Wanda and Pete's Letterbox Hikes - Arizona
BEFORE YOU SET OUT, PLEASE READ THE
WAIVER OF RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLAIMER..
|147. OAK FLAT||A drive-by near our usual "first night campground", heading into the mountains east of Superior.|
Checked on Sept. 25, 2007 and replaced logbook. Found Mar 30, 2008
Every time we fly to Arizona (which isn't very often, only about once every five years) we seem to use this campground for a convenient first night stay. It's only about 50 miles east of Phoenix, and 4 miles east of Superior along route 60, but it seems like a completely different world to us out here! After going through the small town of Superior with its tiny museum, you pass through the Queen Creek Tunnel, and head up through some marvelous rock formations to the marked dirt road which goes about 1/2 mile south to the campground itself. Park near the corner where you turn left into the campground, about 50 steps before the big brown campground sign. From the middle of the first group of rocks on the right near that corner (a large squarish boulder), take about a dozen steps south to the first live oak, and check out the small cairn on its back side. (We were still thinking "eastern" when carving the stamp quickly the night before we left, so we got the wrong type of oak leaf, but hopefully no one will mind too much!)
We had the campground almost completely to ourselves this last time in the snow, midweek in March of 2006, but imagine it could get pretty busy on summer weekends, so please plan accordingly. Hope you enjoy your travels through Arizona!
|148. MYSTERY MAN OF THE CANYON||A gentle mile or so hike through a beautiful forested canyon in this Cochise county mystery location. Stamp carved by RTRW.|
Heading east on I-10 for about an hour or so drive from Tucson, then going south about 18 miles to Sunsites, then west about 9 miles into the mountains will get you to this very special place: a lovely live oak campground ($10) and a trailhead ($5 if you are without a parks pass and not camping) leading up a trail named for a famous Native American who took a strong stand against American military troops near here in the 1870's and whose remains are supposedly buried somewhere among those rocks as well.
From the campground, cross the bridge near the restrooms and head up the trail, passing several nature trail signs along the way. Turn left with the main trail and continue up the canyon past some magnificent alligator junipers and live oaks until you reach the springs and a small brown sign that says "1 mile". From this sign continue along the trail about 42 steps to a group of two boulders, one on top of the other, on your right. Just past these boulders, walk about a dozen steps at 320 degrees to a large flat rock about 4 feet long. From its eastern end, walk 17 steps at 30 degrees passing a 5 trunk live oak on your right, stop and then look left for a somewhat rounded boulder atop another a few feet away just behind a pinon pine, with smaller lichen covered rocks on its eastern side. Carefully removing these rocks, with intent to replace them exactly as they were, should catch you a glimpse of the "mystery man", carved by RTRW of CT. We still don't know who he is supposed to be, but we had no takers for sending him out to Texas (see our Texas trip report where we mentioned that we thought he looked a little like "Silver Eagle") so hopefully he'll stay happily here in Arizona!
Continue on the trail, if you wish, for some great views, etc!
|XV. IN SEARCH OF THE LOST DUTCHMAN||A loop hike of about 8 miles (or about 7 miles in-and-out) on this popular desert trail through the Superstition Mountains northeast of Apache Junction.|
For the background and details on this hike, go to Chuck's Letterboxing web page.
Make sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen before heading out on this long lovely loop into the Superstitions. It's rated easy in the "100 Hikes in Arizona" book, but it can still feel like quite a workout if you're not used to the dry climate. The hike begins at the parking lot about 2.5 miles down the gravel road just north past L ost D utchman S tate Park off route 88. A short distance before this parking lot is a ticket machine on the left where you need to pick up a day pass ($4 in 2006) to leave under your windshield, if you do not have a national park pass to display. Proceed down the 1/4 mile introductory path until you get to the first junction. You can go either way to complete the loop, so we'll let you decide here which direction you want to go.
If you choose the right path, it will take you up to P arker Pass in a couple of miles. After descending from the pass, cross a couple of the creeks or washes of West B oulder Canyon, then follow the trail with the creek/wash now on your left. You will soon reach a flat clearing with an old fire ring and a large jumble of rocks just beyond. About 150 steps past this old fire ring should get you to a flat split rock on your left and a nicely framed view of W eaver's N eedle to your right. From this flat "sitting rock", go about 30 steps due east to a barrel cactus with a squarish chunky boulder a few feet below and behind it. You won't find any of the Dutchman's buried treasure here, but you just might enjoy looking for a nice little memento of your trek under several flat stones on the left (NW) side of the boulder. Take care and remember all the usual desert precautions!
From here, you may continue down to the next junction, and loop back left along the B lack M esa Trail for more adventure, or just return the way you came. We hope many people get to enjoy this fine desert hike for many years to come!
Reported found Oct 18, 2006.
|207. PEAK SPIRITS FROM BELOW THE RIM||A beautiful hike through the aspens in the shadow of the San Francisco Peaks.|
In years past, after hiking rim-to-rim on the south side of the Grand Canyon (16 miles with about 9000' elevation change), we have been known to follow up that feat the next day with a climb up Arizona's majestic high point, Humphrey's Peak, standing at 12,633 feet ( 9 miles round trip with about 8000' elevation change).
In the fall of 2007, however, after accomplishing one of my all-time "dream day hikes", which was to hike both the South and North Kaibab Trails straight through from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Rim in one day ( 22 miles with well over 10,000' in elevation change, which I actually did on Sept. 29 in less than ten hours on a recently sprained ankle, without even putting on my ankle brace or taking Ibuprofen, while Pete drove 215 miles around to meet me on the other side!!!), rather than going back to climbing high points again, we opted to leave letterboxes at a couple of other more easily accessible sites instead.
To reach the upper starting point for this hike, take the same route as if you were going to the High Point and Snow Bowl (route 180 7 miles northwest from Flagstaff, then about another 7 miles north on paved FR 516 to the far end of the first parking area on your right. Looking into the deep woods at the beginning of the trail, you should be able to spot the large brown sign that marks this trail, which will not take you towards China (although there's a different kind of "china" doll in its name!:-), but rather will weave you along below tree line on a lovely, mellow traverse with occasional views up to the peaks and down to the city of Flagstaff, and with remarkably little elevation change for 5 miles! From that point, where the trail ends at an old dirt road, a left turn for a quarter mile, followed by a right turn onto the Weatherford Trail for a last quick mile or two downhill leads you to the Schultz Tank trailhead, on Schultz Pass Road FR 420 (several miles off route 180 heading back towards Flagstaff), which is a convenient place to leave a car if doing a "shuttle" to hike the trail only one way (about 7 miles).
Since this really is such a pretty and comparatively easy trail, we highly recommend going the whole distance, one way or another, to get a flavor for the area and to feel that you have earned the stamp. However, if you are in a big hurry to get the High Point or do the Grand Canyon or whatever, you can still access the microbox in less than half an hour, if that's all you're after. Most of the hike is in designated wilderness, so we made sure to leave our trifle outside that boundary, less than a mile in from the upper trailhead, on the "not-so-scenic" portion of the forested walk. Looking southwesterly from the metal trail register near the wilderness boundary, note a tall Douglas Fir just west of the power line with a row of 3' chest high boulders in front of it. Take 6 steps back the way you came in on the trail, then about 30 steps at 230 degrees to place yourself at the third rock from the right, slightly indented from the front line and harboring a small frontal overhang. There beneath bark and behind a small moveable volcanic rock with a branch in front of it sits a little black gray-capped "tschotschka"!
Hope you replace everything exactly as found and keep on hiking! Even though the whole trail only involves about 1000' elevation change, it is still up around the 9000' level in elevation, so it is probably best done between June and November with some "altitude adjustment". I once climbed Humphrey's in May, then had to wade through hip-high snow on the north side of Agassiz Peak to get to Pete at Schultz Pass via snow-bound upper reaches of the Weatherford Trail, so make sure you know what you're getting into ahead of time, since even walks like this one "below the peaks", rated easy in the "100 Hikes in Arizona" book, could turn dangerous without adequate preparation. Please play it safe, and enjoy this walk in the summer or fall.
|208. WALNUT CANYON FROM FISHER POINT||Another fairly short flat walk in the Flagstaff area with access to a section of the Arizona Trail.|
Many people have heard of the Walnut Canyon National Historic Site off I-40 east of Flagstaff, but fewer perhaps know of this particular access to the same canyon that we found out about in our old "100 Hikes in Arizona" book. This hike reaches into the canyon from the south rather than the north, and is approached by traveling about 5.5 miles southeast on Lake Mary Road from its junction with route 89A (Beulah Road near Fort Tcuthill just south of I-40 and west of I-17) to a Coconino National Forest campground on the north side of the road.
Drive through the campground to a rather large parking lot and sign at its northern end. From there, follow the Sandy Canyon Trail left about half a mile or so until you can turn right with the trail to drop down a few hundred feet into Walnut Canyon by means of this nice little shallow side canyon. Swing north with the main canyon, eventually crossing the wash and hooking up with the Arizona Trail entering on your right. Another mile or so brings you to a decision point: a sign proclaiming "Arizona Trail" < Marshall Lake 5.6 miles / Flagstaff Urban Trail 3.5 miles> and another sign 10 steps away at 150 degrees stating that the Fisher Point Vista is 1.2 miles away, even though there is a very fine vista of Fisher Point right there in front of your very eyes!
Anyway, your decision now is whether to turn around and hike back the way you came for a total of 4.4 miles round trip, or, if you are lucky enough to have someone with you willing to drive around and pick you up on the other end in Flagstaff, to continue on for a few more miles of quiet gently rolling hills past the water treatment facility to the trailhead on Lone Tree Road a few blocks away from Northern Arizona University. Whichever way you choose, be sure to check out the small line of rocks about 40 steps away at 285 degrees from the more northern sign. You never know what kind of nut you might find hanging out under the alcove on the north side of the biggest rock near the two Ponderosa Pines!
Hope you enjoy this canyon walk. As usual in canyon country, even though here you will be near 7000' in elevation, sometimes it can get quite hot, so wear sunscreen, drink plenty of water, eat salty snacks, watch out for flash flood warnings and various critters, and have fun!
|209. !ENCANTO!||An enchanting little climb to give this local Prescott area landmark a big "thumb's up"!|
I actually carved this stamp hoping we might get to meet a few Phoenix area letterboxers on our recent trip to Arizona. My plan was to have anyone interested meet us at the "Encanto Ballroom" in Encanto Park for a free international folkdance party that Thursday evening, and anyone who could figure out which folkdancer I was would get the "Encanto" stamp, and a great big grito: "!encantada - pleased to meet you!"
As usual, however, I just couldn't seem to get my act together in time, what with fears about not being able to walk well on my sprained ankle (let alone dance or hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim!), so I let the opportunity slip by. I suppose it was just as well, because the temperatures in Phoenix were still soaring in the high 90's that week, so we scooted out of there into the high country of the Mogollon Rim, hobnobbed with the elk, and never even made it back to Phoenix! We did, however, pass through Prescott on the eve of my "south-to-north rim epic half-day trek", and couldn't resist pausing for a quick climb up that wonderful opposable digit that you can see from just about everywhere in town and that makes such a nice little warm-up for the big GC!
Well, I still had one "enchanted" microbox left for this trip, so here is where we decided to leave it. At the top of the paved path (left loop) where there is a Prehistoric Prescott Culture sign, take 11 more steps curving south to where the pavement ends, then 11 more steps to a big alligator juniper by the left side of the trail. If you look very cautiously on the south (right) side of the tree beneath two small tannish, grayish stones and some bark, you should find a little bauble to color festively and then replace exactly as you found it, well hidden under the bark and concave protecting stone so that it hopefully looks very natural and will last a long time!
Thanks for being careful and sure-footed on this enchanting little bit of "prestidigitation"! At the time we visited (fall 2007), the parking lot was being reconstructed, so no fees were then being collected and roadside parking was permitted. However, in the future, please be aware that a small fee ($2) will probably be in effect to access this feature on the road with its same name. Hope you have an enchanting climb and an enchanting time!
|288. CHOCOLATE MOUNTAIN BOX||An original "table-topper" turned "mountain viewer" from an historic rest stop on a long lonely road in western Arizona.|
When we first set out our chocolate box, with a stamp and logbook hidden beneath the chocolates, at an early gathering of letterboxers many years ago, never could we have imagined that what we had thought would be a "one of a kind novelty gag" would turn into becoming almost the norm at many "stamp collecting parties" that have popped up in some parts of the country in recent years! Although it may be too late now to completely turn the tables on that "stamp buffet mentality" that seems to have taken hold of some folks newer to the hobby, we certainly would like to at least try to do our part to undo any damage that we may have unwittingly caused by placing that first chocolate box of ours on a gathering table!
So, In order to find our chocolate box now, don't head to any gatherings! Instead, head off to the Chocolate Mountains between Quartzsite and Yuma on route 95 along the western border of Arizona. We got a nice view of these mountains while hiking in the Palm Canyon area, but, thinking that we could plant closer, we drove further south only to find most of the land to the west restricted. There is one place on this long stretch, however, where you may be able to spot a piece of history and get a giant hamburger at the same time! The lady at the grill told us it was OK to walk on back to the "Enots Nibac", and even gave us a little bit of the historical background of this isolated former dwelling place in the desert.
Anyway, from the "Enots Nibac" located on the south side of a large flagged rock outcrop to the west, continue west about another 100 steps to a smaller outcrop consisting of about 15 to 20 steps worth of ledge rock. Follow along its southern side to the last bit of greenery in the western side of the ridge crack. Just a bit south, among scattered chunks of rock and just north of a mesquite bush, find a tilted, one foot squarish rock with a small camo canister beneath it, from which you can sneak a little chocolate sample while gazing at the Chocolate Mountains! Just be careful, as always, in extracting and replacing boxes in the wild, so that both you and the boxes stay safe and well hidden!
|469. "Sun Writing Glimpse"||An easy trip to a cool Arizona "sky island" with an amazing view - like going from Mexico to Canada in an hour or two!|
If you happen to be getting really hot in the Valley of the Sun, as we tend to do on our trips to Arizona, here's a really cool thing to do: just go get a glimpse of some "sun writing"! Actually, that's supposed to be a sort of "play on words" based on the Greek root words for "sun" and "writing" with the addition of a homonym for a synonym of the English word "glimpse", but once you figure out where to go - and, like so many of our other boxes, it's a bit of a mystery - we hope that you will be as delighted as we were in getting there ourselves!
Now, this is not a journey for the faint of heart, as you will be taking a "swift trail" towards one of the highest sky islands in southern Arizona, and an historic one at that. The mountain gets its name from the mirrors supposedly used in the 1880's to reflect the sun's rays to signal the whereabouts of Apache warriors. There is also an historic fire tower and ranger cabin from the 1930's at this slightly over 10, 000 foot summit.
Generally healthy individuals should have no fear of the elevation, however, since you can actually drive up to the 9000-foot elevation mark from about mid-April to November. If you are coming from near sea level (as we were, coming from RI), you might consider staying overnight to acclimate at a campground with an Irish name, bearing in mind that temperatures may get down below freezing at night, as they did for us even in late April/early May. There were also quite a few snow banks left both along the old fire road to the summit and along the lovely Arcadia Trail that can be used to form a loop with the gated fire road. Either way you get to the top, stand at the bottom step of the firetower and then carefully take about 30 steps northeast to a rocky promontory with fabulous views. At your feet, you should spy a foot-long rock with a blue dot in the center and a blue circle around it. Just a couple of feet to the right of it, a boulder that is reddish and whitish on its north side has an overhang on its south side with a 6-inch somewhat triangular-shaped stone that harbors behind it a micro box containing a stamp that is supposed to depict "Mr. Sunshine peeking out from behind a graph-shaped mountain"! Hope that you enjoy this scintillating simulated journey from Mexico to Canada in just a few miles!
BEFORE YOU SET OUT, PLEASE READ THE
WAIVER OF RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLAIMER..
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