Posts Tagged ‘HikeAZ hikes’

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.

Mazatzal Divide

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

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

This hike follows the Mazatzal Divide Trail #23 north around Mt. Peeley to Bear Saddle. This once well laid out and easy trail has become something of an adventure since recent fire damage.

HIKE START: 3 may 2008, 10:20am

HIKE END: 4 May 2008, 2:00pm

COMPANIONS: Te-Wa

ACTUAL MILEAGE: 8.8 miles

Te-Wa is an acquaintance from Hike AZ.

Early May finds the air in these mountains filled with little yellow butterflies, and the bushed filled with sticky clusters of caterpillars.

This is a segment of the AZT, and we met an actual thru-hiker early in our hike, on the way up Mt. Graham. He told us that even as a veteran of the Pacific Coast trail and the Appalachian Trail, among others, the AZT was one of the hardest long-distance trails he had attempted. Shortly thereafter, he let us in the dust, for he had designs on a making a campsite twice the distance from our humble goal of Bear Saddle.

The Maz Divide trail in full length goes 27 miles to City trailhead due west of Payson. We chose to stop at Bear Saddle because the nearby spring is morereliable than the traditional one several miles up the trail, namely Windsor Spring near Y-Bar Basin. That area, about ten miles north of the Mt. Peeley TH did not fair so well in the fire.

Yes, you can still find the saddle by just bush-whacking over the ridge if you missed an orange ribbon – as I did.

We spent a lot of time scouring the ravine east of Bear saddle for some alternate water source beside the spring (which are as green as I described them) to no avail.

Didn’t just forget my camera – forgot my DVR as well. Happily, I’m old enough to remember how to take notes by hand.

I was able to look up the general type of thornbush that nearly shredded my sleeping pad, but looking up “little yellow butterflies” on the internet is completely futile. Free copy of the book (signed, of course) to the first person who can convincing ID that species of butterfly for me.

4 Peaks Loop

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

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

This “loop” (its really a car shuttle) takes the Oak Flat trail up the mountains, follows Four Peaks Trail south along the top of the ridge, and then takes the Chilicutt Trail back down. The Four Peaks Trail portion is part of the AZT.

We learned that Forest Service map from the website is wrong is several details.

DATE HIKED: 25 May 2008

COMPANIONS: Joe Bartels, Stiller, Wally Farak (all from HikeAZ link to the right ->).

START TIME: 7:45am (See what happens when I’m not driving?)

END TIME: 3:30pm (See what happens when you don’t get lost?)

ACTUAL MILEAGE: Just over 12 miles

This is where Joe Bartels earned getting his name in the acknowledgments. I discovered at the trail-head that my GPS was not in my bag. There’s a down side to trying to get ready at the crack-of-frakkin-dawn. The GPS route in the book is derived from Mr. Bartels’ GPS recordings – which came from a different brand of GPS, and took some doing to import into our software. I spent more time editing the map than I did on the hike.

Our route, if you’re wondering, was identical. I have the blisters to prove it.

It still seems to me that the stretch going up Oak flat was the single hardest march I undertook for the guide. 1700 feet in 1.7 miles with virtually no switchbacks. Straight up the gravel path – dare you not to die.

Four Peaks are the highest points in the Tonto, and the whole south/central part of AZ. There is no easy way up.

While heat pummeled us on the way up, pockets of snow still lingered at the top.

All the springs were flowing strongly, which was good, because I used a lot of water on the climb.

You can thank Stiller for scouting around and confirming that 4 Peaks trail now runs around Buckhorn mountain, and not over it.

We saw a rattlesnake on our way down the Chillicut.

While the distance between the two trail-heads looks manageable as a loop, you should know that the road is all jeep grade in and out of several ravines. I would definitely recommend a car-shuttle over a loop if you have the means.

This is one of the few hikes within two hours of Phoenix that you can attempt well into Spring. Worth the climb!

Eastern Superstitions

Friday, March 13th, 2009

The eastern half of the Superstition Wilderness is higher elevation and much more isolated. Much of this is because none of the trailheads are easy to reach in a passenger vehicle, and several absolutely require a 4WD.

Astute readers will notice that the Angel Basin hike and the Oak Flats hike were both smaller parts of the Eastern Superstitions Super-loop. Why yes, I covered them all in the same expedition.

And I cover them all in the same blog entry.

DATE HIKED: 24-26 April 2008

COMPANIONS: Te-wa, Nonot and Wally Farrak [I’m using their alias’ from HikeAZ.]

START TIME: Friday, 4/24/08 9:15 am

END TIME: Sunday 4/26/08 around 2pm.

ACTUAL TOTAL MILEAGE: 32.3 miles

The guys were worried when I told them I was writing a guidebook (and hence mumbling into my DVR at random intervals) that their antics might appear. I assured them, truthfully, that guidebooks were not structured like that. I’m going to keep that level of privacy except to note that I was, by far, the slowest of the quartet. On the first day, they’d occasionally double back just to make sure I was still with them. By the third day, however, they had resigned themselves that I would get there eventually. On Sunday, they all reached the car easily by noon.

We have a lot of pix:

If yer new – I camp in a hammock. I was able to use it both nights.

My Camp in Angel Basin

Hammock by Byer of Maine. Tarp from Cabela’s. The photo on the left – from Angel basin – the hammock is actually suspended over a coil of discarded barbed wire.

More information about the Solado People who built the prehistoric exurb of prehistoric Phoenix.

The agony of de feet. [Sorry.]

Duct tape and athletic tape – mandatory for a backpacker’s first aid kit. Happily, this is morning of day 3.

And finally, some of the varied terrain we hiked through: