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Cherry Creek Road FR 203
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mini location map2013-11-13
25 by photographer avatarOregon_Hiker
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Cherry Creek Road FR 203Globe, AZ
Globe, AZ
4x4 Trip avatar Nov 13 2013
4x4 Trip11.40 Miles
4x4 Trip11.40 Miles
1st trip
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This was a five night camping trip to the Sierra Ancha with the plan to drive down FR 203 from the north end at Board Tree Saddle to check on road conditions and the extent of fire damage from the May-June 2016 Juniper Fire "Controlled Burn". Along the way I would camp at a couple of locations and do some day hiking into areas that had been freed from manzanita hell by the fire. Tonto National Forest plans to close down this road to motor vehicles sometime in the near future between the PB Ranch and Devil's Chasm. So part of my motivation for this trip was that it might be my last chance to car camp in this area.

Driving up HW 288 I stopped to check the amount of fire damage to the Juniper Flat area and was pleased to find that most of the tree canopy had been untouched. There were some brown patches along the edge of the rim overlooking Cherry Creek and along the north slopes leading up to McFadden Horse Mountain. FR 203 from Board Tree Saddle down to PB Ranch had not changed much being OK for 2 wheel dry with modest clearance as long as it is dry. The fire had burned away heavy brush on the west side of the road below the cliffs but had not reached the road in this area. There were several locations where water runoff from the burned areas had left rock debris in the road and started to eat away the east side edges of the road. I suspect this section of road will soon be blocked by washouts from future rains. The question here is whether or not the Forest Service will keep the road cleared all the way to the PB Ranch - my guess is not unless they have some commitment to the ranchers in the area.

I was pleased to find the PB Ranch cabin and surrounding area untouched by the fire. I had heard a rumor that it had burned down. From the PB Ranch I proceeded a few more miles down the road and set up camp near the north trailhead for the Grapevine Trail. I spent the next 3 days and nights exploring the mostly burned areas along the west side of FR 203 taking advantage of the now open hill side to search for Indian Ruins and explore a couple of old mining roads that had been completely choked off with brush before the fire. Those explorations are covered in separate triplogs.

On the forth day I packed up and started the drive further down FR 203 but soon got stopped by flood damage to the road where it crosses Gold Creek. I had seen small (single person) ATVs and motorcycles driving up canyon past my camp the previous 3 days and there were tracks where they had driven through very narrow sections of the damaged road. Although a full size 4x4 vehicle might be able to get through this area I did not want to risk it. Walking a short distance down the road showed more road damage. The fire burned over the road to the bottom of the canyon and up the east side in this area. This has resulted in much heavier rain runoff than further up the canyon where less hillside was exposed by the fire. I suspect from the ATV and motor cycle traffic I had seen that the road is still OK for these smaller vehicles all the way to Ellison Ranch. However that probably will not be the case after the next heavy rain. So, FR 203 is essentially getting closed by nature through this section of the canyon before Tonto National Forest imposes their new Motor Vehicle Use Plan.

I turned around at Gold Creek and drove up to one of my favorite camping locations on the rim at the Billy Lawrence Trail Head. The road from HW 288 up to this campsite was in good shape. I had a pleasant two nights camping there and enjoyed a day hike along the Center Mtn Trail (to be covered in another triplot).
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