Archive for the ‘Campgrounds’ Category

Wallow Fire Update

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

A few months ago, I reported on the Arizona wildfire situation, and now I am happy to report that things are better.

Many camping and recreation areas in the Apache Forest (along the eastern edge of the state, site of the Wallow Fire) are now open, including Big  Lake. AZ Governor Jan Brewer was on hand to re-open the lake.

According to AZ Game and Fish:

As many of the speakers pointed out, the event at Big Lake was a celebration of life, habitats and fisheries being rejuvenated by bountiful mountain rains in the wake of the Wallow Fire. Mayors and other civic leaders from the mountain communities participated in the festivities.

Gov. Brewer told the crowd that at almost 9,000 feet in elevation and with 530 surface acres, Big Lake is the largest and one of the most productive trout fisheries in the state.

Despite being the largest wildfire in state history, the Wallow Fire did not touch Big Lake.

The Apache Forest is actually half of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, as they are jointly administered.

Here is a link to their PDF listring current open areas: Open areas within the Wallow Fire Perimeter. This includes trails within the Blue Ridge Primitive Area and the Murray Basin trail system and these campgrounds:

Hannagan Campground
Aker Lake
Caldwell Cabin
KP Cienega Campground
Blue Vista Scenic Overlook
Luna Lake & Campground

No guarantees about shade, though.

This info changes with conditions, so check the site before you go.

Or contact them directly:
P.O. Box 640
(mailing address)
30 S. Chiricahua Dr.
(physical address)
Springerville, AZ 85938

Voice: (928) 333-4301
Fax: (928)-333-5966
TTY: (928) 333-6292

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 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.

Pine Mountain Wilderness

Friday, June 19th, 2009

After our dayhike to Tule Mesa, Ben and I drove to Salt Flat campground and spent the night.

The Prescott National Forest has vague criteria for what is and is not a fee area. Essentially, though, it boils down to water, toilets and some sort of full-time host. Salt Flat has none of this – so its free. It does have picnic tables and fire rings – though the Prescott is currently under fire restrictions.

We woke up in the morning, packed our bags, threw the balance into the vehicle, and crossed the dry wash to the Salt Flat TH, where the Nelson Trail begins.

The Nelson is the central trail for the Pine Mountain Wilderness – just about every other trai connectes with it a some point.

We soon reached the Nelson Place, which consists of remnant stone walls and huge trees (Arizona sycamore, cottonwood, oaks) growing from Nelson Springs. These springs are the only reliable fresh water in the area, inconveniently located less than a mile from the TH. In fact, we soon came upon a pair of backpackers on their way out who reported that all the other springs they came across had been dry.

Which is why I was lugging five liters of water.

All of which I would end up using.

From the Nelson, we went east on the Willow Springs Trail. Willow Springs seemed dry, but there were some puddles in the streambed. Ah well. That trail climbs up Willow Canyon until it meets the Verde Rim Trail – the other main trail in the wilderness. At that junction, we had climbed about a thousand feet in four miles.

Verde Rim features jaw-dropping views of the Verde Valley to the east – the good part where the Wild and Scenic portion flows in front of the Mazazatl Wilderness. On a clear day, such as that one, you can see Horshoe Lake far to the SE.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that it keeps climbing as you head south.

[If you go north, though, you will eventually come upon a jeep trail that will lead you to Cavalier Point – a plan that we rejected only after much debate.]

Soon, you start switching back up the slopes f Pine Mountain, coming within 500′ of the peak. At that point, the signed spur trail to the top is certainly worth the marginal extra exertion.

Past Pine Mountain, we began to wind down the ridge, crossing limestone-covered ridges, and fiannly descending into some pine forest, where we camped.

Having emtied our water, we found ourselves filling our bottles from a deep, but bug-infested puddle while mosquitoes filled themselves on us. Even though I got to use all my filter/chemical/boil methodology, the effort was not recreational, and we decided to opt out of  our optional second night.

Instead, we returned to the Nelson Trail, follwoing it through pine forest both burned-out and pristine, and back to our car.

Total estimated mileage: 14

Total hike time: 14 hours

Pine Mountain Wilderness is obscure and poorly documented compared to some other wilderness areas, but the trails are in good shape, and the journey is worth it – providing you come prepared.

Photos on my personal blog (where I have bandwidth left): What Have We Learned?

Bear Canyon Lake

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Not in the Tonto – but this is ostensibly a general hiking blog.

Bear Canyon Lake Campground is located in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, near the eponymous lake (actually a reservoir) on top of the Mogollon Rim. It sits just east of center of the Forest Road 300.

No fee.

No host.

No water.

No trash service.

“Rustic” toilets (for some reason the Forest Service feels this to be a reasonable synoym for “vault/composting toilets”, which is a synonym for “pit with toilet seat over hole”.)

And no vehicular access to the lake. A sub parking lot will get you to a half mile switchbacking trail which leads to the lake. That’s a long haul with a canoe over your head, so we left the boats at home.

The “Shoreline Trail” goes from that point upstream, counter-clockwise, south, away from the dam about 1.5 miles. It’s a great little trail: no challenging grades, but enough rocks and other obstacles to keep you awake. A fine adventure for middle-school kids ( I had three in tow – though only Ben went the whole route with me). The pay off at the end is the lush meadow once you find your way across the stream that feeds the resevoir.

The second “Parking Lot” spur leads to a separate lot from the main one, closed most of the time, about a half mile further down the road. There’s also a good geocache along the trail – but be prepared for a short, strenuous bushwhack up the slope to find it.

Also, there is a good, short, unofficial trail following the stream on the far side of the dam. Keep aware for poison ivy, though. By short I mean about a quarter mile.

On weekends this area is popular with anglers, ATV riders, and gun enthusiasts, as there are relatively few restrictions on such activities in this part of the forest compared to the balance of the Rim. So expect a fair amount of noise and garbage.

Our high temp was 74, our low around 40. Good weather for June.

And I slept relatively comfortably in my hammock despite the cold by using an emergency bivy sack to line the bottom of the hammock, thus keeping the wind off my back as I slept. Good down to 40 – but I wouldn’t take it down to freezing.

I may update later with photo links.