This was my first time out since my ATV accident almost 4 weeks ago. I still wasn't up for any serious hiking, but I wanted to see some fall color... someplace where I didn't have to drive or walk very far. That's asking a lot when you live in the valley. I decided on Pinal Peak, since you can drive all the way to the top and I thought I could hike down the Six Shooter Trail for a little ways, figuring the best color would be at or near the top anyway.
74 miles didn't seem unreasonable and the first 63 took a little over an hour. The last 11 miles was almost 90 minutes of sheer driving hell, and that time doesn't include wrong turns and 2 stops just to get out of the truck and re-align my spine. I could have made it to Sedona in less time with less pain. Amping up the excitement on this one and a half lane ball buster was the fact that I had to share this space with a surprising number of vehicles coming from the other direction - a trick made even more difficult because I was driving an F-350 Dually (think: w-i-d-e). On mountainside roads like this, it's not the biggest vehicle that rules... it's the one on the inside that wins that game. Why do I always seem to be on the outside? Most of the intersections along 651 are poorly marked or not at all and some of the turns are so sharp that I couldn't make them. I finally turned off and parked near Ferndell Spring where there was a flat open space. I don't know if it was actually a parking lot (there weren't any signs), but I was getting out of that truck no matter what.
There were 4 separate 'trails' leading into the woods from this clearing and none of them were marked (surprise). There seems to be a general aversion to sign-age up here. The first trail I took ended soon at a cattle tank, which had running water piped directly from the spring. Back to the clearing to try again, the second trail was just a different route to the tank. Returning to 'Start' once more, I head back into the woods down the third trail and then I see the sign ahead for Ferndell #204. Thanks, but wouldn't a better place for this sign be - oh, I don't know - 30 feet back at the clearing where the trail actually starts and where someone might actually see it? Just sayin.
It was a short walk to where the Six Shooter Trail intersects and I turned to go down. The spring is just past that turn off, but I might have walked right by it if I hadn't heard the water running. Continuing down the Six Shooter was very steep and the thought of having to come back up the same way kept me from going too far. I was already hurting from the rough drive before I even got out of the truck, so my fun on this trip pretty much ended back in Globe. I was wearing out quickly and knowing I had to drive that road again inspired me to turn around after about a mile and hike - I mean, drag myself - back up.
*FYI: There are cow pies everywhere up here. I suspect that everything you walk on was a cow pie at one time. Just try to avoid the fresher ones.
I thought I'd drive the short distance to the peak just to see it before heading down, but I couldn't make the turn to go up there. So, I kept going straight to turn around at the Rec. Area and catch it coming from the other direction. No sooner had I accomplished that, did I see a sign for the peak indicating another turn I couldn't make. I went straight again, but there was no place to turn around this time, so I decided screw it.
But, this isn't the road I came in on, so where am I? After consulting my map, I realize that I'm on the alternate road back to 651, which is quite a bit longer, but I'm also noticing considerably smoother than all the others and I soon find out why... Is that somebody's house over there? And, that one? And, another? People LIVE up here?! That explains all the traffic, but I can't imagine having to drive this route to and from my home. A brutal 2 1/2 hour round trip just to go anywhere at all?! Yikes.
I'm thinking you probably don't want to buy a used car from anybody up there...
||Autumn Foliage Observation Substantial