Daily Archives: May 31, 2015

Verde Hot Springs, Part 1 – May 8 – 11

 

View of Verde River from the Hot Springs

Once we left the Mogollon Rim Road, we planned on heading for the Verde Hot Springs. They are located in the Fossil Creek Area within the Coconino National Forest. 

  

The forest road we wanted to take had one end near Strawberry, AZ and the other near Camp Verde. As it turns out, the two ends don’t connect. We initially started at the one near Strawberry but had to turn around. 

  

So we took AZ highway 200 through a very hilly, curvy road. It had some great views of the scenery. It had been raining/hailing/snowing off and on. At one point, traffic was stopped. When our side was allowed through, we found that there had been a fatal motorcycle accident. The biker had driven into a rock cliff. The bike was hardly recognizable as a bike. I’ve driven by a lot of traffic accidents, but rarely fatal ones. It was a good reminder that life is precious and driving is not a risk free activity. 

   

To reach the hot springs, there is a very twisty, canted dirt road that is about 1 1/2 cars wide with rocky cliffs on one side and a significant drop on the other. 

   Note the ominous clouds overhead. 

At the start of the road, the road had a few small hills and the road condition was fine, but then we reached an area that was wet. The rain had turned the dirt into a very slick mud and we were on a very long downhill. 

  

After stopping to lock the hubs, it was obvious that our only option was to keep going. There wasn’t any place big and flat enough for us to turn around. Even if we could, we probably couldn’t make it back up the hill. It is a very good thing that Jon is such an experienced driver. The back of our truck weighs a lot more than the front end. This means that unless we kept forward momentum, our rear end would try to come around and pass us. Not a good thing. 

    

Plus with the road being canted, it was also possible to slide sideways off the road unless we kept moving. Jon kept our truck on the road and moving forward at a controlled pace. With Jon’s skilled handling of our Fuso, we made it to the bottom of the hill. 

  

We couldn’t really stop there, so we continued on to the hot springs. The next road was not nearly as steep or as slick. There were some pretty significant ruts in the road from people going too fast when the road was really wet. After going up and down another 7 miles we reached a small parking area containing an abandoned Chrysler minivan. 

  
There was a steep descent to reach the camping area below.  The camping area is next to the very closed Childs Power Plant. 

    
The campsites cover a variety of spaces from those down by the river and under trees that may require going through really deep puddles or mud. Some are up higher in spots under smaller trees. For us, our height (12′) limited us to some clearer spots out in the open. 

   
 Note that we dug small holes in the sand to get the vehicle level rather than using blocks to raise the front. 

By the time we had walked around and found a site and then set up, it was already about 5:00. The hot springs are about a 1.25 mile walk that requires wading through the river. Since we hadn’t been there before, we decided to wait until tomorrow to visit. So we had a couple of drinks and wandered around talking to people. 

   

The first night, we met Mike, a grandfather that was industriously setting up camp for the rest of his family who were arriving later that evening. 

There was a younger couple from Flagstaff that were just here for the night. They had already gone to the Springs earlier in the day and were planning to go home tomorrow. 

We also talked to a couple of young guys who were here to fish and just let off some steam after a busy week at work. 

There were a number of other people, some individuals, some in pairs or small groups that were here to enjoy the Hot Springs. It was an interesting mix of people with lots of different life experiences. 

I fixed us dinner and we headed to bed pretty early. It had been a long day. 

   

It rained during the night. We woke up at 12:15 to water dripping on our foreheads.  

It turns out that when we drove under some very low tree limbs during our attempts to find a campsite, the tree limbs had hit the brush bar mounted on the top of the camper hard enough to create a leak at the point in which it attached. Jon climbed up on top of the camper and sealed it up enough so that It wouldn’t continue to leak. We dried off the parts inside that we could reach and went back to sleep. 

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Mogollon Rim – May 7 & 8

  

The next morning we took a route that took us east of Roosevelt Lake and through the Tonto National Forest. It provided us with some really wonderful views. 

   
 

We crossed over the Salt River and climbed into the Sierra Ancha mountains. 

   
 

There is a 200 plus mile cliff wall that runs from about Phoenix to the New Mexico border called the Mogollon Rim. Technically, it is an escarpment at the edge of the Colorado Plateau.  It is mostly composed of sandstone and limestone and can reach up to 2000 ft in places. It makes for some very dramatic scenery. The Mogollon Rim supposedly inspired the writings of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. 
   
 

Forest Road 300, also known as the Rim Road, follows along the top of the Mogollon Rim. We stopped at the Mogollon Rim Visitor’s Center to find out more about it. Unfortunately, they were closed until Memorial Day and had no useful information posted or available. But there was a nice view.

   
 

It was a little early to stop, but we were ready to get out and stretch our legs. We kept our eyes open for nice campsites. At around 7,000 feet above sea level, the area is a very popular destination in the summer to escape the heat. Camping is only allowed in designated campsites. After driving around one that was mostly just a big dirt patch with picnic tables, we opted to follow a side road and found the Mogollon Campground. Mostly it was a side road with campsites on both sides. We chose one on the rim side with a fantastic view. 

   
  

 

It wouldn’t have been a good choice if we were in a tent since there was a lot of wind. In our hard sided, four seasons camper, it was a fantastic site. There was a full humming bird feeder on a tree near the back. There were also numerous elk hoof prints across the back of the campsite. 

  

Once we were settled in, we went out for a hike along the edge of the rim for a bit. The wind was pretty fierce. Even though we weren’t really in the desert anymore, it still seemed like all the plants had thorns. So we went a little further in and found an established trail going in generally the direction we wanted to go. There were a number of markers on trees, including grey diamonds, chevrons, flagging tape in a variety of colors, and other such things. We ran across one trail that was marked by flagging tape in white with blue spots (I’ve never seen any like that before) and reflectors that had been written on.

  
It made us both quite curious, so we followed it to the end. It finished at a campsites along the edge of the Rim. 

  
  
From here, we followed a different trail in the hope that it would take us to the fire tower at the head of the Promonory Butte trail.  

 

You can just make out the fire tower in the distance.

We eventually reached it to find that it was very securely locked up and long unused.

  

We turned around and headed back following trails going in the general direction of our campsite. Eventually, we ran out of trails going that way, so Jon lead us back to the campsite going cross country. 

  

We had a nice dinner and quiet night.

The next morning, we followed the Rim Road the rest of the way. We stopped several times to admire the view. 

   
   

Once we had climbed down off of the rim, it started to snow lightly. We were passed by a number of Forest Service trucked marked with “Hotshots”, a fire fighting division of the National Forest Service. We assume they were heading to a practice exercise. There certainly weren’t any fires around this year, but this area was hit hard by forest fires in 2002.

The rest of our trip out of the area was uneventful. Except for passing a couple of people wearing surgical-type masks that were tromping around the woods near their sedan. Very strange.

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