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Yankee Doodle Trail #284
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mini location map2016-03-05
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Yankee Doodle Trail #284Prescott, AZ
Prescott, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 05 2016
Hiking20.05 Miles 5,070 AEG
Hiking20.05 Miles   9 Hrs   28 Mns   2.37 mph
5,070 ft AEG   1 Hour    Break
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
By shear virtue of the kick-pumpkin stats, [just under 9.5 hrs, just over 20 miles, and just over 5,000’ AEG], in combo with having bagged 4-5 peaks, [4 named (Moscow, Yankee Doodle, Pine, & Union), & 1 UN (UN 7675)], this adventure definitely ranks very high on my list of overall most epic. It’s also the first time I’ve ever hit 20 miles in a day, *officially [*backed by GPS stats vs. estimation of distance]; an accomplishment I’m rather proud of, given that distance is a huge weakness of mine.

My original plan, [which did NOT involve Mt. Union…], was to begin near the Orofino Mine / Palace Station, heading North up the Yankee Doodle Trail; from there, I’d bushwhack as needed to bag: Yankee Doodle Peak, Moscow Peak, and UN 7675. After UN 7675, I had plotted a 2.39 mile “ridge ride” down from the Yankee Doodle Trail to Senator Highway, followed by 2.45 miles on Senator Highway; at which point I would jump on a trail that would loop around and take me up to Pine Mountain. After that, heading North on the Yankee Doodle Trail from Pine Mountain would take me back to my starting point around the Orofino Mine / Palace Station. It wasn’t the most ideal loop, [given nearly 2.5 miles on Senator Highway… and the 2.39 mile segment of bushwhack I plotted without even glancing at satellite imagery… :o ]; but I needed to throw some plans together quickly and figured Peter would easily be able to refine things, especially given that this neck of the woods is practically his own back yard.

As per the usual, Peter’s refinements were awesome… my one concern was that the modified route would put things at around 20 miles [vs. mine which was 13-14]. Reflecting back on my three longest recent adventures, [Green/Guthrie Mountains (~12.5 miles), Maz Divide to Knob Mountain (~16 miles), and Gibbon Mountain via Babad Do’ag (~12.5 miles)], wasn’t exactly comforting either; [given that during two of those three, the fatigue in my legs forced me to slow to 23-30 min mile pace at the end, [on excellent trail], all the while still feeling like I was gonna drop from exhaustion during the final 2-4 miles. Increasing to 20 miles was a big jump; but given that there would be almost no bushwhacking, I figured I was up for the challenge.

The route kicked off at the end of Poacher’s Row, less than a mile from Peter’s Lodge. From there, I took the Dandrea Trail #285 to it’s junction with the Yankee Doodle Trail #284, hanging a right on the Yankee Doodle Trail. As I approached Mt. Union – which I still had no intention of bagging… – there was another trail junction and the signage was rather confusing. It didn’t help matters that, once in route, I couldn’t figure out how to switch Route Scout from Cal Topo to FS Topo, [which typically shows more trails]. Rather than waste time tooling with the GPS – or ending up on Mt. Union thanks to confusing signage – I did what I do best: bushwhack pretty much ‘as the crow flies’ toward my first destination point [UN 7675]. There was very little brush and tons of route-like paths, making it a very pleasant and fast bushwhack. I crossed over a dirt road, as well as the Yankee Doodle Trail, en route to UN 7675. The views from UN 7675 were awesome, just as good if not better than Moscow Peak. There was a very well cairned route along the ridgeline from UN 7675 to Moscow Peak… to the point of going overboard; seriously, you’d have to be blind to get lost up there… I’m talking, frequent cairns, LARGE cairns, cairns built on large/fallen tree branches… that kind of deal!

Peter had graciously prepared another register with goodies for me to take to Moscow Peak. I think I drove him nuts the morning of the hike after I’d overslept and ask him to look up the elevation of not only Moscow Peak but also Yankee Doodle Peak and Pine Mountain, [in the event Moscow already had a register]. Luckily it didn’t, [or at least none that I could find], so I put the one that Peter had prepared by the highpoint of Moscow. Hopefully someone else will secure it with a container before next winter. The large container Peter left for me would not fit into my hiking pack, so I had to make do with a large Ziplock bag, which I wrapped in a second plastic grocery bag for added protection.

Next up was Yankee Doodle Peak. After nearly getting brushed out by THICK patches of Manzanita while bushwhacking off Moscow Peak, I eventually managed to get back on the Yankee Doodle Trail and over to the area of Yankee Doodle Peak. I’m still not entirely sure where the highpoint of Yankee Doodle Peak is, so I bagged the two highpoints in question to cover my bases. The first was the shorter of the two, located just a few steps off the Yankee Doodle Trail; while the second possibility was the taller peak on the same ridgeline, located SW of the first. Like my descent off Moscow Peak, I also encountered THICK patches of Manzanita coming off Yankee Doodle… to the point where I started to get nervous about potentially having to do some backtracking… luckily it didn’t come to that.

The next segment of the journey was 100% trail to Pine Mountain. The only confusing part was where the trail crosses the dirt road, by the Orofino Mine. It’s not a direct crossing; you actually have to walk down the dirt road a short distance before continuing down the trail; and in the direction I was headed, there was no sign to indicate this. Unlike FS Topo, Cal Topo does not show the segment of the Yankee Doodle Trail that is South of the Orofino Mine. Luckily, before wasting too much time, I was able to figure things out.

About a mile or so after the road crossing there is a rather sudden change in the landscape that was incredibly beautiful. The tall, pine-covered hillsides suddenly seemed to transform to a mix of grassland. I have a very short attention span when it comes to trail hiking, but this is one of the few times I can remember where I was actually content with being on a trail; enough said!

The trail literally goes right up to the summit of Pine Mountain, and the highpoint is just a few steps off the trail. The 360 degree views from this summit are sensational! Right near the highpoint, I found a survey marker, which had the word “Good” on it. Good thing too… given that there are 3 Pine Mountains in Yavapai County alone! Knowing the summit is also the “Good Benchmark” was extremely useful when I went to look up this particular Pine Mountain, post-hike. Right by the rock pile near the highpoint, my eye caught sight of something red, which proved to be the lid of a very small glass jar that was almost completely buried. Inside the jar was a super-small notebook serving as the summit log. It contained just a handful of signatures, the earliest of which was from 2001 and the most recent from 2009. The person who created the register lists the elevation as 6,812’; however, according to listofjohn (pay $ite), the correct altitude is 6,780’ [http://listofjohn (pay $ite)...].

On the way back from Pine Mountain, I picked up the pace and kept crunching the numbers with each mile split to determine how fast I needed to go to beat pitch darkness. Had this been a ‘straight-up – straight-down’ type of trek, I might have succeeded; but despite pulling off sub-20 min miles from Pine Mountain back to the road crossing by the Orofino Mine, I knew that the next 3-4 miles of trail were gonna be a 1,500-2,000’ ride up.

Instead of going back by way of Moscow Peak and UN 7675, [which would’ve been out of the way in terms of both distance and AEG], I stuck to the Yankee Doodle Trail. The portion of trail I had missed in the beginning, [due to having gone off to bag UN 7675 & Moscow], proved to be quite beautiful. There were even a few interesting mines right along the trail.

With 20-30 minutes to spare before pitch darkness, I reconnected with the place where I had done a short bushwhack from the area just below Mt. Union to where I broke off to bag UN 7675. To cut off distance and time, I decided to bushwhack this segment again on my return trip. However, [now exhausted and much more attune to the path of least resistance], I inadvertently gravitated toward a more defined / beaten in route. When I encountered the base of a wooden structure that I hadn’t seen previously, I decided it was time to check my GPS tracks. It was definitely one of those funny, ‘holy pumpkin,’ kind of moments to suddenly realize I was about 50 yards from the summit of Mt. Union. I had no intention of bagging Mt. Union, but at this point I couldn’t resist going 30 seconds out of my way to pay a second visit to Yavapai County’s highpoint. Besides, making it back before darkness wasn’t happening, so I figured I might as well take a few extra minutes to enjoy a sunset on Mt. Union. It was beautiful, but I didn’t hang out for too long… there were some threatening clouds not too far off…

After signing my name in the log right below the previous entry, [which ironically happened to be mine from 2/6/16], I fetched my headlamp and got the hell out of Dodge. Within about 10 minutes of leaving the summit of Mt. Union, it was pitch dark. The remaining segment of trail was flat/downhill but fairly rocky. Thanks to my headlamp that totally su*ks, I was struggling to see the footing just two feet in front of me and had to slow to about 21-25 min mile pace as a result. Partway down way, there was some light rain. Even hiking with gun in hand, it was definitely a bit creepy not being able to see my surroundings until I was practically right on top of things. At one point I rounded a bend and mistook a fallen log for a mountain lion. I can’t remember the last time my heart raced that fast. Luckily I made it back without any issues. EPIC adventure to say the least!
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