Saturday, November 17, 2007

Aztec Peak and more

Awesome, fantastic, spectacular, serene, beautiful .... it's hard to find adjectives to describe the area we visited today. The road we took runs high up into the Sierra Ancha Mountains, bordering on the Sierra Ancha Wilderness. Riding up the road early this morning was a treat for the senses. Cool. crisp, pine scented air, sunlight filtering through the trees, dappling the road in front of us. 
On the way up, we paused to take some pictures of an abandoned Uranium mine. Uranium was heavily mined in the area up until the late 1950s. The adit was boarded up, with warning signs posted, but we managed to squeeze the camera through an opening to take a few photos. Supposedly, the surrounding areas are fairly radioactive, so overnight camping is prohibited. (we can't help but wonder if the local critters glow in the dark at night.)   
We stopped further up, to check out the waterfall, unfortunately, there hasn't been a lot of rain recently, so Workman Creek wasn't flowing full force as it toppled over the falls, falling to a depth of about 200 feet. Near the falls but high above are the remains of some ancient Indian cliff dwellings, but the climb looked to be one that you'd want some special equipment to make. Slippery shale slopes aren't for the casual climber...hmmm say THAT three times fast....
Proceeding up the road, we stopped at an old CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) fish hatchery, a pretty spot where we could hear water meandering down the rocky creek below.
Our next stop was at the top of Aztec Peak. The fire tower up there is listed in the National Historic Lookout Register. The views from all sides were absolutely breathtaking. Aztec Peak's elevation is 7748 feet, making it the highest point in the Tonto National Forest. Just below the tower is a beautiful vantage point, someone, perhaps a bored fire tower lookout person has made what the locals call, Flintstones' living room. There are easy chairs, a table and chairs, a fireplace, all made from stacking flat sandstone rocks. It's quite a sight to see. The Coon Creek Fire which burned 9644 acres back in 2000 burned many of the large pine trees in the area, their remains can still be seen. Mother Nature has a way of healing her forests, so you can also see the new growth of young pine trees throughout the area. 
On our way back down the mountain, we made a stop at the old Murphy Ranch, now Haldi Ranch Apple Orchard. The log home and cabins are beautifully rustic, but the orchard looked like it had seen better days. 
The trip was perfect, thanks Larry & Jean for showing us such a beautiful spot.