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Henderson Trail #53
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mini location map2013-04-24
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Henderson Trail #53Prescott, AZ
Prescott, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 24 2013
Hiking2.80 Miles 760 AEG
Hiking2.80 Miles
760 ft AEG
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
This hike is day one of a three day series of short day hikes from FR181 across Henderson Trail #53 into the mountains on the south border of the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness. Rather than hike the length of Trail #53 I chose to drive along FR181 which parallels this trail, car camp at night and do day hikes into the mountains. These mountains are cut by a series of deep but short drainages descending through the layers of red sandstone cliffs along the face of these mountains. The result is Sedona-like red rock scenery without the Sedona tourists. My objectives were to enjoy this magnificent scenery and to find Indian ruins on benches above these drainages and hidden away in caves and alcoves along the cliffs.

The drive to the first hike location was along Perkinsville Road from Jerome. The scenic views from the high vistas of this road are worth the drive even if you aren't headed to the Henderson Flat area. This dirt/gravel road was in good condition but will quickly turn into a muddy slippery mess when it rains. It's 16 miles from Jerome to the Verde River crossing near the site of Perkinsville then another 3 miles to the turnoff on FR181. FR181 quickly turns into a 4WD high clearance road. It's about 7.7 miles from the start of FR181 to the hike location which I reached at 11:20 am.

My first destination for the day was to search for ruins on a bench part way up the mountains. There are a series of three ruin sites marked on the 1973 USGS Sycamore Basin Topo map. This site is the middle of the three. I had found the eastern most site on a previous hike I set off cross country using my gps as a guide. It's fairly easy to wind your way through the brush although there is some low lying cats claw that can be a minor inconvenience. After a fairly short climb up to the bench location of the ruin site on the map I was disappointed to find only scattered remains of two small rock walls that didn't even appear to form the outline of a building. I decided to climb higher along the ridge line above the bench to see if there were ruins but with no success. I sat down on a lofty rock perch with great views to eat my lunch followed by some picture taking from this location. It was then that I spotted a cliff dwelling tucked away under a cliff overhang directly across a draw from me. Searching the area further to the east with binoculars revealed a small alcove in the mouth of the next wash with two partial stone walls, remains of another ruin. Getting to the cliff dwelling turned out to be easier than it looked. A traverse along the side of the draw staying on the same level as the ruin and then crossing over to the other side of the draw and traversing along a short path led to the ruin.

The main structure of the ruin looks like it was originally two stories high but each floor was only about 5 feet high. Only short pieces of two log rafters remain and both were burned. Even the wood supports over the doorways were charred on the outside. There were very old burned tree stumps dotting the landscape in this area so maybe the beams had been burned by a forest fire, or maybe the ruin had been intentionally burned by persons unknown. Surprisingly there were no pottery sherds to be found - almost all of the sites I've been to in the Cave Creek area are littered with a profusion of sherds. There was evidence that looters had dug extensively in a couple areas of the ruin floors.

I decided to search further up the main wash after leaving this ruin. I descended down the bottom of the side draw to the main wash. I had been noticing fresh hoof prints and huge bites taken out of the prickly pear leaves in this area. Suddenly I heard a clatter from across the wash and there was a cow elk traversing the hill side. She was moving slow enough that I had time to get my camera out and take a couple of pictures before she disappeared into the brush. She appeared well fed but had a long black scrawny neck.

After working my way up the bottom of the wash with only minor brush obstacles, I decided to climb up the west side of the wash to the base of a red cliff that could possibly have more Indian ruins along its base. My climb was not rewarded with finding more ruins but the views of the surrounding canyon walls made it worth the climb. Heading back down the wash I arrived back at my car at about 5:00 pm. That's 5.5 hours for a 2.8 mile hike . Not exactly a speed demon, but I like to play it safe with a slow and careful pace when bush whacking alone off trail and take my time to thoroughly explore areas of interest. While I was packing my gear in the car a yellow Xterra with four sightseers drove by, the only vehicle I would see on FR181 for three days.

I drove a short distance back down the road to a campsite I had seen earlier in the day. I followed a car track about 100 yards off the road to a nice level camp site with a fire pit, neatly stacked firewood and great views of the mountains to the north and east as the sun dropped to the western horizon. It was pleasantly warm during the early evening so no fire was needed. The late afternoon light made for good picture taking and it was then that I noticed you could actually see the cliff ruin from my camp site. Guess it wasn't as well hidden as I had thought and maybe explains why it had been heavily looted. Had a great evening meal, a pan fried pork loin chop wrapped in bacon accompanied by Sue's homemade potato salad and baked beans and a glass of cabernet wine. Then I was treated to the sight of the full moon rising over a red rock mountain. Life is good in the AZ outback.
Elk Pronghorn
Named place
Named place
Henderson Flat
Moon Sunset
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