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Verde River Trail #11, AZ

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Guide 33 Triplogs  4 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
3.6 of 5 by 8
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 31 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,084 feet
Elevation Gain 3,805 feet
Accumulated Gain 6,720 feet
Avg Time One Way 18 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 53.39
Interest Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Will recalculate on button tap!
25  2019-03-02
Horseshoe dam - Sheep Bridge runoff
7  2018-12-08
51  2018-12-05
Upper Mazatzal Loop
29  2018-11-11
Red Crk - Wet Btm - Highwater - Verde 11
6  2017-12-09
Sheep Bridge
15  2017-11-05
Verde River / Red Creek
20  2017-06-24
Verde River / Deadman Mesa
18  2017-04-15
Horseshoe Dam to Sheepbridge
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author jacobemerick
author avatar Guides 31
Routes 71
Photos 795
Trips 96 map ( 1,037 miles )
Age 34 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Oct, Nov, Feb, Mar
Sun  6:11am - 6:31pm
Official Route
9 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
A Wild and Scenic Ride
by jacobemerick

The Verde River Trail is, well, a trail that follows the Verde River, starting at Sheep Bridge and heading north to East Verde before climbing up Cedar Bench to Twin Buttes Trailhead. It can be used by adventurous waterfolk or on a few different hikes, including Midnight Mesa Loop, Highwater - Verde, or Twin Buttes to River. Due to the length and difficult shuttle it would be challenging to do a thru-hike of this entire route at once.

Depending on which segment of this trail you are planning to visit, multiple fords of the Verde River may be required. Check the water gauges (09508500 VERDE RVR BLW TANGLE CREEK, ABV HORSESHOE DAM is a good one to reference) and be aware of your capabilities in a rocky, fast-flowing situation.

Based on the length of this route, and the likely chance that most hikers are only interested in incorporating segments in their plans, this description is broken into four pieces: Sheep Bridge -> Red Creek, Red Creek -> Highwater Junction, Highwater -> East Verde, East Verde -> Twin Buttes. Scroll as necessary.

Sheep Bridge -> Red Creek, 8.5 miles
Sheep Bridge is an oasis at the end of a dull, dusty drive along rough roads. There are tall sycamores growing around the banks of a wide, languid Verde River, which is perfect to splash around in during hot summer days. Dozens of parking spots make for ample camping and and a small hot spring make for an appealing overnight stay. For the interest of the trail there is a foot bridge, a historic Sheep Bridge even, high above the water that provides an easy and scenic crossing.

Once across the river the trail swings between some rocky outcroppings and heads east for a short distance, ducking under mesquite trees and following the grassy banks of the wide, and usually dry, Horse Creek. At 0.25 miles the path crosses this creek and begins its northward journey, quickly passing the junction with Willow Springs Trail, and then crossing a lusher Sycamore Creek at 0.5 miles. Then it climbs to meet the junction with Dutchman Grave Trail shortly after. That's a lot features and potential turn-offs in a short amount of distance.

Things calm down after the Dutchman Grave Junction. The tread continues north, sweeping along the hillside, offering good views of the Verde River below and Sheep Bridge behind. At 1.6 miles a sign for the wilderness boundary shows up, just as the route descends into Dry Wash in a rather beautiful manner. Unfortunately, once in Dry Wash, the area dries up, and the vegetation is relatively humble. Ahead the White Bluffs beckon, and offer a climb out of the wash and onto a low ridge at 2.6 miles, with great eastern views of the Mazatzal mountains.

The next few miles may drag. The surrounding desert is pretty enough, and the tread is well-defined, but it swings away from the river and is usually nestled between surrounding hills, and there are only numerous crossings of shallow washes to break things up. To pass the time one could watch Tangle Peak in the west slowly pass by like a giant milestone on the horizon. At 7 miles a shockingly lush Wet Bottom Creek makes an appearance, complete with two nice campsites, one on each bank. From here the trail climbs a hot, dry tributary for less than a mile and meets up with Wet Bottom Trail before cutting west, downhill to the river, towards Red Creek Rapids.

Once the tread and cairns hit the riverbank they both disappear. This is a frequent behavior of Verde River Trail - only expect a trail to follow when you're not next to the actual river. Find a way across the rocky bed towards the sycamores, aiming for the rapids, which is the easiest place to cross. At 200fps I've found this area to be knee deep, though the underfoot rocks and swift water make it a difficult crossing.

Red Creek -> Highwater Junction, 6.5 miles
There are a few paths winding near the confluence of Red Creek, including one that leads up to an old metal corral and airstrip. To take the Verde River Trail further north keep an eye on the north bank of Red Creek, looking for a rocky overflow, and an ancient, gated two-track heading up the bank. There is a single telephone pole marking this spot if the GPS coordinates aren't enough. From the gate either stick to the two-track or a short shortcut singletrack to get started.

The first few miles on this side follow the rocky two-track, which swings through a few drainages, passes a tank, and even takes advantage of a sandy-bottom wash for a few hundred yards. This section is easy to follow and offers good views east of the nearby Table Mountain and Wet Bottom Mesa across the river. At 2.5 miles from Red Creek Rapids (11 total) the track drops into an unnamed wash and ends, leaving the rest of this section on faint singletrack.

Once the confusing, overgrown wash is navigated, the trail begins a climb up to a highpoint saddle across from Mule Shoe Bend. While the 300' climb may not be the most enjoyable, the track is cut nicely into the hill, providing some definition to follow. At 3.5 miles (12 total) the saddle is reached, with fantastic views over the river and cliffs below. The next mile is a slow, steady drop over the base of Canoe Mesa's bend, with a few steep drainages to navigate around. Then there is a sudden drop down the rocky cliff, marked at the bottom by a steel pole, a meander over to the riverbank and another telephone pole, and then the trail 'ends' as the rocky riverbed takes over at 4.8 miles (13.3 total).

It is easiest to cross the river a short distance downstream of the pole, as the river splits around two islands and is relatively shallow. Find a clearing through the reeds and flood overflow, or make one, and venture carefully across. With 200fps I've found the deepest to be thigh-high, though I did choose to avoid the waterfall at the base of one of the islands, which would be shallower and more challenging. This crossing is more difficult than Red Creek Rapids with the thick brush, no single clear way across, and more remote location.

Back on the eastern bank there are a few cairns, close to the bend, that lead to a faint path onto and along the riverside ridge. A rusty wire fence could act as a guardrail for finding the track, as it follows this for a short distance. The trail turns north and sticks close to the top of the river bank, with great views along the Verde, and plenty of grass and cactus eating up the cairns. At 6.5 miles a humble signpost shows up to mark the junction with Highwater Trail, which is a better defined trail and could serve as an alternate route that avoids either of the river crossings.

Highwater -> East Verde, 5.5 miles
North of the Highwater Trail junction, Verde River Trail has good tread to follow, especially compared to the last few miles. A few hundred yards along the top of the ridge and it plunges back down to the river over a rocky switchback, and then big cairns and easy trail lead into a riparian paradise. It doesn't last long, though, and at 0.6 miles from Highwater (15.7 total) the route swings up a shallow hillside and travels through desert, with the enticing river a short distance below.

At 1.1 miles (16.2 total) there is a steep drop into an unnamed creek, followed by some more hillside walking with a few more trees, and then the route enters Goat Camp Canyon. This wash is confusing to navigate, as it forks near the trail crossing, and there is a lot of loose rock and gravel to traverse. Keep a focus on moving north, even as the terrain winds, and make sure to exit the actual creek and not get turned around in one of the forks. Beyond the canyon there is a long section of flat walking and then, at 2.8 miles (17.9 total), a short climb right before another unnamed creek. This one has some overgrowth to work through and is above Red Wall Rapids.

The route slinks back to the river here, under tall trees, though it may be more difficult to follow than the earlier riparian sections. Tread becomes more defined after it hops back up on the hill. A few shallow drainages show up and then, at 4 miles (19.1 total), a sharp 200' climb shows up to cut a bend off. Big rocks and grass make the going difficult, even on top of the climb, when things flatten out. Once the bend is passed the tread slides along a hillside, dropping slowly through red rock and junipers, crosses a patch of bare white rock, and then sharply drops back next to the river, finishing the rest of the journey to the East Verde River confluence under lush green trees.

East Verde -> Twin Buttes, 10.5 miles
Crossing the East Verde River should be trivial after the downstream crossings, if you've dealt with those. It is usually shallow enough to skip across on stepping-stones. The trail picks up on north side and continues a pleasant journey under tall trees, with only a few washes and questionable spots to navigate. Enjoy the flat walking while it lasts. At 0.7 miles (21.1 total) a rocky drainage shows up and the cuts in, then begins a long climb that does not let up.

The first climb is 650' over 0.8 miles on an old two-track that is well-defined, rocky, and offers great views, which makes a good excuse to stop and catch your breath multiple times. It mostly travels a narrow ridge and crests at a small saddle, which also marks the junction with Deadman Mesa Trail. Next climb begins to mellow out, 1000' over 1.6 miles east, and it offers good views of Ike's Backbone before it swings along Bee Tree Tanks to a narrow ridge. Another 500' over 1.5 miles and the trail is finally on top of Cedar Bench, which had those great big white cliffs that were so prominent from the river below, although the climb isn't done yet.

During these hauls the vegetation changed little, the grass growing thicker and the junipers looking healthier, and the trail is mostly along an old two-track. Underfoot it is rocky and loose, making both uphill and downhill a cautious endeavor. As the grade mellows and the trees grow in size there are less big views, although there are still awesome vistas to be had from open meadows. At 6.3 miles from East Verde River (26.7 total) there is a little drop into Camp Gulch, one of the few downhill sections, with good shade and rest options.

Camp Gulch also marks the edge of Cedar Bench, and from here the trail turns northeast on Road Ridge, gaining a more leisurely 1200' on the way to the trailhead. Along the way it passes a few tanks and offers some southern views. At 9.2 miles (29.6 total) the wilderness boundary shows up, and another mile or so after that Twin Buttes Trailhead is located. However, the last half mile of FR 194 to this trailhead is pretty rugged, so your ride out may be a short distance below, which will be a welcome relief after all the uphill.

Water Sources
Verde River is the most obvious water source for much of the walk, provided you filter it properly. The trail also crosses over Sycamore Creek, Wet Bottom Creek, and East Verde River, and then passes a few cattle tanks on the climb out to Twin Buttes.

Sheep Bridge is the most established, and trafficked, campsite along the trail. There are also sites located at Wet Bottom Creek, Red Creek (the second busiest site, due to ORV access), above Red Wall Rapids, and near East Verde River. Plenty of less established flat pads are scattered throughout.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2018-12-31 jacobemerick

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    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.

    Most recent of 16 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Verde River Trail #11
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Verde River / Red Creek
    Last time I tried this area I got two flat tires on Lockwood Mesa. This time I went slower and reached FR 16 in 3 hrs (from south Gilbert). Glad I pulled a fresh audiobook beforehand.

    FR 269
    Not terrible for a road walk. Probably could have driven down it, was no worse than FR 24 with how dry it is, though that would have ruined my planned loop. Tangle Creek crossings and watching the sun light up East Cedar helped pass the time. Only two vehicles to deal with, quiet morning. Last three miles dragged, couldn't wait to get to the bridge. Saw a handful of tents along the river.

    Verde River #11
    Tons of prints and wide trail to Sycamore Creek, and then nothing. As expected, this (and almost every other) wash meant hunting for a trail on the other bank, because the Mazzies don't believe in straightforward crossings. Was really impressed by the scenery at the wilderness boundary, with the verde Verde supporting lush trees, White Bluffs just coming in view, and dry desert filling in the gaps. Trail got faint in Dry Wash, ended up just aiming for the bluffs and picking it back up there. Good views from atop the bluffs. Then things just kinda rolled on until Wet Bottom Creek, which was pretty yet quite dry, and then the Wet Bottom Trail junction, when it was time to headed down to the river. Trail gives up there so I rock-hopped to Red Creek Rapids, hung my boots around my neck, and crossed in thigh-deep current. It was surprisingly strong.

    Red Creek
    Got buzzed by a landing plane (so cool) while eating a luxuriously slow lunch and rehydrating. Eventually got my feet back under me and started up Red Creek. I'm not sure if I enjoyed this part of the hike - it was ridiculously pretty, and I kept tripping over my jaw, yet I was running low on energy and the frequent water crossing / climbing up on banks was tedious at best. Maybe two weeks for color, still a lot of green. After leaving the creek it was four dusty miles back to the van just so I could start the slow drive back in evening light.

    Another quiet day. After leaving Sheep Bridge there was only the plane to break the solitude.

    Mazatzal Miles: 172.3/275 (63%)

    Scattered yellow, mostly in Tangle. 99% green in Red Creek.
    Verde River Trail #11
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    Verde River / Deadman Mesa
    With most of the Mazatzal trails south and east of Chilson Camp knocked out I figured it was time to look in the other direction. Can't get much further northwest than Deadman Mesa #17.

    Parked near the powerlines and AZT along 194 and walked the 2.7 miles to Twin Buttes trailhead in the pre-dawn. Almost chilly out. This would be the last time I'd be almost chilly for a long time.

    Verde River #11
    As others have stated, this trail is rocky. Rocks that rock, rocks that roll, rocks that drop you on your pumpkin and lol. This trail has a lot more than that, though. The views are ridiculously good, starting with the north side of the Mazatzal Mountains and then turning towards Verde / Hardscrabble. There are some genuinely good sections, where the rolly rocks ease up and you can gaze around without watching your step. Plus it's amazing that this is still part of the Mazatzal Wilderness: no wildfire scars, very different terrain compared to the mountainous south, and plenty of shade-giving vegetation. Only had to check GPS once or twice on some faint sections, otherwise this was a breeze to travel. Made it to the trail junction in four hours feeling pretty darn good.

    Deadman Mesa #17
    Trail sign appears to be gone. Few big cairns marked the junction and a few charred pieces of wood were strewn around, that's it. The cairns marking the start of Deadman Mesa were tiny and obscured by the foxtails - if it wasn't for recent foot traffic pressing some of the vegetation down it would have been annoying to stay on track. Cairns and tracks seemed to give up about 50' above Fossil Creek so I just picked a descent that looked the most painful and rolled down.

    Now things get fun. According to the topo maps there are eight crossings to deal with. One of my sandals had fallen off my pack somewhere on the Verde (d'oh! I'll be back on this trail in the fall and will search for it then, until then I'm sorry) so I would either have to do the crossings dry or barefoot. Kept to the track and crossed over some rocks and was faced with an impassable wall of basalt, so I had to backtrack and cross back over, stay on the east bank, and then cross further upstream.

    So went the next two miles. I only crossed when I was forced to, usually barefoot and then waiting for feet to dry before hiking a short distance and then re-crossing, making slow and tedious time. Ended up doing six total, might have gotten away w/ only four but the brush got ridiculous. Speaking of, the banks were painful and thorny and had recent flood damage. I only found cairns once where the trail avoided a large swing in the creek - otherwise this section is all bushwhacking. It took me almost five hours to walk those two miles. I'm not a big fan of Fossil Creek right now.

    Found where the trail starts the climb up the mesa (someone tagged a few tiny cairns and branches to help with the first hundred feet, so there's that) and camped nearby. Had been tempted to turn this into a dayhike but the heat (well over a hundred now) and the difficult last few miles had taken the oomph right out of me. Napped, swam, drank water, drank some more water, napped again, and eventually drifted off to sleep a bit after sunset. Overnight lows never dropped below 85 (ugh) and a had 2am skunk visitor (yay) so I didn't get much sleep.

    Started the climb before sunrise and made it to the basalt fins with the first light. Trail was well-marked and easy to follow, though I suspect downhill would be a bit crumbly and tedious. Plenty of cairns and good tread, especially for being this remote. Route-finding on the mesa was only slightly tougher with thicker vegetation, but a two-track showed up after a mile. Next mile was on-and-off the two-track, then the trail 'ended' (I think, again there were no signs). Then I 'just' followed the road for five miles and 1300' and powerlines for four and a Hardscrabble crossing.

    Another quiet day in the Mazzies. Didn't see a single person on trail or on the road sections.

    Mazatzal Miles: 143.1/275 (52%) :y:
    Verde River Trail #11
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Red Creek - Western Verde River Trail
    The Red Creek / Western Verde River trail been on my must do list for a while. I had a day off so off I went.

    I started at the FR269/FR18 intersection.
    Red Creek is a cool place. The creek reminds me of rural Ohio. It was a treat to be walking in the tall trees.

    The gate at the corral is open. I’m not sure if it’s related or not, but there was shotgun shells by the open gate. There’s a newer fence blocking an old jeep road that leads to the Alkali seep.
    I didn't find the pilot log book/ammo case. I think the airport is closed for maintenance.

    Next I hiked the western side of the Verde River trail. The trail is an old jeep road for the first 2+ miles. Then it’s a trail that crosses many washes/drainages. I did a quick side trip to the top of Mule Shoe Bend Mesa ( I made this name up) for views of the Verde.
    The northern section of the Verde River trail is a mess. The trail is faint and the cairns are scarce. It seems like the forest service gave up by the Pete’s Cabin Mesa crossing. They just put up a ~20 foot pole and let you figure out the rest.

    The moon didn't come until I was near the jeep. So much for a moon light hike :cry: . The temps were perfect. With a 77degree forecast, I was expecting it to be warm. The only time it felt warm was when I was climbing the “Mule Shoe Bend Mesa”

    I didn't see or hear another person the entire day. I had the entire place to myself!
    Verde River Trail #11
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    The idea for this trek came from reading the blog of someone who found some pretty nice cliff-dwellings in area of the northwestern Maztzals called the Gorge, the details were vague and it was not clear whether they were found along the East Verde or in one of the side canyons leading into the Gorge. So I made a big loop in route manager utilizing Saddle Ridge Trail #14, the Gorge the East Verde, and Verde River Trail #11. I showed the loop to a couple of HAZers and was a little disappointed to find out someone had already pretty much did the same loop. I thought for a minute I had designed quite the unique off trail back-pack adventure, but of course somebody had already did it, no worries though I knew it would be a good rugged adventure, and I felt I was kind of overdue for one. Bob P joined me for most of day one.

    The trip into the Gorge went smooth, I actually overshot my own route by a mile and half because I had hiked in so quick with Bob, I did not realize I was so close to where I wanted to turn-off by the time we split and I hiked another two miles before realizing I wanted to turn-off long ago.

    Speaking of splitting, Bob seemed to have had a pretty ambitious route planned for entering the Gorge, so I thought best with dogs and a four day pack to stick to my route and meet him near L.P. Canyon. Bob went on to find a pristine set of petraglpyh, a full elk's head mount, and I got a much steeper and rockier descent into the Gorge. I only went back about six tenths of a mile before saying pumpkin it and taking the quickest route I could find into the sheer sides of the Gorge, rather than the gentle northern slopes of my intended route. In hindsight, I should have stuck with safer first route, as I nearly took Blanco out with a couple boulders that some how managed to find his five hole. I actually almost took Bob out with one as well, I think it was the heavy pack, I was not light on my feet at all..

    Had a great time in the Gorge with Bob. We both really enjoyed the scenery in there, the sheer drops, tinkling water falls, deep pools, and mini oasis. Speaking of sheer drops, I was actually relieved to have Bob with me, I would have obviously had to navigate the drops in the canyon regardless, however, it was nice to have company. Bob actually led the way on most, and I cringed as the dogs confidently followed him along 10 inch wide paths a 100 or so feet above the canyon floor, lined with agave for good measure. However, these walks on the wild side were few and generally negated by a quick little "Yahtzee" trail or two that made travel down the Gorge not as horrible as I had thought it could be. I left Bob at Green Horn Canyon and continued down stream towards the East Verde where I almost immediately encountered one of my biggest fears, another huge water fall, we got through it and one more fine, but we were all very happy to be finally reaching camp along the East Verde. I was beat and the dogs were beat, day one ended up being a 14 mile day, with 8-9 of those miles being off trail, oh and I was wearing a four day pack..

    I kind of changed my plans I intended to spend two nights along the East Verde, but after not finding the ruins, I decided to just push through to the Big Verde and plan something from a base camp there. The East Verde was beautiful, I started the morning off trying to stay dry and taking the steep out of the way bypasses the cattle take for the deeper spots, however, I think the law of diminishing returns quickly kicked in for me, and I decided they were too hard on the dogs, too over-grown half the time and annoying, so I just started plopping the pack on my head and wading through the river. This actually was a decent strategy in parts where it got thick I just took the water. Although, I learned quickly how a waste deep wade can turn into an arm-pit and neck deep wade. But it really was not that bad, reminded me of trout fishing back home. I camped early after hitting the Verde, I stayed in a really nice spot located in a side canyon off the Verde River Trail. The camp site was awesome and it became even more rewarding when the discovery of a piece of pottery led me to climb three levels of hills to find the largest Pueblo style site I have every found blindly. Just a really large compound with large sections of preserved walls and defined rooms, I have not seen anything that large or preserved outside of the Agua Fria monument area, so that helped alleviate the disappointment of not spotting in cliff-dwellings the previous two days.

    The nights were all great, did no rain-fly for last two. The full moon almost literally made it hard to sleep it was so bright. I scaled back day three because Cup seemed a little stiff in the morning. But by scaled back I mean we only hiked the Verde River Trail to Dead man Mesa Trail to Fossil Creek then up to Hell's Hole via Hard Scrabble, then an off-trail cross country route back to the Verde River Trail where we took a nap at camp and went back out again after the temps cooled. Side note Hell's Hole was not that impressive, and I think we need to work on an official route for Dead man Mesa Trail, hike bot seems way off, I followed a well cairn path to Fossil Creek and it was considerably different than hike bot, and I find this is usually not the case?? Likewise, am I the only one who could not follow Dead man Mesa Trail once it hits the Fossil Creek area? I ended up just wading back and forth looking for something that resembled a trail, and think ultimately I just took a series of cattle trails. Hard Scrabble Creek was a bush whack and wet going up to Hell's Hole, so we climbed out there and just rode the contour lines back to the trail while stumbling across ruin sites and ravines that always looked much work at first glance. However, I considered it a success because we never had to drop back into the Fossil or Hard Scrabble Creek drainage's and I was done with creek walking for a while.

    Our second hike of the day consisted of following the Verde River Trail past the confluence with the East Verde and towards High Water Trail, but I am not going to lie, I lost the trail after awhile and turned back, it can be tough to follow in spots. However, the parts where we were on trail were pretty cool, you go through a mesquite and hard wood forest that provides a a great canopy through a grassy stretch full of nice spots to camp and close to the river. But then I lost patience with trying to follow the trail and turned back. We actually went back up the East Verde River a little to find the fishing pole and case that I had found the day before, but also left along the trail. I cached that pole and case and will now only need a reel and line if I want to go fishing down there. I explored a few hills, dogs were showing signs of being beat, and it was warm out, so we headed back to camp.

    I only did some modest exploring on way out, I went out to Ross' Tank to gain an idea of the canyons leading into the Gorge, and marveled at their depths and drop offs. Then I thought I wonder which one Bob climbed out of? Then the thought crossed my mind, maybe he is still climbing out of one.

    Hike out was nice for training Blanco around cows, pretty much indifferent to them now. He was never really bad before, but occasionally he would run up to and startle them, not cool when they have horns. I swear the dogs smelled the car when we hit Twin Buttes Road because they found a second wind. I don't know why I felt I had to scale it back for Cup she finished stronger than ever. In the end the miles were not all that crazy for four days, but they were definitely rugged with about half of the total coming from off trail miles. I was also able to just get some nice chill time around the campsite, finally finishing my book on the English Civil War, so if anyone ever wants to discuss the underlying implications of the Presbyterian and Puritan led Parliament overthrowing the Catholic Monarchy and Charles I feel free to P.M. me. Finally, I did not find the set of ruins I was looking for, but it gives me an excuse to come back.
    Verde River Trail #11
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Bacon Powered Red Creek Ramble

    Day One

    Riparian areas in the desert are always a treat. I’d been to Red Creek three times before, but only day trips. The 120 mile round trip, most of it rocky or washboard dirt makes a day trip less desirable. So this time I packed the Jeep with some camp gear and headed out midweek hoping for some solitude. I had big plans for lots of hiking, enjoying a solo camp, and polishing some bush crafting skills.

    Drove the washed-out last few hundred yards of FR18 to discover a group of young people scattered along the Creek. Made my introduction and discovered they were part of the Anasazi Foundation, a group that uses nature and primitive living skills to help young people. I’d seen a group from the Anasazi Foundation on a previous trip to Red Creek. It was fitting that many of the skills they were using were ones I planned to practice in my camp. They were on the last night of their seven week “walk”. Later on my hikes I found faint traces of their camps. Most people would have walked right over them and not known anyone had been there. I was impressed.

    Spent some time scouting for a good camp spot and resources, but mostly enjoyed the sounds and beauty of the creek. Settled on an easy spot to make camp, gathered some wood, set up my sleeping arrangements. Busied myself by making a bow saw and charred some braided cottonwood bark, punk wood, and yucca for my tinder kit.

    I like to eat well, so tonight was going to be steak, corn on the cob wrapped in bacon (an experiment), and home baked bread. The cook fire was split sycamore started with cottonwood bark as the tinder and brought to life with a spark from my fire steel. The steak was fantastic and I heartily recommend bacon wrapped roasted corn on the cob.

    After securing camp for the night, I settled in to read “Woodcraft and Camping” by Nessmuk (pen name of George W. Sears, a writer for “Forest and Stream” magazine) first printed in 1884. While familiar with Nessmuk’s teachings, I’m sorry to say I’d never read “Woodcraft”. Usually I do not imbibe on solo outings, but the thought of reading the Old Master’s work by a fire along a remote stream definitely called for a beverage well aged and very cold. A few pages in and I realized to have read this book in any other setting would have been a sacrilege of the direst proportion. The fire, the drink, and the words were most pleasant, the words the more so.

    “Ten o’clock comes. The time has not passed tediously. You are warm, dry, and well fed. Your old friends, the owls, come near the fire-light and salute you with their strange, wild notes: a distant fox sets up for himself with his odd barking cry and you turn in.”

    Day Two

    Morning broke cold, but not uncomfortably so. Always first, a quick fire and a kettle for coffee before I attend to my person. Bacon laid across the grill as bannock baked in a makeshift Dutch oven using the lids of two cook pots, the larger inverted on top and filled with coals. I experimented with cooking an egg in the empty rind of an orange. While not a failure, I give the process low marks. The rind held but one egg and was cumbersome to put in the coals without either burning yourself or spilling the egg. If you ever find yourself stranded in an orange grove with a laying hen and nothing else, then by all means try it. Otherwise, perhaps not. The bannock, orange juice, and coffee were good; the bacon spectacular.

    Secured the camp and packed my day bag. Meandered downstream taking in sights remembered from my last hike here. Bumped into some of the Anasazi group. We shared politenesses and I moved on so as not to intrude. Creek crossings are too numerous to count along the Red, but it is seldom more than a several inches deep and there are many well placed rocks. My feet were never wet. The cottonwood leaves shimmered a light bright green against the dark bark of the tree. In contrast, the sycamore limbs were sun-bleached bone white and the tree nude of leaves. Mesquites were ever present with their black tangle of confusing growth. Periodically sedge and cattails lined the Creek. Saguaro and Palo Verde looked on from above.

    The Creek goes underground but springs back to the surface before reaching the Verde River. While traversing this dry section I diverted south to visit the Red Creek International Airport. The Terminal was abandoned; must not be a big travel day on the Red, so there was no one to pitch horse shoes against or to join me at the picnic table. I strolled down the center of the runway (listening for an engine whine just in case) to visit the wind sock which looks even more out of place here than I do in a Scottsdale night spot. Looking down the very short length of the runway, I thought this landing here is different from landing the 737 in Burbank only in that the Red’s surrounding neighborhood is more civilized.

    The confluence of the Red and the Verde is marked by rapids and fast water. Fording did not look advisable. The Verde is a truly wild river in this stretch. Someone has left a picnic table here, so that was lunch. Took a short side stroll up Verde Trail 11 and then back tracked to camp.

    Celebrated the hike back at camp with a Kilt Lifter and some salted almonds. Hadn’t noticed the slogan on the Kilt’s can, “Pack it in. Pack it out.” I like this stuff.

    Spent the afternoon puttering around camp. My inflatable mat had uninflated the night before, so I built a simple shelter over a debris bed of leaves. Would have liked to top it off with “fine Hemlock browse” as Nessmuk described, but we don’t have Hemlock in Arizona, so my mattress topper was salt cedar. Constructed a fire reflector and knew I’d sleep warm with my wool blanket. Tested some of the charred material from the night before by creating an ember in it and then blowing a flame in cedar bark. Some people like making trouble. I like making fire. Played with the bow saw I’d made and then crafted a bucksaw and tried it on wood for the night’s fire.

    Dinner was brats, sauerkraut and hoe cakes, or corn pone if you so desire, all cooked over a cottonwood fire started with fat wood shavings and a scrape of Old Sparky, my trusty fire steel. I’d brought along spicy mustard for the brats and honey and butter for the cakes. Finished the last of the beer with dinner.

    Cleaned and secured the camp and myself before setting in to finish both the whiskey and “Woodcraft”, not that there was much left of either. I had planned to roast an apple with its core filled with brown sugar and cinnamon, all of it wrapped in tin foil and set in the coals. But I had misplaced the foil and thought I’d left it home until later I found it cowardly hiding behind the seat of the Jeep. But I’d brought along a large bag of peanut M&Ms. As a kid I was not a particular fan of the candy. But while attending SERE (survive, evade, resist, escape) school as a fledgling fighter pilot, our instructor brought a large unopened bag of the stuff to our camp each morning and took it with him each evening, still unopened. We were out for a week or so and had no rations and all the game for miles had been frightened away. When we loaded up to leave the area, he tossed the bag back to us dozen or so starved and dirty young men. Since then I’ve been rather partial to them. And the apple would keep, so it was no loss.

    With fading eyes I finished “Woodcraft” and on his final page Nessmuk bid me good night with

    “Wherefore, let us be thankful that there are still thousands of cool, green nooks beside crystal springs, where the weary soul may hide for a time, away from debts, duns, and deviltries, and a while commune with nature in her undress.”

    And I turned in to my forest bed and slept well only rising to stoke the fire now and again.

    Day Three

    Awoke and tended to the normal routine of fire, coffee, cleansing and breakfast. This morning was a simple fare of oatmeal, a toasted bagel with cream cheese, and a banana. Breaking down camp is a chore but necessary of course. Packed up everything and cleaned the area of my presence.

    Hiked upstream this time, as opposed to yesterday’s downstream. Frost came to mind. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could.” But the beauty of Red Creek is that the trails each way are short enough that no choice is required. Simply take them both.

    The upstream hike is easy enough and there is no jeep trail along this part of the Red. A faint footpath can be seen along portions of the creek. A mile or so up is an impressively noisy fall and then beyond that is a very large cave along the northern bank, maybe 75 to 100 feet high and more across. It has a colony of bats and bee hive high above the west entrance. It has obviously been a camp but the room sized boulders that have calved from the ceiling might make a restful night difficult for a cautious man. I saw no sign of glyphs. Farther along on the south bank are numerous smaller caves, large enough for a camp and one had recently been used.

    Glorious rain began about this time. While just a gentle sprinkle, this area is renowned for impressive flash floods and I was in an area of steep side walls. Seeing debris high above me was enough to remind me that both life and wonderful adventures must end. I chose to end the adventure and return to the Jeep and the now slightly less dusty roads leading home. A few hours later I was greeted by a hand written sign on the door leading in from the garage commanding that I leave my filthy clothes and toys outside. I’m sure Mrs. Nessmuk had a similar sign.
    Verde River Trail #11
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    Ister Flat - Sheep Bridge AZ
    Scott and I took the kids to Sheep’s Bridge. Richard joined us. The Verde was so low that you could wake across without getting your feet wet. The road to Sheep’s Bridge was muddy with some ruts. Deadman’s wash had more water in it than the Verde! We stopped at the turn for Ister flat and took a short hike down. The kids had fun throwing rocks in the river. Then we headed back and went to the bridge. We all went to the hot spring. Nate loved the corn maze feel of it. Scott took off and Richard , Nate and I went down the Verde River trail. The sycamore creek was not passable for kids. Even the grownups may have gotten their feet wet! This was the most water I've ever seen in the creek.

    We then meandered around back to the river, then down Willow’s springs trail. Before we left, Nate wanted to go back to the hot spring one last time.
    Verde River Trail #11
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    I really like the Sheep Bridge area, but the drive is a pain. The road from the 24/269 intersection was in better shape than the last time I took it. A lot of the minor rock steps were gone. I think the recent rains deposited a lot of dirt on the road and evened out the rock steps. The Tangle creek was flowing a bit higher than usual.

    Two unusual/interesting/weird events happened this day. One was at the start and the other was at the end of the hike.

    Just as a started hiking on the bridge a helicopter landed on the beach!! At first I was thinking it was a rescue, but the helicopter was not police or SAR. Neither the pilot nor the helicopter had any official markings. The pilot stood in the river with some device taking readings or pictures. I thought about asking for a ride to a remote spot in the Mazzies, so I could do a one-way hike back :sl:. Maybe the other end of the Verde River trail.

    Now for the hike:
    The original plan was to hike to the Willows Spring / Midnight Mesa intersection as an out and back. The Willows spring is well defined and in good shape, but now it's obscured with the tall grass. It took me much longer than expected to reach the Mountain Spring area. I checked out the Mountain spring and the water looked yucky :yuck: with algae. The spring itself is shaded with tall trees.

    The Willows spring trails gets nicer past the Mountain spring. There were 5~6 foot cairns leading the way up a saddle. The Mazzies make you work hard, but they reward with amazing views. I was past my turn around point, but the trail and views were so nice that I couldn't bring myself to turn-around ;) . I'm pretty sure I turned around at the Lost Spring trail. I either missed the sign or the sign was missing.

    Since I fell short of hitting the Midnight Mesa trail ](*,) , I returned on the Dutchman's Grave trail aka the Mountain Spring loop. About a 1/2 mile down the Dutchman's grave, I found a 5 point elk antlers by a tree :) .
    There's a little bit of route finding on the Dutchman's grave trail. I personally like the Willow Spring trail better.

    I returned to the Sheep Bridge in the dark. I did notice that most all of the creek was dry. I was hoping to see waterfalls and gushing water like people have been seeing by Eastern side of the Mazzies.

    Now for the 2nd unusual/weird event of the day. As I got closer to the Verde River I could see a pair of tail lights on the road. They were parked for a long time. At first I thought it was someone setting up camp. After a bit the lights moved a bit. Then the road was out of sight and then I stopped seeing the lights. When I hit the sheep bridge, I saw a pair of tail lights right next to my Jeep. Something seemed odd about the tail lights. Then it dawned on me, it was a sedans tail lights! It was a Nissan Altima!

    When I got to my Jeep, a young kid came out with a crude hand drawn map of the Verde River. He asked if he could hike on banks of the Verde. I was tired / confused and weird-ed out. I told him to wait till morning and just hike on the Verde trail.
    He told me that it took him all day to get to this point. He had tried to drive over the Horseshoe Dam and was turned away. He was going to spend a couple of days at the Sheep Bridge.

    Then it gets better. All of a sudden he starts yelling *!?* :tt: , *!&@ :tt: . He locked his keys in the running car. He had to bust out the passenger window to get back in the car.
    There's more, but I digress... :out:
    Verde River Trail #11
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    Verde River Trail #11 to Red Creek
    It took me a year to forget about the drive out to this area. Whether you approach this area from I-17 and Bloody Basin Road, or come up from Cave Creek on FR24 (Seven Springs Rd), it is 41 miles of dirt. Rough in spots, real rough in others. There are 3 creek crossings east of FR24 on 269. Passable with High Clearance when dry. I'd stay off when wet. I can't say one way is any better/easier than the other.

    Last year in January, we ventured out to Red Creek and hit the Verde River Trail going north in a loop with some other Mazzy selections.

    This Year, it's the Verde River Trail #11, from it's southern start at Sheep Bridge. I've always wanted to get out to Sheep Bridge, and the area did not disappoint. We were there early enough on a Saturday Morning to miss any potential crowds. Even on the way back, 2 groups camping and one group just packing up their Kayak and Canoe.

    The plan was to hike the Verde River Trail to Red Creek, and then attempt to follow the Verde River shoreline back to Sheep Bridge.

    This is an enjoyable (Except for the whining) track. Sweet views of the Verde River to the West and snow capped Mazzy's to the East. Relatively easy to follow except when crossing Wet Bottom Creek. We made it out to the Red Creek area for our turn around. The Verde seemed to be moving faster this year in the same spot where we crossed it last year. Later checking by Joe verified it was, but only marginally.

    Time to turn around and start our attempt to follow the Verde back to Sheep. It was slow going as we made our way to our lunch spot at the Wet Bottom Creek confluence with the Verde. After lunch we decided that at the pace we were traveling, I would not be able to put up with the *itchin' for another 12 hours. So after 1.5 miles of Bushwhacking/scrambling next to the Verde, we made our way up an unnamed slot canyon and back to the trail.

    When we got back to the Sheep Bridge area, I checked out the hot spring. I thought it'd be nice to soak my feet in the hot water. The Hot spring is hidden within the reeds. There is a tunnel formed out of the reeds to get to it. I decided when I got there that the two unclothed souls did not need me soaking my feet in their warm pool.

    Video Fodder ==>

    I'm almost ready to go back out there again. :D
    Verde River Trail #11
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    Verde River Trail #11 to Red Creek
    Verde Blur II - Fine Whine

    Last year on Jan 21st we hiked the middle third of #11. I got a little over an hours sleep. Lost my favorite jacket since high school. The Verde was flowing at 238 cfm near Tangle Creek.

    Today we hiked the southern third. I went in without any sleep. The river looked and sounded meaner. Turns out only a couple more drops in the bucket at 256 cfm. The bridge is cool.

    #11 travels very well and is easy to follow to Wet Bottom Creek. Only slightly brushy and a hint of route finding to Wet Bottom Trail #269. About 3.1 miles into our hike we went out on a soft ridge peninsula overlooking the Verde. Very cool on the perch. My second favorite area is the last mile to #269. The textures and colors of the twisted terrain was enjoyable in my book. The entire hike was nice.

    The return trip included a half mile exploring alongside the river to Wet Bottom Creek. We lunched next to the babbling creek merging into the silent giant. Next it was off to lichen rock. An enormous dinosaur sized green beast with saguaros dancing around it's domain. Then to a narrow canyon that quickly took us back to #11. The rest was a painful sleepless blur. Bruce has sworn the entire area off due to the drive. I'll return someday to check out those faint western Mazzie trails, preferably with a wink of shuteye under the belt.

    Not a single wildflower observed.

    Next week the needle goes on the LP record...
    Verde River Trail #11
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    I've wanted to start backpacking for a while now. I picked this trail because it seemed pretty flat and straight through. This way an out and back with plenty of water along the way. I didn't want to get too crazy carrying a 35 lb pack for the first time. It turned out to be a great trip.
    I parked at the Horseshoe Dam spill way. Crossed under the spill way and headed for the far end of the dam. FR 479 makes a right turn here and loops around the hill for about 3 miles according to the map. I did not want to do this, so I decided to short cut it. I hoped over the low concrete wall and cut across the reservoir and met up with FR 479 as it looped around. FR 479 dips down into Deadman's wash which was flowing pretty well. I was surprised to see a half inch of ice covering the water. The temps were dipping down to the mid-twenties and all standing water had a layer of ice. Made it to Sheep Bridge around midday, and continued on the Verdi River Trail for about five more miles until I made camp. Pretty cold outside but I kept pretty warm in my sleeping bag, which is rated for 25 degrees. Headed back the same way the next day.
    All in all this was a great trip. The views of the Mazatzals and wild life were spectacular! FR 479 can get a little dull at points but the scenery will keep you busy. I'm glad I picked this for my first overnighter. Two days and I only saw three people. I did spot an eagle (I think), Crested Saguaro, Great Blue Herons, and autumn colors...all in one trip (see photoset), what more can one ask for in the Sonoran Desert?

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To Sheep Bridge Trailhead
    Take Cave Creek road east and follow the directions to Seven Springs - Cave Creek Road turns into FR24. Take FR24 35 miles until it ends at FR269. Take FR269 another 12 miles to the southeast until it ends at Sheep Bridge. NOTE: the last 8 miles or so of FR269 is unmaintained! While it may be passable by car - I would urge something with more clearance and designed suspension.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 105mi 3h 38m
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 182mi 4h 50m
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 119mi 3h 44m
    2+ mi range whistle
    blow it hard
    help comment issue

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