Posts Tagged ‘Fossil Creek’

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.

 

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.