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Upper Yeager Canyon Loop - Mogollon Rim, AZ
mini location map2013-08-21
21 by photographer avatarOregon_Hiker
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Upper Yeager Canyon Loop - Mogollon Rim, AZ 
Upper Yeager Canyon Loop - Mogollon Rim, AZ
Hiking avatar Aug 21 2013
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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I went on a 3 night car camping trip to the Mogollon Rim to escape the Phoenix heat. I set up camp under the Ponderosa Pines at the intersection of FR321 and FR321a about a half mile from Dane Spring. My plan was to explore the upper section of Yeager Canyon and several draws that drop off the top of Dane Ridge in that area on day hikes and to hopefully get some photos of elk.

On the second day I went on a 6.4 mile loop hike through a section of the upper part of Yeager Canyon. The canyon bottom was fairly open and meadow-like so it was easy walking through scattered pines and some oak trees but no maples so little prospect for fall colors later in the year. There was a small flow of water in the creek due to the recent rains. I encountered an elk herd but they quickly disappeared through the trees before I could get any pictures. When the canyon bottom started to narrow and get filled with trees and brush I took a prominent but unmarked trail up to an old abandoned logging road that parallels the creek along the hillside a short distance above the canyon bottom and continues for several miles along the length of the canyon. A shiny metal object caught my eye about 50 yards off the trail. It looked like an aerodynamic tear shaped aluminum fender like those seen on some small airplanes with fixed landing gear. I found no other metal objects or debris in the area. I returned to camp taking another abandoned logging road that headed up out of Yeager Canyon on the west side and dropped down into Moonshine Draw after crossing over FR321. There was one of those fenced in riparian areas in the bottom of the draw that is supposed to protect some rare plant species. It was old and in disrepair. The elk had forced several openings in the fence and had been grazing so heavily inside the fenced area that it smelled like a cattle feed lot with the abundance of their manure droppings. The grass must look greener on the other side of the fence because the elk had grazed more inside the fenced enclosure than outside.

That night back at camp a thundershower came through at dinner time with some strong gusts of wind. That was when I discovered I was camped under a tall pine which had been split in half lengthwise about 30 feet down from the top by a previous lightning strike. The split in the tree started to split more in the wind with about 40 feet of one side of the tree ready to plunge down on my camp. I had too much time invested in stringing a tarp up between trees for a cooking area so decided to just move my car (which I sleep in) further away for the night and take my chances with getting the tarp, camp table, and cook stove crushed by the tree. The tree never fell and I had a peaceful night. The next morning I was crawling out of my sleeping bag in the back of the car when I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw several elk grazing about 50 yards behind the car. Quietly getting out my camera and opening the rear window hatch, I was able to get a few pictures of them but by then the elk had moved off about a 100 yards through the trees. A group of several Abert's squirrels where playing around camp so I got some picture of them. However they were very skittish and quickly disappeared as soon as I opened a car door. They are amazingly athletic and love to jump straight up in the air turning sideways to flash their white undersides at the other squirrels.

I took short drives to the rim in the evening on two nights to get pictures of the setting sun with limited success. I was too late and missed the best part of the sunset the first night and the sun set behind a large cloud the second night never showing significant color. The elk and the squirrels returned every morning to provide entertainment but would not hang around if I got out of the car. On the third day while taking a short hike in a heavy downpour I was surprised by a large bobcat which bounded across the trail about 50 yards ahead of me and headed up the hill in the direction of some cow elk and calves I had seen a few minutes earlier. It looked a lot like a mountain lion with its hair matted down by the rain and large size (for a bobcat) but the pug nose and absence of a long tail makes me think it was definitely a bobcat.
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