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mini location map2021-09-21
4 by photographer avatartdwood
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Watson Lake LoopPrescott, AZ
Prescott, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 21 2021
Hiking5.05 Miles 550 AEG
Hiking5.05 Miles   2 Hrs   45 Mns   1.84 mph
550 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
tl;dr: a stimulating hike with minimal human encounter.

Editor’s Note: Some portions of this triplog (and the author’s sense of self-importance) have been embellished slightly for dramatic effect.

Having been a frequent visitor to Prescott over the last 15+ years, I’d always been curious about the Granite Dells. A camping trip with family at the nearby Point of Rocks campground afforded me the opportunity to finally cross the Watson Lake Loop off of my One of These Days I’ll Hike That list. I set out at a healthy clip, anticipating a sort of urban trail experience.

Had I only known of the myriad dangers that awaited me.

I wasn’t but a mile or so into my journey when I came face to face with the meanest, biggest, most ferocious grizzly bear I’ve ever seen in Arizona! After sizing each other up, and feeling like I might be overmatched this time, I gestured wildly in the direction of the lake and yelled, “Trout!”

Works every time.

There was no time to congratulate myself on my quick-thinking skills. From a safe distance I could see the menacing side-glances of a gaggle of geese—maybe even TWO gaggles—guarding their turf in an asphalt clearing.

Grizzlies are one thing. Geese are quite another. Sticking faithfully to my route, I was carried right into the middle of the danger when, quite unexpectedly, they yielded to my advance. I was feeling pretty good about the outcome until I saw they had laid a clever trap in the form of dozens of piles of excrement. Ever seen a fresh goose turd up close? Just…wow. I managed to make it safely through the minefield of manure, rattled but undeterred.

The hither swarms of mosquitoes seemed intent on changing that. Flushed from the monsoon-enriched grasses, they seemed bent on harassing me and eating out my substance. Fully expecting to emerge from the encounter looking like a medical text curiosity, I was genuinely surprised to see I had passed beneath them virtually unscathed. Had they seen the masterful way in which I dispatched with the geese and surmised it best to not mess with me? I would see no such concentrations of them again for the duration of my journey.

At the point where the trail joins the railroad right of way, I was surprised to see the volume of both freight and passenger trains on this stretch. Prescott really is growing fast, I thought to myself. As I made my way further along this portion, the trains got older as I went. By the time I reached the point where the trail again diverges (which I nearly missed because of the spectacle!), I was completely dumbfounded by the sights of the grand old steel horses. And cabooses! So many beautiful cabooses! I was moved nearly to tears when the emergence of Apache warriors from the east, train robbers from the west, and Pinkerton detectives from the box cars reeled me immediately back to my senses. Sensing the sort of danger for which I was completely outgunned, I made a hasty retreat into the labyrinth of the dells.

It was there that I first spotted them. The mysterious white dots. One after another. Where could they be leading to? I was immediately entranced and carelessly followed them along. It was some distance later when it occurred to me to check my GPS route and, to my surprise, I had not wavered from it one bit. It seemed that the dots, coincidentally, followed the same route. What luck!

Dropping into the Granite Creek canyon, I was led into a lush valley of knee-high grasses pressed up against either side of the narrow single track. Crossing the modest footbridge, I was treated to the sight of a magnificent plume of water cascading from the lake above, sending refreshing mists swirling around me while a host of uncommonly handsome Sirens beckoned me close with their chiseled pecs and their flowing beards, singing an alluring sea shanty. Feeling the overwhelming urge to succumb to temptation, I plugged my ears with the last two gummy bears from my hip pocket, returned my gaze to the curious dots and trusted them to lead me from temptation evermore. My heart pounded and my breathing became labored as I fought my way past them upon weakened knees, such was the burning in my loins.

When safe at last upon the ridge above the valley, I endeavored to take in the magnificence of the coral blue majesty of Watson Lake expanding outward as if to reach each horizon. Humbled as I was by the experience, I wept at the sight of a white-winged dove as it flew overhead singing “oooh, baby, oooh, ooooh.” Invigorated anew, I let my feet carry me swiftly along until I found myself suddenly returned to where my epic odyssey had begun, grateful for the challenge and eager to share the incredible tale.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Watson Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full
Even though a "bathtub ring" is visible, water is being released over the dam.

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