|Hiking||4.00 Miles|| 5 Hrs ||0.92 mph|
|1,072 ft AEG|| 40 Mns Break||20 LBS Pack|
||no linked trail guides|
|Where do I begin? Ok, let's take it in order...
1. The drive to AZT#17 TH
From the US 60 heading south on North Mineral Mountain Road wasn't bad but took a little extra time behind an ATV and Chevy truck who didn't seem to care they were holding us up... 3 mph on a gravel road? C'mon, just get out of the way!
Once we turned east onto Ajax Mine Trail (road) it got pretty rough in some areas due mainly to heavy erosion, but nothing we weren't used to on that stretch. Ok so there were a few washouts cut so far into the road that would involve careful wheel-placement followed by a quick goose of the throttle.
Turning onto old FR976 (if I'm not mistaken) from FR4 for the last 3.4 miles to the TH we prepared for the worst. The first mile was a piece-of-cake (after all, a stock, early-model Toyota 4Runner made it that far, where they camped.) but that was not to last. Plenty scary on the steepest downhill both for a deep washout followed by nearly a 4-foot 'step' covered with loose scree. A semi-controlled slide got us down the step, leaving me wondering how we'd get back up on the way out tomorrow. (you'll have to read that triplog to find out)
Ok, now for the true rock-crawling part of the experience... traveling in the rough and rocky wash. (Rocky? They were more like boulders!)
As rough as it was there was no way Tracey wanted to even walk it, so for a spotter I had to do make do with my under-bumper cam. That worked pretty well until one large rock caught maybe half-an-inch of the axle housing and rolled under the center drive-shaft. Thankfully I stopped the instant I heard the scrape so it didn't hit the drive-shaft, but essentially we were between a-rock-and-a-hard-place. I got out and stacked some rocks next to it so the Jeep would be higher as it passed over the rock, but they slid out before I got past. So now I'm bent over underneath the Jeep attempting to manhandle the rock to one side or the other. While it was smooth so it may be easier to roll over, there was nothing to grip so it was a matter of leaning/slamming into it until it moved just far enough that building a lower stack of rocks allowed us to get by. That wasn't the last of the challenges in the wash, but they seemed inconsequential by now.
2. At the AZT#17 TH
Just past the gate we dropped off 12 gallons of water and policed up the empties... not as easy as one would think, being so brittle from aging in the sun. We found the best way was to place a jug carefully into a gallon-size plastic zip-loc bag and crunch it into tiny pieces. Then repeat 6 more times... that's how we fit 7 1-gallon jugs into a 1-gallon bag.
To cut down on this problem in the future, we labeled each jug crush and take along when empty, not that many folks will do so, but we can always hope.
3. AZT#17 trail-work
We set up camp just south of the fence-line then headed back on foot to begin the AZT#17 trail maintenance task working northward. Along with a few smaller tools we brought a lopper and a hedge-trimmer so we were ready for all but the toughest brush. Hardly a hundred yards along the trail and we met a quite-personable mountain biker. As we chatted a few minutes we asked if he'd seen other trail volunteers, he said he only saw some tents. (Hmmm, were we out here on the wrong day??) Anyway, he thanked us for our efforts and set off for the Gila River.
Just short of a few hours and about a mile of trimming the most offensive brush (gearing the trimming more to bikers than hikers) and we met our first volunteer helper, Marcos, I believe. (please don't hold me to names, let alone correct ones.) Shortly after, where the AZT crosses the wash we had driven through, we met the rest of the gang, or at least the gang working farther south. And we (Tracey and I) did something pretty rare on a hike (ok so this was trail maintenance) and that was to take a break, or at least one more than a few minutes. In fact, more like 28 minutes... and that was just the first break.
But then it's nice to put faces to the names of folks we'd only read about on HAZ.
We took the second break on the saddle right next to Peak 3953, then headed back to our campsite near the AZT#17 TH while the rest of the gang headed back to their campsite at Telegraph Canyon Road.
4. Back at camp & a little of AZT#16
Back at camp we grabbed a snack, caught up on some reading, then wandered around to the top of the hill, trying to decide how much hiking we wanted to do yet today, and where. Eventually we settled on a short hike south along AZT#16 before looping back along part of the old Great Enchantment Trail to the saddle below our camp and finally back up to camp. While short on distance it was long on AEG.
5. Saturday night
After sunset and well before moon-rise, the stars were awesome... it could only have be better another 30-40 miles from the Valley, as one could still see the glow on the horizon. We left the fly off the sheer tent and stared at the stars until dropping off to sleep. Until the wee hours of the morning when some folks (pretty sure those with the aforementioned 4Runner) decided to bring their noise pollution to a pristine area... and the heavy bass beat went on and on and on... to well past 3 am by last count.
Like we needed that! (You'll have to read my 11/16 triplog for our response later Sunday morning)
No video and not many photos... BTW, don't feel pressured to view the photoset, I won't feel bad if you don't, but you just might feel better if you do.