Beautiful Chevelon Creek
Telephone Ridge Trail #203 is a trail used mostly by trout fisherman, descending from an unmarked trailhead into Chevelon Canyon about 5-6 miles south of the Lake. The trail heads west from the trailhead, through some nice ponderosas before becoming exposed on the ridge. Be extremely careful coming down this trail! The actual trail winds down a series of switchbacks and at one point, the trail is completely blocked by down trees. It is actually necessary to do some crawling, but hey, you don't mind, do you? About 0.5 miles into the trail, another faint trail branches off to the right. If you take this trail (like we did) you will be following the ridge straight down 700 feet into the Canyon. It is fast and it is a dangerous drop on loose scree, so be careful! I would advise taking the left trail and continuing on the switchbacks. It is slower, and you may have to crawl once or twice, but it will keep you off the exposed ridge and away from the scree.
This was a perfect trail for my first overnight backpack in Arizona. It is short, but strenuous enough to test your resolve, perhaps leading you to question the sanity of lugging 35 pounds into the backcountry when you could be at home watching the Flintstones. With seasoned backpackers like Trish, Shi, her son Issac, and friend Chris helping me, this was the ultimate learning experience.
Okay, back to the hike. I can imagine at one time this section of Chevelon Canyon was breathtaking. While it still retains the natural ruggedness and beauty of the Rim, this particular area has a haunting quality due to the sheer number of downed trees. It seems as though a fire swept through close by, killing the trees but not burning them, so they stood dead until wind toppled them, domino style to the ground. After the trail drops into the Canyon, it merges with the Woods Canyon to Chevelon Lake Trail, meandering along this beautiful creek, through stands of bright green willow and towering rock ledges. There are many wonderful deep pools in Chevelon Creek, just beckoning for a swim. Supposed to be trout in there too! The more adventurous can continue exploring up or down canyon. We decided to camp directly below the ridge, where there is an established rock fire ring, and easy access to the water. The meadow was great for playing Frisbee, and numerous trees were available for a sunny afternoon hammock nap.
When you are all packed up and ready to ascend that thigh busting 1.25 miles to the top, look northeast for a saddle. This is where the trail will begin its switchbacks, and going this direction will keep you off that ridge. Believe me, it is still a good workout (especially with the crawling).
Don't forget to stop at Mad Dawg and Mels in Payson a greasy backpack burger and some sweet potato fries!
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.