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Thompson Creek - White Mtns, AZ
mini location map2020-08-21
17 by photographer avatarOregon_Hiker
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Thompson Creek - White Mtns, AZ 
Thompson Creek - White Mtns, AZ
Hiking avatar Aug 21 2020
Hiking3.87 Miles 672 AEG
Hiking3.87 Miles   4 Hrs   33 Mns   1.13 mph
672 ft AEG   1 Hour   7 Mns Break15 LBS Pack
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
This was the first day hike of a planned one week escape from the Phoenix Valley inferno to the White Mountains. My drive to the mountains got delayed by one day when the check engine light in my FJ came on while driving into Pinetop. I didn't think it was a good idea to drive the next 50 miles to my planned destination on the southwest side of Burro Mountain near the Mt Baldy Wilderness without getting it checked out. I drove back to the Toyota dealership in Show Low and they took great care of me getting the needed part shipped from LA by the next morning and had me back on the road by 4:00pm that afternoon.

I set up my car camp at the end of FR402 in an area designated for dispersed camping. It wasn't the most picturesque campsite but had shade for the entire day and being located at the end of FR402, I figured there wouldn't be much weekend ATV traffic. I was right about the shade but wrong about the ATV traffic. There was an ATV/4x4 trail leading from the end of FR402 over the ridge and down into the West Fork Black River valley. There were only a few ATVs each day so it was OK but when I came back from this hike the next day (Friday) a guy with a huge Dodge Ram truck towing a travel trailer with extended platform for carrying bicycles, etc, had attempted to drive that rig up the 4x4 trail. He was looking for a place to camp with his wife and 4 kids. Unoccupied camping spaces were getting scarce by mid-day Friday so he must have been acting in desperation and was probably plagued by 4 young voices asking "Are we there yet!" over and over. He couldn't make it past a high berm and low hanging tree branches about 100 yds up the trail and was trying to back the rig back down to the road with guidance from his wife. It took them 2 hours of patiently jockeying the rig back and forth getting it lined up through the narrow opening between trees and boulders. They were finally successful with wedded bliss appearing to have survived, changed a flat tire on the trailer and were on their way. I would see their camped rig the next day at a beautiful campsite with a piped flowing spring about a mile up the road and was glad to see there plight had a happy ending.

This was a relatively short hike Friday morning out of camp following the ATV/4x4 track over the ridge and down the hillside to the West Fork Black River. My plan was to explore up Thompson Creek to the border of the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation. The hillside above the WF Black River provides a beautiful view of the huge meadow extending from the old Thompson Ranch property up the river canyon. A flock of wild turkeys gobbled past me as I hiked down the trail and a herd of 13 feral horses could be seen grazing along the banks of the stream. The lead stallion trotted up the hillside to check me out after I whistled to get his attention. He didn't like what he saw and led his herd at a gallop up Thompson Creek canyon and vanished into the Indian Reservation.

The hike up Thompson Creek canyon led through several picturesque meadows. Upon reaching the reservation boundary fence I followed the fence north through 2 drainages. The ridges between drainages are covered with a dense forest of pine, fir, spruce and Aspen. At the second drainage I paused for an early lunch time snack at a large meadow. I then headed down the second drainage following elk trails to lead me through thick forest and deadfall to reach the WF Black River. Back at the WF Black River I paused to talk to two fly fisherpersons who weren't having much luck. I told them about seeing the wild horses and was informed by the dominant member of this duo that the politically correct term was feral horses, not wild horses. Feeling properly chastised I informed them that perhaps early morning would be a better time for fishing this stream.

The next afternoon two heavily armed AZ Game and Fish patrol-persons drove up to my camp in their ATV and stopped to check me out. After some polite conversation they revealed that they were responding to a call from an irate fisherperson who complained about ATVs driving into the remote protected wild Apache trout section of the WF Black River and had mentioned (complained?) that I was camped on the ridge top overlooking the river. Fortunately the patrol-persons did not consider it a crime to use the term wild horses and to suggest that fly fisherpersons would have better luck if they got to the stream in the early morning.
Wild horse
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