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Last Town Bypassed

I had never been to Williams, AZ. At least I don’t think I had. Maybe I went through it as a kid with my parents, or drove past it on the I-40, not buckled up in the back of the big Ford van with my siblings sipping on cans of Big K soda and eating generic brand cookies from the grocery store.

It’s a cool looking little town. One of those postcard towns. One of those built in the late 1800s, Old West, railroad kind of towns. The kind of place I like to visit now.

Williams is a last pit stop of reliable lodging and amenities before heading up to the Grand Canyon. The launching point of the Grand Canyon Railroad tours. The last town on historical Route 66 bypassed by the Interstate 40. This is where they get the tourists. This is where almost all of the stores on the main drag celebrate and capitalize on the nostalgia of 1950s America with knick knacks and signs and memorabilia and magnets of the Route 66 Highway sign, or Marilyn Monroe, or Elvis, or John Wayne, or Coca-Cola.

I spent the night there with my friend Eric and his family in a little Route 66 motel. He, his dad, and I went out that night after we got back from the Grand Canyon and had dinner and beer at the Historic Brewing location there. One of the few places that takes advantage of the location and old architecture without being a tourist trap. Plus they have damn good beer, and if you’re ever there, or in Flagstaff, you should stop in.

Walking around that night, everything looked so neat and photogenic. But I didn’t have my camera on me, so I stayed a little longer the next morning to explore and take photos after I said goodbye to Eric and his family after we had breakfast. Mind you, exploring was just walking down and up the main drag and over to the railroad station, soaking in the two industries that keep the town hanging on a little better than some of the other Route 66 stops. It didn’t take long, but Williams is a cool place worth seeing.

 

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Views From the Rim

Here are some photos from when I accompanied my friend Eric and his family to the Grand Canyon back in April. I know, I’m very timely with my posts.

If I remember correctly, which I probably don’t, these photos were taken from Mather Point, Grandview Point, Moran Point, and Desert View.

It was a wonderful day hanging out with good people and sight seeing at one of my favorite places. We saw many haggardly looking Elk in the process of shedding their winter coats and felt from their antlers. I didn’t get any pictures of those since I was sitting in the back. Just thought I’d share that we saw them and not provide any proof.

Soldier Pass

Soldier Pass
Red Rock Secret Mtn. Wilderness
4 Miles Roundtrip
4/10/18

Another hike I did back in April while my friend Eric was visiting from Seattle, and one I had been wanting to do for a long time. Only problem was, I didn’t know where exactly the feature was I really wanted to see on this trail. I had seen pictures of a cave? If you could call it that. A sliver of space between two rock walls, and the beginnings of an arch. Its location is not exactly widely shared within the hiking community, and for good reason, so all I knew was that it was somewhere off Soldier Pass. Just had to look for certain features.

In order to hike in the Red Rock Wilderness you need to get a pass, which we picked up at a gas station on the way through Sedona. If I remember right, it was only $5. Once you get to the trailhead, you have to park in the designated parking area, which is right behind a neighborhood. You’re not allowed to park down any of the neighborhood streets, and the small parking lot was full. We got lucky and were able to to get a space as a few hikers were leaving. Make sure to go early if you want to ensure you get a parking space. It’s a popular trailhead because it connects to other trails besides Soldier Pass.

Not far from the trailhead you arrive at Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole after the trail dips you down through some trees and back up to the sinkhole. It’s just like you’d imagine a sinkhole to look like, except it was the cool, red, sandstone of Sedona. We took a few pictures, then carried on.

Beware! Pickpockets and loose rocks!

Continue around to the left of the sinkhole to follow Soldier Pass trail. The trail takes you through more trees and brings you to Seven Sacred Pools. It’s a large, open area of red rock (go figure) and there were those Pink Jeeps you see all over Sedona parked about and their customers wandering around the area. The pools themselves were actually pretty cool. It was a cascade of these pools that had been formed by running water over the years. The first pool at the top was small, the size of a mixing bowl, and each pool after that was slightly lower down the rocks and slightly bigger. The very last hole was at the bottom in the draw and was mostly dry. I’m sure it would be a better sight after a hard rain.

Pictured: Four of the Seven Sacred Pools

From the Seven Sacred Pools, we followed the Soldier Pass trail back into the forest of Juniper, Oak, and pine as the trail brought us down into the valley between the red canyon rocks. The hike is very pleasant as it meanders through this forest and the trees provide plenty of shade. A little over a mile, the trail intersects the end of the Jeep tour doubletrack, and a little further on past that is the boundary of the wilderness area. The trail forks near the wilderness sign, but it was easy to stay on the Soldier Pass trail since the other trail was blocked off by a line of rocks and tree branches. I’ve seen that a lot on the AZT. Trail maintenance will do that at portions of the trail that are no longer to be used and to keep hikers on the new path.

Now entering the Super Secret Mountain Wilderness.

After that point, the trail gradually climbs up in elevation until you make it to Brins Mesa. The total elevation gain from start to finish is about 500 feet. Cake compared to what we had done at Flatiron two days prior. The trail brings you up out of the shade of the forest, but also into higher ground for better views. The trail gets steeper as you near the mesa and then flattens out into large steps of rock covered in what looked like a rock garden.

Looking back on the valley and towards Sedona.

We hung out there for a bit while I checked where we were supposed to go on my GPS, which was sending us back into thick forest on a very faint trail. The clear path continued up the mesa and on to Brins Mesa trail, but this had been an easy hike so far and we wanted a little more adventure and we had the time. So we took the path less travelled into the thick brush and forest.  I’m glad we took the detour.

“Rock garden” nearing the top of the trail.

We trudged through the brush and pointy oak leaves. This was clearly an old trail that lead us back under the cover of trees. We came to a makeshift bridge of weathered logs laid across a ditch. It looked so unstable we just walked around it and through the ditch. Shortly after that, as we were walking and talking, we heard something rustling in the brush across from us. We walked a few feet forward and then we could see them. Three Javelina milling about in a small clearing behind a ring of brush that separated us and them. One of them laid in the dirt munching on the pad of a prickly pear cactus and stared at us. We kept quiet and a healthy distance. I think they were young due to their size, so also kept an eye out for the mother too. We watched them for a moment longer then carried on.

It was difficult to get a clear picture of the Javelina.

The faint trail came to an indiscernible end. We ended up cutting through raw bush, intersecting with game trails, and following those until we saw a clearing that happened to be a an old forest road. We followed the old road northeast for a bit before we stopped underneath a shade tree for a short snack break, then carried on. It wasn’t long before the old road intersected with Brins Mesa trail and headed east. The trail took us out of the shade and along the crest of a canyon. To the north of us was another valley of Juniper and oak trees, and more red rock and canyon walls beyond that. The trail took us in a big loop and back to where the official Soldier Pass intersected with Brins Mesa, the trail we were supposed to take before we went off on our own adventure. But, it was a good thing to go off the beaten path, because if we hadn’t, we would not have seen the Javelina.

We headed south on Soldier Pass, back the way we came, after we stopped for another break underneath a shady Juniper at the peak with the flat rock garden. We chatted with a few other hikers who were coming up the path before descending back down into the valley between the canyon walls. We were determined to find the arch/cave I had seen so many pictures of, and getting to it was kind of a chore, but worth it. I’m not going to go into great detail of how to find it. It is kind of obvious when you’re out there, but I get the feeling it’s not a well known spot, and would not want to spoil it by advertising it. Sort of. Really, it’s not that hard to find.

Basically, Eric and I tried cutting across the valley at a few points from the trail to the canyon wall but didn’t get far as there was no clear path and the brush was too thick. Heading back, we eventually found the path that led up to the cave, and it just so happened to be the one we passed on the way in that we thought was a detour. That path took us up out of the tree line and to the canyon wall with the cave.

It was one of the coolest destinations I’ve seen while hiking. Well worth the work to get there. It takes some effort climbing in between the rocks to get up inside the cave, but once inside, it’s fairly easy to move around. The way the light comes in through the hole over the arch and illuminates the red rock is brilliant. I could have spent all day there.

…ladies.

I can see why the serious hikers try to keep it a secret, if that’s what they’re indeed trying to do. It’s much more enjoyable without a lot of people around. We also went on a weekday, so that helped immensely. We had the whole place to ourselves. There was an old ammo can in there with notepads where people left their mark, along with a few coupons, tampons, and condoms. You know, the necessities. Otherwise, very clean, and clearly, the hiking community is trying to keep it that way.  We don’t need a bunch of bros up there leaving beer cans.

We hung out there for a bit, soaking it all in, then we left. An easy walk back to the Jeep the same way we came in. Then it was a beautiful drive south on 89A through Cottonwood and Jerome to Prescott where we hit up Prescott Brewery and Superstition Meadery for victory burgers and drinks.

Flatiron

Flatiron
Superstitions
5.85 Miles Roundtrip
4/08/18

I haven’t done many hikes in the Superstitions, but Flatiron was by far one of the toughest hikes I’ve done, ever. And it was the most fun.

I did this hike almost three months ago in the first week of April when my good friend, Eric, was visiting from Seattle. I’m finally writing about it because there is a short window of opportunity to appreciate the outdoors in Arizona and I had to get in as many hikes as I could during March and April. So I have some catching up to do on the writing part.

Eric arrived to Phoenix late the night before, and by the time we got home and to bed, it was pretty late. We only got a few hours of sleep that night since we had to get up early to make the drive from north Peoria to the Superstitions to get a good early start in the hike. Even in early April, the temperatures can get very high very quickly. When hiking, it’s always good to get an early start.

We met up with his dad and sister on the way, then met Chris at Lost Dutchman State Park near the trailhead. For a local hike, the drive is long, and as you get closer to the state park you pass old ghost towns that look like movie sets and tourist traps. There is a park entrance fee of $7 once you get to the parking area to the trailheads. Not a bad price for what you’re going to experience.

Not sure what time we hit the trail, but it was still pretty early. The sun was just over the jagged crest of the Mountain. We found the Siphon Draw trailhead towards the south end of the parking area. The trail starts out pretty flat and meanders through the park past camping and RV spots, then it turns and gradually inclines towards the mountains heading southeast from the park boundaries into the Superstition Wilderness.

In the short distance of 2.92 miles to the top, there is a drastic elevation gain of 2,638 ft. A little over 1.5 miles in is when you really notice the incline. That’s when the trail really starts to climb to the top and you find yourself climbing hand over hand and throwing your legs over rocks and scrambling up. This is after the slide rock area. A large surface area of rock at a sharp incline. It hadn’t rained when we went, which made it a lot easier to climb because of the traction we were able to get. If it had rained, this would have been a slippery, dangerous mess and made for some hard climbing.

After that large, open bowl area, we climbed up and over large rocks at a steep incline. We came to a wall about seven feet tall that took some skill and effort getting over. After that, the trail evens out a little and winds around to safer steps towards the top. At that point, the trail switches back towards the Flatiron, aptly named because it literally looks like the bottom side of an iron if you turned it over.

Instead of taking the switchback towards the point of the iron, Chris, Eric, and I went off in the northerly direction to summit the peak of this mountain. To get to the top, we hiked through, climbed over, and squeezed between a series of hoodoo rock formations until we made it to the peak, and from there we explored a little. There were clusters of hoodoos crowning each point in the spiderweb of dips and hills that stretched out through the Superstitions. We could see glimpses of the Salt River and Canyon Lake to the north of us.

After that, we climbed back down through the hoodoos, back to the trail, and made our way up the flat open ground of the Flatiron. There’s an unobstructed, spectacular view from there. You can stand on the edge and look down at the trail that just kicked your ass on the way up. We hung out at the point for a bit, ate some trail mix and drank water until we decided to head back.

Can you see the trail down there?

You would think the hike down would be easier because all you have to do is follow the trail back. Well, gravity is a bitch. You have to put on the breaks so as not to tumble down. Step down from those rocks a little more carefully. The climb up was almost easier, but each direction provided it’s own challenges.

Chris was the first one down and back to the parking lot. I arrived shortly after him. We were waiting for Eric and his family for a while and we kept seeing other hikers we passed on the way down come out before them. We waited a while longer and then debated if one of us should go back to see if they were in trouble. Then we saw a woman with Eric coming towards the parking lot in a hurry off the trail and they started refilling empty water bottles at the spigot as Eric told us what happened.

There was a father and his daughter whom Eric’s father and sister had made friends with on the way up, and on the way down the man was suffering from heat exhaustion. So they all stayed behind with him while Eric ran back to get more water. Chris and the woman (a total stranger) drove back to the ranger station to get help while Eric refilled bottles and loaded them into my daypack.

Interesting thing we learned from all this: The State Park Rangers won’t send rescue to a person in danger unless that person requests it. They won’t send it just on the word of a Good Samaritan. It makes sense, because the person in need of help has to pay the bill. Why should he have to pay for a helicopter evac just because other people thought he should have one?

Anyway, we then tried to find a way to get a hold of them up there so that this guy could request help if he indeed needed it. Eric didn’t have his phone to call his dad who was with the guy. He didn’t know his dad’s number, or his sister’s so that Chris or I could call them. So we were at a stalemate. Eric went back with the water as we were just wasting time trying to play telephone. I waited at the trailhead for Chris to come back from the ranger station. Once Chris was back, I decided to go after Eric once I refilled my camelbak. On the way back up the trail, once I got to the gate that separates the park from the Superstitions, I noticed everybody walking back. There was a park ranger in a UTV who had drove up the track as far as she could, and on her way back she told us that everything was ok and they were all headed down. Apparently other hikers told her what was going on.

Made me feel better about humanity to see so many strangers jumping in to help out a guy in trouble. Desert heat is no joke, and so many people don’t take it seriously. It was late in the day at this point, probably about 4 or 5 o’clock, and we had been out in the sun this whole time. Anyway, in the end, everyone was ok. The guy just needed a rest. Eric’s dad had gave him a wet cloth to put over his head and that helped him recover fairly quickly.

In the end, we all went to Arizona Wilderness for some eats and hipster beer, and the guy and his little girl joined us. It all turned out to be quite the adventure.

The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek

Another Saturday and another adventure. Someone I know suggested I hike Beaver Creek with Eko, so he could get his paws wet. I tried looking up Beaver Creek trails, and something called The Crack came up. Of course I had to seek it out. I couldn’t pass up something called The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek.

All joking aside, this was actually a pretty good hike. It was approximately 7 miles in and out via the Bell Trail #13. There is very little tree coverage to provide shade along this trail that runs parallel to Wet Beaver Creek. Eko and I got there and started hiking about 11:30, so it was a sunny and hot hike in. I wore a good hat and applied thick amounts of sunscreen before hitting the trail, but poor Eko had a hard time out there. Luckily, there are little offshoot trails that lead down to the creek along the way, where there are thick coverage of Cottonwoods and cool water.

You start out at about 3870 feet in elevation and gradually climb up. At about 2.5 miles in, you hit a steep grade and peak at about 4190 feet, then descend down to the creek bed. I found this to be a very easy hike and did it in my Keens. If you’re not much of a hiker, this might be difficult for you. The only thing I found difficult was the exposure to the Sun, and with that, I was mostly worried about Eko.

It took us about two hours to get down to the creek proper that leads to The Crack. It was slow going with Eko after having to stop for frequent water breaks. If you do this hike, bring plenty of water, especially if you have a dog. He drank the majority of our water supply. I think I sipped on about half a liter the whole time, but he easily drank two liters. That wasn’t including whatever he lapped out of the creek.

At the Y where the trail branches off to Weir Trail, I tried taking Eko down one of the offshoot trails down to the creek. One could definitely get down to the creek this way, but not Eko. There was a ledge I was able to scramble down approximately six feet high. I tried to grab him so I could lower him down, but he wasn’t having any of that. So I climbed back up and we walked back to Bell Trail. Once we got back to the Y, I saw a deer on the hillside near the trail, a little White Tail. It was gray and scrawny. Probably a fawn. Eko didn’t see it, but was walking in its direction and scared it away. I was able to snap a few pictures.

The deer is right above the center post.

Once we got to the creek bed the trail circled down and around this large, flat slab of red sandstone high over the edge of the creek. We followed the path around it to a sandy patch where there was smooth access to the water. Eko stood at the edge and drank. It was clean and clear and I only saw algae in a few places and kept him from drinking there. I walked out into the water and it felt pretty much amazing on my hot, dusty feet. Once he saw I could walk out in the water, he followed, and from then on was good with going in and out of the water.

There were so many people down there, and all along the trail. On the way in I passed countless amounts of people who were on their way out. Where we stopped and were walking around in the cold creek wasn’t The Crack, so I asked one of the many people I kept seeing coming from down the creek. She told me a little further up was The Crack and that’s where all the people were jumping from the rocks. Where she pointed was up the creek, past large river rocks and a thick patch of Cottonwoods. I could see a few people in brightly colored swim shorts through the trees.

I took pictures, ate trail mix, and drank water before we moved down to The Crack. There was a dry path on the other side of the large, flat slab of stone, but the drop down was too high for Eko. So we took the wet path around the slab through the creek. The water level came up just above my knees at its deepest. Eko had to get a little more wet than he wanted because the water came up to his neck. For a Lab, he really doesn’t like water. Luckily for him, it was just a short walk through the water. We then walked over and around the large river rocks and through the Cottonwoods to The Crack.

 

Through the creek, around the rock, and through the trees, the Wet Beaver Crack you will see.

The Crack is a deep swimming hole surrounded by sheer red cliffs and shelves of overhanging rocks where people were jumping off into the cold water. There was a younger couple there with a German Shepherd puppy. I asked if it was ok if Eko met him, and they were cool with it. Eko sniffed at him for a little bit, then got bored and walked out into the water.

 

The Crack

We hung out at The Crack for a bit. I took pictures and Eko wandered around to all of the people getting attention. To get to the top of the shelves where people were jumping from, you had to climb up these tall rock steps. I got up the first one and it was angled enough that Eko could scramble up to me. But the second one was too high for him to climb so I lifted him up there. After that he was ok to climb the rest of the way.

Once up there, you can walk around to the other side of “the crack”, the narrow point in the creek between the walls. There were even more people on that side. They had folding chairs and were laying out on beach towels and had a radio playing. Way too much fun for my liking. I want solitude as much as possible. Plus, all these strangers are now in my scenic pictures.

A view of The Crack from the other side.

After exploring for a little bit up there I decided to get back so I could get some food. Eko and I climbed down, I retrieved our stuff at the bottom, and we headed out. The hike out was pretty much uneventful. Saw a lot of big groups of college aged kids going in as we were leaving. Eko would get ahead of me and start following other groups of people who were ahead of us. Then he’d stop and look back and come back to me. He did that a few times.

Eko following some strangers.

A little less than a mile from the parking lot, we took a detour down one of the little trails leading to the creek. I’m glad we did because it was awesome. The water was clean and clear and flowing over these long, flat, red rocks that stretched across the width of the creek. It was beautiful. They cascaded down over three stages. Eko was walking through the water, following along with me as we explored and took pictures. There were a few deep spots he wasn’t expecting and fell in up to his neck. He didn’t like that very much.

After that, we got back onto Trail 13 and made it back to the car. We were about 15 minutes away from Sedona so I looked up a place where I could get a burger and a beer and that was also dog friendly. I ended up going to Spoke and Wheel, which is in the same upscale complex as Oak Creek Brewery. Eko and I had dinner on the patio there, where, again, he was very popular and the other patrons wanted to come say hi to him. I had the cheeseburger and a Lumberyard Hefeweizen, and got just a plain burger patty for Eko. Then we headed home.

Overall, it was a pretty good hike. Not very difficult, but still a good stretch to get exercise and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Poor Eko slept the whole way home, and all through the night, he was so tired. His paws are a little beat up and he’s limping a bit, but I’m glad I took him. He’s a good hiking buddy.

Salt River Canyon Day Trip

Last week I tried going to Cibecue Falls. I didn’t know anything about it except that it looked amazing from a picture I saw on instagram. I looked up one blog about it from a site called Outbound Collective. It looked amazing. People said it was amazing. So I put it in Google Maps and drove there. Well, I should have done a little more research on it, because it’s actually on the Apache Indian Reservation, and they require you have a permit to hike to the site. That permit is $30. Cash or check. Of course I didn’t have a check because I’m not 70 years old, and I didn’t have any cash on me. So I drove three hours just to turn around and go back to Globe.

Seriously, $30 a person? Kind of steep and a bit ridiculous. I probably would have paid it if I had the cash on me. Afterall, I just drove three hours specifically to see this waterfall. I reread the blog on Outbound Collective, and whoever wrote it failed to say anything about needing a permit, except at the end where there is a link to get one online, which is broken. I didn’t see it the first time anyway. But rereading it, I see that a lot of people left comments about getting a permit, and they said their permits were only $15. Which was six months ago. Why the drastic increase?

I digress.

I had stopped at the Salt River Canyon Rest stop there before you turn off the 60 to the dirt road to the falls. It has some wonderful views of the Salt River Canyon and the two parallel bridges that cross over it. One of the bridges is decommissioned. You can walk over it, but can’t drive. I had actually been here when I was about 11 years old on the way back from a camping trip in the White Mountains with an old childhood friend. His dad pulled over at the rest stop and my friend and I climbed down the stairs to the river and explored.

By that time it was noon. I figured, maybe I could get back to Globe and get some cash and then come back, hike the two miles to the falls, hang out for a bit, and head home. Well, on the way back to Globe, I pulled over to let Eko out because he was whining. He did his business, and then I gave him water, of which he drank quite a bit. So, now I needed to get cash, and more water. Not a problem. So we jump back in the Jeep and drive back to Globe.

Looking down on Salt River Canyon from a pullout.

The drive was longer than expected, and by the time I got back to Globe, I needed more fuel. So I refilled, bought some water at the gas station, and tried to get cash back. They don’t do none of that here fancy cash backs in these parts. But they did have an ATM. I could have used the ATM, but then I had a great idea of driving further into town and finding the Safeway so I wouldn’t have to pay the ATM fee. That shouldn’t take too long, right?

I should have just paid the ATM fee, because apparently, in the Safeway at Globe, the employees don’t know how to cashier. Or suspend a transaction after their card reader freezes. Or get someone who knows how to fix it. Or give cash back. I had to go to the customer service desk and catch the lady just before she was going on break and I bought a bag of jerky and got my cash back. Yee Hah!

After all of that, it was almost 2 o’clock. By the time I would have made it back to the trailhead and down to the falls, I would only be able to spend maybe two hours there before I had to leave to get back to the Jeep before dark. So halfway there, along the stretch that parallels the Old Highway 60, I saw a turnoff to a dirt road and decided I should just take it and do some exploring. I only saw signs that said 304, but it was Chrysatile Mine Road.

I drove down Chrysatile Mine Road for a while and eventually pulled off the dirt road and parked. I let Eko out, who was having anxiety from all of this new stuff, and took some pics. I left the car there and hiked down the hill until the road came to a stop at a gate. It was access to private property. Left from the road was a trail that looked like it it would go down into a deep draw that had access to what must have been the Chrysatile mining shafts, but after about 30 yards, it was fenced off.

We hiked back up to the Jeep. I ate a banana and a PB&J sandwich, then we drove back up the road from where we came. I turned off another side road and followed it along the edge of the mountain. It was a very narrow road and I thought, if another car comes up this way, we’re going to be in trouble. Sure enough, another car came up the road. There was a wall of mountain to my left and a sharp drop to death to my right, but I wasn’t going in reverse all the way back up this hill. Nothing bad happened. We squeezed by each other, but it was enough to get the adrenaline going.

I reached the bottom of the hill and crossed a dry creek bed that was pretty gnarly. I then took a sharp left and followed the road until it came to an end at a grassy camp site. Next to the campsite was the creek bed. It was solid rock with a few puddles of stagnant water in its recesses, and the whole scene was walled in by the rock wall of the mountain I just descended.

I parked the Jeep near the campsite and let Eko out. We then walked further past the campsite into the woods. The Jeep trail grew more faint the further in we walked. Eko ran back and forth sniffing at all the new things he discovered, and peed on them. I came across a very old, rusted out car door riddled with bullet holes. A little further ahead of me was the rest of the old car. Not sure the year, make and model, but maybe something from the late 40s/early 50s. It’s motor was gone, along with the doors and windows. The insides rotted out or stripped away. It was also riddled with bullet holes and the roof was crushed in with rocks. Kind of cool to find out in the wilderness.

Anyone know what car this is by any chance?

We explored this area a bit longer, then we returned to the Jeep and headed out. As I got to the highway 60, I turned left and headed up toward Salt River Canyon again. I wanted to get some pictures of the abandoned Seneca Lake Trading Post before the sun went down. Further up the 60, within the Reservation boundaries, is the remnants of a lake resort business venture gone belly up. It was really spooky looking, so I had to see it.

When you first drive in, there is what used to be a gas station near the highway. The lamp posts are still there, but the building is covered in grafitti, the windows and doors are gone, and trash and debris cover the floor. I drove past it and further onto the property. The roads around the site are rustic at this point, grown over with vegetation and washed away, making for a slow, bumpy ride. There were sleeping cots underneath some trees and it almost looked like there might have been people squatting in what was left of the few buildings out there.

The old Seneca Lake gas station.

I drove slowly towards the lake when I saw a blue, Chevy truck heading towards me. It was slowly following me for a minute, so I pulled aside and turned around to leave not knowing if this was private property, or if the Reservation didn’t want trespassers. As I passed the truck, there was a Native woman driving and she smiled at me as she passed and there were a group of kids sitting in the bed. They called out “Puppy” when they saw Eko and were happy to see him. They were just heading to the lake. I continued on towards the rest of the dilapidated buildings and circled the property and took some pictures.

I didn’t get out of the car to explore any of these old buildings. They were too creepy, and I didn’t want Eko getting hurt on any broken glass or debris. I just snapped the photos from my car and then we left.

The drive home was uneventful. I made a quick stop in Miami to take a picture of a politically charged statement someone painted on the side of their building. I just found it amusing that someone felt so strongly this way, they took the time to paint this, but once she lost, they just left it their anyway. Anything to spruce up Miami, I guess. Place looked like it never recovered from the Great Depression. The drive between Miami and Superior is beautiful, however. It’s a National Scenic drive of spires of red rocks and canyons. Very beautiful.

Kind of an odd day full of surprises. You have your heart set on one thing and your day going one way, and it throws you a curve ball and it still ends up being eventful.

Mt. Baldy Overnight Hike

Last weekend I hiked up Mt. Baldy with a group of four: my friend, Chris, my brother, Jim, and Jim’s friend, Scott, and his son, Ryan. Mt. Baldy is the second highest mountain in Arizona at an elevation of 11,424. However, the summit is within the boundaries of the White Mountain Apache Reservation and is off limits unless you have permission to access it. We did not have that permission, so we went as high as the trail would allow, where East Baldy Trail #95 connects to West Baldy Trail #94 at about 11,175 feet of elevation.

I drove up with Chris Friday night after work to the Big Lake campground. We arrived about ten o’clock at night and ended up sleeping in the SUV. Next morning, we woke early and met with the rest of our group and headed to the East Baldy Trail 95 trailhead after we left two shuttle vehicles at the West Baldy Trail 94 trailhead. There is a three mile connector trail, #96, between each trailhead that makes the whole loop approximately 17 miles, but we decided on foregoing the connector trail as it is an uneventful walk through the woods.

We started up East Baldy 95 which takes you in and out of a tree line along a pleasant green meadow and gradually inclines into thicker woods and brings you through some very impressive granite rock spires and formations that I was surprised to see in this area of Arizona. The trail winds up through these rock giants and up the mountain until you find yourself on top of a range of these boulders that stretches a good portion of the mountaintop. From up here you get a great view of the surrounding land and Big Lake without the obstruction of any trees in the way.

At this point, approximately four miles in, my brother decided he would turn back due to headaches, shortness of breath, and chest pains as he did not want to get too far in and become an emergency situation. Sad to see him go, but understandable that he should play it safe, we parted ways. Two of our party were already far ahead of us, but it didn’t take Scott and I long to catch up with them.

Once we passed through the stretch of boulders, the path was obstructed with frequent downed logs. We had to climb over and under and around them for most of the remaining trail. We caught up to Chris and Ryan and carried on. Shortly after, we came upon a meadow of tall, green grass on top of the mountain of thick woods and found pieces of a fuselage from an old military plane (Beech AT-11) that crashed there in 1943. Not far after that, we reached trail 94.

The highest point we could go without violating Reservation boundaries was the junction of 94 and 95. If you had permission from the White Mountain Apache Reservation, you could follow signs south that would take you to the true peak. However, we continued onto East Baldy 94. At that point we had hiked approximately six miles and we had plenty of daylight ahead of us. From the boulder area where we parted with Jim to this point, the elevation grade was very low, so we were able to cover more ground quickly. Since it was all downhill from that intersection on (an intense decline on the trail), we kept up with that pace, and probably could have gone faster if it weren’t for the downed trees creating obstacles.

Since we were on a mountainside for most of the descent on 94, there was no where we could have pitched a tent for the night due to lack of flat ground and so many fallen trees. And with plenty of daylight still, we kept going and eventually met with the Little Colorado. This is where the land began to even out and we started looking for a good camp spot. We eventually found one in a nice little clearing that had soft ground and good tree coverage. At that point, we had hiked about 11 miles. We pitched our tents, made dinner, and settled down for the night.

The next morning, we spotted a coyote traipsing across the hillside down the trail from us as we drank coffee and made our breakfast. Ryan and Scott packed up and headed out before me and Chris. We said our goodbyes, finished breakfast, then packed up and headed out about a half hour after them.

The rest of the hike out was relaxing and we enjoyed the scenery as we paralleled the Little Colorado for the last three miles. At the end of the trail we met up with Jim and exchanged accounts of what each of us did after we parted. We then went back to Big Lake, rented a boat, and fished for about four hours.

More accurately, I sat in a boat getting sunburned with a string floating in the water. I caught nothing, maybe a few taunting hits at my lure, Chris had a few bites, and Jim came out victorious with two fish, each about seven inches long. But it was a great way to end a great hike.