left to die during the deer opener on Aug. 21 at approximately 10:45 a.m. The incident took place in Game Management Unit 20A along Senator Highway between mileposts 6 and 7, just north of the 307 hiking trail. The location is six or seven miles south of downtown Prescott.