Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Ancha Wilderness’

AZ288 Road-trip

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

The week before last, I had a camping trip all arranged – and then everybody backed out but me.

I went anyways, free from logistical negotiations (or the company of others).On my journey, I stopped to take pictures for my ongoing camping blog [column?] for Examiner.com. These will all eventually turn into articles, and I’ll link them here as they go online.

North of Globe, state highway 288 splits from 188 just past the east end of Lake Roosevelt, and begins to climb up into the Sierra Ancha Mountains. Don’t let the highway designation fool ya, AZ288 winds and dips and is only partially paved. I stopped and took photos of Sawmill Flats and Rose Creek campgrounds.

To the west is Salome Wilderness where lies Hell’s Hole. To the East is the Sierra Ancha wilderness, where I hiked the Sierra Ancha Superloop.

North of the wilderness areas, the road rolls through juniper scrub and finally into Pleasant Valley, where lies the town of Young. Finding a meal in Young has always challenged me, but I came upon Buddi’s Gas and Minimart, where the nice lady sold me a microwaved burrito. That’s the best meal service I’ve ever gotten in that community, built mostly by and for retirees and their hobby ranches. Tourists are somewhat beside the point.

Just north of Young, I split left to take FR 200 up Haigler Canyon to visit two more campgrounds. I stopped to read a sign about the Heber-Reno Sheep Driveway, a 3 mile wide corridor through which Basque herders drive sheep up to their summer pastures on top of the Mogollon Rim in the spring, and then back down to their winter pastures outside of Chandler in September. I literally thought to myself, “It’s September. Maybe I’ll see some…”

And there they were, on the other side of the road. The herder I talked to said they’d been on the trail for about three days. Photos on my other blog (because I’m outta space here): What Have We Learned.

It was raining on and off, but the gravel of FR 200 held firm. Alderwood Campground is remote, despite being tucked behind a small housing development. Haigler Canyon is more developed, but was empty save for cows when I visited. Even the hosts were gone.

FR200 dumps into FR 291, which dumps into AZ 260 – which is a real highway. I took that to the visitor’s center atop the rim, then cut through the FR 171 camping area, where a number of numbered campsites sit right on top of the Mogollon Rim. This is where I was with the kids when we were rained out prior to our General Crook Trail hike a few years ago. (Still one of my favorite articles.)

FR171 joins – yep – AZ288 on the other side, where I turned south towards a quartet of campgrounds in the NE corner of the Tonto NF. I had been warned that the Rodeo-Chedaski fire of several years ago had devastated the whole area, but I can report that while you can certainly see wide swaths of damage, the campgrounds are just fine.

Colcord Ridge

Airplane Flats

Valentine Ridge

and Upper Canyon Creek, where I ultimately camped.

There is a listed trail near Valentine Ridge (#550) which was scratched from my itinerary late in the guidebook days. It is geared (and graded) towards mountain bikes, so now I’m glad I skipped it.

The next morning I woke up, got to wear a jacket for a few hours (those not from Phoenix do not realize how special that is by September) and burned back to the valley to take care of other things.

Next time – more behind-the-hike stuff.

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.