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Stewart Pocket Loop, AZ
mini location map2019-06-12
9 by photographer avatarmarkthurman53
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Stewart Pocket Loop, AZ 
Stewart Pocket Loop, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Jun 12 2019
markthurman53
Hiking5.07 Miles 650 AEG
Hiking5.07 Miles   2 Hrs   20 Mns   2.72 mph
650 ft AEG      28 Mns Break15 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
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The second hike for day 2 in Payson was the Stewart Pocket Loop. This loop is made up of an off trail route, the Cypress and North Boulder Trails of the Payson Area Trail System (PATS) and a section along Granite Dells Road. This hike varies from the posted description for the Stewart Pocket Loop in that I stayed on the North Boulder Loop Trail to Granite Dells Road and followed the road back to the start point.

This Loop starts on the Granite Dells Road where the road crosses a creek just south of Monument Peak. There is parking for one car where the Forest Service built 3 rock pillars to block forest access to motorized vehicles which people have bypassed (I guess they figured the forest Service just had extra rocks and decided to build 3 pillars but they put them right in the middle of the road). This first portion is off trail and just follows up the creek to a point at the base of Yerba Senta Butte where it connects up with the Cypress Trail of the PATS. Fairly easy going on this off trail section, just keep taking the creek branch that heads toward Yerba Senta Butte. Once near the butte there is a jeep trail that is the northern portion of the Cypress Trail. This portion of the Cypress Trail to the trail head at the end of Phoenix Road is a jeep trail so it goes straight up and down gullies with very slippery gravel on granite. Granite rock Boulders become more prevalent as you approach the Phoenix Road trail head. This first portion of the hike takes you along the north side of Stewart Ridge and to the south of Yerba Senta Butte.

At the Phoenix Road trail head the Cypress Trail changes to an actual trail. The trail now follows along Stewart Creek all the way to the North Boulder Trail and continues on the Creek to Granite Dells Road. This trail now goes through Pine and Cypress forests through a wonderland of granite boulders. This portion of the trail reminded me of the Wilderness Of Rocks Trail on Mount Lemmon near Tucson. I was fascinated by the large Cypress trees along the creek, straight and erect, very organized branch growth. This is very different from it's related cousin, the Juniper Tree, that is a slob with it's any which way it can branch growth. I still have to do more research on Cypress/Juniper because I saw another variation on the bark of some where the bark pealed off and made a very smooth reddish brown surface, very much like the large Manzanita bush bark. Stewart Creek was running on the lower half along the North Boulder Trail.

I enjoyed this hike and it appears it is a favorite of the locals as I ran into a few others that do this as a morning routine. This is also a favorite of mountain bikers although I didn't run into any (or should I say none ran into me). I finished around noon and the temp was 95 degrees so I called it a day for hiking. This might be an interesting hike during the monsoon season because of the creek even though it would still be a bit warm and muggy.
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