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Parsons Trail #144
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mini location map2023-02-20
10 by photographer avatarGrangerGuy
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Parsons Trail #144Prescott, AZ
Prescott, AZ
Hiking10.24 Miles 600 AEG
Hiking10.24 Miles   7 Hrs   56 Mns   1.39 mph
600 ft AEG      34 Mns Break10 LBS Pack
1st trip
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I hiked up the Parsons Trail from near Cottonwood to Parsons Spring and back. And then, because I needed a little more exercise, I went up the Packard Trail a little bit, before returning to my car. The road could be done with a car, but a high clearance vehicle would be better.

I started off with my headlamp, about 15 minutes before first light. There was an owl asking whoooo is coming? as I made my way from the road down to the canyon bottom. Once at the bottom, the going is very easy for a couple of miles. There are a couple of gigantic piles of driftwood that have obliterated the trail at times. The trail has been rerouted around the largest one. You would not want to be in this canyon in the rain.

You will know when you are almost to Summer Spring when a creek suddenly appears on your left, the outflow of Summer Spring. About 150 steps later, the trail takes a detour around the spring. Right now, it is flowing at 100 gal per minute or more.

Near the horseshoe bend in the creek the correct path takes a sudden left turn over to the creek, and across the creek to the inside of the bend. This turnoff is not obvious. The more heavily traveled trail goes straight, and stays on the outside of the bend. Eventually however, that route becomes untenable, and you have to cross to the inside. Pay attention to the official route, and you should make it ok. Then again, when it is time for the second crossing back to the right of the creek, the trail leads you to a very muddy spot. Go downstream a little to a much better crossing.

As the canyon narrows, GPS tracks become unreliable. This leads to both the measured and calculated AEG being way off. The actual one way trip to Parsons Spring is about 150’ of loss followed by about 250’ of AEG. That’s it.

Stay on the good trail on the right hand side of the creek as long as you can. Survey tapes mark apparent crossings but don’t cross at either of them. The path follows a ledge above a deep pool. The ledge must have been blasted into the cliff long ago. It’s too perfect.

Once you get to crossing 3 and beyond, the trail gets more ambiguous and more overgrown. The easy trail of lower in the canyon is gone, and replaced by catclaw, scrub oak, cairns, and sometimes just invisible trail The going gets a lot slower. All the crossings can be made as rock hops, I think, but I wore my “Aravaipa Shoes” and just stomped through the stream. It’s faster and safer for me.

Just short of Parsons Spring, you encounter a solar radiation shield for some instrument attached to a tree. I think the instrument is gone, but the bright white shield remains for some reason. A campsite is established straight across the creek. I continued up on the right hand side until the stream bed went dry. Parsons Spring is really a large area where the water just appears in the creek bed and starts flowing down.

I enjoyed my lunch on a flat slab near the spring, and then started downstream. I had not seen anyone all day and was really enjoying the solitude when my reverie was interrupted by a helicopter roaring up the canyon Apocalypse Now style not more than 100’ off the canyon floor (no music, though). This bad bird, FAA registration N511SC, operated by H5 Helicopters out of Scottsdale, apparently has a history of this kind of behavior, right on the edge of the law. After a little homework, I concluded a complaint would be fruitless. You can do this in the wilderness; you just can't land. The FAA just discourages it.

My trip back was otherwise uneventful. I encountered more and more people as I got within a couple miles of the parking lot.
 Flora [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Desert Broom

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Parsons Spring Gallon + per minute Gallon + per minute
Flowing nicely. No water above the spring.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Summers Spring Gallon + per minute Gallon + per minute
Maybe a hundred gallons per minute.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Sycamore Canyon Heavy flow Heavy flow
Lots of water below Parson's Spring

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Sycamore Creek Heavy flow Heavy flow
Lots of water below Parsons Spring

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