The mission was to make an amphibious landing at the base of Goat Mountain, proceed north to Buckhorn Ridge, drop into Bronco Canyon, check a few springs, and then bag Buckhorn Mountain proper.
Goat Mountain is an interesting area, having both scenic beauty and historical significance. According to local resident, Tad, (short for Tadpole) behind Goat Mountain is an old thoroughfare used by pioneers and Indians back in the day. While Tad was very inebriated while we spoke, there might be some truth to his story, as I found remnants of an old trail, a stone wall, and some excellent petroglyphs.
The flat east of Goat Mountain could have been an Apache stronghold during the Indian wars; perfect for hiding stolen horses right under the nose of passing U.S cavalrymen. The place is easily defended: sheer cliffs of Goat Mountain to the west, and boulder fields to the north and south. In any event, it has some cool petroglyphs and much to explore.
From there I headed up Buckhorn Ridge, stopping to take a few pics at Seven Cottonwoods Spring along the way. The ridge is quite the hump, rising 4000' in elevation over two miles. There are several routes one can take up Buckhorn Mountain, but I do like my southern route the best. For one thing, it gives the mountain the respect that it deserves, hiking it from the bottom to the top, taking all the punishment that it can dish up at you. I am a purist when it comes to peak bagging: the mountain gets the victory unless it is traversed fully, from base to summit. Anything less is cheating; and deserving of a Barry Bonds, steroid-era asterisk in the HAZ Hall of Fame.
Hiking the ridge was not overly difficult; it has a steady climb and few rocks to scramble over; the Manzanita is light, except for the top two miles where it will try to put some hurt on you. I had the peak nearly bagged on day one but opted to drop back down into Bronco Creek to check some springs. One of them was pretty good, though I doubt it will run through the summer like some of the great ones near the Peaks. Bronco Creek runs most of the upper two miles, having some nice ash and oak trees along its course. I ended up camping at the creek for the night, bedding on a nice area of dried moss.
The wildlife at this corner of the Three Bar Wildlife Area was disappointing: I did not see a single deer, big horn, or javalina over the 18 mile hike; and there were few tracks to be found. The absence of tracks told me all I needed to know...and so did the bones. Bleached bones of dead deer litter the ridge-line, lying in great heaps in some areas; testament to the carnage that happened there, the extirpation of a once flourishing deer population. In contrast, the deer herds within the Walnut Canyon fenced enclosure, (the fence keeps predators out) just a few miles distant, are thriving.
The disappearance of the deer in the 3 Bar is a mystery: some people blame it on the 'drought', some say that the deer fell victim to alien abductions, and others blame it on predatory leprechauns.... Me, I say it was the lions. There were lion tracks everywhere, made by several individuals, up and down the ridge. Let us hope that the lions do not run out of deer completely, lest they start eating Boy Scouts and hikers instead.
Bagged Buckhorn Peak around 11 AM, paid my respects, and then headed back down the mountain. The descent was much easier than the way up, arriving at the lake around 5:30 PM. The last stop was at the Apache Lake Resort bar, where I chatted up the locals and ate dinner. It was not long before I bragged: "six hours ago I was standing on the top of that mountain over yonder". This impressed no one. In fact, they did not believe me, which I did not mind, as those are my favorite stories to tell.
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|This spring looks to run through the summer. It is not high flow and you might have to do some digging to get at it. Better water to be had at the lake, or walk up Ash Creek.|