Ivy and the Dude
Overview: In 1990 the Dude Fire burned below the Mogollon Rim for 10 days and took 6 lives. At the time it was the worst fire in Arizona History consuming 44 square miles of mostly pine forest. In those 44 square miles was Bonita Creek and the small hamlet of Bonita Creek Estates. Today the area still displays the devastation of the fire, but also present are signs of nature's recovery. This short hike takes you along the Bonita to one of the springs that feeds it. The trail can also be used as a connector with the Highline Trail.
Hike: There is no formal trailhead. Park along the road where Bonita Creek Road crosses Bonita creek. This is an area of private property and homes, so take care not to block anyone's driveway. The trail begins along the western side of the creek.
Homes dot each side if the creek for the first half mile or so. Stay on the west side of the creek. A wooden foot bridge will take you to the east side of the creek not long after you leave the residential area. The creek bottom in this stretch is mostly open and sunny. Be CAREFUL of the poison ivy here. Long pants and long sleeves are advised.
Once beyond the residential area which was spared in the Dude Fire, you will be constantly surrounded by evidence of the fire's devastation. Fallen dead trees killed by the fire are the bones of the Dude. But you will also see glimpses of what the Bonita was like before the fire in small glades along the creek that were spared. Looking more closely, you can will see saplings springing up as part of nature's resurgence. Elk trails cross the creek often which gurgles soothingly in its race down the layered Coconino sandstone.
The at 1.6 miles the path briefly follows along an old unused jeep trail and then intersects the Highline Trail. There is no signage. You will simply see the Highline descending into the Bonita's modest canyon and notice the diamond shaped trail markers common to the Highline.
Follow the Highline east and cross the Bonita. About 100 feet after crossing look for a faint foot trail veering off north. Follow this trail less than a 1,000 feet to find a small spring that feeds the Bonita. There are other springs farther north along the creek for those who care to bushwack on up.
There are much prettier hikes in this magical area where the Sonoran below gives way to Colorado Plateau above. But the most interesting thing about this hike is the insight into the nature's never ending rebalancing act. As humans we see and mourn the loss and devastation of the Dude Fire. With minimal water, burned areas are slow to recover. Slow in our perception anyway, but in geologic time the recovery is merely an eye blink. The ash of the fire is joined with the decay of the dead wood left behind to ample provide nutrients for the many young trees you see. The now clear areas have grass for elk and deer browse. In nature every loss is an opportunity for another. In truth nothing is lost, merely transformed and repurposed. Each natural thing is created and then reduced to the elements from which it was formed and those elements remixed and joined to form another and another ad infinitum. So while the devastation of the Dude Fire saddens us, those who truly understand and appreciate nature must also rejoice in the resurgence and resiliency also on display. The Bonita gives you ample opportunity for both. Just watch out for the ivy.
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.