Monday, May 30, 2011

Someplace new

The weather was beautiful yesterday, and I hadn't been hiking for a couple of weeks. Still, I had trouble thinking of a place to go. You would think I'd be ready to go anywhere, but if I couldn't think of someplace new, I didn't want to go. Well, there's certainly a lot of territory I haven't covered near here. I finally decided to walk along a ridge near Fish Creek Hill. I thought that I might be able to get some nice canyon pictures from there.

I'm headed in that general direction.

I went by Canyon Lake on the way and that place was packed. There were vehicles parked in any available spot along the road. I started to worry that I would be caught in a huge traffic jam on the way home. I kept going, though. There were even more people than usual at the rest stop at the top of Fish Creek Hill. The road is dirt out there and the washboard was pretty bad and it was full of pits but that didn't seem to be keeping anybody away. When I started walking out along the ridge, I could see a couple sitting in lawn chairs overlooking the side canyon between me and them. At first I thought that seemed a little strange, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a good idea. You could enjoy the beautiful scenery and watch buzzards and hawks. It would be kind of like sitting on the beach, but without the water.

At the beach, without the beach.

I didn't quite get the view of the canyon that I had hoped for, but it was still a nice view. I made a panorama of the view from the end of the ridge and put a scaled down version on Panoramio. Click here to see that picture. Click on the picture there to see it full size. I'm thinking that maybe I should have made that picture an HDRI. If you look in the right spot in that picture, you can see the couple in their lawn chairs.

Most of the cars were still parked at the lake when I went by there on the way home, so traffic wasn't bad. I've decided I don't want to get on the roads today and tangle with the crowds coming home from Memorial Day trips, though. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Monday, May 16, 2011

On a treasure hunt

I was wandering around somewhere on the web a few months ago and ran across a short blurb about the Forest Service looking for some volunteers with cameras to help with a research project. I sent an email to the person in charge and kind of forgot about it because she was too busy to respond for a couple of months. I finally met with her a couple of weeks ago and she gave me my first assignment. She gave me a notebook with maps and descriptions and sample photos, and my task was to go to the exact locations at which the initial pictures had been taken and take updated pictures from exactly the same spots covering exactly the same scenes. Sounds simple. I should have listened more carefully to the description of where to turn off of Cherry Creek road, though. I spent an hour on the wrong road. I enjoyed being on the wrong road, but by the time I got to the right place it was too late to get good pictures.

I came across this while I was on the wrong road.

It probably wouldn't have helped much if I had gotten to the right place an hour sooner, though. The maps are called treasure maps for a reason. The reference pictures were taken in 1997 or 2003. For that reason, I didn't think I could rely on trees looking the same, or even being there any more. I looked for large boulders in the pictures to use as a reference. I walked slowly down the creek (Oak Creek, BTW) trying to follow descriptions and looking for recognizable boulders. I went beyond where the last one should have been without finding any of the 5 that were there.

Much of the hike was easy walking like this, but there was also some scrambling over boulders.

Some reference pictures seem to have nothing but vegetation in them. They're going to be hard to find. I looked for big boulders, thinking that they shouldn't have changed much in 14 years. I continued to look as I headed back to the truck. At one point I saw a stack of rocks that looked a little familiar. I moved to the left and recognized a view from Photo Point #5. Finally. I knew it was the right spot, but some things still didn't look right. As I looked at the pictures last night, I saw that a large boulder that I was looking for on the ground was now half buried and had another large boulder in front of it. Wow, some big stuff has been moved around in the past few years. It was too dark in the canyon to get good pictures, but now I have a reference point. From there I'm pretty sure I'll be able to find the rest of the Photo Points the next time I'm out there.

I also found this. It was nice of him to pose for pictures. I saw another, lighter colored one but it hid under a rock.

Click below to see all of the pictures.


Monday, May 09, 2011


I was talking to a forest ranger last week who told me that I ought to check out 203A. It's on the east side of Roosevelt Lake (where I've been spending a lot of time lately) and goes to the southern border of the Sierra Ancha Wilderness. I was just planning to drive out there. I've been putting some medicine on my face that makes it sensitive to the sun, so I can't be out in the sun much. I tried wearing my hat, but that doesn't provide enough shade, and it hurts my forehead. A lot of the pictures I took out there were very crooked because it hurts my nose to take pictures. I was in a bad mood all day because the medicine makes me irritable. I'm so glad I'm done with that medicine now. But I digress.

As I got on the freeway leaving the house, I could see what looked like smoke near Picketpost Mountain. As I got closer, I could see that there was definitely a fire. There was a dry 20 mph wind from the south, so it was going to spread. It was on the south side of the highway so I was a little concerned about thick smoke over the road. The smoke was not very thick, though. The fire was not very far from from the road. It didn't look like it could get bad enough to force the road to be closed later. Turns out I'm not very good at guessing what fires are going to do.

Smoke from the Picket fire. I couldn't take pictures from the freeway, so I didn't get the actual fire.

203A is in pretty good shape and is not very steep; I never had to lock the axle. There's one narrow stretch with rock on one side and a vertical drop on the other that made me a little nervous, but I didn't encounter any traffic. It looked like I was the only person on that road yesterday.

A narrow stretch of road up ahead. The downhill side doesn't look as steep from back here.

The views were great from up there. That green strip is Coon Creek.

The road ends at the Sierra Ancha Wilderness boundary.

I thought about hanging around until the sun got lower and maybe going for a short hike, but I wasn't feeling too good. Another round of an intestinal virus was going through everybody in the house and it was probably my turn to get it. I thought it might be nice to get to the house before I started having ... well, I won't go into details.

This look fantastic when you're standing there, but the pictures are ho-hum.

Somebody put several piles of rocks here.

There was a line of cars where US 60 leaves the Globe/Miami area. The road was closed near Superior because of the fire. I couldn't go home that way. In Arizona, if a major road is closed, the alternate routes involve a lot of driving. It took me about an hour longer than it should have to get home. I got there just in time, too. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Cherry Creek Road

It wasn't hot in the valley on Saturday but I wanted to see something different, so I went east of Roosevelt Lake again. I wanted to check out Cherry Creek Road, and see how far along it I could drive. I was hoping to go hiking in someplace called Devil's Chasm, if I could find it, but that was a low priority.

Cherry Creek Road wanders into the distance.

Cherry Creek Road is a dirt road. Most of it that I drove on yesterday was in very good condition. Towards my turn-around point it got a little bumpy. Near the beginning were a couple a spots to unload ATVs. I'll have to bring the Ranger out there some time. Also, the road is in Tonto National Forest (I checked the map), but there are a lot of cows out there. I passed several corrals, and there are cattle guards across the road in several places. Maybe you can get away from the cows if you hike into the wilderness areas near there.

There are a lot of side roads. They are official roads with signs and numbers, but they don't show up on my maps. I'm guessing they go short distances to camp sites or something. I'll have to check some of them out in the future.

One of many side roads.

Some side roads go to ranch houses.

There were a few ATVs on the road. I think I saw about 4, which doesn't seem like many considering how nice the weather was.

A typical Arizona story; somebody was flying down the road at too high of a speed for the distance they could see ahead. They came around a corner, saw all this water, and slammed on the brakes. At least they stayed on the road.

Cherry Creek seems to have a lot of water flowing.

As the sun got lower, it got harder to see through all the bug guts on my windshield. I had been avoiding trying to clean them off because I was afraid they would just get smeared around and make a bigger mess. I finally decided that I had to try it, though. After a few squirts, the window was actually cleaner. Just then, a truck came hurrying up the hill towards me. The road was narrow and I moved over as far as I could. I glanced over as the truck zoomed past. Not only did the driver look perturbed at having to share his road, but his windshield was wet. At first, I thought that it was an amazing coincidence that we had decided to clean our windshields at the same time. Then I rounded the corner and saw that the road crossed Cherry Creek again. His windshield was wet because he had hit the water going at least 25 mph. I wish I had been there a few seconds earlier.

On the other side of that crossing, the condition of the road deteriorated. I had to slow down quite a bit. The road also climbed quite a bit above Cherry Creek. This area reminded me of being in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park. That is, until the cows mooed.

Reminds me of the Chisos Mountains.

Not too far beyond that last picture, the road heads a short distance up a side canyon. It enters a beautiful, dark, wooded area. It looked like the ideal campsite, if you're going to camp right next to a road. I wanted to take pictures but there were people camped there. I was moving slowly along and when I glanced ahead, I saw that I was headed down a steep section of road that got steeper before it crossed a creek. If I had to come back this way, I didn't think I could make it up that steep part with wet tires. I tried to back up but a tire spun. I locked the axle and made a little progress, but the road curved and the truck doesn't like to turn with the axle locked. I spun the tires some more. What a noob. By now the campers were talking about what was happening down on the road. A young man stood on a rock and offered some advice. He said his Taco would easily make it up that slope with the axle locked, so I didn't have anything to worry about and I should go for it. I told him I would try it some other time. I should have asked it they minded if I took pictures of the campsite while we were talking, but I was too embarrassed about spinning my tires to think of that. Only noobs and teenagers spin their tires.

The good thing about having turned back is that it's going to bug me until I go back, so I'll go back sooner rather than later. I'll start at the other end of Cherry Creek Road next time.

On the way back, I decided to check out one of the side roads. It was rough, so it was slow-going. Also, it slowly got steeper until I just couldn't make forward progress. I had to back up a long way before I could turn around. My neck still hurts. Sometimes I think about getting a 4-wheel drive truck, but my Taco is just getting broken in. It doesn't even have 150,000 miles on it yet.

This is 2906.

I was driving back at sunset, again.

Click below to see all of the pictures.