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64 triplogs
Aug 10 2014
Outlander
avatar

 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Hill 2441 SDNM, AZ 
Hill 2441 SDNM, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Aug 10 2014
Outlander
Hiking12.00 Miles 2,000 AEG
Hiking12.00 Miles   10 Hrs      1.50 mph
2,000 ft AEG   2 Hrs    Break40 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to hike Hill 2441 in the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

Three weeks removed from unemployment USA, I was back in the chips again and ready for a road trip. The hike was intended to answer a few unknowns and offered a chance for financial gain. For some time now I had surmised that Hill 2441 was being used as an observation post, and every time in passing I glassed it over with the binoculars, wondering what was up there. Being the ‘off season’ I expected the place to be deserted; perhaps there would be something of value left behind.

Taking a roundabout route across the LoC, I reached the summit of Hill 2441 around 0900. It is a perfect location for an observation post, having a 320 degree field of view of Roads 8011, 8011A, and 8020. As predicted, there was much evidence that it had been used as an OP: rock wall hides, old cell phones, batteries, trash, etc.

Thinking that the mountain was unoccupied, I made sport of smashing up the place, returning the land to a natural state. With a mighty heave the rock walls went tumbling down the mountain; what took hours to build were destroyed in minutes. After picking the site over and finding nothing of value, I worked my way west along the ridgeline. The first sign of trouble was a bundle of fresh ocotillo limbs wrapped in twine.

In hindsight, it was unwise to have made so much noise taking down the walls. Fresh tracks, trash, and layups began to appear. I discovered a new OP site about 40 yards from the old position, a citadel upon a hill made of rock and ocotillo. It turns out that the ocotillo branches were being used as roofing material for various structures. The spotters were in the process of building a new bunker, the ocotillo branches were fresh cut and the little green leaves had yet to wilt. It was dicey in there and I bugged out double quick, as distance is my friend when operating behind enemy lines.

The whereabouts of the men on Hill 2441 was unknown. The spotter crew might have been hiding in the bunkers or they had already gone home, the men leaving after the final load passed through. Regardless, they will be back again next week. There is no ‘off season’ in the SDNM, only a slow season and a busy season. It is a place where young men can find the adventure that they seek.

The next stop was lunch over at Farley’s Cabin. I always enjoy spending time at Farley’s and appreciate the BLM’s efforts to protect Arizona heritage. There is a covered porch where one can sit a spell, enjoy a hot breeze, just like the old timers did back in the day. And hot it was. It did not take much convincing to rearrange the schedule, opt out, and make a beeline straight for the truck. Ignoring the lay of the land, I followed a Roman road to icy cold refreshment. A few hours later, in a Gila Bend convenience store, my wants were satisfied and life was good.
Named place
Named place
Bender Wash Mesquite Well
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated
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May 17 2014
Outlander
avatar

 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Maricopa Peak - Sand Tank MountainsSouthwest, AZ
Southwest, AZ
Hiking avatar May 17 2014
Outlander
Hiking7.00 Miles 2,500 AEG
Hiking7.00 Miles   8 Hrs      1.17 mph
2,500 ft AEG   2 Hrs    Break35 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to hike Maricopa Peak and check out a trail through the Javelina Mountains.

The Javelina Mountains are a major landmark within the Sonoran Desert National Monument. They form a natural barrier to cross country travel, diverting the flow of traffic to either end of the six mile range, the west side in particular. However, there is a middle way, a pass that cuts through the center that is rumored to be a dedicated route for high-value contraband.

Maricopa Peak has a moderate grade on the north face and is fairly easy to hike. Rocks and shrubs are few, road access is good, and there is an excellent place to camp near the summit, a flat spot that doubles as a helicopter landing pad. The mountain has relatively deep topsoil on the north side, with jojoba, banana yucca, and canotia bush predominating in the higher elevations. I did not see any mule deer or sheep in the area, but that was to be expected, as they were likely using the eastern part of the range near the AGFD water catchment.

The summer heat put a damper on things, requiring many rest breaks and consumption of mass amounts of fluids, well over two gallons. Attracted to the sweat upon my brow, a swarm of gnats and biting flies followed me throughout the day. A slight breeze would have brought relief, but alas, the air remained still. The insects were so numerous that I had to wrap a bandanna across my face to keep them out of my mouth and nose, looking like some kind of desperado. When in Rome.....

The middle pass trail was not what I had expected, but it was good to finally see it with my own eyes. After walking the entire distance, I came to the conclusion that it is nothing more than a secondary route and is seldom traveled. The trail has not been improved, and it basically follows a rock filled wash all the way down to Javelina Well. The boulders and drops are many, making the route slow and hazardous to travel. The west end of Javelina Mountain is where the bulk of the smuggling action takes place. It has two excellent foot trails cutting north. Sneak over there from Road 8015 if you ever want to see the conga lines, it will pick back up again in October.

Javelina Well is an SDNM historic site which has remnants of a pioneer dwelling and well. People used to make an honest living in this little corner of the world, ranchers and miners, but time has moved on. A colony of bees had taken up residence nearby, building a hive in a small cave next to the wash. The bees made sure that I moved out double quick.

There is still much to see and explore at Javelina Mountain and the Sand Tanks. I will be back in the fall. As usual, a long day in the heat has a way of making one appreciate the small things.
Flora
Flora
Jojoba
Fauna
Fauna
Honey Bee

dry Javelina Well Dry Dry
This well has no water. It is filled with sand.
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Apr 26 2014
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Cellar Basin, AZ 
Cellar Basin, AZ
 
Backpack avatar Apr 26 2014
Outlander
Backpack10.00 Miles 2,500 AEG
Backpack10.00 Miles   30 Hrs      0.67 mph
2,500 ft AEG   15 Hrs    Break5 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to hike to a remote spring in the western Bradshaw Mountains.
It was a low stress weekend, a time to breathe some fresh air and just putz around. I brought along my pack goat to test the “goat trek” concept, see what he could do.

Rain was coming down in buckets when we reached the trail head around 0800. Not a good start for my poor little goat, already burdened with a heavy pack load. In hindsight, it would have been much easier for him had we taken an established trail… my bad.

The main peak in the area is Horse Mountain at 7018 feet, with the western face dominated by scrub oak and Manzanita thickets. These were to be our downfall in the end, as the hedge became so thick at the 5000’ level that we could travel no further. The main issue was the width of the goat and saddle bags, together about three feet across. The space between the shrubs became less and less, causing us much toil in forcing our way through. Despite the setbacks, Nubie did great out there in my opinion. He made it through some tough country and found a way to cope.

We hiked four miles the first day, opting to camp back at the truck over in Cellar Basin. Having livestock at the camp seemed to attract the local coyotes, which howled and ran circles around our location all night. Nubie cried wolf several times, waking me up to peek outside with a flashlight. Not a single coyote, bear, or mountain lion was sighted. I slept through the rest of his false alarms, his credibility now in question. He was safe in his goat cage/camper, anyway. I was more concerned about my safety. Ha!

We had better luck on day two, completing the six mile trek to the spring and back, minus the pack saddle and gear. The spring was like an oasis in the desert, full of tasty green foliage for a hungry goat. Nubie was a mountain goat for a couple of days and seemed to enjoy the time out there.
Fauna
Fauna
Domestic Goat
Named place
Named place
Cellar Basin Horse Mountain
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Apr 11 2014
Outlander
avatar

 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Hidden Valley Road, AZ 
Hidden Valley Road, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Apr 11 2014
Outlander
Hiking7.50 Miles 3,200 AEG
Hiking7.50 Miles   12 Hrs      0.94 mph
3,200 ft AEG   4 Hrs    Break35 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to check out a few unnamed peaks east of the Vekol Valley, in Pinal County.

This 10 mile stretch of mountains is part of the Vekol Valley Corridor, one of the most notorious drug smuggling routes in the state. Increased law enforcement efforts along I-8 have pushed the cartel men further north into the Maricopa Mountains, Hidden Valley, and Rainbow Valley; 90 miles north of the line.

Starting early in the AM, it did not take long to find something of interest. A colony of bees had built a hive inside a mountaintop crevice; the low pitched buzz of ten thousand bees gave ample warning. Lucky for me they were not Africanized bees, which would have pursued me relentlessly, ruining the day. Next time I will not take a picture. Ha!

The mountains here are filled with observation posts, hideouts, layup camps, and supply cashes. I found seven spotter positions throughout the day, one of which had a new 12V marine battery, used by drug traffickers to power communications equipment and laptop computers. The food cashes were mostly cans of menudo, chorizo, tuna, etc. Not much of it was worth keeping, and my backpack was already heavy enough, loaded down with ice water and impedimenta.

The area was deserted on account of a raid by law enforcement about three weeks ago. They flew in helicopters and busted up the main camp on hill 2358, the wreckage of which was strewn all around. It is weird how fate intervenes in life sometimes, as I had been planning on hiking these mountains for several weeks, but a persistent cold/bad allergies kept me on the sideline, thus avoiding what might have been. In the lawless Arizona outback it is impossible to prepare for all contingencies, each situation is unique, and the outcomes are unknown.

Not far from the main camp, the unmistakable odor of decomp caught my nose. I began a search for what I thought was going to be my first dead body. Not so this time. It turned out to be just some leftover food; about 20 pounds of putrid steak, pork chops, and mayonnaise rotting in the sun. A new camp had been set up there recently, replete with propane stoves, fresh meat, water, whiskey, and cigarettes.

From there, it was just more of the same, finally making down the mountain around 1800. It was a good day with lots of elevation gain, bino work, and sneaking and creeping. On the way out, I chatted with a local homeowner on Happy Valley Road, sharing my pictures and exchanging stories. He said that there is never a dull moment in his neck of the woods, and his dogs bark all night long, day in and day out.

Having been unplugged for several years now, with eyes wide open, I found out that the rumors were indeed true. The mountains were what they said they were.
Flora
Flora
Marijuana
Named place
Named place
Hidden Valley Vekol Valley
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
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Mar 08 2014
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Chico Shunie Hills, AZ 
Chico Shunie Hills, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Mar 08 2014
Outlander
Hiking5.00 Miles 500 AEG
Hiking5.00 Miles   8 Hrs      1.67 mph
500 ft AEG   5 Hrs    Break35 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to check out a ghost town called Chico Shunie in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, CPNWR.

It was just a name on the map, an unknown destination, which turned an ordinary hike into a day of “discovery”. Sometimes it is more fun to venture out into the unknown, to be surprised, rather than make inquiries beforehand.

The eastern end of the Cabeza Prieta receives 9 inches of rainfall each year, making the desert here quite beautiful and lush. There are many fine specimens of organ pipe cactus in the Chico Shunie Hills that rival the giants found at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, OPCNM, which is currently limited to five permits per week on account of the border mayhem. The BLM area southwest of Ajo is pretty tame, and currently has many winter visitors staying in RVs enjoying the great weather and scenery. The easternmost two miles of the CBNWR is also clear, but if you venture further west, you will cross the trail network and traffic heading north from the OPCNM.

Chico Shunie is easy to find, just follow the dirt road past the refuge gate. I took a longer route through the Chico Shunie Hills, checking out some mines and smuggling trails along the way. It was only about 5 miles round trip, which was all I could muster on account of a bad case of allergies. March winds churned up the dust and pollen counts through the roof, reducing me to a pitiful state, thus torpedoing the itinerary.

The ghost town was once inhabited by a small band of Hia-C'ed O'odham, or “people of the sand”, who continued their traditional way of life until its last member died in 1999. His unmarked grave can be found next to a small house built of sheet metal and ocotillo branches. Two hand dug wells are also found at the town, one of which has an antique pump remaining. Chico Shunie is a designated cultural heritage site where the relics are not to be disturbed, and to this date, the site remains intact.

The cemetery is creepy to say the least: the shallow graves are covered with sheet metal and rocks, a measure used to keep dogs and area wildlife from disturbing the human remains. Several of the burial mounds are so shallow that one expects to see bones protruding from the soil…and there might be. I just did not see any. One of the graves appears to have been looted, having a hole dug on its west end where the head usually lies. The grave robber was likely looking for relics or macabre souvenirs, human bones and skulls. Such deeds are met with a heavy cost, as the perpetrator will be forever cursed, haunted by the spirits of the dead.

It is said that ghosts can be found along the Camino Del Diablo, or Devil’s Highway. Hundreds of men have met their end here; often dying alone and unburied, their sun baked bones slowly turning to dust in some faraway, forgotten field.

At Chico Shunie, the last of a long line of proud men died alone in his bed, and if you listen carefully, you can hear his voice in the wind.
Geology
Geology
Malachite
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Moderate
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Mar 02 2014
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Table Top Mountain, AZ 
Table Top Mountain, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Mar 02 2014
Outlander
Hiking12.00 Miles 2,500 AEG
Hiking12.00 Miles   10 Hrs      1.71 mph
2,500 ft AEG   3 Hrs    Break35 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to spend a day hiking in the Sonoran Desert National Monument, taking an alternate route to the summit of Table Top Mountain.

Road 8023 is in good shape and accessible to low clearance vehicles all the way to the wilderness boundary, just east of Indian Butte. This northern route will save you a considerable amount of drive time over the official Table Top Trailhead. If given a choice, I would rather park my truck at Indian Butte rather than in the Vekol Valley, a place where vehicles sometimes catch on fire.

Hiking the north face of Table Top is a good workout, with that last 1200’ a steady burn all the way to the summit. Not much had changed since the last time I rolled through. It was just a nice day to be out and about. All was quiet on the northern front, other than some radio chatter coming from the Vekol Valley.

I found a Motorola two-way radio in a discarded backpack near Stanfield Road, about this time last year. It works great and gave me an introduction to the wonderful world of radio. Two-way radios, or walky-talkies, are useful for keeping in touch with fellow hikers, hunters, and passersby. They are a reliable backup to your cell phone, weigh next to nothing, and will work in places with no cell coverage. It is also a good way to find out whether you are, in fact, alone in the wilderness.

I rarely key in, opting to maintain radio silence most of the time. Folks are less apt to talk if they know that a stranger is listening in. Most of the radio chatter you will hear south of I-8 is related to drug trafficking, communications between spotters and groups crossing the zone. They were rattling off a bunch of numbers this time, perhaps GPS coordinates.

A few weeks ago at the bombing range, I listened in on some interesting radio chatter on Channel 12. A group of Americans (not many out there) were talking on the radio about a killing; words like “corpse”, and “gunshots”, and a “dead body” kept coming up. A woman was doing most of the talking, asking her companions questions about the corpse, how they were going to move it, how heavy it was, etc. It was really exciting to hear this sort of thing on the radio, to have it happening in real time in the real world. Imagination ran wild; I peered through the binoculars hoping to catch a glimpse of the grisly scene.

When they started talking about deer antlers, I figured out that the radio discussion was about a deer hunt, not a crime scene. She was talking about a dead deer that her boyfriend/husband had shot during their morning deer hunt. Burn on me… Ha!

A stranger’s voice barked on the radio, “It is called a carcass, not a corpse!”
Named place
Named place
Table Top Mountains
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
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Feb 22 2014
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Childs Mountain, AZ 
Childs Mountain, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Feb 22 2014
Outlander
Hiking17.00 Miles 4,000 AEG
Hiking17.00 Miles   12 Hrs      1.70 mph
4,000 ft AEG   2 Hrs    Break35 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to hike Childs Mountain and visit a remote corner of the Cabeza Prieta Wilderness.

With easy access from SR 85, Childs Mountain is located four miles from the town of Ajo. It has a paved road that leads a radio facility at the summit, along with a place to walk around and take pictures. The BLM offers a road tour from the Cabeza Prieta main office, which ends with a scenic view from the summit of Childs Mountain. If you take the tour, be sure to bring a pair of high power binoculars or a spotting scope, lest you miss out on the action going on in the valley below.

The mountain is beset with volcanic rocks and boulders, providing a challenging off- trail experience. It was slow going in there and the rocks did not let up until I made it to the flats of Childs Valley.

The wildlife viewing was pretty good: several mule deer, rabbits, quail, and ground squirrels were spotted. No sheep or antelope this time, but they are in there. I also noticed a good number of swallows throughout the day, darting about the volcanic caves and cliffs, singing a pleasant melody.

The active bombing range to the north was buzzing with activity; military aircraft were coming and going, along with the occasional thud of exploding ordinance. The wilderness is in a pristine state except for the northern section where a smuggling trail crosses the mountain, a layup site of epic proportions. Many improvements have been made there over the years, including a labyrinth of dugouts that are used to defeat BP helicopters overhead. Within seconds, a multitude of people can vanish underground without a trace. It is a dicey place to poke around, and reminds me why policemen dislike sticking their heads into closets and attics.

It was a relief to finally reach the level ground of Childs Valley, taking a break from the rocks for a while. However, the easy walking was to be short lived, as the mountain needed to be crossed over yet again. It was here that I saw a guy clad in Vietcong-style black pajamas in the distance. He was holding a cell phone to his ear, sounding off the alarm as he ran down a wash. I called the Ajo BP station, but they declined to give chase on account of the steep terrain and distance from the road…a measly half mile. With no one willing or able to hike down there to catch him; he might as well just stayed put and flip me the bird..

A black cloud was overhead the rest of the hike, growing ever larger as I rehashed the events of the day. The BP boys at Black Gap got an earful on way the way home. Ha!
Fauna
Fauna
Honey Bee
Named place
Named place
Childs Mountain Childs Valley
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Substantial
Yellow sea of brittlebush.
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Jan 26 2014
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Tartron Flat, AZ 
Tartron Flat, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Jan 26 2014
Outlander
Hiking16.00 Miles 1,500 AEG
Hiking16.00 Miles   11 Hrs      2.00 mph
1,500 ft AEG   3 Hrs    Break35 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to spend another day walking around Tartron Flat, west of Gila Bend.

Arrived at 0500 and walked the early hours under a waning crescent moon. It is easy to navigate the flats during the night, and on this occasion, there was only about 23% of the moon illuminated. It was a fortunate circumstance that creosote and sage are the predominate flora in the area, and spiny cacti few and far between, as stumbling into things is expected in the dark.

As I made my way south, I noticed a bright light in the sky near Lookout Mountain, a peak that is located in the hazard zone of the Barry M. Goldwater Range…known as “Area A”.

I kept my eye on it for two hours, taking a look with the binoculars, wondering what kind of aircraft it could possibly be. The unidentified flying object held its position and altitude, remaining almost stationary in the sky. Through the binos, the object showed several white lights on a translucent orb, which seemed to move around a bit. It definitely was not a helicopter. I finally came to the conclusion that it was an observation balloon or one of those new drone blimps that the military is using in Afghanistan.

The dirigibles have an array of cameras and infrared sensors, which the Air Force is likely using to monitor “foot traffic” across the bombing range. Their deployment will force the smugglers to abandon several lucrative avenues in the trail network. This would also explain how the BP was able to make contact with me two weeks ago, when they claimed to have seen me from an aircraft. I suspect that Homeland Security is more concerned about unexploded bombs being carted off by a nascent insurgency, than they are about the smuggling.

The strange light disappeared with the break of dawn, and it was time to do some spotting. It turned out to be a slow morning, with just one mule deer crossing my OP. It was heading back into the desert after a nocturnal foray into the alfalfa fields of Paloma Ranch.

The rest of the day was spent walking from one ironwood tree to another, looking for lost riches, bones, etc. The desert of the Tartron Flat has little shade other than a scattering of ironwood and mesquite trees, spaced in quarter mile intervals. The shade trees are magnets for all things of interest. And during the hot summer months, when not a drop of water can be found, the shade trees are places where life succumbs, a place to die.

16 miles and one hundred shade trees later, I found neither bones nor riches, but what a fine day it was. An interesting audio book kept me company along the way; Fur, Fortune, and Empire, from my new Sony MP3 player. It is the same make and model that I lost over at Table Mountain, a hike that has left me with a piece of Arizona flora permanently imbedded in my hand. They say it will dissolve eventually…
Named place
Named place
Cinder Mountain
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated
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Dec 14 2013
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Sentinel Peak, AZ 
Sentinel Peak, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Dec 14 2013
Outlander
Hiking22.00 Miles 1,500 AEG
Hiking22.00 Miles   11 Hrs      2.20 mph
1,500 ft AEG   1 Hour    Break35 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to march from Piedra to Sentinel Peak along the old Yuma road.

With the winter solstice so near, the sun did not rise above the horizon until 0725. The morning light appeared as I walked past the new 280 megawatt Solana Generating Station, just in time to take a gander and snag a few photos.

From there, it was a ten mile slog across the Tartron Flat, a huge expanse of desert sage and creosote. North of Interstate 8, the desert is in a pristine state with nary a scrap of trash, trail, or footprint across the entire distance. And a better walking surface could not be found: the ground is composed of soft gravel, has few rocks to navigate, and the absence of vegetation allows for unimpeded travel. It was to be a day of easy walking with sights few and far between.

Sentinel Peak is a regional landmark along the Butterfield Trail/Yuma Road and is about 25 miles west of Gila Bend. Better described as a hill rather than a peak, Sentinel Peak rises a mere 300’ in elevation above the surrounding territory. However, it provides a commanding view of the trail in either direction. It was used as a lookout post during the pioneer days. It was also witness to the Battle of Stanwix Station, in 1862. This was the westernmost skirmish of the U.S Civil War, where a detachment of Confederate troops were caught destroying ammunition and provisions that were stockpiled along the Union invasion route.

With so much history in the area, I kept an eye out for artifacts as I plodded across the desert. Two grave sites, numerous rock piles, rusty cans, and a 3” cannon ball were discovered on this hike. I carried the heavy shot for a couple of miles, examining it, pondering whether it was an authentic cannonball, or if it was just scrap iron from a rock crushing mill. Mill balls usually have a seam across the middle and are not perfectly round. The cannon ball had a uniform diameter of about 3” and resembled ordinance for 6 pound smooth bore artillery. Not sure. Regardless, I cast it aside for the next fellow to find.

The return leg of the march followed the railroad. Many of the ghost towns along I-8 were founded during the steam era, when watering stations and sidings were established in ten mile intervals. Trains are always interesting to watch, and at least a dozen thundered down the track as I made my way east.

The access road along the track is patrolled regularly by the MCSO in their effort to curb drug smuggling, and two units drove past my position without noticing me sitting there, taking a rest break. They did, however, notice my truck parked near Piedra. Around noon, the MCSO sent a deputy over to my house to ascertain why my truck was parked in such a bad place, whether it had been stolen, etc.

In the end, all went well on the 22 mile march across the desert. Back at home, as I hobbled past the gate, my neighbor came out to inform me of the visit from the deputy. I am glad they are out there working, keeping an eye on things. The Wild West lives on.
Meteorology
Meteorology
Moon
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Nov 17 2013
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Hardscrabble Creek, AZ 
Hardscrabble Creek, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Nov 17 2013
Outlander
Hiking10.00 Miles 3,000 AEG
Hiking10.00 Miles   9 Hrs      1.43 mph
3,000 ft AEG   2 Hrs    Break35 LBS Pack
 
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to check out the upper section of Hardscrabble Creek.

The last time I rolled through Hardscrabble Creek there were some big elk living in the canyon, enjoying the abundant shade and cool waters therein. It was doubtful that they would still be there now, many months later, but it was worth a try. As is the case in the western Mazatzals, the elk that reside in remote locations will often live many years, and are more apt to die of old age than from being at the wrong end of a gun.

Access was fairly easy, other than the usual scrub oak and Manzanita that barred the way. It can wreak havoc on a bow, always getting snagged in the bowstring and pulling the arrows out of the quiver. My suffering on this occasion was very light compared to the summer excursions, when the chaparral is covered with dust, the temperature in triple digits, and water supply forever dwindling. It was a pleasant walk in the park.

The creek had a picturesque landscape: running waters, fall foliage in brilliant color, and abundant wildlife. The only thing missing were the elk, which had long since vacated the canyon to greener pastures up on Hardscrabble Mesa and Twin Buttes. There were no fresh tracks or droppings at the creek; the bulls must have bugged out during the rut, many weeks ago. A big herd of 50 lives on the mesa, along with many smaller groups.

Hardscrabble Creek is one of the rare places in Arizona where big horn sheep, deer, and elk share the same habitat. It is a transition zone between desert and high country flora and fauna. I set a trail cam on the south end of Deadman Mesa last year and got some great pictures, even had a sheep chew on the camera, nibbling off some moss that I glued on for camouflage.

The hunt thus ended and I spent the rest of the day messing around shaking the bush. I hacked my way up to a cave, and then checked out an interesting cliff section and bench that had been on my list for some time. However, the route that I took was not ideal on account of a steep section near the rim; it is better to go around on either side. No point in breaking a leg out there.

As is often the case, my hunts turn in to hikes, or vice versa. It is always a good time, nonetheless.
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Substantial

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Hardscrabble Creek Light flow Light flow
This creek flows year-round is a reliable source.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max North Tank 51-75% full 51-75% full
This tank usually has water and gets hunted often.
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Oct 20 2013
Outlander
avatar

 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Batamote Mountains, AZ 
Batamote Mountains, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Oct 20 2013
Outlander
Hiking13.00 Miles 2,700 AEG
Hiking13.00 Miles   13 Hrs      1.30 mph
2,700 ft AEG   3 Hrs    Break30 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to check out the Batamote Mountains near Ajo.

The Batamote Mountains are part of a volcanic upwelling, consisting of ash and basalt rock. The south face is very steep in places, but the rest of the mountain is of a moderate grade, following the lava flows that extend several miles. It would be a fun area to camp a couple of days, allowing ample time to explore the cliffs and caves on the south end.

I was expecting this place to be much like Saucedea Mountains to the north, so I arrived early and put some distance between myself and the truck before sunrise. The bright moon was more than adequate to get around out there, though the dark shadows are unnerving at times. The use of flashlights is ill advised because it illuminates your position/bearing to spotters. It turned out that nobody was working on this day, but the early start did give me some extra time to putz around.

A herd of bighorn sheep made their presence known by kicking a huge boulder down the mountain. I was about ¼ mile distant and was able to observe the awesome destruction firsthand. The sheep spooked and ran over the hump, barely visible through the Sun’s glare. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to find out if any of the sheep fell along with the boulder, though they would surely have been dead. A fresh ram scull might be waiting at the base of that cliff.

There are a few rare plant species living on the mountain, including organ pipe cactus and elephant trees. It is an arid landscape, no doubt, but checkout that wash on the north end if you ever pass through. It is prone to flooding and receives a good drenching each year, making it a green belt of sorts, full of critters and big ironwood trees.

The Batamotes are fairly clean, as most of the smuggling action is concentrated within three passes on the far west end. The high dollar stuff is coming over the middle, past the layup cave with the Virgin Mary shrine. The shrine has a small collection of change and pesos in an offering dish. I figured it prudent to leave the money alone, to have taken it; one would risk the wrath of God for the remainder of the hike.

A Homeland Security helicopter patrolled the western passes during the morning, and later in the day, another one buzzed my truck to check the plates. The only footprints that I saw on my 13 mile loop were next to the water catchment, from three guys who doubled back to top off their water jugs.

It is a neat area and I will come back again someday.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
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Sep 28 2013
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Table Top Backtrack, AZ 
Table Top Backtrack, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Sep 28 2013
Outlander
Hiking14.00 Miles 2,000 AEG
Hiking14.00 Miles   12 Hrs      1.56 mph
2,000 ft AEG   3 Hrs    Break30 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to return to the Table Top Wilderness in search of a lost radio. I dropped my Walkman radio/MP3 player somewhere along the trail last weekend, and thought it worth going back to get it.

Backtracking is much easier if you have a GPS route to go by, as I did on this occasion, but it is never a sure thing. Successful backtracking requires patience, a positive attitude, and a little bit of luck. Lost items will usually turn up at rest areas where you sat a spell, or in particularly difficult terrain. I had a few likely places in mind: it was either lost in the boulder fields, the cat claw hedges, or that spot where I tumbled down a ravine.

The first stop was Peak 3510, which is about two miles south of the Hidden Valley Interchange on I-8. It is a nice view and an easy three mile hike from Indian Butte. There is even a peak register on top with several entries. I glassed the area for a while and then pressed on toward Table Top.

Following GPS routes is tedious, as the lines are constantly shifting back and forth when the satellite position is refined. That is assuming that the original line was accurate in the first place, which often has errors on account of movement and reception quality. However, the path of least resistance does not change, and it will guide you back the second time around.

On the south face of Table Top Mountain I was to receive a botany lesson the hard way, falling headlong into a young saguaro cactus. It was like having my hand and back shot up with a nail gun, and many of the spines still remain, having broken off deep under the skin. It shows how quickly things can go wrong out there.

The way back was clear and I made good time. I failed to recover the lost MP3 player and have multiple piercings and quills for the effort. No pain no gain, they say.
Fauna
Fauna
Rock Wren
Named place
Named place
Indian Butte Table Top Wilderness
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Sep 07 2013
Outlander
avatar

 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Table Top Barrier, AZ 
Table Top Barrier, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Sep 07 2013
Outlander
Hiking11.00 Miles 1,200 AEG
Hiking11.00 Miles   9 Hrs      1.83 mph
1,200 ft AEG   3 Hrs    Break30 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to check out the vehicle barrier over at the Table Top Wilderness.

The 1.3 mile vehicle barrier was built in 2011 to protect sensitive environmental areas from smuggling and off-road crossings. Despite being over 70 miles north of the line, this zone was hit hard for a number of years until the BLM, law enforcement, and local volunteers took action.

I spent the morning walking the barrier, checking for crossings and gaps as I went. It resembles something from the beaches of Normandy, made with scrap railroad rails connected in a cross, then a header along the top. The rails have the name and date of manufacture stamped on the sides, and most are over a hundred years old. It was fun to see names like Lackawanna Steel Company, Algoma, and others; to reminisce of old mill towns in the Rust Belt and Indiana. The repurposed steel has found a new life here, and so far, has been very effective. BLM Kevin did a good job on the project.

The next stop was the fence line of the Tohono O’odham Nation (TO). There were a few cuts in the wire where vehicles had passed through, but not very much activity. This zone has slowed way down the last couple of years due to a number of factors.

It was another cloudy day so the snakes were out again, one of which I almost stepped on before he gave me a courtesy rattle. It is a challenge to keep your eyes both on the ground and the horizon at the same time. Maybe some snake gaiters are in order.

The snakes produced a yawn, but adrenaline ran high when I walked into a vehicle hidden in a wash. It turned out to be just a stolen car that had been driven across the desert, abandoned once it got stuck in the sand. For a minute though, it looked like trouble in a bad place. Load vehicles in the desert are often filled with contraband worth tens of thousands of dollars. I am not sure how that situation will go down, but in any case, it is best to avoid it if possible. No treasure or dead bodies were found inside the car. I did find a femur bone that looked human later in the day, but after further scrutiny, it came up negative.

It was a good day out there; it is always fun to kick around in the desert.
Named place
Named place
Table Top Wilderness
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Aug 25 2013
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Table Top Wilderness East, AZ 
Table Top Wilderness East, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Aug 25 2013
Outlander
Hiking16.00 Miles 3,300 AEG
Hiking16.00 Miles   11 Hrs      2.00 mph
3,300 ft AEG   3 Hrs    Break30 LBS Pack
 
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to check out the east end of the Table Top Wilderness.

It takes a considerable amount of time in the field to gain an understanding of a region, and this hike would add another piece of the puzzle.

The first destination was Indian Butte. I figured it might be a good place to look for Indian artifacts, stone buildings, and petroglyphs; given its name. After hiking up and around the area, I was unable to find any remnants of ancient peoples or culture, just an old spotter position that had been mothballed for the summer.

At the north end of the butte are dozens of fenced enclosures, each about 100 feet square, made with T-posts, barb wire, and hardware cloth. They are part of a biology/forestry experiment that attempted to isolate saguaro cactus from the surrounding area, to protect the plants from some sort of critter.. tortoises? Many of the fences have fallen over and the experiment appears to have been forgotten or abandoned. I will see if the BLM office on Central knows anything about it, and float the idea of letting me have those corner T-posts…fat chance!

It was a perfect day to be out hiking the desert: overcast, rainy, temps in the low 90’s, etc. Despite the excellent weather, my mojo was not very good on this day and I ended up taking a few slams, the kind of falls that lead to hard and pointed objects. I blame it on a steady diet of hot dogs, doughnuts, and energy drinks as of late; need to change that up a bit.

It was a slow day out there, not much more to tell. Perhaps I should be thankful that each fork in the road led to the mundane. They say be careful what you wish for, you may get it.
Culture
Culture
Trash Hauled Out
Named place
Named place
Indian Butte
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
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Aug 10 2013
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Bars Canyon, AZ 
Bars Canyon, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Aug 10 2013
Outlander
Hiking18.00 Miles 8,600 AEG
Hiking18.00 Miles   21 Hrs      1.13 mph
8,600 ft AEG   5 Hrs    Break20 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to patrol a couple of hot spots near Bars Canyon and Mazatzal Peak.

With an early start, fresh legs, and a light pack; I was determined to accomplish all the tasks on the itinerary. Mazatzal Peak was first on the list. The Suicide Ridge approach saves about 1.4 miles vs. the Shake Tree Trail route, which is washed out in places and heavy on the rocks. Nonstop to the top in 2 hours 50 minutes.

The next destination was Bars Canyon, taking the ravine below Y Bar Tanks. That is a rough little stretch in there, with several cliffs and walk-arounds. It has a couple of old dope grow sites along the creek, the usual scene. I met a hiker a few years back who claimed to have seen the Cartel men over at the Barnhardt TH. They were loading trash bags full of dope into one of those lawn maintenance truck/trailer setups, hiding the bags among the yard clippings. This was likely the same outfit that worked below the Y Bar in 2006.

By accident or design, Bars Canyon is one of the few places within the eastern Mazatzals to have escaped fire damage. It has a mature oak forest and an intermittent stream, making it an ideal habitat for a number of species. The lower creek has a swimming hole, interesting geology, and easy road access.

The Bear Story:

So I was taking a lunch break, minding my own business; I look over my shoulder and there was a bear staring back at me. After a momentary fright, it became evident that the bear was just a little cub, so I exchanged the pistol for a camera. The bear cub had likely caught wind of my Spam and peanut butter, an irresistible combination. His mother was nowhere in sight, and likely dead, either from natural causes or was a casualty of the bear hunting season (Unit 22 S opened on Aug 9). The bear was almost tame, moving within 30 feet at times, and had not learned to fear men and their boomsticks. He was just a lonely bear cub hoping to find a meal and a new friend.

Orphaned bear cubs have a tough time surviving on their own, often falling victim to predators and other bears. My cub had a deep gash on his back, evidence his perilous journey. With long odds, fate alone will decide his future.

The AGFD hunting regulations forbid the harvest of sows with cubs; nonetheless, sows are sometimes taken accidentally. That might have happened in this instance, as just around the corner is Shake Tree Canyon, prime bear habitat. At least three bears get harvested from this location each season. Being an easy rifle shot from the top of Shake Ridge, this spot is a road hunter’s paradise.

I watched the cub for about ten minutes and then moved out, knowing that there were many more miles of bushwhacking ahead of me. The Manzanita stands were chest high, intermixed with vines and deadfall. It was tough work in there, slow going, and added at least four extra hours of hike time. Law enforcement uses helicopters to access the area, which they do each year about this time, running eradication and apprehension ops.

With all those bears and bandits out there, sleeping under the stars did not seem like a good idea. It became a forced march in the dark, mile after mile, a taste of the hard times that loom just over the horizon.
Flora
Flora
Giant chainfern
Named place
Named place
Bars Canyon Y Bar Basin
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Bars Canyon Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Water can be found here in several places, especially in the lower section.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Y Bar Tanks 1-25% full 1-25% full
There is a spring right here that was flowing at about 5 gpm.
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Jul 27 2013
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Bear Creek, AZ 
Bear Creek, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Jul 27 2013
Outlander
Hiking23.00 Miles 8,000 AEG
Hiking23.00 Miles   36 Hrs      0.96 mph
8,000 ft AEG   12 Hrs    Break25 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to check out a couple of springs in the Mazatzal Wilderness along Bear Creek.

The craggy peaks and canyons west of the Mazatzal Divide are very remote and receive few visitors. It is the type of country where you have the chance to find something of value or interest, so long as you stay off the beaten path. Beaten paths are few and far between out there, as most of interior trail system is in poor condition.

The route was the same hike that I did in June of 2010, walking down Bear Creek to the Davenport/Club Cabin Trail, and then heading back up the mountain through Mazatzal Wash. Bear Creek is usually dry in the upper four miles, other than a nice spring about halfway up. The lower section of the creek near Club Cabin flows continually and supports a few fish. The pools are shallow so only the smallest of minnows can live there on account of the bears having caught all the fish worth eating.

Five weeks of rain has ended the summer dry season; green foliage and colorful flowers abound. Even the creeks are running again, and better tasting water would be hard to find. The upper aquifer took several weeks to recharge, but water is now gushing out in earnest from the fault zones between the four and five thousand foot mark. There are a couple of places where the mountain is so full of fissures that water seeps from just about everywhere, even the tops of rocky crags, which is rather unusual. The water temperature was on the warm side, so there might be some volcanic heating going on underground.

I bailed on the Mazatzal Wash route on account of tired legs, opting to take the easier trail system instead. Mazatzal Wash is intermittent, but it does have a nice waterfall and spring around the 5000’ mark. Ranchers used to run cattle and sheep in the area, and there is an iron pipe that once brought water down from the spring. Perhaps I will hike that area next time.
Named place
Named place
Bear Creek Mazatzal Wilderness
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Substantial

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Bear Creek Light flow Light flow
The creek never dries out near Club Cabin.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Sheep Creek - Upper SE Fork Medium flow Medium flow
Lots of runoff from the summer rains.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Sheep Creek Seep Dripping Dripping
This seep is a lousy place to find water, further up the trail water can be found.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Squaw Flat Spring Gallon per minute Gallon per minute
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Jul 22 2013
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Rainbow Valley, AZ 
Rainbow Valley, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Jul 22 2013
Outlander
Hiking7.00 Miles 1,000 AEG
Hiking7.00 Miles   2 Hrs   30 Mns   3.50 mph
1,000 ft AEG      30 Mns Break5 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to take a pack goat to the Estrella Mountain Wilderness for a test hike.

My goat is a Nubian wether, and rather scrawny, not great pack goat material at all. The bigger, milk goats make the best packers, and the rule of thumb is a goat can pack a quarter of its body weight up to 15 miles a day. I bought him as a nuisance goat back in 2011 at the height of the neighborhood noise wars, where he did a commendable job bawling non-stop for months on end. He has since grown up to become a lean, mean, weed eating machine.

The hike was an impromptu 6 mile wander across Rainbow Valley from East Tank to the Estrella Mountains. I had the goat on a lead rope and made sure he understood the pecking order: people lead and goats follow. He was nervous much of the hike because this was his first trip away from home. Scared goats are well behaved goats, and Newbie did not engage in any mischief on this outing. He stayed clear of the cholla and was no trouble whatsoever; especially once we got into the mountains.

Goats love mountains and have a natural climbing ability, which will only get better with more time in the field. No falls, no rock slides, no problems. He got an ‘A’ grade on his first day in school.

Rainbow Valley is very flat and easy on the feet, making travel at a double quick pace a viable option. We did about a mile of cross country running on the return leg to get some cardio in. The goat kept up just fine, barely breaking a sweat. Running cross country is much more fun than pounding the pavement in the city, in my opinion. It did not hurt that Monday was one of those rare overcast days in July, with temps in the low 90’s. Just stay clear of the prairie dog mounds and underground burrows, as they sometimes collapse underfoot.

We will try something a bit more ambitious next time.
Fauna
Fauna
Domestic Goat
Named place
Named place
East Tank Rainbow Valley
Meteorology
Meteorology
Sunset

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max East Tank 1-25% full 1-25% full
This tank is usually dry. A functioning water well and tank is 100 yards to the NW. The local ranchers keep the water trough and tank full at all times for their cattle and area wildlife.
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Jul 04 2013
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Red Mountain Blue Range, AZ 
Red Mountain Blue Range, AZ
 
Backpack avatar Jul 04 2013
Outlander
Backpack32.00 Miles 8,000 AEG
Backpack32.00 Miles   72 Hrs      0.44 mph
8,000 ft AEG35 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to check out another section the Blue Range Primitive Area.

The first order of business was to unplug the computer, disconnect the internet, pull out the cell phone battery, and bring several Jerry cans of extra gasoline. In short, I wanted to fall off the surveillance grid for a few days.

The original plan was to hike the Red Mountain Trail, check out the peaks, then head east to the Blue River and beyond. The trail is in good shape over the first four miles, which makes Brigham Peak and Red Mountain an easy day-hike from U.S. 191. I arrived at the trailhead late in the day, just in time for the afternoon showers. Rain is to be expected in the month of July, usually in the morning/afternoon, and I was soaked much of the trip.

I do not mind the rain so long as it is not coming down in buckets. It dampens sound and human scent so one is less likely to be detected by wildlife. Scent was an issue on account of me forgetting to wash the backpack after the desert sweat hikes; everything was catching wind of me at a great distance. The rain made it possible to sneak up on some wild turkeys, a bear, mule deer, and a few elk. The only good picture that I took was of the bear, on account that it was dead and could not run away.

I followed Oak Creek down to the Blue River, and then headed south to camp at the HU Bar Cabin. It is a former ranch dwelling that the Forest Service has reconditioned for the public use. They did a fantastic job, installing new doors and windows, insulation, a wood burning stove, cots, and other amenities. They call it the “HU Bar Hilton” on the log in, along with some funny drawings of pot leaves and cowboys. What it meant for me was a bear-free camp, a time to sleep without the need to ‘keep one eye open’.

Despite the rains, water was scarce near the cabin and I ended up having to drink the muddy waters of Blue River. The water was dark brown in color and resembled 30 weight motor oil in appearance and viscosity. It clogged my filter, so I had to boil the liquid and then added coffee grinds for flavor. It was true ‘mud’ coffee with a buggy aftertaste.

The HU Bar is a good base camp for ops in the central Blue Range Primitive Area, and it appears to get frequent use by the Forest Service, environmentalists, and wolf watchers. That might explain why it is so posh; the Apache National Forest seems to have a lot of money go its way, political muscle, and new pickup trucks.

The return leg included a stop at the VT Ranch and a seven mile trek along the beautiful Rousensock Creek, an intermittent stream with much to see and explore. Oak and Rousensock Creeks were the best part of the trip, though I regret having not gone the extra three miles to Hanna Hot Springs. A 1500’ escarpment blocked my way, to which I made a feeble effort to surmount before quitting, figuring that I would never make it by nightfall. The lure of nubile, naked beauties at the hot spring was tempting, but I ended up opting for a hot and a cot over at the HU Bar.

On three days in July, an analyst typed the words: “subject’s whereabouts unknown.”
Flora
Flora
Quaking Aspen
Fauna
Fauna
Ladybug beetle
Culture
Culture
Corral Water Well
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Donothing Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Clear water, easy access.

dry Hu Bar Spring Dry Dry
One could dig a little and get some water in a pinch, but the Blue River is right there and a better option. This spring flows most of the year, though. I arrived at the tail end of the dry season.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Oak Creek Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Intermittent stream with springs every 1/2 mile or so.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Rousensock Creek Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Intermittent stream with springs every 1/4 mile or so. Rock tanks on upper two miles.

dry Yellow Springs Dry Dry
No green, no water. Keep moving on down to the VT Ranch.
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Jun 22 2013
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Calf Pen CanyonPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jun 22 2013
Outlander
Hiking18.00 Miles 5,000 AEG
Hiking18.00 Miles   30 Hrs      1.13 mph
5,000 ft AEG   14 Hrs    Break30 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to hike Calf Pen Canyon and its major feeder streams.

Calf Pen Canyon is the jewel of the Fossil Creek Wilderness, a place where few people venture, despite its close proximity to civilization. It has a beautiful flowing creek, old-growth forests, abundant wildlife, and no trails or amenities whatever. In short: it is a great place to spend some time. I make the hike every summer, usually opting for a day-trip, and then hustle over to the family cabin at Strawberry. The best case scenario is to arrive just as dinner is being served, dirty and bedraggled, with a new story to tell.

Calf Pen Canyon has cliffs along much of its perimeter, making access rather difficult. I took a new route in this time and found it to be a good option. There is a game/bear trail that follows a steep grade all the way down to the creek, which cannot be said of the other access points that have many cliffs and drops, requiring leg burning portages and walk-arounds. Once in the canyon, the bushwhacking is about a 6 of 10 on the difficulty scale, with plenty of rocks and deadfall; it gets progressively easier as one moves down river.

There must be at least 10 bears in the canyon, and rarely do I pass through without seeing at least one of them. The bears usually come down from the Manzanita thickets each day around noon to wallow in the creek. This year’s outing was slow compared to usual, with just a few fleeting glances of the bears. There are lots things to see, but if you are in a hurry, you might miss it.

It is about a 10 mile hike from Calf Pen Canyon to Fossil Springs Trail #18. A person can hike it at a leisurely pace in one day and still have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. However, if you dally in the side canyons, it will take much longer. They are choked with vegetation and very steep. I ditched my pack to hump up those side canyons, but even without the burden it was tough going. In the first side canyon I felt like Spiderman, climbing and pulling my way up the hill with ease; but that did not last very long. After a few more side excursions, I was dragging tail on the way out. The last hill was new ground for me, and I discovered another old grow site that was penciled in as a “probable” on the my map.

The story is not complete without mentioning the legendary dope grows of Calf Pen Canyon. In the year 2005, drug cartels took over the area and had thousands of marijuana plants in cultivation there, causing much environmental damage and several incidents with hikers on Fossil Springs Trail #18. The Gila County Drug Task Force, along with federal law enforcement agencies, raided multiple sites in the canyon and arrested four Mexican nationals, seizing a total of 19,000 pounds of marijuana. The place was cleared out and has been fairly quiet ever since.

It has been interesting to watch the forest heal itself over time, with each year in passing the trash is less noticeable, the Manzanita fills back in, and new life springs forth from the stumps of felled oak trees. The recovery would be near complete if it were not for the ¾” PVC drip lines that blanket the area. It is a durable material with a half-life of 100 years, or so it would seem, and nearly indestructible.

I doubt that Calf Pen Canyon will be ever used again on account of all the attention it receives from law enforcement each year. However, it is common for growers to reuse old sites from time to time. Every summer is a new game, a reset, which keeps things interesting out in the backwoods.
Fauna
Fauna
Bumblebee
Named place
Named place
Calf Pen Canyon
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Calf Pen Canyon Medium flow Medium flow
Water is everywhere down here, as well as further up the hill sides with many flowing springs.
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Jun 15 2013
Outlander
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 Routes 68
 Photos 807
 Triplogs 64

male
 Joined Aug 03 2007
 Tolleson, AZ
Sand Tank Wash, AZ 
Sand Tank Wash, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Jun 15 2013
Outlander
Hiking17.00 Miles 2,000 AEG
Hiking17.00 Miles   12 Hrs      1.89 mph
2,000 ft AEG   3 Hrs    Break40 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to spend a day hiking the Sand Tank Mountains from I-8 to the Blue Plateau.

The Blue Plateau is a moderate hike of only 1500’ elevation gain and less than two miles from road 8008. However, this road is well beyond the Line of Control (LOC), where unattended vehicles are subject to theft or vandalism. I opted to park at a safe location on I-8 and attempt a 20 mile hike to the peak.

The Sonoran Desert National Monument has over 40 water catchments, or guzzlers, that can be found every three miles in all directions. In a sense, this is not a desert at all, water is everywhere. Having maps, GPS points to the guzzlers, and three gallons in my pack; I headed south towards the destination.

People sometimes die out there despite the abundance of water, and the discovery of human remains is a common occurrence. Just last week a hiker died of thirst over at Table Top Mountain. A group of three European tourists attempted to hike the peak, unaware of the large amount of water consumption required. They ran out of water near the summit and became dehydrated. A SAR team responded quickly but was only able to rescue two of the three. Little did they know that life sustaining water was just a mile away (25 minute walk), in the form of an Arizona Game and Fish Dept. water catchment.

After a lifetime of hiking out in the Arizona outback, I have yet to come across a single human skeleton or dead body. In a state with such a violent past, impassible deserts, and massive border incursions; one would expect to be tripping over the bones of the dead at every turn. Not so.

The main reason is the fact that exposed bones can decompose to dust in as little as 8 years in a desert environment, as opposed to 40+ years in cooler climes. I did find one set of bones in the Growler Mountains last year that appeared to be human, but they had been broken up and decomposed to such an extent that it was difficult to identify them with any certainty.

It is always interesting to see how the desert fauna and flora adapt to the harsh environment. The ground squirrels and prairie dogs in the Sand Tank Wash were active, collecting the bounty of palo verde and ironwood beans that littered the ground. At one point, a baby prairie dog was separated from its parents and became frozen with fear. I could have just reached down and picked it up. It took a while for the cute little critter to regain its wits and scamper off; chalk it up as another missed photo op.

The hike was rather uneventful, but that was actually a good thing, considering the circumstances. The best decision of the day was to call off the peak attempt at 1400 hours, about two miles short. I was already used up and had a long slog back to the truck ahead of me. I will try again once the weather cools down a bit, and find out what is going on in untamed wilds of the Sand Tank Mountains. Until then, it is off to the cool pines.
Culture
Culture
Benchmark
Named place
Named place
Squaw Tits
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average hiking speed 1.49 mph
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

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