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Goat Mountain - Tonto NF
4 Photosets

mini location map2014-01-20
30 by photographer avatarchumley
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Goat Mountain - Tonto NFPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 20 2014
Hiking7.16 Miles 2,781 AEG
Hiking7.16 Miles   6 Hrs   33 Mns   1.09 mph
2,781 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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Wells, let's finally do this! :)

After a previous Lizzard birthday weekend adventurextravaganza plan got postponed, the mounting of the goat became the decided upon objective. After several sessions of research using SSKs excellent intel and photos in conjunction with some quality MAPsturbating :A1: over the various topo layers and satellite photos provided by the HAZ Route Manager, as well as some help from the Google Earf, we penciled in a planned route, as well as a few alternatives since despite all the research you do, the actual terrain always provides something you didn't fully anticipate. I printed some maps, and loaded some routes into the GPS machine.

In a whirlwind of adventure, I don't even know what day it was. The date posted for this hike is arbitrary. Dates are difficult for me. So...three of us loaded up my truck with kayaks and headed east at the crack of not-that-early. Lizzard sat up front. I know I can be a little bit weird, and some are embarrassed to cavort with me, but this is the first time I've been requested (forced) to protect anonymity. So lets just say that the third musketeer today was Julia*.

After the pleasant drive down the Apache Trail (passed one car ... nobody else on the road), we arrived at the AAA Five Diamond Apache Lake Resort where we paid our dues and prepared to launch. The internet service there is slow, and without the proper Adobe Reader, we were unable to get that extra PDF we needed. I decided to give mine away and risk the crossing without my own PDF, despite being a terrible swimmer.

We launched off the beach at around 9:30 and paddled with a nice tailwind the 2.5 miles to the cove where our hike would begin. This lake is nice in the winter when you don't have to share it with anybody else!

After changing out of paddling clothes and shoes, we finally began to ascend the goat. This hike is absolute perfection. Pristine desert. Not a single cairn. Not a sign of any use at all. No routes, no summit registers. No fire rings. Nothing but desert, rocks, hoodoos, cliffs, and amazing views.

We passed the riparian area at Indian Spring, which was flowing over the little waterfall despite the dry winter we have had. To think that without the Salt River, this spring would be the source of filling Apache Lake! :-k

Above the spring, the flora became somewhat more sparse, but straight-line hiking was still not possible, with a constant zig-zag weave while ascending to the large rock outcropping along the ridgeline at the 2800-foot contour. With the lake level at 1907, it had taken about an hour and 10 minutes to climb these first 900 feet. With just under 1000 feet to reach the 3784-foot summit, this outcropping is close to the halfway point in elevation gain. We could see the poop-laden cliffs above where SSK had previously witnessed the magic of fornicating eagles, but we were not so lucky today. I had forgotten my binoculars, so we couldn't even tell if a nest still existed there, and definitely didn't see any birds soaring or performing for us.

We pressed on into the "inner basin" below the cliffs, and the double-peak ridge that rises out of the basin. We had some fun yelling as the echoes in this basin surrounded by vertical cliffs are pretty impressive. This is where SSK had stopped on his previous trips and where our real exploration began. We pushed forward to the north, heading for the drainage in the corner of the basin, left of the large upside-down triangle rock face. Getting across to it was a loose side-slope traverse with difficult footing, but less vegetation than in the basin below, which would not have been fun.

Once past the triangle rock face, we began to ascend, and this was steep and loose. With many breaks along the way when stable footing could be found, we finally reached the top of the slope where the grade moderated, and a whole new world was presented to us. Wow. Hoodoos and boulders in all directions. Such an amazing landscape. We were awestruck.

We were 200 feet below a prominent peak, which was a similar elevation to the top of the goat, but the goat itself was at least half a mile to the east, according to my rough look at the map. It ended up being 1.1 miles of additional hiking before we reached the turn-around point. Along the way, we dodged hoodoos and boulders, dipped through a very unexpected canyon, with pools of water, and mostly marveled at the views around us.

We were well past our planned turn-around time, since Lizzard had the foresight to invite people to a birthday party in Tempe at 7pm. There was no way we would be back at the yaks by 4, which is what we figured was needed to make the party. But we were too close to completing the goat to turn back, so we pressed on. The plateau on top is a forest of prickly pear and a maze of downed agave stalks. The pricklies make hiking a real hopscotch of non-directness.

Eventually we reached the jackpot. Goat Mountain is just under 2000 feet above the lake. The entire eastern edge of the mountain features an incredibly impressive 500+ foot sheer vertical cliff, which neither Lizzard nor Julia* was particularly interested in getting very close to. There were nice fissures and slabs on the hillside below that indicated that parts of this cliff calve from time to time. Comforting. Exciting. Exhilarating.

Ok so enough about that. It was Lizzard's birthday and we were waaaaay late. But I had carried birthday supplies up this :pk: goat and I wasn't going to carry them back down, so I quickly got out a huge chocolate cupcake (which somehow had survived the journey quite well), candles, and forks. Julia* and I each blew up a balloon (but not the other 30 I had with me :( ) I lit the candles, we sang a little song, and had cake and washed it down with some help from Oskar Blues.

I managed to get a cell signal (from Globe I think 8) ) and notify the birthday party attendees that the guest of honor wouldn't be there at 7. Or 8. :doh:

Knowing it had taken over 3 hours to ascend, and would certainly take longer to descend by the same steep and screeilous route, (yes, I made that word up), we decided to take a different route back to the boats. I had scoped the Ash Creek drainage, and knew that it was an open drainage free from thick vegetation and catclaw. Getting to the drainage was a little less certain. Traversing the back of the goat proved to be much more difficult than planned.

Not wanting to return through the surprise canyon on the top, we decided to stay east, but the landscape turned into a field of boulders so large and choked with vegetation, that finding a route was very difficult. Eventually we weaved our way out of that maze and found ourselves in a grassy prairie reminiscent of the Cochise area. Again, the landscape was ever changing up here. Next we reached the northern edge of the goat with a view of the Ash Creek drainage below. The decent to the creek was 500 feet, and it was steep. There were lots of cliffs, ravines, and tons of desert scrub on a hillside of loose dirt and rock. We chose a general line and slowly made our way down, re-evaluating the route at a couple of different viewpoints.

Finally we reached the creek, and enjoyed the relative ease of rock-hopping the 2+ miles back to the lake. Thinking we were there was a mistake as the hike back to the boats was nearly a mile of traverse on a steep slope above the shoreline as darkness began to set in. We knew we would be paddling back to the marina in the dark, but somehow just being off the mountain was a welcome relief and a dark lake was not of much concern. We had made it back down in 15 minutes less than our ascent. Not as much of a time savings as hoped for, but still better than it would have been if we returned the same way we came.

Turns out the paddle back was a highlight of the day. Glass-smooth water, a star-filled sky on moonless night. Not a care in the world. No PDF, but no trained instructor to provide a safety meeting either :( which probably would have been welcomed. Luckily, my friend Dale helped me relax a little bit in the face of this amazing serenity.

Back at the truck, I tied up the yaks as Liz and Julia sat in the truck with the heat blasting. It had actually been hot while hiking, but after sunset, the January skies hold none of that heat, and the temperature plummeted. We made it to Tempe by 9, pulling into the Boulders parking lot directly from the lake, yaks in tow, looking like we had been destroyed by the Arizona desert. We had been. But it felt great.

Somewhere along the way I forgot to mention the unicorn and also the wizard. Beautiful rainbow horn, and sleeves, respectively. ;)

Thanks for the fantastic birthday adventure Lizzard and Julia*. I know it wasn't mine, but damn, was that fun! :D

There's no way to encapsulate this day into just 3 minutes, but here's my best attempt:

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent. Julia is not really Julia, but she's also not notJulia. Got that?
Named place
Named place
Buckhorn Mountain Buckhorn Ridge

dry Ash Creek Dry Dry
Not even pools of water in Ash Creek. Dry from the lake to 2 miles up the drainage (and presumably beyond)

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Indian Spring Gallon per minute Gallon per minute
Didn't find the actual source (it is totally dry where the spring is marked on topo maps), but the drainage appears to have perennial water and the waterfall was flowing, with pools both above and below.
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