Going Baldy

In out last episode I resolved to check out some trails over at Mount Baldy. Promise kept. Another very nice day, moderately sunny, about 47 degress at 1:30 at the trailhead.

The West Baldy Trail is about 30 miles from mi casa, on the “back way” to Show Low. (Some day soon I’ll document that drive – it’s my favorite in the area.). The trail starts near the road and then tracks the West Fork of the Little Colorado River, which begins on Mount Baldy and eventually meets the big daddy Colorado River in the Grand Canyon (as some of my readers can personally attest.)

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The trail itself apparently runs about 14 miles to the top of Mount Baldy, but the last ½ is on Apache land and not open to casual hikers. The trail itself was quite scenically diverse. It started out in a forested area, opening up into a meadow.

 

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The trail started out about 200 feet north of the river, but after about ¾ mile it merged with another trail that closely follows the river and morphed into more of a river valley scene. The river itself is fairly dynamic, swollen as  it is by snowmelt.

 

 

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At 9300 feet, there’s some residual snow in places. In fact it was necessary to cross a mighty glacier at one point.

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And there’s runoff from the mountain, the water forming temporary brooks in a joyous terpsichorean jaunt  to the river.

 

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A couple of times there were views of Mount Baldy from the trail.

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As is quite common, I saw almost no wildlife on this hike. Today’s tally: an ant, a bird, 2 humans. It’s like they know I’m coming and run for cover. Maybe I have cooties.

However, shortly after leaving the trail and heading home I drove past some of our friendly White Mountain neighbors

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Passing strange to see a herd like that out in the open in the middle of the day.

A few miles later I saw a sign pointing to Big Lake Lookout. I had seen it many times but never explored it, but this seemed like a good time. So up I go on a rocky dirt road that got continually narrower for the next 2 miles and about 500 feet up the hill.

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There was a crude set of steps to the top of this hill.

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Obviously the Romans were never here. From that point there was a lot of underbrush that was hard to see over, but I scrambled up on a rock for a fabulous 360 view of the area. The next 3 pictures were taken from the rock.

LO to Baldy

West to Mount Baldy

LO to Big Lake

North to Big Lake.

LO to Escudilla

East to Escudilla.

Strange, but clambering up on rocks isn’t as much fun (or as much of a cinch) as it used to be…

 

 

 

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Shimmering Spring Day in the White Mountains

There’s a hiking trail up on the rim above the Eagar-Springerville metropolis, about 45 minutes from my place. I checked it out about a month ago but there was still a bit of snow at the trailhead and I wasn’t properly dressed to take it on.

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But today was an absolutely beautiful day hereabouts, so I made the trek over there again.

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My place is at the red tomahawk, the trailhead is the white marker.

Here’s a view of the Alpine Valley from the edge of the massive, sprawling Alpine central business district (i.e. right in front of the post office), offered as proof of weather loveliness.

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Eager is at 7100’ elevation and this trailhead is almost 9000’. There’s a scenic overlook near the crest with some very long range views:

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If you expand that picture you see the Springerville-Eagar metropolis. There’s a big white bubble there in Springerville, which is actually a “domed stadium”. I’m told the Round Valley High school plays football there.

 

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When I first came to this area about this time of year 2 years ago I was taken aback by the miles of rolling golden meadows with the occasional round upthrusts. In fact the area is called the Round Valley. I surmised at the time that the meadows would green up in the summer, and they do a little bit, but not all that much. Come to find out this is an area called a volcanic field, a recognized geologic occurrence. The exhibit at the scenic lookout gives some useful info, more at:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Springerville_volcanic_field

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monogenetic_volcanic_field

The trail is essentially flat and starts off in a meadow and then moves into a moderately dense stand of pines. This view looking west from the trailhead gives a sense of the meadow. In the background is Mount Baldy:

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Mount Baldy is the highest point in the White Mountains, fifth highest in Arizona. There’s a ski resort over that way called Sunrise Resort, owned by the Apache Indian Tribe. Looks like some good hiking trails over around Mount Baldy: hope to get to them in due course.

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Like many mountain areas around here you can see the scarring effects of the big fire in the region in 2011. This trail was no exception, as you could see in the foreground of the photo of Springerville-Eagar above.

As such the trails are usually compromised in some way, often looking like an obstacle course:

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And even the oddly misplaced implement of medieval torture:

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I passed what may have been a lake in another life, though rather paltry now. It has many of the indicia of a lake, but with all the snow we had this year I’d guess this is about the most lake-like as it gets. Pending proof of a prior claim I christened it “Barely Lake”. Enlarge the photo and you can see Escudilla Mountain in the background.

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It ended up being about a 3-mile hike, I reckon. Not too strenuous, which was good as I’m getting over a month-long bout of cough/congestion crud.

The road that took me up to the trail continues on, though it was closed when I was there a month ago, so I checked out where it went. As it turned out it runs into another road that I take as the “back way” going to Show Low, which is really my favorite drive in the area, going past a couple of lakes (using the term loosely) and through a real alpine meadow bit of scenery. On a day like this it’s just totally fabulous.

Salt River Canyon

When driving between Phoenix and Alpine there are 2 available routes, equally delightful and each stunning in its own way. When I leave I check Google maps to see if there is any significant time differential: usually they are within 5 minutes, one way or the other. I’ve previously written about the trip from Phoenix to Alpine through Payson, AZ, and even some about the route through Globe, (https://roadthrillblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/hi-ho-show-low-a-gallop-through-the-tonto-national-forest/; https://roadthrillblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/09/head-for-the-hills/) but the trip through Globe has recently become my favorite because it passes through the majestic Salt River Canyon at about the halfway point of the trip.

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This picture is from the north side, descending into the canyon. Sufficient evidence for the claim of “majestic”?

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This view is at about 4250’ elevation, maybe 800 to 1000’ above the river. Across the way you can see the road at about the same elevation. Guessing it’s maybe ½ mile away as the crow flies, but about 5.5 miles by the road. During those 5.5 miles the road (US Hwy 60) twists and turns down to the river  and then winds its way back up the wall on the other side of the canyon.

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At the river crossing there’s a rest area with info about the local Apache tribes.

 

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This is looking up river from the bridge. This time of year those yellow flowers on the north wall add a lovely touch of color. Texas friends will be interested to know there are also bluebonnets here in Arizona. I saw a lot of them beside the road coming down into the canyon, but then on the south side nary a one for almost 25 miles. Passing strange…

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This is from the south side looking north across the river. I took this figuring some rockhound may find the geologic structure interesting or instructive. Personally, I know bupkis about that kind of stuff

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These 2 were taken from the south side, the second one as the river flows down toward Phoenix. Surely there’s another treasure trove of geologic information in that wall across the way, the secrets yielded up to those who know the lingo.

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Across the canyon you can barely see a mine entrance, the telltale tailings cascading down toward the river.

 

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Globe and its neighboring town Miami are mining towns. The scarring of the landscape is jarring, but the huge scope of the enterprise is impressive. Copper is the main attraction.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globe,_Arizona

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami,_Arizona.

A Hike in the High Country. No Joke!

Winter seems on the run in the White Mountains, so this old bear decided it was time to leave the den and forage for some exercise and sunshine. Still a bit of snow on the north face of the peaks, but otherwise spring has sprung.

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About 4 miles east of Alpine is Luna Lake. They seem to have their fair share of lakes in the region, but mainly of the fairly puny variety. Heck, we got stock tanks in Texas bigger’n most of ’em. But not to be obnoxious: always grateful for whatever Mother Nature provides.

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So there are a couple of trails just north of Luna Lake: a short loop and a long loop. They are designated as bike trails, but I’m a biped so that qualifies, right? The first third of the trail had downed timber along the left side. I suppose they mark the trail that way, but most of it looked freshly cut. Guess I should have brought a cart and packed out some firewood.

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Passed a small pond that I thought was maybe overflow from Luna Lake, but Luna Lake is behind me when this photo was taken, by several hundred yards. Plus there’s a dam on the other side of Luna Lake that can be used to drain the lake. Then I saw a small stream feeding this pond, so that seemed the better explanation.

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The trail went right through the stream, so time to explore an option to keep the feet dry. I found an easy place to cross as my mind hearkened back to playing Jump the Brook in second grade recess. Yep, lotsa good came outta second grade.

The back side of the loop trail didn’t have the timber “guardrail”, more like an old forest road I reckon. But along here I saw several hundred yards away a herd of 20 or 30 elk running down the trail. Someone must have rang the dinner bell because they were haulin’ it. Or maybe it was happy hour at Luna Lake. I saw them again a little further down the trail, frolicking in an open area.

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Yep, them elk: they’s a frolicsome bunch. You can just barely see one in the background of the above picture.

Just as the hike was ending it was another case of no bridge over troubled water.

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You can see my truck in the background. Second grade skills to the rescue again.

 

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Then again, nothing quite as soothing as a brook, swollen by Spring, bubbling and gurgling down the mountainside.

All in all a nice little hike, although I do enjoy it when there’s more wildlife around. Other than the elk spotting, not much wildlife to be seen, except for the odd waterfowl here and there.

 

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Apparently there are some eagle nests in the Luna Lake area, but no sighting today.

Though you can’t see it from Alpine, we are about 6 miles away Escudilla Mountain, the third highest peak in Arizona at almost 11,000′. The trail I was on was at about 8500′, so you can see how the spring runoff could effect the area.

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Here’s Escudilla coming from the other direction, where you can see it from as far away as 100 miles, but quite clearly from 30 miles.

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Southern Utah

Heber City, UT to Alpine, AZ is more than a one day drive when hauling The Beast, so I broke up that leg of the journey by stopping, for no other reason, in Blanding, UT. And, a bit out of the norm, I decided to stop for 2 nights. Good call.

Blanding is in southeast Utah, not far from the Four Corners state line convergence. It’s mostly desert and red rocks, but there is a snow capped mountain not too far away.

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First stop today was at Goosenecks State Park. Spectacular views of the canyon cut by the San Juan River:

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As noted on the plaque, the top of the canyon is 1000 feet above the river. So my question is: which of these rocks will be next to fall into the abyss below? And when? 100 years? A thousand?IMG_5245

When you get down to the level of the river, it’s a big ole muddy thang.

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Next up was Monument Valley, which I thought was a National Park, but no. It is part of the Navajo Reservation, so it does have federal protection. The scenery is just amazing.

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South of Blanding is a little town called Bluff, very aptly named. It’s down in a canyon with bluffs rising up from the road.

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I especially got a kick out of their “welcome to Bluff” sign, which indicated it was established in 650 AD.

There’s another formation in the area called Mexican Hat, for obvious reasons.

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I don’t know what claim to fame Blanding may make, but ya gotta love a town that has a combination gas station/convenience store/A&W Root Beer stand (with drive-thru)/bowling alley.

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And the bowling alley is legit. Six lanes or so, nice looking. Is this a great country or what?

 

49

Montana checked off the list: my 49th state. Stayed for a few days in Billings. Lots of prairie ‘tween Dickinson, ND and Billings, lots of cows. One thing that has puzzled me on my travels over the past year and that is the apparent lack of land usage for agricultural purposes. Out west it makes some sense because so much of the land is owned by the government, but even so, it’s been noticeable and puzzling, as I say. Found a cool trail to hike at a place called Phipps Park. The main geologic feature of the area is a series of rimrock ridges left by the sea that was here millions of years ago and as further cut by the Yellowstone River. The trail at Phipps Park takes you up on one of these ridges.

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It’s about 300′ up to the ridge, so in my case there was plenty of huffin’ and puffin’, but once on the top there were some spectacular views.

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There were a lot of little side trails, as can be seen in the photo just above, making for an interesting place to explore. The other neat thing: there was a disc golf course that ran all up and down the ridge.

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Blisters, though. My boots failed me with blisters on both heels.

The Rig has 2 propane tanks, each holds 10 gals of propane. When hooked up to electricity most things run on electric, except the oven/stove. But when boondocking with no electric then the propane or battery power takes the lead: refrigerator, heater, the LED lights, vent fans. Some things don’t work without shore power: microwave, A/C, the AC outlets. Bottom line: I don’t use a lot of propane. So far while traveling I’ve had to refill one tank a month. But in Billings I ran out of propane in both tanks. Fortunately I was in a place where it was no problem getting them filled. Seemed odd, though.

Spent the weekend driving from Billings to Heber City, UT, which is near the ski areas just outside of Salt Lake City. The drive from Billings took me west to Bozeman then south, along the west side of Yellowstone Park. The scenery on this part of the drive was fabulous. Most of Yellowstone Park doesn’t open until May 1st, so it’s still a bit early in the season, a good bit of snow still on the ground.IMG_5161 (2)IMG_5162 (2)IMG_5167 (2)

The scenery from Billings to Bozeman was less rocky than that seen back to the east: rolling hills with lots of greenery and some heavily-forested patches. Some rock outcroppings, but not a lot.

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Salt Lake City is underrated as a mountain destination, I think. Of course it’s located on the Great Salt Lake, which is an interesting geologic feature, but not particularly scenic, but SLC is also surrounded by mountains. Here’s a shot driving through downtown on I-15.

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Hard to beat the view from my RV site:

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Heber City is about 45 minutes southeast of downtown SLC. It’s not itself a ski town, but just a few miles away from Park City and Deer Valley (think 2002 Olympics), which are world-class ski areas. Heber is in a valley with a couple of beautiful lakes within a few miles. So, all in all, a good location. Time to check on some hiking trails…

Badlands, Jr.

Here in western North Dakota is the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This is where TR came to escape his grief upon the death of his mother and his wife in the same house on the same day. He ultimately ran a cattle ranch out here.

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As a rancher, old Teddy didn’t put up with no crap.

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They call this area the Badlands also, but it’s not as bad as the South Dakota Badlands. For one thing, there’s a decent river that runs through this park, ergo much more in the way of trees and greenery. Plus, the wildlife here seems more abundant.

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Those wascally prairie dogs: you can’t stop ’em, you can only hope to contain ’em. And, the buffalo were definitely roaming today:

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Even though these might better be referred to as the lower case b-adlands, the scenery is still pretty darn stunning.

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Saturday I drove over to see some truly iconic scenery

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Looks like they had some snow the night before, although the altitude there is only about 5000′.

Whilst in the area I couldn’t pass up the Crazy Horse Monument.

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This sucker is gonna be WAY bigger than Mt. Rushmore. But they still have his arm, hair, body and the horse yet to do. Since it’s taken them 70 years to get this far we may be looking at next century before completion.