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Exploration into SW Del Shay Basin, AZ
mini location map2013-12-10
19 by photographer avatarOregon_Hiker
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Exploration into SW Del Shay Basin, AZ 
Exploration into SW Del Shay Basin, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 10 2013
Hiking4.00 Miles 1,440 AEG
Hiking4.00 Miles
1,440 ft AEG
1st trip
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Grasshopper had been researching a route into the south end of Del Shay Basin from HW 188 on the west side across Tonto Basin. He came up with two possible driving routes on FR roads into Rattlesnake Spring. From there it would be a fairly short hike NE over the ridge into Del Shay Basin. He asked me to check it out on Google Earth for a possible assault in my FJ Cruiser. The shorter of the two routes went through a rancher's barnyard - I had my doubts about that one. The other one required 13 miles of dipping in and out of dry washes and climbing some seriously steep hills on what appeared on GE to be little more than washed out ATV tracks. Despite my doubts I agreed to go on this adventure and drive the FJ even though our last outing of this nature ended up putting a fist sized hole in the FJ's skid pan.

We first attempted the shorter driving route which also had the advantage of a dry crossing over Tonto Creek. The war surplus 50 cal machine gun welded on top of the ranch's mail box on the way in was a sure indication of its foolhardiness. Upon reaching the entrance to the ranch's barnyard we found the road blocked by a gate with a Private Property sign. Hank suggested we stop in front of the ranch house and wait for someone to come out and give us permission to cross their land. Getting out of the car to go knock on the door was not an option - the guy had about 4 dogs in his yard. After 2 minutes of waiting I chickened out and high tailed it out of there.

That left the longer route requiring a wet crossing of Tonto Creek which had the possibility of running high because of recent rain and snow. I was more than a little apprehensive of this route after recently reading Hank's triplog on a past ill-fated crossing of the Gila River with ssk44. The Tonto Creek crossing turned out to be a shallow splash and all was good except for 1.5 hours of slow crawling over very rocky terrain, more than a few loud metallic clangs of rocks against skid pan and a few additions to the numerous AZ pinstripes on the sides of my FJ.

We parked on top of a hill at 4120 ft elevation and started off hiking towards Rattlesnake Spring on the 4X4 road. There were spectacular views of Tonto Basin and Mt Ord to the south west. We passed a cluster of 4 plastic water tanks each about 10 ft in diameter along the way and another tank and water troughs in the bottom of a draw. There was evidence of recent upgrading of the spring feeding the tanks. That and the angus cattle we passed on the drive up indicates this is still an active ranching area. After exploring the drainage up to Rattlesnake Spring we headed NE for the saddle in the ridge line above to get a look into Del Shay Basin. This off trail trek required some careful routing around prickly pear, pushing through some low brush and some scrambling on steep hillsides covered with loose gravel. But overall it wasn't too bad and we were soon crossing over the saddle. I stopped to glass the nearby hilltops for ruins but didn't see any. There were good views of the south end of Del Shay Basin. The Horse Canyon Ruin hilltop was only about a half mile to the east of us but we were far enough below its top that no ruins could be seen. I was tempted to continue on to that hill but we were running out of time and GH was low on water so I didn't suggest it. On the way back we took a detour to check out a possible ruin site but it just turned out to be a natural pile of rock on top of a knob. There's a lot of these in this area. The drive back to HW 188 was uneventful except for more clanging of rocks hitting the skid pan.

This was an interesting area and a good staging point for further explorations into the SW part of Del Shay Basin. I'm sure we will be back.
HAZ Rides Windmill
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