..........................................................Arizona Jones Outdoors: Hiking, Backpacking, Mountain Biking, and more!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Verde Valley (I Live In A Cool Place Part Two)

I live in a valley called the Verde Valley that is located right in the geographical center of Arizona.  The Verde Valley has several nice small towns or cities that are spread out through the area including Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Cornville, Clarkdale, Jerome, and of course Sedona .  The most known of these cities is called Sedona. Sedona is a well known tourist destination due to the beautiful and unique redrock landscapes.
Sedona is also known for being the access point for the Oak Creek Canyon recreational area, with famous Slide Rock State Park.
Along with Slide Rock there are countless other great places in the canyon for swimming and hiking. One of my favorites is called The West Fork of Oak Creek. http://azjonesoutdoor.blogspot.com/2010/07/west-fork-of-oak-creek-arizona.html

  The Verde Valley is known for it's beautiful scenery. This next photo is a view of Cathedral Rock from Red Rock Crossing, one of the most photographed locations in all the southwest.  It is found at the Red Rock Crossing/Crescent Moon Ranch Picnic Area of Red Rock Loop Road.
But the Verde Valley has so much more than just Sedona and the redrocks, being surrounded by several wilderness areas including Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness http://azjonesoutdoor.blogspot.com/2011/07/wet-beaver-creek-widerness-arizona.html , West Clear Creek Wilderness http://azjonesoutdoor.blogspot.com/2010/08/west-clear-creek-wilderness-az.html , Munds Mountain Wilderness, Red Rock-Secret Canyon Wilderness, Sycamore Canyon Wilderness, Fossil Spring Wilderness http://azjonesoutdoor.blogspot.com/2011/06/fossil-creek-arizona.html , http://azjonesoutdoor.blogspot.com/2011/06/fossil-creek-part-two.html   Woodchute Wilderness, and the Cedar Bench Wilderness.  The valley also has several National Monuments and state parks including Montezuma Castle National Monument including Montezuma Well and Montezuma's Castle, Tuzigoot National Monument, Slide Rock state Park, Dead Horse State Park, Red Rock State Park, Jerome State Historic Park and Fort Verde State Historical Park.  These areas along with the vast areas of National Forest http://azjonesoutdoor.blogspot.com/2011/05/exploring-mogollon-rim-country-of.html  offer countless hiking and mountain biking opportunities. Here are some links to some of the many mountain bike trails in the area.
The Verde Valley also has several protected archeology sites that are run by the National Forest Service  including Honanki, Palatki Heritage Site, and V-Bar-V Heritage site, where you can visit Indian ruins and petroglyphs.  http://azjonesoutdoor.blogspot.com/2011/09/palatki-and-honanki-ruins-near-sedona.html 
Along with that it has many undeveloped archaeological sites to discover as well. With rock art and ruins that can be found almost anywhere you go throughout the area.  Here is some rock art found in the West clear Creek area. Another little known but great location to see some petroglyphs is Red Tank Draw http://azjonesoutdoor.blogspot.com/2011/07/red-tank-draw-petroglyph-site.html .
Here are some examples of the many Native American ruins that can be discovered that are undeveloped and not on the maps.
I have found so many of these types of sites that I have lost count of how many, and they are in every part of the valley.
The Verde Valley also has miles and miles of designated scenic drives. This is a winter time view along the beautiful but rugged Schnebly Hill Road.
And along with all the great outdoor beauty the Verde Valley has some real nice weather, with very mild winters.  The valley bottom is a little above 3000 feet in elevation and on the north is the edge of the Colorado Plateau, also known as the rim, on the south side is Mingus Mountain, The Black Hills, and the Verde Rim,  These higher mountain and rim areas reach heights of between 7000 and 8000 feet in elevation.  This drastic elevation change means the temperature will be much cooler at the higher elevation. So when it is hot down in the valley you can drive to the high locations and cool down in less than an hour. In winter we don't get much snow in the valley and it melts the next day if we do. But if you want some snow you can be sledding in 40 minutes by driving up to the mountain or rim areas.
    Another great thing about where I live is it is a short drive to the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Southern Utah and the Arizona Rim areas northeast of Payson, making it the ideal base camp for exploring some of the Southwests best areas.
  I drew this map of my little valley to give others an idea of how the place is situated, and I think it could be a cool resource to those visiting the area. Anyway I hope you can come and see it for yourself, you won't be disappointed.
Not sold yet? Check out "I Live In A Cool Place" Part One. http://azjonesoutdoor.blogspot.com/2011/02/i-live-in-cool-place.html  
If you come to visit and fall in love with this area like I have, and decide to move here, when you buy a house be sure to have it checked out by Canyon Country Home Inspection  http://www.canyoncountryhomeinspection.com/ To help you feel confident about your new home purchase.

link directory

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Red Tank Draw Petroglyph Site

In the Verde Valley as in much of the southwest there are many archaeological sites from past Native American cultures.  One of these spots that is not well known in the Verde Valley is a petroglyph site in a place called Red Tank Draw.  The Verde Valley has an abundance of archaeological sites and some are well known and developed, like Montezuma's Castle National Monument but many are not and this is one of the best that is not well known.  Red Tank Draw is a small canyon that has a small intermittent stream that only flows for part of the year.
Along the stream are some canyon walls made of Coconino Sandstone, that rise up to forty to fifty feet. Along these walls are some very fine examples of Native American rock art, called petroglyphs.
Petroglyphs are drawings that have been chipped or chiseled into the rock surface. These petroglyphs were made by the Southern Sinagua culture between A.D. 1150 and 1400 and is in the style that archaeologist call the Beaver Creek style.  Here at this site are a wide range of drawings ranging from what appears to be people, elk, deer, antelope, lizards, to crosses, spirals, and other symbols 
I really have no idea about the meaning or reason the the artists from this past culture had for these drawings. I'm sure some archaeologist has come up with a theory, or speculation but we can never be sure. This one of what appears to be an elk is just amazing.
Here is a panel with a whole heard of deer or elk, a hunters dream come true. 
This one is of some deer or elk mating, something I have never seen at any other rock art sites, but I'm sure there could be.
Here are some pictures of what appear to be small lizards that have been carved into the rock.
In this one location of the canyon the display is really fantastic. I have also seen some more isolated examples in other locations along the draw.
Apparently there are some more on some boulders where the main road from the highway crosses Red Tank Draw as it heads toward Wet Beaver Creek.
So here is how to get there.
This route requires high clearance vehicle. A passenger car will simply not make it, so do not even try. Drive south from Flagstaff on I-17 about 45 miles to the AZ Highway 179 exit (exit # 289). Leave the freeway here and drive 1.3 miles east on Forest Road 618 until you see the first forest road turn off to the north or left(a four way stop). This road will take you around a large hill. Look for FR 645A on the right and take it down to the edge of the Draw. Right as you approach the edge the road will turn left and head down into a low spot where you can access the Draw or wash. If you park on the rim where the road turns you just walk south a short distance along the rim and there is a steep trail that takes you off the rim and down into the canyon or draw where the petroglyphs are. Some people drive down into the wash (very rocky) and then walk about 100 yards south down the wash to get to the same place.

All archaeological and historic sites on the Coconino National Forest are protected by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. These laws prohibit digging, removing artifacts, damage and defacement of archaeological resources on public lands, and provide felony and/or misdemeanor prosecution with imprisonment up to ten years and fines up to $100,000.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Paria Rimrock Toadstools, Southern Utah

The Paria Rimrock Toadstool rock formations are on the south edge of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  This group of "hodoos" rock formations is just one of many that can be found in the exposed Entrada and Dakota layers of rock that runs from Lake Powell in the east to the Coxcomb Monocline. 
The toadstools or balanced rocks have an Enrtrada sandstone block on top that prevents erosion below it. I guess the layer below (Dakota sandstone) is softer than the Entrada sandstone and it erodes away except the stuff that is protected under the harder Entrada boulder causing the pedestal with time.  These are some crazy looking rock formations that just seen to defy logic, but here they are and there are more in other locations, this is just the easy to get to ones.  Here is a photo of the most notable ones as you come up on them from the south.
And then this one is as you get closer.
This next one gives you an idea of what the surrounding area looks like.
Just a little way northeast there are some more of these toadstool rocks.
So if you are traveling on the 89 or are going to hike Paria River Canyon that is just across the highway, and you have a little time, I think this short hike is well worth it.
This hike to the Paria Rimrock Toadstools is just an easy 1.5 mile round trip hike leading north from the highway to the hoodoos and balanced rocks. Drive north on highway 89 from the Glen Canyon Dam. Turn into the dirt parking area on the right just past Utah mile marker 19. The site is about 30 miles west of Lake Powell and 40 miles east of Kanab, Utah. Look for a series of white cliffs with vivid chocolate brown striping on the north side of US-89.
There is a gate and a sign in register.  The trail itself starts just inside the fence and is 0.8 mile each way, with mostly level and easy walking. It follows a sandy wash part of the way, then cairns (stone markers) lead you the rest of the way.
There is also a group of there "toadstool" rock formation closer to Lake Powell called the Wawheep Toadstools.  This is a series of several alcoves of these formations.  They are located at Wahweap Creek just outside of Big Water, Utah but the hike for these is much longer (9.2 miles roundtrip)  

This is a post of a trip into the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that is somewhat near this hike. 
http://azjonesoutdoor.blogspot.com/2010/10/yellow-rock-and-hackberry-canyon-utah.html   And here is a post on the Paria River Canyon hike that is close by to this hike (just across the highway). 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wet Beaver Creek Widerness, Arizona

I have written twice about a place called West Clear Creek and it has been one of the top ten most viewed posts in the last year. But there is another canyon that is West Clear Creek's little brother. It is called Wet Beaver Creek. Wet Beaver Creek runs from east to west and just like West Clear Creek it has many deep pools that you must swim to travel up or down the canyon. And just like West Clear Creek there is no trail in the middle part of the canyon and the going can be very difficult. But just like West Clear Creek the payoff is a remote wilderness experience of extreme beauty and solitude.
The total distance to do a through hike of this canyon from Waldroup Place up on the rim to the trail head parking lot at the mouth of the canyon is 15 miles. This would require a car shuttle. Many people start at the trail head parking lot and then do a loop hike by taking the Apache Maid Trail up to the rim and then drop down into the canyon at Waldroup Place and then travel down the canyon and back to the Bell Trail parking area.
The majority of the people that visit Wet Beaver Creek are day hikers that come up the Bell Trail and stop at a swimming hole known as The Crack.
The Crack is about four miles from the parking area on a maintained trail. The first two miles is a wide double track or jeep trail, and the rest is a foot trail along a ledge or bench above the creek until you get to The Crack. The trail is called the Bell Trail and it was used in the old days to move cattle from the lower areas up to the rim for the summer.

To do the loop trip you will take the Apache Maid Trail up and around. After about two miles you will come to a trail on the left called Apache Mail trail #15. This trail climbs steeply up to the north rim of the canyon gaining at least 1200 feet of elevation and then gets very vague as it travels on intermittent jeep tracks east to the access point called Waldroup place at the east or upper end of the canyon. This is a long trek with no water sources, that will gain and loose altitude as you go and if you are going to go down the canyon it means you will be doing this in the hot summer months. It is about 9 and 1/4 miles from the trail head to Waldrop Place. It is about 2 miles from Waldroup Place to get down into the main canyon. Then about 9 miles down the canyon till you pick up the Bell trail near the crack and about 4 more miles back down the Bell trail to the car for a total of around 24 miles for the loop. I once drove around to Waldroup place and just started from up there and just returned back the same way. This is a rugged access with seven dry falls you have to find a way around. When you get into the canyon it is dry at first but as you head west or downstream you will soon find several springs that are the source of Wet beaver Creek and then right away there will be a few big pools you must swim to go any farther down the canyon. The travel in the 9 mile trailess part of the canyon is very tough and strenuous with travel average at 3/4 miles per hour. To do the loop you could do it in two days but most would take three to make it enjoyable.
Anyway most people just come up from the Bell Trail to The Crack for a day hike and swim.
The Crack is two deep pools connected by a short slot, and it has a unique natural red rock diving board.
There are also taller cliffs on one side that brave or crazy people sometimes jump off into the water. The Crack can be very crowded on hot summer days, but this is where most of the people stop. But if you keep going up the canyon you will find it to be beautiful, wild, and best of all there will be few people.
Now the walk up the Bell Trail is a dry and hot four miles with very little shade. And much of it is up away from the creek with the sound of the water below teasing you as you go.  In one spot along the Bell Trail there is a large basalt boulder with what appears to be Anasazi Petroglyphs.

This is not unusual in this area in fact just a quarter mile farther up the main road past the trail head is the V-Bar-V Heritage Site with one of the largest petroglyph panels in all of Arizona.   This part of the canyon is wide open but then starts to close in after a few miles.
At about 2.7 miles there is a trail to the right that goes down to the creek called the Weir Trail, this is tempting but will not get you to The Crack and the best stuff. Keep on the upper trail and it will take you up on a bench high above the creek.
And at about the 4 mile mark you will see a trail (The Bell Trail) heading down to the right toward the creek and one going straight. Take the straight one that will take you upstream to The Crack. The bell Trail will take you to bell Crossing and cross the creek and then will climb the steep canyon walls to the rim above.
Once at The Crack to head up stream you will just be boulder hopping, wading, and fighting through willow thickets and brush.
You will be able to see some paths that others have taken that are the "least resistance" and that will help but this is primitive route finding. You will be doing extensive boulder hopping along the banks or in the creek. The creek is lined with willows that you will need to fight your way through as you cross from one side of the creek to the other. The creek bottom itself is very slippery with algae covered rock and it is best to avoid walking in the creek bottom as it will severely slow you down. After at least an hour and a half from The Crack you will encounter the first big pool or obstacle.
You must swim through this long pool to go any farther. And soon this will become the mode of travel so get used to it. In fact that is the fun part of this trip to swim in the cool deep shady pools while the rest of Arizona is baking in the hundred plus heat.
Another half hour or more upstream you will encounter more deep pools you must swim and soon there is a series of pools one after another that you will have to swim to go any farther.
In this section of the canyon the cliffs close in around you and get tall and majestic. This is a true wilderness experience, with few encounters with other people.
In some places there are trees wedged in the slots many feet above the water surface. A good reminder to not do this trip in the monsoon season.
I have seen beavers living in this area and I'm sure there could be bear or mountain loins too, for it is a real wild place. There are very few camp spots once all the swimming starts because the canyon walls close in on the creek bed. 
The best places are just before the first swim or just after the first big swim. Here is a great secluded area with great beauty to enjoy while you rest up for the return trip.  You could try to get in to this inner section and back out in a day but that would be one really long hard day with little time to take to enjoy the place.  Even breaking it up into two days by camping overnight makes for two very hard and strenuous days of hiking due to the extreme conditions (especially if you are an old guy like me).
Michael R. Kelsey's book Canyon Hiking Guide To The Colorado Plateau says there are 32 places where you must float a pack, and 23 of these you must swim because you can't touch bottom.  He also ranks this as one of his top 20 hikes out of over 120 in his book that covers canyon hikes in parts of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico (He ranks West Clear Creek as #8). 
Because there is no avoiding swimming in this canyon many people use flotation devices to ferry packs across the big deep pools. I use dry bags to keep my stuff dry and some cheap foam sleeping pads doubled up and folded in half strapped to the back of my pack to help float the pack. I find the blow up flotation devices just get popped by all the vegetation, but not using something to float the pack will cause your pack to weigh a lot more as it soaks up the water.
Some people install grommet type holes in the packs to help them drain. For shoes I just hike wade and swim in low cut hiking boots. Water shoes and sandals will just not cut it and your feet will take a pounding. Of course do not drink the water without purification. And never go in the middle part of this canyon in monsoon season due to flash flood potential (get a good weather report before your trip). Well I hope this helps any who want to take on the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness Area.
Access: Drive 40 miles south from Flagstaff on Interstate 17. Leave the interstate at the AZ 179 interchange. Turn east under the highway and drive about 2.5 miles east to the old Beaver Creek Ranger Station turnoff. Turn north about a quarter mile to the parking lot and trail head.