|Hiking||10.66 Miles|| 5 Hrs 41 Mns ||2.43 mph|
|1,603 ft AEG|| 1 Hour 18 Mns Break|
|We started at the south "trailhead" near the intersection of Route 66 and FR 791. Signs there said that the area to the north was on state trust land and access required a permit, so we scanned the QR code on the sign, paid the $16 fee for the AZ State Land Department pass, and wrote the authorization number on a piece of paper and left it on the dashboard, then headed north toward Turkey Hills.|
Based on @Randal_Schulhauser's 2008 guide [ Turkey Hills and Pueblo ] , it sounded like pot sherds would be plentiful on the way up to and on top of Turkey Crater:
That wasn't the case today...I scanned the ground frequently on the way up and on top of the hill but didn't see a single sherd. Far more plentiful: trash, impressive in its quantity, variety, and, in some cases, size. The area where we parked was littered with empty mini liquor bottles, and we continued to see them scattered around throughout the hike...it looked like someone raided an airline's liquor supply and went on a binge. Other lowlights: a soiled mattress along the road, an abandoned boat near the top of the hill (!), and a clearing below the crater where someone had dumped old windows for target practice--an area full of empty shells and broken glass. Not to mention the usual collection of empty beer cans and other bottles that are common around ATV areas. It felt like Flagstaff's answer to the Goldfields, home to mattresses [ photo ] and abandoned boats of its own [ photo ] .
We continue to find pottery sherds along the pathway and at the summit.
That said, the views from Turkey Crater were very nice--Mt. Elden, the San Francisco Peaks, O'Leary Peak, Sunset Crater, a long-distance view of the Painted Desert, and more. Plenty of trash on top, too, but not a single pot sherd...it seems the place has been picked clean since the guide was published. The closest thing to we saw to earthenware was a mug hanging upside down from a tree branch...definitely modern...and microwave safe!
We headed down and hoped for better luck on the smaller hill to the north...with no road to the top, we hoped there might be less trash and more remaining signs of native activity. We took a shortcut through the forest back to the road and finally saw some pottery scattered in the forest. We followed FR 510B to the north, then left the road and headed up the southeast side of the second hill, once again coming up empty at the top with a repeat experience: nice views, no pottery, and plenty of empty cans and bottles.
We headed down the north side of the hill toward Turkey Hill Pueblo. That was a worthwhile stop--even though the pueblo is fenced-in and very little of the structure is visible from outside, there is still an impressive quantity of pot sherds outside the fence, including many painted pieces. (Some larger, black and white pieces were also visible inside the fence.) We took a lap around the perimeter and saw what we could from the outside and searched through the pottery, then started south again past the hills.
There was some brief rain on hike back, but by the time we tossed a few things into a drybag, it had already passed. Dark clouds and thunderheads hung around for much of the late morning and afternoon, but it stayed dry aside from that brief shower. We took a slightly different route back past Sheep Hill Tank and passed some low rock walls of circular structure, but it looked like modern rock piles.
We'd planned to hike AZT #32 to Picture Canyon, but we were short on time and decided to just drive over to the trailhead. The pueblo was an interesting destination...it's nice that the site is protected by the barbed wire fence (I suspect it would be picked clean if left open to the public), but it's too bad so little of the pueblo is visible. Other than the views from the tops of Turkey Hills, there was nothing too remarkable and little to see archeology-wise on the rest of the hike. As I mentioned before, it seems like people have walked off with most of the pottery that was on Turkey Hill when the guide was published, replacing it with empty bottles instead...