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Verde River / Deadman Mesa, AZ
mini location map2017-06-24
20 by photographer avatarjacobemerick
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Verde River / Deadman Mesa, AZ 
Verde River / Deadman Mesa, AZ
Backpack avatar Jun 24 2017
Backpack27.91 Miles 4,568 AEG
Backpack27.91 Miles2 Days         
4,568 ft AEG
1st trip
With most of the Mazatzal trails south and east of Chilson Camp knocked out I figured it was time to look in the other direction. Can't get much further northwest than Deadman Mesa #17.

Parked near the powerlines and AZT along 194 and walked the 2.7 miles to Twin Buttes trailhead in the pre-dawn. Almost chilly out. This would be the last time I'd be almost chilly for a long time.

Verde River #11
As others have stated, this trail is rocky. Rocks that rock, rocks that roll, rocks that drop you on your pumpkin and lol. This trail has a lot more than that, though. The views are ridiculously good, starting with the north side of the Mazatzal Mountains and then turning towards Verde / Hardscrabble. There are some genuinely good sections, where the rolly rocks ease up and you can gaze around without watching your step. Plus it's amazing that this is still part of the Mazatzal Wilderness: no wildfire scars, very different terrain compared to the mountainous south, and plenty of shade-giving vegetation. Only had to check GPS once or twice on some faint sections, otherwise this was a breeze to travel. Made it to the trail junction in four hours feeling pretty darn good.

Deadman Mesa #17
Trail sign appears to be gone. Few big cairns marked the junction and a few charred pieces of wood were strewn around, that's it. The cairns marking the start of Deadman Mesa were tiny and obscured by the foxtails - if it wasn't for recent foot traffic pressing some of the vegetation down it would have been annoying to stay on track. Cairns and tracks seemed to give up about 50' above Fossil Creek so I just picked a descent that looked the most painful and rolled down.

Now things get fun. According to the topo maps there are eight crossings to deal with. One of my sandals had fallen off my pack somewhere on the Verde (d'oh! I'll be back on this trail in the fall and will search for it then, until then I'm sorry) so I would either have to do the crossings dry or barefoot. Kept to the track and crossed over some rocks and was faced with an impassable wall of basalt, so I had to backtrack and cross back over, stay on the east bank, and then cross further upstream.

So went the next two miles. I only crossed when I was forced to, usually barefoot and then waiting for feet to dry before hiking a short distance and then re-crossing, making slow and tedious time. Ended up doing six total, might have gotten away w/ only four but the brush got ridiculous. Speaking of, the banks were painful and thorny and had recent flood damage. I only found cairns once where the trail avoided a large swing in the creek - otherwise this section is all bushwhacking. It took me almost five hours to walk those two miles. I'm not a big fan of Fossil Creek right now.

Found where the trail starts the climb up the mesa (someone tagged a few tiny cairns and branches to help with the first hundred feet, so there's that) and camped nearby. Had been tempted to turn this into a dayhike but the heat (well over a hundred now) and the difficult last few miles had taken the oomph right out of me. Napped, swam, drank water, drank some more water, napped again, and eventually drifted off to sleep a bit after sunset. Overnight lows never dropped below 85 (ugh) and a had 2am skunk visitor (yay) so I didn't get much sleep.

Started the climb before sunrise and made it to the basalt fins with the first light. Trail was well-marked and easy to follow, though I suspect downhill would be a bit crumbly and tedious. Plenty of cairns and good tread, especially for being this remote. Route-finding on the mesa was only slightly tougher with thicker vegetation, but a two-track showed up after a mile. Next mile was on-and-off the two-track, then the trail 'ended' (I think, again there were no signs). Then I 'just' followed the road for five miles and 1300' and powerlines for four and a Hardscrabble crossing.

Another quiet day in the Mazzies. Didn't see a single person on trail or on the road sections.

Mazatzal Miles: 143.1/275 (52%) :y:

dry Bills Tank Dry Dry

dry Bull Tank Dry Dry

dry Deadman Tank Dry Dry

dry Hardscrabble Creek Dry Dry
No flow at the mouth. Did not venture upstream to check.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Strawberry Creek Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Some promising pools where it flows into Hardscrabble, under the powerlines.
90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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