Ridge above Parker Canyon
Moody Point Trailhead on Workman Creek Road
Range fence along
Camp in conifers at head of Reynolds Creek
Cindy hikes up burned Lucky Strike Trail from Cherry Creek
On Sierra Anchas rim
Cherry Creek Water
Sierra Anchas return: short days, cold winds, slow going in well-burned Arizona wilderness.
I have vague memories of a 1975 rainy February overnight trip with college friends in the Sierra Anchas Wilderness in central Arizona: long drive on backroads, short hike through a clearing marked by “Sierra Anchas Experimental Forest” sign, a wilderness register (where a hiking buddy wrote our names under “pack animals”), a rocky rim trail through juniper and pine, and camp on a stormy night on the edge of a vast canyon. Next morning, winding around the head of steep red-rock canyons and traversing rimrock to an intact cliff dwelling perched above sheer cliffs. From the rim, view of mountain slopes cloaked in vast pine forest.
Our return trips 40 years later in December 2017-an overnight to check out water availability in an exceptionally dry fall and a backpack the next week through 60 percent of the 20,850-acre wilderness-found a very different place.
Burned by the 9,600-acre Coon Fire in 2000 and the 30,000-acre Juniper Fire in 2016 (which reburned some of Coon), the Sierra Anchas retained only pine remnant stands. New Mexican locust often replaced pine in dense sapling thickets; sharp thorns from young growth and/or sucker growth from previous trail cutting clogged most of the upper trail reaches. (We had to trim stems to get through unscathed). Severely eroded old trails and jeep roads through the already rugged rocky landscape were slippery, hard on the feet and tiring to the soul. In the 5.5-day backpack trip we hiked only 51 miles-less than 7 miles on one day down Moody Point Trail and only topping 10 when most of the day was on road. Because of slow pace, we didn’t even try to experience the highlight of this remote wilderness-pre-Colombian native American cliff dwellings circa 1200-1500 in the upper reaches of at least five steep inaccessible canyons. One can “Google search” this subject and read many descriptions of these large dwellings, usually accessed by scrambling up canyon from the Cherry Creek Road outside the wilderness. Access is difficult enough to-I hope-limit visitors to those who respect these ancient remnants.
Parker Creek Water
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