Sierra Anchas the rest of the story …

Back to our hike. We did figure out our 1975 trip-and hope to finish it another time to revisit ruins we saw before. A preview overnight trip hiking Workman Creek Road and parts of Moody Point/Rim trail revealed enough water to sustain our hiking trip and enough New Mexican locust to prompt us to pack hand pruners.

We started our 2017 backpack trip on South Fork of Parker Creek. A trailhead sign noted maintenance by Mesa District Boy Scouts Troop 954. Sign has been there several years; not sure when extensive clearing and reconstruction was done on this excellent trail switch-backing up the canyon to a saddle near Carr Peak. Coon Fire burned much ponderosa but left enough remnant stands for some pine needle carpeted sections. The mothballed Sierra Anchas Experimental Forest station, shed and water flow gauge are along Parker creek (gauge can still be accessed for real-time flow data at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/az/nwis/uv?site_no=09498503). Above the gauge, pools and running water were visible in the boulder-strewn creek, likely blown out by high flows after the Coon Fire. From Carr Saddle we followed the Rim Trail, not so nice but cut out and marked sporadically with giant cairns (stone trail markers). Impressive rim views when the trail rounded the edge of a side canyon dropping steeply to Coon Creek. Soon after, we temporarily lost it in a draw clogged with New Mexican locust stems. Getting water at Hunt Spring (at head of Devils Chasm), we headed up Moody Point and camped in a grove of ponderosa, juniper and oak just off the rocky, windy point.

The whole next day was skittering on rocks, thrashing brush, route-finding and enduring Moody Point Trail, one of the worst trails I’ve hiked but mostly discernable thanks to large cairns. An old sign marked the faint Deep Creek trail heading south into unburned pine forest to a jeep road over a hill to Bull Canyon Trailhead. Moody Point trail circled a mesa before dropping to Cherry Creek-a beautiful flow lined with golden cottonwood-a total 10 hours to cover only 6.7 miles. Next day we climbed washed out road 0.4 miles to a signed junction with Cherry Creek Road.

We spent the day on road, well maintained to Ellison Ranch (an oasis of springs and cottonwood), washed out beyond and mostly used by UTVs. After about 2 miles, we took a spur near the creek that passed through cattle gates and beat down riparian areas lined with cow pies. Cattle seem to have the run of the lower mountains; at one closed gate we inadvertently ‘trapped’ a few cows and calves who ran back by us in mad panic. Cows were only beings we saw all day. In this dry year, the Forest Service had cautioned about water, but there was enough. Devil’s Chasm, Cold Springs and Hinton canyons were running, and three more springs intersected the main road. (The large gauge on Cherry Creek near Devil’s Chasm confluence showed flows at 4 cubic feet per second [cfs] during our hike. Since all canyons flow into this creek check https://waterdata.usgs.gov/az/nwis/uv?site_no=09497980  for water situation)

We took the barely marked Lucky Strike Trail (3 blank signs, last maybe wilderness boundary) and hiked its steep burned rocky face a mile to camp on a badly burned flat, formerly an oak-pine grove. Next day we followed the old mining road through moonscape to a piney flat near icy Pueblo Mine Spring (with just enough pool to pump with water filter) and a short respite of remnant pine forest and nice track before we entered burn again. Great views near the top. We left road on Center Mountain Trail through lightly burned pine and more moonscape on the mountainside. We camped below the ridge on Reynolds Creek, running well in its lower reaches but only ‘elk wallow’ near the top. Knoll Hole Spring was not to be found. 

Reynolds and Murphy trails were surprisingly good. We dropped packs and descended 1500 feet on Murphy to the Rim Trail. At what showed as intersection on maps, we found no south trail, but good trail rounded north (left) around the head of awesome steep cliffs of Cold Spring Canyon. This trail terminus is on next ridge before Pueblo Canyon where we think we contoured around to cliff dwellings in 1975. But we had run out of have time to check this out. We climbed up to road by Murphy Ranch (renamed Haldi H-Y Ranch from sign at gate; it appeared deserted except for nicely maintained large fruit tree orchard), took road to 7,748-foot Aztec Peak, and dropped down a trail (called Abbey’s Way on some maps because late author Edward Abbey worked as a fire lookout here). The trail was another burn victim. Its first few switchbacks were not bad but then locust, raspberry and other post-fire vegetation slowed our pace (with frequent clipping) to 0.5 mile per hour. By the flats, we were off trail more than on it, until a welcome open meadow and a weather station indicating road nearby. With sunset imminent, it was time to camp (fortunately we had carried enough water from Reynolds for a dry camp with snacks but not enough to make dinner).

Next morning following ATV track back to road, we figured out the 1975 hike. It probably began in this very meadow; an opening created for range studies on the Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest. Forest and wilderness entry sign were long gone, maybe burned. Our group drove up Workman Creek Road, hiking over Aztec Peak and on to Rim Trail via Moody Point Trailhead for our campout and morning visit to ruins. No doubt the pre-burn Rim Trail was in great shape then, as were the pine forests it wandered through.

Cherry Creek Water
Parker Creek Water