Met up with Pam in Safford and together we drove out to Cluff Ranch.
Cluff Ranch area was hit hard with flooding that came down Ash Creek Canyon after the Frye Fire. I wanted to check on the status and condition of several spots.
On arrival we first checked out the lower ranch & pond #3, both areas looked good.
We then backtracked to Ash Creek road and headed up. To my surprise the first lower creek crossing & hill up was very 2wd doable with only a few minor obstacles. 1.5 miles further up the road and the drive ends suddenly at the first upper creek crossing which is now destroyed from the major flooding that ran down the mountain. I doubt this crossing will be repaired any time soon if ever.
We parked, loaded up and took off across the creek and up what little road here remained. At the second crossing we headed straight up Ash Creek Canyon now with a creek channel 'bout 5x wider and 3x deeper then before the flooding. All foliage has been swept out of the middle canyon and the creek bed down to bedrock, what was swept away has now been replaced with boulders & silt ..... but, it was Awesome hiking up!!!
This "new look" canyon now has many cool boulder formations, lot's of small waterfalls, scenic twists & turns carved up the canyon and the highlight being 2 nice 15-20 foot waterfalls towards the end. 1.5 miles up our trek ended at a huge chock stone in the narrowing canyon just below where the Ash Creek Trail #307 meets the creek.
We returned back down and onto a segment of road that brought us to the lower TH for the Ash Creek Trail #307. This whole area south of the road and up the mountain as far as I could see was a total burned over area. After now seeing the lower & upper condition of this most loved Pinaleno trail, I fear it may never be re-opened ..... FS has already put it in a minimum 3 year closure.
After the canyon, we drove back down to the ranch for another hike or two. First stop was back at Pond #3 where a few minutes after parking 2 young punks drove in. I think most of us have ran into these types - 2 young men, pickup truck, drunk, throwing their trash & beer cans out the window into the trees and letting everyone at the lake hear what was playing on their radio. I don't play well with people like this and after Pam let them have it vocally ..... I felt it best to move on. We then made a stop at the lower ranch for a hike on the Bat Barn Loop. Chose counter-clock with a visit to the main barn, the bat barn, Evans Pond & back around to the start. We saw deer, many birds including a kestrel and the shock of the day ..... off to the corner of the road we first smelt then found a full grown dead and rotting black bear. During the Frye Fire many bears came down off the mountain to the lower valley and I'm sure that is what happened here. How it died though is ?
After the Bat Barn we ended the day with a short hike up the "scenic overlook trail" outside the ranch for sunset before returning back to town.
Many questions on my mind were answered this trip, the hike up the canyon was fantastic, Cluff Ranch looked great & it was fun hiking and giving Pam s**t and getting it right back again ..... Thank You Pam for taking me, you skinny B!