10-Feb-2013 -- I've been doing some work in Phoenix and geocaching in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve. I noticed that the caches I was finding were all very close to W112, and that reminded me to check on nearby degree confluences. N33W112 is in a crop field, which didn't hold much interest for me. N34W112 looked a lot more interesting. Finally I got a day where I could take a long drive and a short hike. I set a few waypoints in my GPSr based on geocaches along the way and on intersections read from Google Earth and set off ... late, past noon.
I had read the descriptions of Table Mesa Road, and was driving a small 2WD car, so I came up via Cave Creek Road, the funky town of Cave Creek, the pretentious town of Carefree, and Seven Springs. True to expectations, when the road turned to dirt, I found it in good condition. Once I turned on to Table Mesa Road, the conditions gradually deteriorated, but with only an occasional bad spot until Little Grapevine Canyon.
At the old cabin, I stopped for a few minutes and looked for the geocache there, but without the description, I didn't find it. Finally I reached the "parking area" noted in the geocache description. It sure isn't as prominent on the ground as in aerial photos! I barely got the car in, and hoped I'd be able to get it out later.
I got across the stream easily -- with recent rain, both braids were flowing -- and starting picking my way along bare spots. Various comments had made it clear that I should go directly up the ridge and not up the gully. But which ridge -- left or right? Looking up from where I parked, I had decided on the left branch. This would turn out to be the right choice, but having crossed the stream directly, it took me a while to work my way over there. If I go again, I'll go a bit downstream first.
Then I started up the steep slope. I had no trouble finding open ground, but had some trouble avoiding the boulders. Had I known, I would have contoured a bit farther west, as it turns out there are fewer boulders there. Eventually the big rocks were mostly behind me, and it was just a long series of steps up the slope. I stopped frequently to check my direction -- I had my GPSr directing me to the geocache "Buddy takes a break", which is a good waypoint, but homing in directly on N34W112 would work fine too.
I reached the top of the ridge and followed it to a slight summit, then headed directly for the confluence. It was pretty easy going, though the easiest way would be to head a bit left, staying higher to avoid a couple of gullies, but that's no big deal. I crossed the last little gully and came up and said hey, I'm here.
As others have said, the once-impressive juniper is only a skeleton, like many others around. (I did find one later which has regrown from the base.) Closer and closer, I came to a bare spot on the ground and saw footprints. Deer prints that is ... I looked downhill and immediately spotted the rocks covering the geocache.
I sidled into position and took my degree confluence pictures. I went down and signed the geocache log -- which is well weighted with many rocks! I sat and looked around for quite a while, trying to feel something special, mystical ... but it was just another pretty spot in the desert on a cool and cloudy day.
I packed up and started back, heading more steeply uphill to reach the ridge top sooner. I followed my track fairly closely on the way back -- on the main descent I stayed a bit farther west to avoid some of the boulders. In this I was successful, though I wasn't always as much farther west as I thought: at least once I stepped on my own footprints.
The car dragged itself back to Seven Springs Road by sunset, but it was dark by the time I got to Cave Creek.