Posts Tagged ‘forest roads’

Taking the Inner Basin off of my bucket list

Friday, September 18th, 2015

My single biggest disappointment about writing Five Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona was that I could not include the Inner Basin Trail #29. I was literally driving up there on [date] to set up camp at Lockett Meadow, and hike that trail the next morning, when I had to turn around.

They had closed AZ 89 north of Flagstaff due to the smoke from what would become the Schultz Fire.

Area affected by the 2010 Schultz Fire. The Inner Basin is under the key.

Even after that fire was finally out, Lockett Meadow had been trashed by use as a staging area for the firefighters, and was closed for a year to be rehabbed. By the time that was complete, I was already past deadline.

I finally had another chance this August.

The brief hike description below lacks the sort of detail and documentation you’d find in my book, because, to be honest, I don’t go out equipped to take those kind of note anymore.  I hike for fun now. But I will share what I remember.

I have pictures, but this site doesn’t have room for such new-fangled things as photos (which are known to be one of the biggest drivers of traffic to blogs – but I’m not the expert. Just sayin’). (The image above is a copied URL.)

You can see them on my Tumblr page though. https://www.tumblr.com/blog/lostyet

UPDATE: I can copy URL’s from my own blog….

Lockett Meadow

Inner Basin Train starts from the Lockett Meadow Campground north of Flagstaff. Lockett Meadow campsites require a fee, but trailhead parking is free.  You should know, though, that you are starting – starting – at 8900’ above sea level, and it only goes up from there.

The tall grass of Lockett Meadow grows over a shelf made by a collapsed section of the caldera wall of the San Francisco Peaks.  The SF peaks are remnants of a much taller single volcano that erupted catastrophically millions of years ago. The Coconino Plateau sits over a magma plume. That’s why the springs are sometimes hot, and the hills are covered with lava rock.

The first part is a climb through spruce and pine forest, skirting the farthest advance of the Schultz fire. Do not despair, for you soon climb past all of that, as the dirt single-track now winds and switches back through a huge stand of aspen trees.

Seriously, if you believe that you cannot possibly get enough of towering, trembling white aspens all around you, this trail will test that notion.

The trail evens out, and the aspen surrender to the spruce again, when the trail joins Waterline Road. This road, which circumnavigates the northern slopes of the Peaks,  was built and maintained for utility vehicles to service the water pumps  on the slopes, and in the basin. These facilities provide Flagstaff with much of its water. The road keeps winding up the mountain to a large pump station, where signs will explain this.

This is where most of the local hikers – who can be numerous on weekends with good weather, turn around. If this were for the book, I’d tell you this is the turn-around for the Easy version of the hike.

There is a spring at the place, water dripping out of a pipe, and another sign warns you that it is not treated in any way. This water has not, however, drained through cattle country, which is the source of the most common contaminants and parasites that make stream water perilous in these parts. So it would be reasonably safe. But it tastes just like the pipe.

From here, you can follow Waterline Road east then south (ish)and down towards Schultz pass (where the fire started). Or you can follow it around west then north(ish) over towards its junction with the Bear Jaw and Abineau trails (which I covered in the book). Or you can keep going south-ish, and definitely up towards the basin.

The road rounds steep, grass covered hills until the broad meadow of the Inner Basin opens up. Following the road through the tall grass and intermittent stands of spruce trees brings you to another water pump station. It was pumping along loud enough when I arrived that I had to shout to my son six feet away. That’s not always the case, happily.

This is the turn-around for the medium hike. You are about three miles from the campground at this point.

The road past that, further south and further up,, degenerating into rocky single-track as the forest of Christmas trees  mostly Engleman fir trees, close in around it.  It follows a steep ravine towards the edge of the Caldera, roughly beneath the shadow of Aggassiz Peak.

If you were to keep climbing (and I confess that we did not) the trail will wind and then switch back until it terminates at its intersection with the Weatherford Trail (also in my book) just below the tree-line. That’s the hard hike.

Now, because you got this far, here’s the secret hike. There is a closed road off to the side of the main trailhead. You cannot drive upon it. The gate is closed, and it’s choked by deadfall after a quarter mile in any case. But you can hike it.

The road parallels the trail, though pines and then aspen, only a little more direct, and a lot more secluded. On a Saturday afternoon, I has the road to myself to the point where I was worried about bears.

Oh yeah – the Peaks have some black bears. They are shy – which is why they’re still around to be honest – but this place was isolated enough that I could imagine encountering them. I didn’t.

After two miles or so (I wasn’t prepared to accurately mark the mileage) I heard voices. The Secret Road intersects with the Waterline trail near that same pump station with the spring.  I returned the way I came.

Inner basin trax map

My map generating skills aren’t what they used to be either.

O’Leary Peak

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Onward with our behind-the-hike series on Five Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona.

O’Leary Peak

Hike date : 7/11/10

Companions none

Start 11:45am

Finish 5:30p

Total time 5:45

Total miles 10.26

The first part of the hike was done in the pouring rain, but happily that cleared up for most of the hike afterwards.

The lookout tower on top of O’Leary is manned throughout the summer. The lady in it when I was up there invited me up after some hesitation. At night, she told me, she could still see the embers from the Schultz Fire glowing across the mountainside.

She wasn’t happy that I was writing a hiking guide. She didn’t want a lot of visitors disturbing her. She did tell me about a woman writing a book about fire watch towers throughout Arizona. Pretty sure she meant this one. Good luck finding a copy.

This is a public land hike from start to finish, and her own agency touts it on their website. So her right to privacy is only protected by the 2000′ of elevation gain over the course of 5 miles. Nonetheless, there is no right to tour the look-out tower. If she ( or whoever has that station) doesn’t want company – that’s it. You get a view from the rocks.

Still worth it, of course.

BTW – the geo-cache on the saddle between the two peaks – that’s mine. Enjoy.

More on this hike on You Tube

O’Leary Peak on You Tube

One last thing – this is why comments are closed for most of my posts:

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Tule Mesa Revisited

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

If you take FR68 east of Dugas (which is not actually a town, but the remains of a settlement crumbling on what is now private ranch land) you will come to a Y. Your decision: take the easy road (right) towards the Salt Flats “campground” and the Pine Mountain Wilderness, or take the left fork, dubbed 68G towards – well the edge of the cliff.

If you read last post, you know which one I took.

The signs become increasingly ominous about the “primitive” and “unmaintained” nature of 68G, and, true to the warnings, the road becomse worse the farther you go in.

About 4 miles in, as I’m prodding my 06 Chevy Equinox through what is essentially a trench filled with lava rock, we have to back up to allow an older couple in a Toyota 4X4 Truck to get past us. The man says, swear to God, “You haven’t gotten to the really rocky part yet…”

A mile later, we got to it. And there, I found the Equinox Filter: a stair of rock about 20″ high that spun the tires of my HC but definitely Front-wheel-Drive crossover (pretend) SUV no matter which angle I tried. When I had smelt enough of my own burning rubber, I backed it up, and found a place to park the thing.

Yeah – that’s right – I couldn’t get the Equinox as far as I got the Cavalier. It may be a sign of wisdom, or it may be a sign of deeper erosion in the road. In any case, Ben and I climbed out and hiked the remaining three miles or so to Cavalier Point: a sizeable juniper just off the road from the cattleguard that separates the 68G from “Verde Hot Springs Road”. The latter road is marked as “Unfit for Public Travel” and is officially closed to motor vehicles at this writing.

My  straps were long gone.

We did, however find the norther terminus to something called Trail #27 which goes into the largely undocumented Cedar Bench Wilderness that covers half the northern slope of Tule Mesa. The southern terminus is, in theory, a graded dirt trailhead near Camp Verde. I’m adding that to my To Do list.

Meanwhile, while daylight remained, Ben and I drover around the other fork in the road – to Pine Mountain. That account will be the next post.

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

Tule Mesa – the backstory

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

About five years ago, Ben (then 7) and I climbed into a Chevy Cavalier and headed off for Fossil Springs. My plan was to intorduce Ben to backpacking. The problem wit this plan was that I was driving.

From Phoenix, I-17 to AZ 260 to FR720 seemed kinda dull, especially when my AZ Gazetteer showed a more direct route through Dugas. I should not here, in some feeble defense, that the Gazetteer does nt reliably indicate a road’s condition – just its existence.

I should also note that my wife will never allow e to own a 4WD the way you would not want to give a loaded pistol to a monkey. I have little to no fear of road conditions.

Forest Road 68G – which will, actually, bounce you down to the Verde River from Dugas – is high clearance up to the edge of the mesa. I bounced and prodded the poor Cavalier that far in anyways – because that is how my mental disorder manifests. We stopped at the top of the mesa, because the switchbacks going down were CLEARLY 4WD. And my nerves were shot. And we were losing daylight. And this moment of clarity saved certainly both of our lives.

So you know, to continue on the Fossil Creek, you would have to ford the Verde River and drive through the Hot Springs campground to get back to FR 720.

So we camped at the top of Tule Mesa. My hammcok, strung from a huge juniper, swung in the wind as I had nightmares of rocks moving down a roadway in waves like an incoming tide. The wind picked even more, and I had to move into Ben’s tent.

The next morning, I worked the Cavalier slowly off the mesa, blowing two tires in the process. (Happily, one was just a slow leak). We ended up “backpacking” in a few miles from a spot north of Lake Pleasant.

Ben and I didn’t make it to Fossil Springs until we hkedt for the guidebook about a year ago.

In a few hours, though, we’re going back to Tule Mesa, because I now own a high clearance vehicle.

I left a ratchet strap in that Juniper. Ben wonders if its still there. We’ll let you know.

Tonto News Roundup June 2009

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Summer’s here – because the forest is on fire:

Summary: The Pioneer Fire started on Saturday, and is burning on East Mountain, approximately 7 miles south of Globe, Arizona.  Burnout operations were conducted last night.  Aerial resources will be assisting ground crews today in holding the line at Forest Service Road 112 near Pioneer Pass.  Smoke is expected to be visible around the East Mountain area for next 5 days.  The public is asked to please use caution on Hwy. 77 because of fire equipment and fire traffic.

This is not far from the Pinal Mountains (see last post). You can keep track of the progress here.

Presciently, the Globe area is scheduled for some prescribed burns this summer (though the big, unprescibed burn going on right now may modify their plans).

“The purpose of these prescribed fires is to reduce the hazardous fuels in these areas and lower the chances of catastrophic fire, which could burn onto private land and endanger valuable electronic sites and private property. The prescribed fires will also help promote a healthier forest and watershed,” said Rick Reitz, Globe District ranger.

In the Phoenix area? Got free time? Here’s the Arizona Game and Fish Online Calender. AZG&F is, of course, a statewide operation, and the calender does have events all over the state, but, basically, the bulk of them happen around Phoenix.

Try to follow this: Towards the end of the Clinton administration, a ruling came down declaring a moratorium on new road construction in the National Forests. Towards the end of the Bush administration, this ban was overturned. Did that lead to a frenzy in two-track road construction? No. Iy led to a flurry of legal action.

So the Obama administration, late last month, declared a moratorium on lifting the moratorium. This is from the Department of Agriculture’s press release:

The U.S. Forest Service, with jurisdiction over the National Forests and Grasslands, makes decisions about what projects can take place on those lands. In simultaneously upholding and overturning the 2001 Clinton roadless rule, the courts have created confusion and made it difficult for the U.S. Forest Service to do its job. The directive will ensure that USDA can carefully consider activities in these inventoried roadless areas while long term roadless policy is developed and relevant court cases move forward.

In related news, the adminstration has also released stimulus funds to -ah – build forest roads.

So, well, good luck with that.