|Six Shooter #197 Post Fire, AZ|| |
Six Shooter #197 Post Fire, AZ
|3,380 ft AEG|
|Checking the Tonto NF website this week, I saw that they reopened the Pinals for public use. I've always called this a hike for all seasons and since I live a little over an hour away, this has been my summer work out hike for years. If you hit the trail very early (6:30 on this day), you'll be in the shade the entire way up.
I was very afraid that after this years fire (2017), that it would now be a 2-3 season hike. I'd been anticipating and dreading doing this hike since the fire started. What I saw on this hike really surprised me, I had been expecting to see a moon scape landscape. That wasn't the case!
On the drive in, it didn't look promising as I neared the Icehouse Canyon Rec site. You can clearly see that the lower elevations of Icehouse Canyon and the Telephone or is it Telegraph trails sustained very bad damage. On the bright side, a lot of it is manzanita and that does well after fires. From what I could see, regrowth of various types of vegetation is established and thriving.
I cheat during the summer on this hike and drive past the rec site to the first and maybe only bridge about a mile past the rec site turnoff. There's a small parking area and that's where I start, Six Shooter crosses the road about 100 yards past the bridge. On the drive up, one can see the lower area of the trail and it was untouched by the fire. To the right of the road, the fire burned and the damage is bad. The runoff from the area's above the road will continue to damage the road for sometime. However the USFS has done a great job keeping the road in good shape. There are about 6ish area's that runoff will be eating away the road on the drive to the bridge until the soil washes away and/or stabilizes with new growth.
Just before the bridge, the burn scar stops. At the bridge you can look down into Six Shooter Creek and it had flowing water and the water was clear. You can see that there was a fair amount of sediment and the creek had widened but it wasn't that bad. There was a little vegetation cut back (fire break) along the short road walk to where the trail crosses it. There's a new sign here pretty much stating fire damage ahead, proceed at your own risk.
I count 4 creek crossing over the next 3 miles or so until the trail hits the old mining/logging road that is kind of flat. The first creek crossing comes pretty quick and you'll hit it a little past the metal gate you past through. NO burn damage along the trail during this stretch but you can start to see the mosaic pattern of LOW to MODERATE burn which will be the reocurring theme until the above mentioned old road.
At the first creek crossing, clear water was flowing. Again here there is a good amount of sediment but then again, I was expecting a lot more. It takes me about 10-20 minutes to get to the 2nd creek (dry) crossing. Along this stretch the fire burned into the trail in spots at low to moderate intensity. The upper slopes on the right side during this stretch took a beating from the fire but the fire didn't make it far into Six Shooter Canyon. All of the trees on the entire hike that probably died were Oaks, a few Maples and I'm sure there were others such as Walnuts, etc.. I did notice an area of catclaw coming in but I don't think it'll survive the winter (-; No crowning happened on the entire Six Shooter trail and all the damaged/dead trees are heat stressed.
Between the 2nd and 3rd crossing is the worst of fire damage. Pretty much right after the 2nd crossing there's an area of a few acres which seemed severe to me. Most of the trees are still standing but they're ALL heat stressed. This area has always been rocky, hot and has slippery footing, its not any better. Even though I've hiked this trail maybe 50 times, I missed a turn and headed up a side trail to an old mine area. I really couldn't tell where I was but knew it didn't feel right. I cut across to where I knew the trail should be and found it. I've always considered this area just mentioned to be the last of the blah hiking before you enter the first pines. Once you enter the pines you parallel the creek but your a bit higher. This stretch to the 3rd crossing is now treacherous. There's not much fire damage along the trail but to your left and above you the fire did some unseen damage. There's erosion from water coming down in a number of spots but its not bad until.... You'll come to two smallish ones in rapid succession, they aren't to bad but its a bunch of loose rocks so watch your footing. However right after those two there's another. This one can hurt you, its loose, steep and there's a plunge involved if you mess up. Its maybe 25' wide and not deep but a real pain. A plunge probably won't kill you but YOU WILL break bones. I pigeon toed it both ways with poles and didn't like it. I believe it will get much worse and perhaps the trail will need to be rerouted at some point. This really is the only damage on the entire trail. After that, its a little overgrown and you'll pass over some more but minor water eroded areas on the way to the third crossing.
The third crossing had clear water flowing and the sediment was a little smelly and dark in color. I've got a good sense of smell and I was surprised that with the exception of a handful of times, I never smelt burnt forest on the entire hike. The times that I did, it was very mild. The stretch to the 4th crossing is short and had low impact burn which pretty much means the forest floor is now clean of debris and there are some heat stressed trees.
After the 4th crossing is when my favorite part of the hike starts and continues all the way up to Ferndall Spring. Again here the Oaks are the trees that got the brunt of the damage. There canopy was to low to the ground for this fire. With the pines the canopy is up high enough to avoid being damaged with the exception of the low branches. A little past the 4th crossing you'll have to pay attention. There's a bunch of runoff sediment that has covered the trail in spots. I've never noticed all the old blazes in the trees along this stretch, I did this day! The rest of the hike to the kind of flat old road burned at low intensity for most of the way. The fire really cleaned up the forest floor.
Once at the flat road you can look down into the lower and upper reaches of Six Shooter Canyon. You'll get a good view of the fire damage at the enteance to the canyon on the west side. Looks like the road was used as a fire break and some back burning may have happened. I'd guess in a few years the very little damage will have healed. The road is now nice and clean, I bet mountain bikers will love this stretch. As you approach the 2 old mine openings which will be on your left, the fire burned hotter here. The pines are all just fine but it appears the USFS is concerned of erosion. There is hay scattered around the flattish road for most of the way but its a lot heavier around the mines. The hay is encountered until the cut over trail junction that leads to Icehouse Canyon.
After the junction the deep and dark forest survived. There's a little burn here and there, maybe from spot fires? I was treated to a surprise along this stretch on this day. I heard some loud noises just ahead of me which sounded like a person going off trail. NOPE! I treed about a 150lb. Black Bear. This one was different. I stopped so I could get out the camera and analyze the situation. It climbed down the tree, I backed up and we both walked clockwise about 100' apart sizing each other up, it grunted a bunch. I was thinking I was going to have to do my best Mohammad Ali: "Dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee"! with this character. This went on for a few minutes but I went up mountain and it went down mountain as I figured out what to do. Interesting, I've had 20-30 encounters over the years and they all ran, this one had no fear. Be cautious in this area.
I very rarely hike Icehouse but the lower part didn't look promising. However you can see slightly up canyon from FR112? It looked like unburnt trees in that window. Next time I think I'll go up Six Shooter, cut over to Icehouse, climb to the top, hike the road to Six Shooter and returnWell that's all folks!