Waterfalls in forest of pine
Out-n-back, 2.8 miles down to KP North Fork then back up. Also available is the full 9.0 mile KP Trail #70.
The hike begins in a sub-alpine meadow with black and white butterflies clinging to Grayhead Coneflowers next to a rivulet. The forest then begins to draw you in with beautiful pine trees saluting the sky. The path, softened by a carpet of pine needles, follows the rim for about a half mile before descending to rejoin the water which has now grown to a small stream. Wildflowers of all kinds, including Queen Anne's Lace, Indian Paintbrush, Showy Daisy, Star Thistle, and a surprising variety of mushrooms abound. There is also quite a bit of moss and lichen and some maidenhair fern. The forest of green is punctuated with small stands of majestic Aspen and Douglas firs to add dazzling white and red to the color palette. We were surprised at the amount of trail maintenance that had recently occurred. A lot of deadfall had been cleared from the path by chainsaw and axe. At one point, though, a fallen tree was so large (about 3 1/2 feet in diameter) that the trail had been made to detour around the roots. Other deadfall was left in place as a means to cross the stream or to keep the forest floor as natural as possible.
As you proceed along the path there are numerous stream crossings but at this time of year (unless the monsoon hits which it did as this photo taken at 2:00 in the afternoon shows!) you needn't get soaked. Here and there are waterfalls which get progressively larger the deeper in you get until you finally meet the KP North Fork (#93) trail (this is right after 3 descending switchbacks) where the confluence of two streams creates beautiful 10+ foot waterfalls. If you proceed a little farther along the KP #70 trail, toward Blue River, you will see below you, next to a series of small waterfalls, a very special spot with a fire ring that should make for great camping! There is also a small fire pit nearby beneath an overhanging rock. The music from the falls should lull you to sleep. (NOTE: As always, consider the weather and possible flooding when choosing a campsite!)
After having encountered two gentle showers on the way in, we headed back up the trail as the roar of the thunder indicated to us that the monsoons were upon us. We were very soaked as we made our way back to the campground from the trailhead and very excited to jump in the car, add some heat, and dry out. Our fingers had gone numb and the GPS went on strike (shut itself down) due to the weather.
We finally broke camp when the rain let up somewhat and decided to head back home to Phoenix via US 191 south in the hopes that we could outrun the storm. This however became a real adventure in and of itself. The speed limit went from 30 mph to 25 mph and then to our amazement 15 mph. After about 20 miles, the speed limit became 10 mph for 30 miles or so. No guardrails here, thank you very much. We did finally outrun the storm, but it took 3 hours to drive the first 60 miles toward home. Lesson here: If you're heading back to Globe, do NOT take the southern route!
For those that might be interested in the Wolf Recovery Program, the Cienega area is the third largest area where wolves have been tracked since their release 3 years ago. Unfortunately, we didn't spot any on this trip.
NOTE: Our original intention (which we ruled out due to the weather) was to proceed from the junction of KP #70 and KP #93 onward along KP #70 to the junction with #71 Blue Lookout trail, hike trail #71 south (with an intermediate hike up to the Blue Lookout via #321 Blue Cabin trail) to an unidentified trail which winds back and forth across FR 84 which leads west and close to the Cienega campsite. Be sure to check your topo maps on this one!
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.