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Tag: Tonto National Forest (page 1 of 6)

Minnow Canyon

Marilyn and I had a canyoneering adventure in Minnow Canyon on Thursday, the 19th.

The route is only 2.4 miles in length, but has some bushwhacking, down-climbing, and one rappel.  There were several spots where we lacked the skill and nerve to do the down climb. In those spots, I rigged a rappel, usually no more than 20 to 30 feet, so we could get past that point safely.

The long rappel near the end was a lot of fun. It was about 130 feet in length and an overhung section near the end, in which you can no longer touch the rock with either your hands or feet.  There’s a large boulder which can be used for an anchor at this point. There were already two slings in place, one of which still felt supple enough that I was willing to trust it.  I rerouted the second (and presumably older) one a bit so that they were equalized.  The one problem that I saw with the way that the anchor was rigged was that rapid links (rappel rings, though which you pass the rope) were set back too far from the edge.  Setting it up this way makes it easier and perhaps safer to get over the edge, but it creates a lot more friction when it comes time to pull the rope.  That proved to be the case; I had to pull very hard on the pull cord to get it to move.

It was dark when we got to Fish Creek, so we strapped on our headlamps so that we could finish the adventure.  There was water in the creek; I saw pools that appeared to be at least three feet deep.  I was able to find a way around these pools though.  The climb back to the road at the Fish Creek Bridge was challenging in the dark.

It turned out to be a 2.5 mile walk on the Apache Trail to get back to our vehicle. We left our headlamps on so that cars would see us.  It might have been safer doing this part in the dark because cars could definitely see us.

The hike starts on Forest Service Road 213. Hiking the road is easy, but there are still some pretty good views.

I left the road to photograph this view.  I got us lost for about half a mile while trying to get back to the road.

At this point, we had entered the wash which eventually led to Minnow Canyon. To get here, we had to descend a steep(ish) hill in the rain and then make our way through some cat’s claw. I was happy that I chose to wear a long sleeve shirt and long pants.

Bushwhacking was not over though…

Making our way further down the wash…

As the walls started to steeper, the way became easier for a time.

But after a while, the way down started to get steeper.

I found the striations in this wall interesting.

I took this photo when I was scouting a way down. We ended going down a short wall which had a nearby tree which helped us get down.

After taking this photo, the way got considerably harder. I was so focused on figuring out how to proceed down the canyon that I forgot to take pictures of our adventure.

I took a few more photos when we (finally) reached the 130 foot rappel. The larger boulder to the right is the anchor. The rope bag with 200 foot rope is in front of the boulder. If you look closely, you can see some purple and green webbing. The green webbing was in better shape. I used a carabiner block along with a pull cord for rope retrieval.

Marilyn down-climbs an easy section just before the rappel.

Marilyn, starting the rappel.

Marilyn is scoping out the upcoming steep section of the rappel. She was also trying to figure out whether or not she could get the rope on the other side of the tree. (She couldn’t.)

This was the view from the top of the rappel. After the rappel, there was still quite a lot of down climbing and I, again, forgot to take more pictures.

Sunday Hike – Deer Creek

Marilyn and I hiked about eight miles on the Deer Creek Trail (four out and four back).

I noticed a prickly pear cactus with a lot of really ripe fruit. As I looked closer, I noticed a rather messy spider web covering a lot of the plant. Looking closer still, I noticed a spider with what I guess is an egg sack on the bottom of one of the fruit. It wasn’t until I got home and started processing the image that I noticed what an unusual looking spider it is.

I think that this is the South Fork of Deer Creek.

At this point we had crossed over the creek / wash feeding into Deer Creek and were hiking along the fence line.

In this spot, I noticed some agave stalks on the hill.

Looking into Deer Creek and one of the mountain behind.

I thought at first that these were fruit on this scrub oak, but have since learned that they are oak galls which are sometimes called oak apples.  They are growths which are caused by the secretions of gall wasp larvae. In any case, the one in front was slightly larger than a golf ball.

These berries were smaller and a lot more abundant. I think that these are actual fruit instead of galls.

Marilyn, approaching an overhanging branch…

Another view of Deer Creek. We didn’t see any water in the creek.

This is Davey Gowan’s gravesite. Gowan was a Scottish immigrant and pioneer who discovered Tonto Natural Bridge while hiding from Apache. From the accounts that I read of him, he was buried very close to where he died while traveling from a cabin that he had in this area.

A picture of Gowan’s headstone:

After proceeding on from Gowan’s gravesite, we started out seeing one peak in the distance, the steep terrain eventually block our view of that peak, …

…revealing a different peak instead.

Eventually our views of that peak disappeared too; here’s another look at it just before I lost sight of it too.

At about four miles in, I came across the Mazatzal Wilderness sign.

And, only a short way beyond the sign, I encountered a large gully, water flow through which had washed away the trail.  I think that the trail continues in the slight gap in vegetation at the left of this photo, but am not certain as I saw a similar gap somewhat lower down to the right (which is not in this photo). Marilyn had stopped to wait for me about half a mile back, so I decided that this would be a good spot to turn around.

A view of one of the smaller washes I crossed on the way back to where Marilyn was waiting:

I didn’t notice the insects on this flower until I chimped the photo to make sure that I has the flower in focus.

We encountered these yellow flowers a short ways later.

Neither Marilyn nor I recalled seeing this gate before. If it was there on past hikes, we either didn’t go far enough or we’ve just don’t remember it.

This is the south fork of Deer Creek, just before it feeds into the main branch of Deer Creek.

Sunday Hike – See Canyon Trail #184

Marilyn and I hiked out and back on See Canyon Trail #184.  The round trip distance is only about seven miles, but it has an elevation gain of over 1800 feet.

Conditions were cool and wet when we started. Foliage encroaching upon the trail made our legs and feet wet. Brushing up against small trees or brush would cause localized rainfall as leaves shed their moisture.

There were no expansive views on this hike, only views of forest with occasional glimpses of the rim or sides of the canyon through the trees.  But, even so, there were some interesting things to see along the way.

Sunday Hike – Ballantine Trail

Marilyn and I hiked six miles on the Ballantine Trail / Pine Creek Loop…

I was fortunate enough to see two rattlesnakes on my way back!


Sunday Hike – Pine Creek Loop / Ballantine Trail

Sunday Hike – Rock Creek Trail – Mazatzals


Sunday Hike – Half Moon / Rock Creek Trails

I hiked about 12 miles round trip on the Half Moon and Rock Creek Trails beginning from the Barnhardt Trailhead.

Back in 2002 (or maybe 2001), I had first scouted these trails and then hiked them as part of a loop.

Later, after the Willow Fire of 2004, Marilyn, Nick, and I hiked the Half Moon Trail. It was miserable after the fire – some of our clothing was torn to shreds by catclaw and other thorny bushes.

I’ve become interested in perhaps doing a loop in this area again, so I decided to hike the Half Moon Trail to assess it’s condition. A lane of eight feet or wider has been cut through the thorny brush for most of the trail. The same is true for sections of the Rock Creek trail as well. I’ve posted a complete triplog at hikearizona.com.

Sunday Hike – Black Ridge Loop

Marilyn, Nick, Bob, and I hiked the Black Ridge Loop on Sunday…

Sunday Hike – Pine Creek Loop / Ballantine Trail

Friday Hike – Vineyard Trail

Bill, Bill, Jim, Walt, Bob, Ben, Linda, Marilyn, and I hiked ten miles on the Vineyard Trail. Part of AZT #20, the Vineyard Trail is very scenic with expansive views along its entire length. (The rest of AZT #20 continues to the west on Four Peaks Trail #130.) Though the trail runs for six miles, we turned around at the five mile point, which was the point at which we crossed a ridge, providing an excellent view of Roosevelt Dam.

This is the view from Mills Ridge Trailhead:

Even from early in the hike, we could see Roosevelt Lake:

Blackfoot Daisy:

Blackfoot Daisies:

A view with multiple flowers…

Mexican Poppy:

A small cactus (hedgehog?), blackfoot daisies, and deer vetch:

I think this is might be Desert Chicory:

A view to the south:

Walt, Jim, Bill, Bill, Bob, Marilyn, Linda, and Ben at the intersection with Forest Service Road 336.  The trail followed this road for perhaps a quarter mile in a northerly direction before splitting off from the road to the east.

A view of a prominent bluff with Roosevelt Lake behind it:

The Vineyard Trail was easy to follow.  There were cairns along the way, but we didn’t need them to find our way.  (The trickiest part was to know to follow FS Road 336 instead of crossing the road to what looked like a continuation of the trail.)

This might be Bluedick / Desert Hyancinth ?:

White Flower Borage?? :

The saguaros became more numerous as we lost some elevation:

A very healthy saguaro:

Linda identified this as an Arizona Mariposa Tulip:

More saguaros. At several points in during our hike, we noticed the sheer cliff in the distance (that’s on the horizon halfway across in this photo).  Ben thought it might be one of the cliffs near Tortilla Flats.

Blackfoot daisies sheltered by and agave:

Another view of Roosevelt Lake:

Ben examined the structure in this photo with his field glasses. He told us that the outer sections that he could see were corrugated metal. We don’t know it’s purpose, nor did we see any roads or trails leading to it.

A small section of the Apache Trail (AZ 88) can be seen in this photo:

Hedgehog cactus blossom:

Another view to the south – more of AZ 88 can be seen in this photo:

An even more expansive view of the Apache Trail. The Salt River is also visible in this photo.

Another view of Theodore Roosevelt Lake:

Jim spotted this plane flying low above the lake.  Someone on the hike identified it as a C-130.

Two views of the bridge and dam:

Bob and I hiked to a point where we got a better view of the dam. (The rest of the group finished their lunch while we were doing this.)

Dudleya / Rock Live-Forever (alongside a small cactus) – we saw these as we were hiking back to join the rest of the group.

Linda sent me a better photo of a Rock Live-Forever:

(Photo Credit: Linda Kalbach)

This is the “other” side of Four Peaks.  Brown’s Peak is the right-most peak in this photo.


This is the group hiking back…

Another view of the Salt River and the Apache Trail:

Lots of saguaros above the Salt River:

An insect on a Chicory blossom:

Deer Vetch (in front of a prickly pear cactus):


Mexican Poppies:

I got a photo of this small cactus just before the final ascent up to the trailhead:

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