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Tag: Tonto National Forest (page 3 of 9)

Friday Hike – Four Peaks Trail

Nora and I did and out-and-back hike on the Four Peaks Trail. We ended up hiking just under 12 miles w/ nearly 3200 feet of total ascent. One of our hike options was to go to the summit of Buckhorn Mountain, but the brush looked dense, so we decided to stick to the well groomed Four Peaks Trail.

I had hiked the Four Peaks Trail back in 2001 or 2002. It was quite a different experience. The area had (sort of) recently been devastated by forest fire and was kind of barren. The trail was difficult to follow – I had to look very carefully for cairns or occasional ribbons tied to mostly burned trees. Due to the fire, the foliage was fairly sparse. I think I did go to the top of Buckhorn Mountain that day – the Four Peaks Trail used to go over the top, but has now been rerouted to go around the mountain.

On our Friday hike, we found a very different trail to the one that I recalled. The trail surface is well beaten in and is not especially rocky or loose. It was exceptionally easy to follow – there was never any doubt about which way to go.

Views from Mills Ridge Trailhead…

On the trail now…

The trail went both below and above this small dryfall. We took the lower trail on the way out and the upper trail on the way back. We had thought at first that the lower trail is the preferred trail, but on the way back, we found that a great deal of care had been taken in the construction of steps leading down to the wash.

One of many views of Roosevelt Lake:

One of the few remaining tall trees. I would guess that, prior to the fire, there were a lot of this type of tree.

This is Camelback Peak 5663. Nora and I wondered about going to the summit. I looked it up on HAZ when I got home. BobP did it in 2013 and uploaded a track, but in his notes, he says, “If I were you…I’d choose a different route.” So maybe there is no good route.

Four Peaks; this is pretty close to where we turned around. We had several decent views of Four Peaks prior to this point, but this was the best.

Nora next to a burned and dead tree.

We encountered a group who are riding the Arizona Trail on their mules. We chatted with them for a while and then continued. These mules worked hard as the trip outward had quite a lot of elevation gain.

We saw very few flowers on our hike. Last year, about a week earlier, we had hiked the Vineyard Trail which also starts from Mills Ridge Trailhead. We saw lots of flowers last year.

This is a poppy. I also got a shot of a desert marigold, but was unhappy with the way it turned out (so I’m not posting it).

As we hiked back to the trailhead, I noticed a catchment just off the Vineyard Trail. I decided to hike down to take a look…

When we were finished with our hike, we became tourists and visited Theodore Roosevelt Dam, which was just down the road from where we had driven in on Forest Road 647 to get to the Mills Ridge Trailhead.

This is a photo of the bridge from the upper view area:

Sunday Hike – Y Bar Trail #44

For Sunday’s hike, I hiked the Y Bar Trail, which starts at the Barnhardt Trailhead. I hiked out a little over four miles and turned around at the saddle / ridge that separates Shake Tree Canyon from Y Bar Basin. I ended up with 8.6 miles and a total ascent of  2460 feet.

Friday Hike – Black Mesa

Heather, Ben, and I hiked from the Spur Cross Trailhead to Black Mesa on Friday. From there we hiked over to New River Mesa and then returned the way we came. Total distance was nearly 13 miles with over 3400 feet of ascent.

Black Mesa on the left; Sugarloaf Mountain on the right. Sugarloaf looks higher in this photo, but we were looking down on it when we got to the top of Black Mesa. Black Mesa is about 800 feet taller.

This is the Fortress Pinnacle next to Elephant Mountain.

We followed the Rondo Spring Trail, even though it seems like it’s going in the wrong direction.

Ben and Heather:

The grass was less of a problem than when we did this hike in December of 2014. Much of it was matted down as shown here. On the section before this spot, it had broken off and was fairly short allowing us to see the cairns.

For some reason there’s a yellow tire in a tree at the top of Black Mesa. I haven’t a clue about how it got there. We made it to the top of Black Mesa in good time and with such relative ease that I suggested going over to New River Mesa, which is the formation well beyond the tree. There’s a fairly narrow isthmus which connects the two mesas.

Looking at Skull Mesa from that connector strip of land between Black Mesa and New River Mesa:

Heather and Ben make their way down some rocks:

We didn’t see many flowers on our hike which is kind of unusual for Spring.

Looking back at Black Mesa, on the right, from New River Mesa. The formation to the left is Sugarloaf Mountain.

Another look at Skull Mesa, this time from New River Mesa:

We encountered this dead tree on our way back across Black Mesa.

Some of the ocotillos are in bloom:

We saw this young Mule Deer as we returned on the Elephant Mountain Trail. You can see its mom’s ears poking up above the bush on the right.

La Barge Battleship Saddle Loop

Marilyn, Linda, Ben, Marilyn, and Mona joined me for a twelve mile hike of the La Barge Battleship Saddle Loop. I modified the hike somewhat from the route on hikearizona.com; I turned the loop into more of a lollipop by hiking back on the Boulder Canyon Trail instead of coming back via Boulder Creek.

The hike starts at the Canyon Lake Marina and follows the Boulder Canyon Trail to the intersection with La Barge Canyon. From there, we entered La Barge Canyon and hiked up-canyon until the way narrowed and became blocked with boulders. There are some nice pools of water here; some of us stopped and ate lunch at this spot. We then backtracked slightly and hiked up to the saddle at the “stern” of Battleship Mountain. From there, we descended the other side of the ridge until we entered Boulder Creek. From there, we hiked back on the Boulder Canyon Trail (mostly through Boulder Creek) and found Marilyn waiting for us at the Indian Paint Mine ruins. (Marilyn wanted to limit her hiking to eight miles for the day.) We finished our hike by returning the way we came – on the Boulder Canyon Trail.

The route is shorter and has less elevation gain if you follow the route posted on HAZ.  However, I’m guessing that it is harder because the way back is through Boulder Creek; there is no trail for the two miles or so back.  It looks to me like it’s boulder hopping all the way.  For me, I think this would be more strenuous than hiking back on the Boulder Canyon Trail.

This is La Barge Creek, just above the point where it empties into Canyon Lake. It has water in it due to the backflow from Canyon Lake. While we did see some pools of water in La Barge Creek, it was mostly dry on the day we hiked it.

Battleship Mountain on the left and Weaver’s Needle more towards the center. I have a lot of photos of Battleship Mountain in this set of photos.

Yep, this is still Battleship Mountain.

Heading up La Barge Creek now, with Battleship Mountain on the right.

The bow of Battleship Mountain is impressively steep.

I haven’t been able to figure out the name of this peak, but it’s impressive looking from this vantage point while walking up La Barge Canyon.

This shot helps to explain why Battleship Mountain has its name. When approaching it on the Boulder Canyon Trail from the marina, it looks like it might be a blocky cube shaped mountain. But that’s not the case at all.  It’s a long mountain which forms one of the walls (for quite a distance) of La Barge Canyon.  I hope to get a photo of it someday from Geronimo Head which is taller than Battleship Mountain – it’s just across the canyon from Battleship Mountain.

Continuing up La Barge Canyon. Later on, we hiked to the top of the saddle at the right.


This is where La Barge Canyon starts to narrow.  There are several pools in this area.

Looking back down La Barge Canyon from the trail leading up to the saddle. Battleship Mountain is on the left and Geronimo Head is on the right.

Ben, Marilyn, Linda, and Mona:

A view of Weaver’s Needle from the saddle just aft of the “stern” of Battleship Mountain.

As we hiked down to Boulder Creek, we saw a saguaro with many twisted arms.

This is part of the ruins at the Indian Paint Mine where Marilyn was waiting for us.

A memorial for someone or something who (apparently) died while hiking on Feb 21, 2014. (It seems unlikely that it’s 1914 or 1814.)

One of the many rock formations that we saw while hiking back on the Boulder Canyon Trail.

Looking down at Canyon Lake:

Some last looks at Battleship Mountain and Weaver’s Needle just prior to losing sight of them on our descent back to the Marina…

Kevin and Marilyn:

Fish Creek Canyon

Nick, Ben, Marilyn, and I hiked perhaps a mile up Fish Creek Canyon from the bridge.  We had planned to go further, but were turned back by bees.

A view from the bridge before starting out:

Nick and Ben take a look at the bridge from the bottom just before heading up canyon.

A tiny waterfall:

There were a number of pools that we had to work around.

An especially green pool:

The piled up logs and smaller pieces of wood is evidence that the canyon occasionally carries a substantial amount of water.

Lunch break:

Looking up-canyon (while still on lunch break):


Friday Hike – Seven Springs to Spur Cross

On Friday, the 29th, Linda, DeAnn, Sandy, Sarah, and I hiked 12.5 miles from the Cave Creek Trailhead (in the Seven Springs Recreation Area) to the Spur Cross Trailhead. We stayed on Cave Creek Trail #4 for all but the last couple of miles.

Starting out at the Cave Creek Trailhead:

After crossing the road, the trail passed through a shaded area next to the creek:

Linda spotted this hollow fallen tree…


A crested saguaro; there were supposed to be two on this hike, but this is the only one we saw.

From back to front are DeAnn, Sandy, Linda, and Sarah:

We had to cross the creek several times. We managed to do it without getting too wet.

This is the intersection with the Skunk Tank Trail:

A view of the creek with New River Mesa in the distance:

We entered a lush and colorful area…

We saw this painted stone atop one of the cairns along the way:

I think this is Black Mesa in the distance:

Black Mesa on the left; New River Mesa on the right:

Sandy, DeAnn, Linda, and Sarah:

Skull Mesa:

I thought it would be cool to explore this wash / canyon below the trail – maybe some other day…

Crossing the creek again, though it’s dry at this point:

And again; this was the last crossing, I think.

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.

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