Archive for the ‘Tonto 10 Day Run’ Category

Tonto Guide available with PDF bundle

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

The things you learn when you google your own name once in a while…

http://www.menasharidge.com/product.php?productid=16862

*This is a special bundled digital edition of this book. Buy the book at full price and get instant access to a downloadable pdf version. So it’s two copies for the price of one!*

Says my publisher. So you could load this on your smart-phone and not have to hike with the physical book.

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.

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.