Find A Trail. Start Your Search Here:

Monday, August 6, 2018


This box canyon is a highlight along the north leg of the trail.
The bucolic pastures and quiet backwoods of Vernon, Arizona--population 122--is the last place you’d expect to be the scene of a vile triple homicide. It happened, though and the sad story is standard fare in local lore.
Ruins of a pioneer homestead.
Pioneers began settling the rural community in the eastern White Mountains in the 1890s, making a living on the surrounding lumber-rich forests. 
The ruins of an infamous pioneer cabin.
Legend has it that among the early pioneers were three women who lived in a log cabin just south of town.
Section 31 Tank attracts swarms of dragonflies.
Back-fence chatter about the women hiding a large amount of money on their property eventually reached the ears of criminals.  The women were murdered and their homestead ransacked. No riches were found.  Today, all that remains of the tragic scene are crumbling stone foundations and piles of rusty-nail planks.  
Delicate Torrey's Crag Lily bloom in sunny spots.
The historic homestead is one of many points of interest on the Land of the Pioneers Trail #651 that’s located 5 miles south of Vernon.   Constructed in a customizable, triple-loop format, trail No. 651 wanders through a mix of deep pine-oak woodlands and airy, juniper-dotted meadows. The most scenic elements of the hike are found on the north leg of the 8.7-mile circumference loop.
Beautiful White Mountains views from Ecks Mountain.
Bright red paintbrush wildflowers stand out along the paths.  
From the trailhead, the north leg departs at the kiosk following a dirt road. Just past the first of several cattle gates, the trail bends left onto a single track.
A sunny section of the circumference loop.
Like all White Mountains Trail System routes, this one is very well maintained and outfitted with location markers placed roughly every quarter-mile.
Approaching the box canyon.
The markers correspond with downloadable maps, so you’ll always know where you are on the trail. White diamond tags denote the main outer loop while yellow dots indicate shortcuts for the three inner loops.  The hike to the cabin site is just over a mile. The first ruins appear at location marker L30 and the main cabin ruins are a quarter mile farther at maker L29. This is also where the shortcut for Loop 1 veers off for a 3.5-mile option. Next up on the big loop, look for a short spur path on the left near marker L26 that leads to Section 31 Tank. The secluded water hole reflects the sky and teems with multi-colored dragonflies. 
Yellow dots indicate shortcut routes.
After another 0.75-mile, the trail traces the edge of rocky box canyon with steep drop offs and first glimpses of dozens of eroding cinder cones in the Springerville Volcanic Field. This is one of the prettiest spots on the trail.  Beyond the canyon, the trail begins its ascent up the flanks of Ecks Mountain.
One of several rustic gates along the route.
To bypass this challenging section, take the signed shortcut for a 6.8-mile moderate trek. Sweat expended on Ecks Mountain and an optional short spur that leads to a vista point pays off with excellent panoramic views of Greens Peak and rolling prairies that stretch into New Mexico.
Pink Windmills bloom through September.
A set of tight switchbacks mitigate the vertical descent down to the south leg of the loop. The final miles back to the trailhead undulate through boulder-studded ravines, moist drainages and fields of wildflowers shaded by the afternoon clouds that roll in like clockwork during White Mountains summers.
Be prepared for afternoon summer storms.
Circumference Loop: 8.7 miles
Loop 1: 3.5 miles
Loop 1-2 combo: 6.8 miles
ELEVATION: 7220 – 7864 feet
Section 31 Tank is located along the north leg of the big loop
From the junction of US 60 and State Route 260 in Show Low, go 19.4 miles east on US60 to County Road 3140 (Vernon Road/Forest Road 224). Turn right and continue 5 miles south, turn right onto Forest Road 5 and drive 0.5-mile to the trailhead on the left.  Forest roads are gravel and dirt, suitable for passenger vehicles.
INFO: White Mountains Trail System

No comments: