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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Payson fall color update: October 27, 2012

Maple color below Horton Spring: Oct. 27, 2012

Fall color along the Horton Creek: Oct 27, 2012
I know, I know, we've all hiked this trail a million times, and yet, (unbelievably) I have never visited it during fall foliage season.  This gaping hole in my hiking repertoire was rectified today.  Issuing from a spring that gushes from a jumble of moss-embellished stone at the base of the Mogollon Rim, Horton Creek spills downhill through a mix of scrublands and deep coniferous-deciduous woodlands.  Fall color flaunts its best where trail #285 parallels the waterway.  Typically, in October, the creek is dry for the first mile or so, but then runs in cool, shallow cascades for the remainder of the hike.  Today, we were delighted by a rich display of mustard-colored boxelders, blaze-red maples and tawny orange sycamores.  Although peak color is days away for the lower trail, the high portion of the route is near prime right now.
Arizona sycamores along trail #285
The foliage is especially vivid near a series of tiny cataracts along the second and third mile  which are accessible via numerous spur paths leading to the stream where color bearing trees and shrubs dangle over liquid riffles mirroring  the warm palette in churning watercolor whorls. Don't skimp---explore along creek because in another week or so, the color show will be done for another year.
LENGTH: 8 miles roundtrip (to Horton Spring and back)
RATING: moderate---rocky grade, loose footing
ELEVATION:  5,360' - 6,420'
From Phoenix, travel north on AZ87 (Beeline Hwy) to the intersection with AZ 260 in Payson.   Head east (go right) on AZ260 and continue 17 miles to Tonto Creek Road (a.k.a. Fish Hatchery Road and FR 289) on the left near milepost 268.  Follow FR 289 1 mile, cross the creek bridge and park in the Horton Picnic Site lot to the left.  Roads are paved all the way.  To find the trailhead, hike back down the road, cross the bridge and turn left onto a dirt road, hike the road a few yards to the sign for trail #285.
Cataracts on Horton Creek

FEES:  none for day hiking.
INFO:  Payson Ranger District, Tonto National Forest, 928-474-7900


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sedona fall color update: late October 2012

Oak Creek flows at the base of A.B. Young trail
This hike has everything --water, high-desert ridges, a grueling climb and a pleasant traipse through a pine/oak forest to the historic East Pocket fire lookout.  Also, from late October through early November, the sycamores lining the lower part of the trail along Oak Creek come alive in vivid shades of amber and rusty gold.
The trail begins in the Bootlegger Day Use Area near site number two.  From there, descend the flagstone stairs to Oak Creek and follow the generic trail markers to the creek. Boulder-hop the water and head toward the stone retaining wall where there’s a metal “A.B. Young #100” sign.  The ascent begins immediately through a cool, creek-side environment that quickly transcends into a pine forest. After about the half-mile point, the trail leaves the shade and begins switch backing up steep sun-drenched cliffs on its way to the 7,196-foot West Rim of Oak Creek Canyon.  Many spectacular rock formations and great views of the narrow canyon open up as the trail gains elevation.  Once on the rim, follow the carins into the forest to the wooden “A.B. Young/Oak Creek” sign that marks the official end of the trail. To reach the East Pocket fire lookout, continue for just under a mile following a series of huge rock cairns. Staffed by a USFS worker during the fire season, visitors are welcome in the funky old 1930s-style wooden tower.

Submerged foliage
LENGTH:  6 miles round trip
RATING:  difficult
ELEVATION: 5,100’ – 7,196”
FACILITIES: restroom
FEE: a Red Rock Pass is required: there’s a permit kiosk at the trailhead that takes paper, plastic and coins.
From Phoenix, take I-17 north to the Sedona-Oak Creek exit 298 for SR179.  Head left (west) on SR179 and continue to the Sedona “Y” intersection of SR 179 and US89A. Veer right (north) through the traffic circle and continue 8.8 miles to the Bootlegger Day Use Area near milepost 383. Roads are 100% paved.
INFO:  Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-282-4119