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Tag: Tonto National Forest (page 2 of 7)

Seven Springs Inner Loop

On Tuesday, Dec 19, I hiked a fifteen mile loop known as the Seven Springs Inner Loop.

Starting at the Cave Creek Trailhead, I went south on Cave Creek #4, south on Cottonwood #247, south and then west on Skunk Tank #246, south on Quien Sabe #250, east and then south on Skull Mesa #248, east and then north on Cottonwood #247, and, finally, north on Cave Creek #4. It took about 9 hours to complete. There were a few route finding challenges along the way, mostly on the Skull Mesa Trail, but also near the end when I got off track on the Cottonwood Trail.  These diversions added about a mile to what should have been only a fourteen mile loop.

Here’s a photo of the sign at the trailhead. Some of the distances on the map are incorrect.

An early morning photo from Cave Creek #4:

Horses and cows can’t go over, but hikers can…

Starting on Cottonwood Trail #247…

That stretch of #247 wasn’t very long; I soon arrived at the intersection with Skunk Tank #246:

It was a cold morning. There was frost both on the ground and in some of the plants too…

I was surprised to see this overturned stock tank.  It looks new; I’d guess that the rancher who brought it here will place it and turn it over at some point.

While hiking Skunk Tank #246, I realized that I had seen parts of it before while hiking with Nick one time.  This is the intersection with Quien Sabe #250:

Quien Sabe #250 was fairly easy to follow. There was only one point later on when I got slightly off track and needed to refer to my GPS watch to figure out how to get back on track.

This is the intersection with the Skull Mesa Trail.  I didn’t go to the top of the mesa. I found the route finding on this trail to be the most challenging of the day.  Shortly after leaving this intersection, I would follow what appeared to be a path only to find that I’d somehow gotten off route twenty yards or so later.  I’d consult my watch, get back on track, and would often find a cairn. I’d then proceed to get off track again, etc.

At one point, I found myself on the side of a hill wondering whether the trail followed the contour that I was on or whether it went downhill.  The going was tough in that spot, so I consulted the map on my phone to find that I should go downhill. I found a well trodden path at the bottom and wondered how I managed to miss it.

There was white rock in this area. This is one spot where I was able to make a short cut. According to the track shown on my GPS watch, the route went around this fence or through a gate or something. I found that there was a section of downed fence, so I simply walked over it and continued on.

The Skull Mesa Trail started heading downhill. The trail was easier to see, but had become quite loose. I needed both of my poles through this stretch to make it down safely. I paused, looked up and found an utterly amazing view to my right…

The views to the south were quite a lot different. Not as stunning, but certainly more colorful with red exposed soil…

I finally got to the end of the Skull Mesa Trail…

This section of the Cottonwood Trail is now part of the Maricopa Trail. As such, I thought that it would be easy sailing for a while…

…but it wasn’t, at least not on the trail.  The trail frequently crossed Cottonwood Creek and would then proceed in a fairly direct fashion through islands of brush and trees. This foliage clearly had no respect for those of us who want to use the trail, so there was a fair amount of bushwhacking required.  Also, another clue was the pink ribbons attached to the trees and brush that needed pruning. I went bushwhacked through two of these islands of foliage when I came up with a better idea – I’d simply follow the creek/wash.  That worked marvelously well. It added a bit of distance because it wasn’t as direct, but it was certainly a lot easier and quicker too.

The Cottonwood Trail eventually left Cottonwood creek, ascended to the top of a ridge and then made its way across Bronco Creek where I came across this intersection for the Bronco Creek Trail. I stayed on the Cottonwood Trail though…

The Cottonwood Trail mostly stayed high on the right (east) bank of  Bronco Creek. It eventually dumped me into the creek, but when it did so, checking my watch, I found that I should have somehow been high on the left (west) bank of the creek at that point.  It was very steep and vegetated at that point, so I walked northward in the creek bed.

But the nice thing was that I came across some fall colors along the way…

I stayed in the creek and eventually found a 247 marker on the bank. An indistinct trail led upwards. I followed it and eventually (with occasional bushwhacking) came to a much better trail which I assume is the rerouted trail #247.  I took this photo, below, shortly after that.  I didn’t take any other photos as it was getting dark and the light was not as good on the stretch that I had already traveled earlier in the day.  I only had one other route finding hiccup on trail #4 on my return.  The Cottonwood Trail #247 crosses Cave Creek just before intersecting Cave Creek Trail #4. I took a different path to get onto trail #4 than I had earlier in the day and subsequently went the wrong way for a short time.

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

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