Archive for the ‘Central Mountains’ Category

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.

Sierra Ancha Superloop

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

[Part of the ongoing series of behind-the-hike-descriptions for the D&O Tonto Guide.]

This was a series of trails I combined into one big hike for the book. The Sierra Ancha Wilderness is somewhat obscure and hard to get to (there are no paved roads), but it is also big and weird and rewarding. We started up the Abbey Way trail 151, visited the ranger at the top of Aztec peak, then went down Moody Point Trail #140 to the Rim Trail #139, where we picked our way south across the fallen logs to climb back up the upper portion of the Parker Creek trail #160.

This was Hike 2 of the Ten Day Run. We had hiked the Pinal Mountains the day before, and then drove to Falls Campground, where we woke up that morning. Falls Campground is about 7000′ in elevation and overrun with bark beetles – which make quite the unnerving racket.

HIKE DATE: 12 June 2008

COMPANIONS: Ben

START TIME: 11 AM

END TIME: 5:30pm

ACTUAL MILEAGE: 11.5 miles

I had to park the Buick just shy of Workman falls, which added the extra 2 miles to the hike. A HC vehicle could make it all the way to the TH in dry weather.

Abbey’s Way is sometimes marked as the Peterson Trail, which is how it was known before Edward Abbey became the most famous of ex-forest rangers.

The ranger in the tower that summer was “Red”. We had no food for him (we were on a day hike) but he was happy to talk to us anyway. The Rim Trail had undergone its first round of clearing, but he warned us that trees would continue to fall across the ridge for some time.

I should correct a mistake in the book: the ranger only occupies the tower full time during fire season.

It is also possible to car-camp right on the top of the peak – assuming you have a 4WD to get up there with. The couple we met up there were camping because their truck had broken down right on the peak, and they were waiting for a buddy to come rescue them.

The views from the Rim Trail are spectacular, but the conditions were as tough as advertised. Burned trees don’t fall over right away, but over the course of several years they will continue to tumble down as the soil erodes beneath them. This means that one round of trail clearing will not suffice. We climbed over many, many logs.

None of the springs were flowing. That was not a crisis for us, but it would have been if we had one liter bottles instead of two liter bladders.

Ben thought afterward that this hike was the hardest of any he had done for the book. (I think it would actually be day one of the Cave Creek Loop – but he’s the judge of him).

I want to do the whole distance of the Moody Point trail, but that’s a monster car shuttle, and requires a buddy with a 4WD drive and a few days off.

Alas, no photos. And no DVR – this was one of the ones erased.

The Pinal Mountains

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

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

Several trails loop around the Pinal Mountains, which jut up 6000+ feet from the desert just outside of Globe AZ. I picked a couple more-or-less at random, and got really lucky. This trail goes up the mountains via Telephone Trail and comes down via Six Shooter Trail.

HIKE DATE: 11 June 2008

COMPANIONS: Ben

START TIME 11:10am

END TIME: 5:45 pm

ACTUAL MILES: 11.5 miles

This was the first hike in 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.

I lost the DVR notes, and didn’t discover that fact until the end of the run. (See Verde River for more on that).

The loop also includes the Icehouse trail, but only for a hundred yards.

You can see a few photos on my Facebook album.

I ignored my own good advice and checked out an old mine shaft about  a half mile up the road from the Icehouse intersection. It goes back a bit, but it was full of mosquitoes, and my son was certain I would die.

This is one of the closest and surest ways to get out of the desert and into the cool greenery – if you can handle the elevation change.