Archive for the ‘Mogollon Rim’ Category

Fossil Creek Road closed through Summer

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

The Payson Roundup is reporting that the Forest Service intends to extend the ongoing closure of Fossil Creek Road (going west from Strawberry down across the creek). According to the article (and all quotes below are from this article):

The soaring popularity of the pristine, restored travertine-rich stream has drawn a flood of weekend visitors to Payson, but also resulted in piles of litter, illegal campfires and fears of stream pollution.


The order said the closure would “provide for the public’s health and safety because of the treacherous and unsafe road conditions resulting from geologic instability on rock walls resulting in frequent rock falls and slides into the road. Also, to provide for the public’s and employees’ health and safety considerations of traffic gridlock along the Fossil Creek Corridor.”

Important to note that the main trail to the upper part of the creek – and the springs – is still open.

The steep Fossil Creek Trail will remain open. But that could increase the already substantial number of summer rescues on the arduous, waterless climb out of the canyon. Many people will likely arrive to find the road closed and be tempted to hike down the trail in flip flops without adequate water, a recurrent theme in last year’s rescues.

Maybe they should read my guidebook. 

Payson and the other Rim communities are pissed:

“They’ve taken the sledge hammer to hit the pin on the wall,” said Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce Manager John Stanton.

“What worries me is that this is coming out of (the Tonto National Forest headquarters) in Phoenix or Washington, D.C. and we have no control. Talk about a door slamming.”

To be fair, it’s a forest road going through the national forest. It would be unike the feds to ask permission, or even make a prompt decision.

This summer, the Forest Service projected that Fossil Creek would attract 60,000 visitors, making it a rival to the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park as the region’s top tourist draw.

The Forest Service set up a special team to develop the master plan for future use of Fossil Creek, but hasn’t yet released the results of that effort.


[Stanton adds,] “Part of the problem in Fossil Creek is of our own making: People have destroyed the place. So now we have to figure out what to do. (The Chamber) has a retreat on Friday to see if there’s anything we can do — at least protest to the Payson Ranger District.”

Years ago, covering the restoration of Fossil Creek fr the now defunct Inside/Outside Magazine, I wrote:

The resurrection of Fossil Springs is a feat of human community as rare and amazing as a river in the desert. Optimists might say it is a new paradigm of things to come, while pessimists point out that, by weight of history, this is simply an aberration. I say dip your feet in the water while you can, because the state’s population growth accelerates while the budgets of agencies which manage the wilderness continue to shrink.

Like all streams in the wilderness, Fossil Creek is endangered by the very people who enjoy it the most. Unless we reverse our attitudes about beer cans and Styrofoam coolers and disposable diapers, a hundred years from now, another extraordinary coalition will be forced come together to restore the creek — again.

The Resurrection of Fossil Creek”  Inside/Outside, June 2007.

I was wrong, of course. We will destroy that place in well under 10 years, much less 100.


East Webber Trail

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

East Webber Trail #248

DATE HIKED: June 1, 2008

Companions: Ben and Max ( our Labrador).

START TIME:12:35pm

END TIME:6:10pm

TOTAL MILEAGE: 8.8 miles

One of the few guidebook hikes I took with the dog. These “working” hikes are complicated enough with the DVR and the GPS and such without adding 60 lbs of excitable dog on a leash. But this was a short hike, I was towards the end and feeling pretty confident, and I had Ben to help out if it came to that.

We got turned around a couple times past Camp Geronimo, which may have added to the mileage some.

We ate lunch on our way up at the second crossing, beside the big log. Max spent the whole time in the creek.

About 4 miles up, we encountered the signed junction with the “Rimview Trail” though we could not discern an actual trail. The sign indicated it went east and eventually hit the Highline around Poison Springs. Not on any maps I own, and we couldn’t pick it out from the ferns and deadwood.

My buddies at HikeAZ inform me that this trail was “blazed” by boy scouts, and actually goes nowhere. Thus, I left it out of the hike description.

I drank water straight from the first spring, and my insides did not explode. So that was good.

Second only to Horton Springs as far as face-of-the-Rim hikes go.

The Hikes from Washington Park

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

There have been a few fires since I last visited here, including the nearby Wagon Wheel fire – so I cannot guarantee how much of the specific topography is still accurate.

I started two separate hikes from the Washington Park trailhead, smack in the middle of the Mogollon Rim: the Col. Devlin/RR Tunnel trail and then the Highline Trail west to Camp Geronimo.

Stats given below reflect both hikes combined.

DATE: 5/30/08


START TIME: 11:40 am

END TIME: 7:25 pm


My mother helped me set up the car shuttle for this, which was a blessing and a curse. My mother is not a morning person, so an early start was never a possibility.

There a part in the intro of the book where I talk about her dropping me off at a trailhead: this hike.

Ben had been invited to go, but was pouting for some reason, and missed out on one of the cooler trails – at least from an 11 year old perspective. So let that be a lesson for the young readers.

Col Devlin was one of the shorter hikes in the book, but contained a serious grade. I still got lost. The note at the end about not following the goat-trails around the ledge: GAFDE.

One of my sources for the history of the Railroad Tunnel:

And the Sharlot Hall museum provided good source material on Col. Devin.

I personally believe that the Highline Trail, as a multi-day through hike is over-rated. You beat up your knees for not much variation in scenery. The Highline was built for horses. You’re better off on top of the Rim on the General Crook trail.

I was very grateful for the one flowing stream in the middle of the hike.

There was a lot of fire damage when I hiked through,and now there is even more. Better views. Less shade. How long until the whole Rim is naked?

Followed the last of the switchbacks in the last of the daylight, but didn’t need to pull y flashlight out of the bag.

Don’t try both of these on the same day unless you’re very hardcore (or behind deadline).

Col Devin and Railroad Trail

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

[Part of our ongoing behind-the-hike series concerning hikes covered in Day and Overnight Hikes – Tonto National Forest.]

This area was in the recent “Rim Fire” (see last entry) – and I can’t say what may be left of it.

This was part of my Rim Rush – a 4 day weekend where I banged out several trails including this one, two segments of the Highline Trail and Mescal Ridge.

DATE HIKED: 30 May 2008


START TIME: 10:30a

END TIME: about noon


There’s a part in the book’s introduction where I describe my mom reluctantly leaving her little boy (Now – I’m 42!) alone at the trailhead. This hike. Relatedly, my son Ben had the opportunity to go, but chose to hang around in camp instead – mostly, it seemed, to prove he could hang around in camp instead. Since this was an easy hike up to a railroad tunnel, I gotta think that decision was political.

This route up and down the Rim was originally part of the Moqui Trail,an ancient route connecting the central deserts to th Navajo and Hopi lands up north. South of the Rim, the route roughly follows AZ89.

It was then re-blazed by Col. Devin, while he worked for General Crook.

Now, it is part of the Arizona Trail.

Some good source material about the RR Tunnel.

I hiked this trail on the same day I hiked the Washington Park – Geronimo portion of the Highline. Had I gotten my dear mother (who was part of that car shuttle) out of camp in time, I would have made the whole odyssey with daylight to spare. As it was … well, next time. Mom, to her credit, prodded her little Prius within up the rutted dirt road to within a couple hundred yards of the trailhead. That’s where I inherited those tendencies.

Washington Park has several unofficial campsites right on the creek, and would make a nice basecamp if you got there early enough. The road gets worse the higher you go, though, so HC if you want to actually park at the TH. There are a number of private residences dotting the area – so watch where you pee.

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


START TIME 10:45am

END TIME: 5:15pm


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.