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Mazatzal Divide - AZT #23
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mini location map2015-04-08
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Mazatzal Divide - AZT #23Payson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Backpack avatar Apr 08 2015
Backpack42.30 Miles 8,050 AEG
Backpack42.30 Miles6 Days         
8,050 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
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5 Days of hiking on the rugged Mazzies passages of the AZT in BEAUTIFUL conditions! Joined by Rob the Wilderness Vagabond, it was a slower-paced adventure than I've had lately, and I loved every second of it. This trip was a plan-B from our original intent of the Gems in the Grand Canyon. That one continues to elude...

Day 1: Peeley to Ridge at Mile 4.5 Joe Longbotham was a saint and shuttled us from Doll Baby to Peely TH where he was going to be working on cutting deadfall. We ran into THE Shawn Redfield installing a new sign just above the trailhead, so it was like a superstar AZT day! Hike was beautiful, though slightly more work once we passed where Joe'd cleared. That man is a machine with his hand-saw. Our ridge camp was perfect with views of the lake and a slow sunset. Perfect warm-up day for Rob, who was recovering from a nasty head cold (which was why we weren't at the Gems).

Day 2: To Bear Spring (5.2 miles) After a day tromping through some rugged burned forest, the small patch of remnant trees at Bear Spring feels like a bit of paradise! The spring itself was a bit cloudy but smelled sweet enough. We collected plenty of water then settled in for an easy camp. A trio of through-hikers stopped by, and after a bit of banter it turned out that the 4th (who was shortly to arrive) was a friend who'd worked with me on my AZT passage last year. It was nice to visit with Cindy (Salsa) and her companions Twix, Olive Oyl and Happy Tree and hear some of their stories of the hike so far. They had miles to make, so they blasted off before dark and Rob and I had a delicious dinner next to a modest campfire (it got darned cold!).

Day 3: To Horse Apple Camp Seep (9.8 miles) From Rob's journal: " Randy of Doll Baby Ranch grins and points past the cantankerous mule, who apparently has no interest in a bareback ride, to the green splotch on the hill above, pointing out the Chilson Spring box on the hillside. Soon Mike, Randy, and Denny pull the folding chairs under the spreading oak and Alligator and roll out the Western." We shared a delightful afternoon (and a pull of whiskey) with some cowboys supporting a hiking group at Chilson Camp. We almost took their invite to stay for green chili chicken enchiladas out of the Dutch oven, but like the girls from the night before, we had some miles to cover. Once we arrived at Horse Camp we were glad we'd moved on - the clear pools of cold water in polished quartzite offered a chance to wash up a touch, and the froggies sang us to sleep.

Day 4: Past the seep to the head of Boarding House Canyon (9.4 miles) Long distance views enthralled us, and the shade of the Park gave us a delightful rest from the warm day (how can it be so HOT during the day and so COLD at night?). This part of the trail was rougher than what's come before - more downed trees, a loose rocky descent that has us swearing and watching our ankles, confusion at washed out stream bed crossings. THIS is rugged country - Arizona that hasn't been completely tamed by day hikers and trail runners. Yes! We exchange notes with another through-hiker, Sandpiper, who's running out to make LF Ranch in time to visit with family in Payson.

Day 5:Falling into the LF Ranch (9.7 miles) It's pretty rugged out to Brush Spring, where a hive of angry bees have taken over the best campsite under the old oak. We let them have it. Then the descent from the heights of the Mazatzal to the banks of the East Verde teaches us who is boss in this country. It's steep, relentless, thorny and covered in thick brush. At one point, I really hate it. I have my umbrella out for shade against the ceaseless sun, but I have to collapse it often to crash through the brush which is over my 5'3" crown. But we make the base and stroll into the LF with bruised feet and light hearts knowing we've got a spot at Mary Ann's bunkhouse. She makes us biscuits and beans and we spin tales with Sandpiper and our host into the hours where the stars rein.

Day 6: Back to Doll Baby (3.4 miles)We take the river trail short cut back to the road which saves us a bit of miles and at least one extra climb. Then we decide to take a few extra minutes and check out the hilltop ruin that both Joe and Mary Ann told us how to find. Spanish Fort is neither Spanish, nor a Fort, but it makes for a fun diversion anyway. From there, its a quick walk back to our cars, where we can shed our dirty duds before heading into Payson for some non-dehydrated Mexican fare.

What a great way to enjoy AZ - with good company, chance encounters and a million great images burned into my memory!
Named place
Named place
Bear Spring - Fisher
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Wildflowers Observation Isolated
Mostly cactus blooms with a few wildflowers along the way

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