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Goldfield Ovens Loop
66 Photosets
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8 by
Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking Mar 17 2011
Hiking7.75 Miles 775 AEG
Hiking7.75 Miles
775 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked none no linked descriptions
Partners none no partners
Having done this loop in both directions, as well as the extended version which includes the "petroglyphs" and another that engages the wash along the southwestern side of Stewart Mountain, I decided to take different unposted route this morning. Beginning at the Bulldog OHV parking area along Bush Highway, I followed the "trails" across Sheeps Crossing and actually found a point (probably the only one) along the Salt River where I could cross using some stepping stones and without getting wet [33.55763N, 111.57849W]. From there the trail to the oven was uneventful, but enhanced by the multitude of early morning birds circling the river.

Once at the oven, I decided that I had had enough of trudging through loose sand and so diverted my path across the flat land immediately south of the oven. It was a pleasant bushwhack in a generally south-east direction. Within a few minutes I had connected with another wash that seemed to continue along the path I intended. I was notably intrigued by the abundance of creature footprints in the compacted sand, none of which indicated the passage of humanity. No tire marks, bootprints or trash. My GPS map indicated that I was closely parallel to a line designated as "Coon Bluff", and though I cannot find any such line on my Topo! maps this line does appear on Garmin Mapsource. Since I know Coon Bluff is actually a few miles to the west I can only assume the line to be some sort of eastern boundary alignment, but welcome anyone providing a more suitable explanation.

In an event, I continued along the sandy wash and "alignment" up a gradual incline until I came to a point where it was obvious that I had reached the terminus of the wash. Before me on the horizon were the slopes of the Goldfields south of the river, and below was a rapid descent toward Bush Highway and the river itself. I scouted out a few potential paths down but remained cognizant of the fact that while water manages 100 foot drops without hardly any damage, the same was not true of the human skeleton. Due to the steepness of the grade, heavy vegetation and assorted other obstacles to ones view, it was impossible to see a clear path to the flatland I knew to be down there somewhere. It was at this point I felt that I had made the wrong decision in wearing shorts, for I was confronted with the additional problem of trying to avoid as much cacti and catclaw as possible. I tried a few possible avenues down without success.

Eventually, after continuing across the lofty heights and enjoying some spectacular views, I decided upon what I had hoped to be a reasonable path of descent. The boulders, which over the centuries had choked this chasm, provided ample opportunity to avoid most of the vegetation; and were of sufficient size to instill a modicum of confidence that they would not roll out from beneath my feet. I remained cognizant of the fact that a misstep could likely dislodge a small avalanche, but fortunately was able to avoid any such catastrophe.

After climbing down a couple of hundred feet through what is probably a rushing waterfall when it rains, I was back on terra firma, having acquired only minimal scratches, and totally satisfied that this route provided more adventure than any of the others I had taken to or from the oven. I have posted the GPS route but include the following cautionary advise: [1] don't try this in a counterclockwise direction unless your have a sadistic side; [2] wear long pants; and, [3] since the climb down involved a number of places where a few inches from one level to another made all the difference to success this is not a route for novices.

If you want solitude among the crowds, chances are pretty good that you will be the only person on this route no matter what day of the week you chose.
Fraley Pose

90+° 8am - 6pm kills
stay out of the scorching sun
prehydrate & stay hydrated
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