Archive for the ‘4 Peaks and Mazaztzals’ Category

Mazatzal Divide

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

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

This hike follows the Mazatzal Divide Trail #23 north around Mt. Peeley to Bear Saddle. This once well laid out and easy trail has become something of an adventure since recent fire damage.

HIKE START: 3 may 2008, 10:20am

HIKE END: 4 May 2008, 2:00pm

COMPANIONS: Te-Wa

ACTUAL MILEAGE: 8.8 miles

Te-Wa is an acquaintance from Hike AZ.

Early May finds the air in these mountains filled with little yellow butterflies, and the bushed filled with sticky clusters of caterpillars.

This is a segment of the AZT, and we met an actual thru-hiker early in our hike, on the way up Mt. Graham. He told us that even as a veteran of the Pacific Coast trail and the Appalachian Trail, among others, the AZT was one of the hardest long-distance trails he had attempted. Shortly thereafter, he let us in the dust, for he had designs on a making a campsite twice the distance from our humble goal of Bear Saddle.

The Maz Divide trail in full length goes 27 miles to City trailhead due west of Payson. We chose to stop at Bear Saddle because the nearby spring is morereliable than the traditional one several miles up the trail, namely Windsor Spring near Y-Bar Basin. That area, about ten miles north of the Mt. Peeley TH did not fair so well in the fire.

Yes, you can still find the saddle by just bush-whacking over the ridge if you missed an orange ribbon – as I did.

We spent a lot of time scouring the ravine east of Bear saddle for some alternate water source beside the spring (which are as green as I described them) to no avail.

Didn’t just forget my camera – forgot my DVR as well. Happily, I’m old enough to remember how to take notes by hand.

I was able to look up the general type of thornbush that nearly shredded my sleeping pad, but looking up “little yellow butterflies” on the internet is completely futile. Free copy of the book (signed, of course) to the first person who can convincing ID that species of butterfly for me.

4 Peaks Loop

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

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

This “loop” (its really a car shuttle) takes the Oak Flat trail up the mountains, follows Four Peaks Trail south along the top of the ridge, and then takes the Chilicutt Trail back down. The Four Peaks Trail portion is part of the AZT.

We learned that Forest Service map from the website is wrong is several details.

DATE HIKED: 25 May 2008

COMPANIONS: Joe Bartels, Stiller, Wally Farak (all from HikeAZ link to the right ->).

START TIME: 7:45am (See what happens when I’m not driving?)

END TIME: 3:30pm (See what happens when you don’t get lost?)

ACTUAL MILEAGE: Just over 12 miles

This is where Joe Bartels earned getting his name in the acknowledgments. I discovered at the trail-head that my GPS was not in my bag. There’s a down side to trying to get ready at the crack-of-frakkin-dawn. The GPS route in the book is derived from Mr. Bartels’ GPS recordings – which came from a different brand of GPS, and took some doing to import into our software. I spent more time editing the map than I did on the hike.

Our route, if you’re wondering, was identical. I have the blisters to prove it.

It still seems to me that the stretch going up Oak flat was the single hardest march I undertook for the guide. 1700 feet in 1.7 miles with virtually no switchbacks. Straight up the gravel path – dare you not to die.

Four Peaks are the highest points in the Tonto, and the whole south/central part of AZ. There is no easy way up.

While heat pummeled us on the way up, pockets of snow still lingered at the top.

All the springs were flowing strongly, which was good, because I used a lot of water on the climb.

You can thank Stiller for scouting around and confirming that 4 Peaks trail now runs around Buckhorn mountain, and not over it.

We saw a rattlesnake on our way down the Chillicut.

While the distance between the two trail-heads looks manageable as a loop, you should know that the road is all jeep grade in and out of several ravines. I would definitely recommend a car-shuttle over a loop if you have the means.

This is one of the few hikes within two hours of Phoenix that you can attempt well into Spring. Worth the climb!

Verde River Trail

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

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

Coming out of the Verde Valley was the closest I came to being in serious trouble in all my guidebook hikes. You know that “example” last post about fltering water from a catrtle pond in a desperate attempt t stave off heat exhaustion? This hike. But we’ll start at the beginning.

Verde Trail #11

“Northern seven-mile section climbs away from the river, and is easy to
travel.”  – USFS

Well, as we shall see, that all depends…

HIKE START: 17 June 2008; 11:40am

HIKE END: 18 June 2008; 5:20pm

COMPANIONS: None

ACTUAL MILEAGE: 26+

This was the last hike of my 10-day run to finish the guidebook, and the next-to-last hike I actually did. With deadline looming, I took my vacation week and plotted out a course that would net me 8 hikes in 10 days – and it almost worked! Most of those hikes are in the central mountains or the Mogollon Rim.

So I woke up that morning in my hammock at the Pine TH, did some laundry at a trailer park in Pine, ate breakfast at the hotel in Strawberry, and rolled on down Fossil Springs Road.

I prodded my poor Buick down 5 miles of FR 194 until I finally ran out of nerve and parked it at the intersection with FR 540, and humped the remaining distance to Twin Buttes TH. I wisely left a couple of gallons of water in my car.

Typical trail conditions on Cedar Bench

Typical trail conditions on Cedar Bench

I love – love – juniper scrub country, but after 7 miles of it, I was actually kinda glad to start seeing chaparral.

My notes declare – in hindsight – that I should have stayed on the dirt path and gone down to the Verde. I did, in fact, take the trace route down to Fossil Creek, where I slapped together a bit of camp, and discovered that one of my wading shoes had fallen from my pack. Undetered, I spent the last hour of remaining daylight splashing about barefoot in the creek, ignoring the voice in my head that warned a foot injury down here becomes a survival scenario.

Coming down towards the Verde River

Coming down towards the Verde River

Finishing my DVR notes, I discovered that machie’s memory was blank. Every DVR note from the past seven hikes had been somehow obliterated! So I spent a few hours that night shooing bugs out of my headlamp as I desperately tried to write down in my pocket notebook every detail I could remember about the previous seven hikes.

I confirmed a principle I had long suspected the truth of: If you can’t remember it without notes, it probably won’t make it under word count anyway.

Also: Transcribe your DVR notes at the first opportunity! Like in the car after the hike.

Also: Don’t take your DVR into the drugstore. I suspect the anti-theft system will wipe out memories. Even in Pine.

I hauled a sleeping bag down for nothing. (In my defense, I had needed it every other night for the past nine days). It didn’t get down below room temperature until well after midnight.

I wasted the cool hours of the following morning in a brutal bushwhack trying to find a route along the shore (or, as it turned out, over a butte, and then over a rocky cliff) to the Verde River trail proper. I foolishly thought such a dircet route would be less annoying than the field of burrs I had originally descended through.

If you ever feel the urge to scramble over boulders in a 40 lb pack – resist it. Stay on the damn trail. GAFDE.

I found the trail, then the Verde River, and spent a good hour flopped out in a little swimming hole there until I knew I had to get going.

[Here is where I’d insert photos of both the banks of Fossil Creek and the bank of the Verde so you could compare and contrast, but I’m out of space again. I do however, have an album on Facebook with more photos.]

On my way back up, I flirted with heat exhaustion.  was too hot to eat more than half an energy bar all the way up, but, as we alluded too, I was thirsty enough to drink almost anything.

Bull Tank is the name of where I spent some time filtering green slime through a handkerchief into a Nalgene bottle. Happily, Auqumira kills everything! That was a long wait to drink chemically-shocked slime, but I was glad to have it.

I was even happier making it back to the car, where the means to make a gallon of warm Gatorade awaited.

The original plan was to camp at that very spot, and finish the run with Fossil Springs the next day, but I was done – and so were my boots.

Other notes:

* The banks of the Verde are known habitat for Southwest Bald Eagles, and officially closed to traffic from December through June. However, I have been told by Ken Jacobsen, who manages the nest-watching program, that the Verde Trail receives so little traffic that hikers are not a concern to the nest-watchers.  Still, if you see a nest, camp somewhere else.

* The Forest Service publishes a Guide to the Verde – mostly for boaters, but with some useful info for every user – and free. The part I described is around River Mile 20. The Verde River below this portion is called the Graveyard of Canoes by local boaters. Just so ya know.

* Your morning temperature at Twin Buttes TH is likely to be your overnight low down by the river.

*Don’t do this hike in June.

* You can fish on the Verde (with an AZ license) but you cannot fish on Fossil Creek.

* I found my other wading shoe on my way back up.

* I will, someday, do the whole Verde Trail – despite my travails on this first attempt. North – south – I got that much right, anyway.

Vineyard Trail

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

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

This lovely hike heads up from Roosevelt Lake towards Four Peaks, and is part of the Arizona Trail which runs through the state from Utah to Mexico.

DATE HIKED: 1 April 2008

COMPANIONS: None.

START TIME: 12:45pm

END TIME: 6:50pm

ACTUAL MILEAGE: 11.3

This was one of those rare combinations of a reasonable start time, good weather, a scenic trail and a working camera. Thus, I have some pictures, but precious little space. So I’ll put a few here, and you can go to my personal site HERE to see the rest.

The above is one of my favorite photos from the guidebook days.

You can read all about the Salt River Project Dams, inclding Roosevelt Dam from their website history here.

The O’rourke camp was named after the the John O’Rourke firm of Galveston, Texas, who one the contract labor bid.

“In 1910, O’Rourke’s Camp consisted of 42 percent white Americans, 15 percent Spanish emigrants, 11 percent black Americans, three percent Mexican nationals and two percent Chinese. No American Indians or Mexican-Americans lived in the contractor’s camp. O’Rourke hoped to attract 300 to 500 workers to Roosevelt, but the most contract workers employed at one time was a little over 200. Common laborers of all types were paid $2 a day; drillers, $2.75; carpenters, $3.50 to $5, and sub-foremen, $3.50. The government deducted 75 cents per day for meals.”

The photo on the left is the heiograph tower.

The photo on the right is pollen on my boots.

Don’t bother picking your way through the rocks and cactus to get to the corrugated shed in the old vineyard. There’s no opening in it. GAFDE. You can see everything there is to see from the trail.

I did actually go down to Buckhorn Springs, put my feet in the water, and had a nice meal.

Last November I returned back up this trail researching an article I wrote on the Southwest Bald Eagle for Inside/Outsde Magazine. I didn’t actually see any eagles on the trip (it was still a bit hot to see them in late afternoon, I can confirm this is a legitmate habitat for this distinct species of raptor.