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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

ABBEY WAY

ABBEY WAY Sierra Ancha Wilderness In the forest south of Young, an obscure trail named for 70s eco-guru, Edward Abbey (1927-1989), snakes gently up to the highest point in the Sierra Ancha hills. Passionately protective of the southwest’s wilderness areas, Abbey wrote numerous environmental classics, including, The Monkey Wrench Gang and Desert Solitaire. He did some of his writing while working for two seasons as a forest service lookout in the fire tower on the summit of Aztec Peak. It is sadly ironic that stretches of Abbey Way were burnt to a crisp by the 2000 Coon Creek fire. Among the charred wooden corpses, survivor pines stand unscathed with seedlings beneath their branches. Abbey once said, “There are no vacant lots in nature.” Scrub oak, Arizona maples, agaves and wildflowers are new tenants amid the fertile remains of old growth. The summit, relatively untouched by the fire, features sandstone cliffs that had been the shoreline of an ancient Cambrian sea. Views from the top are unlike any in Arizona. Imagine taking the red rocks of Sedona, the Coconino limestone cliffs of the high county, some pine trees from Payson and the stream-side maples of New England, tossing them into a blender and flinging the results over the earth’s surface. Breathtaking. Whether you are a fan of its namesake or not, Abbey Way is a damn good trail. LENGTH: 4 miles round trip from the trailhead. 7 miles round trip from the gate. RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 6,400 to 7,750 feet GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take US 60 to just before Globe. Go north on SR 188 to 288 (Young Road). Follow 288, a dirt road, for about 14 miles to FR 487. Look for the sign: “Workman Creek Recreation Area”. Drive 16 miles on 487 to the gate with a sign reading: closed Dec. 15 – Mar. 31. You can park at the gate or drive an additional 1.5 miles to the 151 trailhead. But then, you’ll miss hiking past the cliffs and waterfalls. Passenger cars okay.