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Thursday, August 27, 2009


EAST FORK TRAIL Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest The thin air above the town of Greer may get your lungs pumping, but it’s the views of Arizona’s White Mountains that will really take your breath away. This alpine passage begins where the West and East forks of the Little Colorado River drift off in opposite directions under a canopy of streamside alders and willows.. After an immediate wade across the West Fork, a short but steep haul up to 9,200-foot Amberon Point marks the most difficult portion of the hike. With the only major uphill grind of the hike out of the way, it becomes much easier to take in the relaxing alpine scenery that characterizes the remainder of the trail. Roughly paralleling the East Fork of the Little Colorado River, trail #95 meanders through a checkerboard of cienegas—marshy wetlands fed by springs, seeps and drainages—that foster acres of waist-high grasses and a colorful mix of flowering plants. Because of the vigorous vegetation in the cienegas, it’s easy to veer off track-- look for strategically placed trail posts to stay on course. Near the end of the route, the path follows the remnants of the Maverick Line of the Apache Railway that was used from the 1940s to the 1970s to transport logs to the McNary lumber mill. This final cinder-strewn segment of open country passes Colter reservoir before terminating at the Gabaldon campground at the boundary of Mount Baldy Wilderness. HIGHLIGHTS: Crisp, high-altitude mountain air with sweet vista views. LENGTH: 15 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 8,300' – 9,400'  DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 245 miles one-way GETTING THERE: From the stoplight in Eagar, go west on Highway 260 for 9.6 miles to Highway 373. Go south (left) on 373 and continue 5.5 miles to the signed trailhead on the left. INFORMATION: 928-333-4301


BUTLER CANYON Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Ever wonder how long it takes for a log to decompose? Want to learn how to identify Bearberry Honeysuckle? These are just two examples of what you can learn on the Butler Canyon Trail #98. Informational signage and a booklet available at the trailhead kiosk can be used to navigate through the many points of interest along the easy loop trail through an outdoor classroom. UPDATE:
this trail sustained significant damage in the Wallow Fire, June 2011.
HIGHLIGHTS: easy, educational hike in the White Mountains LENGTH: 1-mile loop RATING: easy ELEVATION: 8,300' – 8,400' ' DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 240 miles one-way GETTING THERE: From the stoplight in Eagar, go west on Highway 260 for 9.6 miles to Highway 373. Turn south (left) and go 4 miles on Highway 373 to County Road 1121, turn left and continue a short distance to the signed trailhead on the left. INFORMATION: 928-333-4301 Contact the ranger station about scheduled guided hikes and lectures.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


CHARCOAL KILN Prescott National Forest Budding architects will appreciate this short, history-rich trek in the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountains, which leads to a curious relic of the area’s gold mining heritage. This hike highlights one of the very few remaining intact kilns used to make fuel for smelter operations that flourished in the early 20th century. The 25-foot-tall stone structure resembles a beehive and was constructed entirely without mortar. HIGHLIGHTS: short hike to an historic architectural wonder LENGTH: quarter-mile roundtrip RATING: easy ELEVATION RANGE: 7,000 feet DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 120 miles one-way GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, go north on I-17 to exit 262 for Highway 69. Go west (toward Prescott) on Highway 69 to Walker Road (County Road 57 which is just past the Costco center). Follow Walker Road south for 6.5 miles to Big Bug Mesa Road, turn right and continue .5 mile to Charcoal Kiln Road. Turn right here and go a short distance to the “303” trail; sign on the right side of the road. Stay clear of private driveways when parking along the road. INFORMATION: refer to the Prescott National Forest recreation map NOTE: this short trail is located close to the Mount Union hike and makes a nice side trip.


BEALE WAGON ROAD Kaibab National Forest Once upon a time in old Arizona, camels worked side-by-side with horses and mules blazing wagon roads across the western territories. Today, wooden posts bearing chiseled images of dromedary profiles pay homage to the beasts that (kinda) helped construct the Beale Wagon Road. Back in the late 1800s, the desert-adapted beasts were imported to the States because they seemed like the perfect draft animals for working in the unforgiving, arid lands of the American frontier. Not. What nobody counted on was the fact that the worldview of the camels didn’t entirely embrace the need to cooperate with humans in their road-building efforts. By nature, camels are obstinate, uncooperative and consummate spitters with dead-on aim. As if spit wasn’t bad enough, historical accounts contain frequent references to the thick clouds of “foul aroma” that accompanied the camels wherever they went. Still, the natives of the Middle East managed to do enough work on the Beale Wagon Road to be immortalized on the trail markers that now denote the tread way. Under the direction of Navy Lieutenant Edward Beale, this historic causeway was commissioned by the military to provide a route from Fort Smith, Arkansas to the California border at the Colorado River. Abandoned when Route 66 was completed, the road nearly faded into oblivion before it was repurposed as a hiking trail. A work-in-progress, following this route requires good sleuthing skills. There’s no obvious path and the trail is marked only by a series of wooden posts, cairns and metal markers that leapfrog over the Kaibab plateau among wind-swept junipers and shards of 4-million-year-old volcanic glass which were deposited during the era when nearby Bill Williams Mountain was actively spewing lava. Still, history buffs and hard-core hikers alike will relish the great views and relative solitude along this obscure path. Although the west may not have been won entirely on the backs of camels, this trail preserves a singular slice of history when the foul-smelling spitters did their share of the work. HIGHLIGHTS: An historic mid-19th century wagon route with interesting trail markers and great views. LENGTH: 19.5 miles one way. (Easily hiked in segments) Rating: easy-moderate ELEVATION RANGE: 6,200’ – 7,200’ DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 185 miles one-way GETTING THERE:  From Flagstaff, travel west on I-40 to exit 171 (Pittman Valley). Drive north on Forest Road 74 for 7.7 miles to Forest Road 141. Go right on FR-141 and continue for a half-mile to the intersection with Forest Road 730. Head left on FR-730 and go 2.25 miles to Forest Road 115. Turn left onto FR-115 and follow it for roughly 2 miles to Forest Road 2030. Follow FR-2030 for just under a mile to the circular parking area and the sign for Laws Spring. Use the easy-to-follow signs to find the trail. Go left at first “T” intersection to locate the wagon trail ruins. Or, go right, for a more challenging adventure. INFORMATION & MAPS: Kaibab National Forest