Posts Tagged ‘springs’

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.

Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

New thing: I have a tumblr going – Travels with Bongo – where I post photos, many from hikes.

Old thing: Another behind-the-hike from Five Star Trails in Flagstaff and Sedona.

 

WET BEAVER WILDERNESS (BELL TRAIL)

 

Hike #1

DATE: 4/26/10

COMPANIONS: Steve (an adult friend), his son, and Ben.

START TIME: 12:30p

END TIME: about 5pm

ACTUAL MILES: 8

 

Hike #2

DATE: 5/7/10

COMPANIONS: none

START: 9am

END:

ACTUAL MILES:

 

Yes, it really is called the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness. I’ll pause now so you can make the inappropriate comment my publisher would never allow me to make myself.

 

….

 

Done now? OK.

 

Easy hike to do – hard hike to write. The biggest reason was that this was hike #2 – and the first hike I knew For Certain would make the guidebook. (Airport Mesa – hike #1 chronologically – was in and out of the line-up for a while).  I had imagined that I could cover every possible spur and alternate route, and the guidebook would be Epic and Exhaustive.

 

Turns out that even if I had the time and energy to document each hike that way (and no one does), I have a word limit. It’s a guidebook – it’s not an encyclopedia.

 

But that’s why I had a second hike – to cover the Brockett and Weir spurs I didn’t get to on the main hike. The Weir spur is totally worth it – by the way.

 

The publisher was also spooked about the crossing through private property, and I had to show them the Forest Service language that explicitly authorized this. It’s cool, kids. Just stay on the trail.

 

The photo on the back cover of the book is from this hike. The boys are Ben and his friend – my friends’ son.

 

I DARE YOU!

 

upload a video of you at the Brockett trailhead, giving your most dramatic reading of Brockett’s poem. If your reading of the poem is better than mine, I’ll send you a copy of my book.

 

http://youtu.be/FTq2J3bxLUw

Parson Springs Trail

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

This weekend: starting to see snow around Flagstaff, and possibly as low as Sedona. A little nippy up there, but perfect hiking weather in the high desert.

Try Ballantine Trail – one of the best hikes from Day and Overnight Hikes: Tonto National Forest.

Now on to our behind-the-hike series on the new book, Five Star Trails in Flagstaff and Sedona

Parson Springs

HIKE DATE 6-13-2010

COMPANION: Ben

START TIME: 11:10A

END TIME: 4:15P

LISTED MILES: 8.4

ACTUAL MILES: 8.9

The second crossing on this hike is a popular local swimming hole.

The hike went smoothly except for the camera. I only have two vid clips because I realized the battery wouldn’t make it. Worse, there was some sort of snot-smear on the lens. I had no chance of seeing that on the LCD screen in broad daylight, so the lesson is clean the lens at the trailhead.

You can see the smear in the You Tube clip below, and even though we tried to finesse it out, you can see it in the book photo as well.

Ben and I actually went a little further up the canyon than the trail, just to check it out. Above the springs, its just a canyon full of rocks.

Link to You Tube video

Elden Springs

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

#2 in the series of behind-the-scenes hike notes for 5 Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona

DATE: 9/12/10

COMPANIONS: Ben

START TIME: 11:45am

END TIME: 2pm (one way)

ACTUAL MILES: 18.7

OFFICIAL MILES: 4 miles one way

So the astute reader will note that 18.7 miles is a long way for a 4 mile hike, and this is because originally this was going to be a loop hike up and around Mount Elden. That didn’t work out because half the original route had been fried to a cinder in the Schultz Fire. We found our way up the mountain anyway, and I don’t want to comment on that route other than saying we should have found a different way.

As a not-necessarily related side note, if the FS wants to close a trail, they should put signs on BOTH sides of the trail. Don’t want to point to a specific instance – in writing. Just saying.

So we got to the top and became separated. You can use a combination of access road and connecting trail to basically orbit the peak, and Ben and I were on opposite sides of that circle, looking for each other, for the better part of an hour.

We found each other, still near the peak, in time to watch the light of Flagstaff twinkle on as the Sun set on the far side of the mountains.

Humphrey’s Peak trail switches steeply back down to Fatman’s Loop, so we got to hike that trail twice. It’s not a 5 star experience in the dark.

A You Tube clip from the morning, when things still seemed promising:

Elden Spring 5 Star Hike #2

East Webber Trail

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

East Webber Trail #248

DATE HIKED: June 1, 2008

Companions: Ben and Max ( our Labrador).

START TIME:12:35pm

END TIME:6:10pm

TOTAL MILEAGE: 8.8 miles

One of the few guidebook hikes I took with the dog. These “working” hikes are complicated enough with the DVR and the GPS and such without adding 60 lbs of excitable dog on a leash. But this was a short hike, I was towards the end and feeling pretty confident, and I had Ben to help out if it came to that.

We got turned around a couple times past Camp Geronimo, which may have added to the mileage some.

We ate lunch on our way up at the second crossing, beside the big log. Max spent the whole time in the creek.

About 4 miles up, we encountered the signed junction with the “Rimview Trail” though we could not discern an actual trail. The sign indicated it went east and eventually hit the Highline around Poison Springs. Not on any maps I own, and we couldn’t pick it out from the ferns and deadwood.

My buddies at HikeAZ inform me that this trail was “blazed” by boy scouts, and actually goes nowhere. Thus, I left it out of the hike description.

I drank water straight from the first spring, and my insides did not explode. So that was good.

Second only to Horton Springs as far as face-of-the-Rim hikes go.

Horton Springs

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Part of our ongoing series of behind-the-hike profiles.

NOT part of the 10-day run. We’ll get back to that.

See my profile on Upper Tonto Creek Campground on Examiner.

DATE HIKED: 7 October 2007

COMPANIONS: Ben

START TIME 10:45am

END TIME: 5:15pm

ACTUAL MILES:9.5

This was the very first hike I undertook for the book, and while I didn’t get lost, I learned a lot anyway.

This hike takes the Derrick Trail #33 up the Mogollon Rim to the Highline Trail to the lush and reliable Horton Springs. It then takes the Horton Trail #285 back down to form a cool loop.

October 7th, it turned out, was the last day the campground was open. The caretaker was in the process of closing up for winter. He did take the time to show us the trailhead, which is still not well marked in the campground (at least, not compared to the giant sign that signifies the Horton Trail). It remains, though, across the road from the outhouse. It’s a six way intersection, but every corner has a campsite except the one with the trailhead.

If you do this as a loop, you’re far better off starting up the Derrick. The Highline is unmistakable as you come up the Derrick. You can, however, easily (and repeatedly, as I did years ago) miss the Derrick from the Highline. If you just want the easy up and back, stick to the Horton trail.

Ben had a tough journey. He ripped his pants crossing a log on the Derrick, and then fell into Horton Creek as we crossed it a few hundred yards down from the springs. It was cold enough that wet socks wer an issue. He made it down the Horton sans socks.

The entry in the guidebook on this hike is by far the most heavily edited couple of pages in the book. The original editor, Russell Helms, made me write multiple drafts trying to beat me into Menasha Ridge Style. (Menasha Ridge actually has a 60 page style manual they give to authors. I didn’t really read it.)

Among his many notes, I couldn’t just write “big trees”. I had to describe what kind of trees. I can now tell an Arizona Sycamore from a cottonwood on sight, but at the time, they were all either pine trees or other trees.

This site helped me suss out that mystery.

We also, after some negotiation, settled on the term “horse apples” to our mutual satisfaction.

Still one of my favorite hikes.

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.

Pine Mountain Wilderness

Friday, June 19th, 2009

After our dayhike to Tule Mesa, Ben and I drove to Salt Flat campground and spent the night.

The Prescott National Forest has vague criteria for what is and is not a fee area. Essentially, though, it boils down to water, toilets and some sort of full-time host. Salt Flat has none of this – so its free. It does have picnic tables and fire rings – though the Prescott is currently under fire restrictions.

We woke up in the morning, packed our bags, threw the balance into the vehicle, and crossed the dry wash to the Salt Flat TH, where the Nelson Trail begins.

The Nelson is the central trail for the Pine Mountain Wilderness – just about every other trai connectes with it a some point.

We soon reached the Nelson Place, which consists of remnant stone walls and huge trees (Arizona sycamore, cottonwood, oaks) growing from Nelson Springs. These springs are the only reliable fresh water in the area, inconveniently located less than a mile from the TH. In fact, we soon came upon a pair of backpackers on their way out who reported that all the other springs they came across had been dry.

Which is why I was lugging five liters of water.

All of which I would end up using.

From the Nelson, we went east on the Willow Springs Trail. Willow Springs seemed dry, but there were some puddles in the streambed. Ah well. That trail climbs up Willow Canyon until it meets the Verde Rim Trail – the other main trail in the wilderness. At that junction, we had climbed about a thousand feet in four miles.

Verde Rim features jaw-dropping views of the Verde Valley to the east – the good part where the Wild and Scenic portion flows in front of the Mazazatl Wilderness. On a clear day, such as that one, you can see Horshoe Lake far to the SE.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that it keeps climbing as you head south.

[If you go north, though, you will eventually come upon a jeep trail that will lead you to Cavalier Point – a plan that we rejected only after much debate.]

Soon, you start switching back up the slopes f Pine Mountain, coming within 500′ of the peak. At that point, the signed spur trail to the top is certainly worth the marginal extra exertion.

Past Pine Mountain, we began to wind down the ridge, crossing limestone-covered ridges, and fiannly descending into some pine forest, where we camped.

Having emtied our water, we found ourselves filling our bottles from a deep, but bug-infested puddle while mosquitoes filled themselves on us. Even though I got to use all my filter/chemical/boil methodology, the effort was not recreational, and we decided to opt out of  our optional second night.

Instead, we returned to the Nelson Trail, follwoing it through pine forest both burned-out and pristine, and back to our car.

Total estimated mileage: 14

Total hike time: 14 hours

Pine Mountain Wilderness is obscure and poorly documented compared to some other wilderness areas, but the trails are in good shape, and the journey is worth it – providing you come prepared.

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

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!