Seeking another day away from the heat of the valley we set out early for the Mogollon Rim. The trip was pretty much uneventful... slow meandering drive through the round-abouts in Payson, a quick stop for gas in Strawberry (cheaper than back in Mesa!), hang a left onto Martha Lake Road, drive past the hordes of campers (roughing it with their satellite dishes lined up in a row) at Clint's Well, the a turn south just past Happy Jack's and we were on the dirt road headed toward the trail head. (Ok so it was mostly slimy mud & clay after a hard overnight rain)
Taking our time driving around the mudholes we weren't paying much attention to anything other than the road when all of a sudden there's a herd of elk barreling across the road in front of us.
Quick! Get the cameras out! Dang!
Over half the herd is across before I could lean out of the car for the first photo. Realizing shots from the car just weren't going to cut it I just stopped and got out. But by that time a zoom was needed to catch the stragglers, and of course I had forgotten the new camcorder in the car so by time I had it in hand it was only with a full-zoom (and plenty of wiggling in the attempt to center the herd in the shot) that I was able to get the parting shots. Oh well, now that we're awake hopefully we'll be ready for the next herd. Unfortunately five minutes farther along the next herd was already well past the road. It would have been nice to see them cross as there was a large antelope herd mixed in. The antelope were so fast I couldn't even get a zoomed shot of them before they disappeared over the hill. That was it for the action shots so now it's time for the hike.
Initially we drove past the Tramway/Maxwell intersection toward Tramway TH, but then we realized by doing the loop there was no point in driving farther as we'd still have to return to the car, wherever we left it. So we drove back to the intersection and set off on foot from there. Now this was what we sought!
A nice leisurely stroll with the clean, crisp air you get after a hard overnight rain. Nice and peaceful... no sounds of man's infernal machines to intrude so it was easy to make out the unique sounds of individual birds, creatures and the wind rustling through the pines... ahhh! Truly soaking it in and enjoying God's wonderful creation.
Soon enough we got to the trail head and the easy stroll turned into the labor of a steep descent on a still-damp trail. Labor or not, it felt great with temps in the mid-70's and another awesome view with each turn of the trail. About a third of the way down we heard loud chirping from across the canyon, and remembering what the last previous group wrote in the TH log about spending hours watching an eagle, we figured the noise was from eaglets being fed. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we looked, panning cameras and camcorder back and forth at full zoom on the cliffs across the canyon, alas we saw nothing. However, by taking new videos as we descended and listening carefully to the later we could make out the approximate height up the cliffs they were, and most likely around one outcrop that we would be able to see around unless we had continue west once we hit the creek. We thought of doing just that, but high water after the overnight rain put a damper on that plan and we continued upstream toward the lower terminus of the Maxwell Trail.
Once in and around the creek itself we saw the many crawdads we were told to expect from previous triplogs as well as plenty of small fish and only one edible size trout of some kind I believe. (see photo set) The GPS track we were following took us back and forth across the creek, sometimes it was mandatory, other times it didn't matter and we could cross at a different point. All the way through we had been able to get nothing more than our feet wet (Teva's were the footwear of choice) on each crossing. But when we came to the Maxwell Trail for our return climb there was no option but to cross in deeper water.
With some careful scouting we found what appeared to be the shallowest spot and thought it would only be thigh-deep. But whether is was the bending of the light in the water or simply not wanting to believe it was deeper, we found it WAS in fact deeper.
No two ways about it, with the creek still up from overnight rains we were going to get wet up to our waist. So we crossed and lived with the consequences of wet, dripping pants for most of the climb. I didn't realize it's carrying case was almost submerged during the crossing so it was a good thing I had my new camcorder in a plastic bag.
[Camera side note:]
Although it didn't get wet and I used it a few times later in the hike, when I got home, removed the card, copied the files off and reinserted the card, the LCD showed all the menus but the screen was blank. Only 3 uses before it failed! After years of owning a number of Canons that's completely unexpected. After having it checked out, it appears the CCD chip may have come loose as there was a sound like something loose inside. I had the choice to simply return it, swap it for something else or have it sent in for repair. I made the decision to simply return it based on jerky vidoes when panning. Whether the jerky videos had anything to do with the chip possibly being loose from the start or just the way the camcorder processes the video, I wasn't going to waste waiting weeks or more to find out.
Now for the climb up the Maxwell Trail... It isn't quite as steep as the Tramway Trail, yet it still didn't seem as hard as expected. (For me anyway... Tracey was huffing and puffing so I guess it wasn't that easy) Once we got to the top, rather than follow the the winding road all the way back, we just made a bee-line for the car. Ok, not quite a bee-line due to avoiding a deep ravine along the way, but it was kind of fun picking the best route.
Shortly after we began the drive out it started to rain and by time we hit the paved road it was raining harder. Good thing, as it helped wash the mud off the car that was picked up on the trip in and out.
I posted 35 photos here on HAZ and posted the full set of 130 here:
Representative video of the hike is here:
In short, this was one great hike!