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Four Peaks - AZT #20
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mini location map2014-04-21
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Four Peaks - AZT #20Payson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Backpack avatar Apr 21 2014
Backpack40.35 Miles 5,700 AEG
Backpack40.35 Miles3 Days         
5,700 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
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Four Peaks- a rugged, toothy ridge of quartzite that looms above Roosevelt Lake. It's the iconic silhouette that graces the Arizona license plate.

When I section-hiked this passage in 2008 it was notoriously overgrown, washed out, and in general a terrible piece of trail. My friend Terri Gay and I spent an entire day fighting through stands of manzanita and saplings that grew over our heads in what was one of the most difficult parts of the AZT. It took us from sunup to sundown to hike 14 miles downhill. The area was burned in the 1996 Lone Fire, which causes problems with trail maintenance to this day.

Last year, this passage was given a major overhaul and I couldn't wait to see the results! After a rest day in Globe, my dad dropped me off at Pigeon Spring Trailhead to start my hike- 19.5 miles down to Roosevelt Lake. I wanted to recreate my 2008 experience by hiking this passage in the same direction. There was water in both Bear Spring and Shake Spring and I got buzzed by hummingbirds while by the water.

The AZT turned off on the Four Peaks Trail and I was immediately impressed. A wide trail corridor, with wonderful tread, devoid of manzanita. I won't bore you with multiple pictures of cleared trail, but it was such a wonderful thing to be able to walk without getting stabbed by vegetation. Trail work like this doesn't come cheap, a great reason to support the Arizona Trail Association!

Great views of Roosevelt Lake and trail cut into the hillside made me giddy with delight. The first rattlesnake of the day was resting stretched across the trail. Nowhere to go when the trail is benched into the steep hill, so I was happy when it decided to move.

One of my favorite views of the whole Arizona Trail is an attractive rock outcropping with the lake behind it and I took a break to savor the sight.

It was a pleasure hiking on this trail and I was able to pick up some speed. As I bounded down the trail, I caught a glimpse of a dark, flat, round spot. At first I thought, "Just another cow patty on the AZT." Then I realized that I was in a wilderness area and that didn't make sense- there were no cows in the... oh, no- it's a SNAKE! I stopped almost in mid-air and moved to give the snake some room. It was a cold Arizona Black Rattlesnake and took its time moving off the trail. Glad I didn't step on it, that could ruin your day.

The trail was a beautiful contour around the side of the peaks and I got glimpses of the Superstitions and Weaver's Needle. Then I reached a saddle where all 4 peaks became visible. What an incredible mountain. There is a route called the 4 Peaks Motherlode that hits the summit of all four in a quasi-insane, brushy, loose, steep scramble. Of course it's on my list of things to do someday.

I continued on, going through a couple of saddles that would make fantastic spots for camping. Someday I'll be back to explore these peaks more thoroughly. I could see spots I'd hiked through in the Superstitions as I reached the wilderness boundary.

After a couple of ups and downs, I was at the Mills Ridge Trailhead, where my dad was waiting for me. I'd fallen in the Superstitions and wasn't sure how my ankle would hold up for the hike, so my dad offered to meet me in case I needed to bail on the last 7 miles. Fortunately I was feeling good, so I continued on. Met rattlesnake #3 on the way, aggressively rattling at me from the side of the trail. That's a record for me, three in one day. I got views of Apache Lake with the scenic Apache Trail Road running next to it.

The sun was setting as I reached the last steep descent to the lake. What a great day. So different from the first time I'd hiked the 4 Peaks.

Ater dinner at the Butcher Hook restaurant/saloon/hardware store/gas station/beauty shop (one stop shopping!), we stayed at the Tonto Basin Inn. The next morning, my dad dropped me at the Pigeon Spring TH again so I could continue my path northward. For 9 miles, the Arizona Trail follows FR 422, a dirt road on a ridge that hardly sees any traffic on the weekdays. I am not usually a fan of roadwalks, but this one is just beautiful. Grand vistas of 4 Peaks and the lake, boulder formations, and easy walking. I was even able to hike wearing a skirt, since there was no vegetation on the road for me to be allergic to.

I stopped for a break and saw a pink and grey horned lizard scurrying across the road. Picked it up and it tried to hide from me...inside my shirt sleeve. It was the cutest thing, like an ostrich burying it's head.

As I crested a hill, I got a glimpse of the Mogollon Rim in the distance. The Rim is the edge of the Colorado Plateau and marks a major transition on the Arizona Trail from the southern desert mountains to flat land in the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in the world.

I reached a spot with crazy-interesting rocks and a great view with a perfect low, flat-topped boulder for my bed. Camp time! Even though I could have dayhiked this passage, I wanted a more relaxing two days and was happy to have some time in camp. The sunset was incredible, silhouetting the burned trees and casting warm light on the boulders.

The next morning, I had a couple of miles of roadwalk left before the AZT turned off the road to descend into Boulder Canyon. Another piece of trail that was troublesome back in 2008, it was overgrown with catclaw, criss-crossed with cow paths and not well marked. Not this time! The latest trail steward, John Matteson, has been hard at work, holding maintenance events on a regular basis and it shows!

The trail crossed Boulder Creek and I took a break to soak my feet in the stream. Plenty of water, even though it had been a while since the last rain. There were views of Saddle Mountain on the next passage and Mt. Ord, topped by towers. I could see Highway 87 in the distance as I rolled along the hills next to Sycamore Creek.

Called my dad to tell him to pick me up at the highway, crossed Sycamore Creek, then promptly lost the trail. So irritating, this has happened to me before. Turns out that you need to go away from 87 after crossing the creek to pick up the trail to the parking area. It was only 2 pm when I reached the highway and I didn't have my Scottsdale event at Juan Jaime's Tacos and Tequila for three days. It was an easy decision to go back home to Tucson and spend my days off at my home with my husband and animals.
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