20-Jul-2001 -- It was time for a few days in the outdoors with some hiking, camping and 4Wheeling. If possible we also wanted to include some confluence hunting, but that gets quite difficult in the US these days. This time of the year the deserts here in the Southwest are too hot to be enjoyed, so we were looking for some forests and higher elevations. With these parameters set we came up with a trip to central Arizona that would take us within reach of 4 unvisited (at the time) confluences: 35°N 113°W, 36°N 113°W, 35°N 112°W, 34°N 110°W.
Our first stop in Arizona was Prescott. This resort community is practically surrounded by National Forests with plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities, including confluence hunting. There are 2 confluences to the north and we had planned to attempt both of them. As we drove north from the city on Hwy 89 we noticed a ranger station for the Prescott National Forest in Chino Valley. It seemed like a good idea to see if the rangers had any useful information for our visit to the forests, so we stopped. It turned out to be a very good decision as we got some good information from some very helpful rangers.
The Arizona topo maps show 35°N 113°W in a big square area marked "Luis Maria Baca Float No. 5". We asked the rangers what this was about and whether the roads shown are open and the answer was: "Oh no, you can't go there. All the gates are locked and the owner of the land has made it very clear that they do not want anybody on their land." I have since found references on the web about this float and they indicate that the float is part of the Oro Ranch. We decided to end our 'attempt' on this confluence right there and then. We did not feel like driving up there just to take pictures of a gate. Future attempts on this one should start by contacting the ranch to see whether permission for a confluence visit would be granted.
35°N 112°W is located in the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness which is surrounded by the Kaibab National Forest. We asked the rangers about the roads in that area and were told that the roads are in good condition and no problem for high clearance vehicles. With the help of the rangers I updated some road numbers in my Arizona topo map atlas and we were good to go. Just one question remained: Is camping allowed in the area we wanted to go to? Curiously the ranger could not answer the question right away since it turns out that every National Forest seems to come up with it's own rules on camping. But the question was quickly resolved through a phone call by the ranger to a ranger station in the Kaibab National Forest.
We got back on the road and headed north on Hwy 89. We turned on FR660 (paved) and then on FR492 (graded) to reach Perkinsville road (paved) which we took for a few miles north. We left the pavement on FR 57 and opted for the secondary forest road 57A. After all we were here to enjoy the forest and not just to get to 'the spot' as fast as possible. The road was a little muddy in places and rutted in others, but overall in good shape. After about 11 miles we got back on graded forest roads (746, 105, 127). The maps indicated that FR127 was the closest road to the confluence. The last couple of miles of this road were quite rough and 4x4 helped in the rocky and muddy spots. We arrived at the very end of the road around lunch time. The GPS indicated 1.3 miles to the confluence. After a quick lunch we started our hike.
The first half mile was easy hiking on rocky ground, the trees and bushes grew far apart. The vegetation changed to the worse and the bushes got thicker and grew closer together. Soon we were pushing through thick brush and brush in these parts is thorny and generally unpleasant on the skin. This is where my wife's choice of long pants turned out to be brilliant. I on the other hand got my legs cut up worse than I can remember. While the vegetation gave us a hard time the geology was more merciful, or so it seemed. We were never very far from the cliffs of Sycamore canyon and the topo maps indicated the confluence just over the edge of the cliff. Our hope was that it was within 100 m off the cliff. We finally reached the part of the cliff that would bring us closest to the confluence, but the GPS insisted that is was still 180m to the confluence, that is horizontally, because vertically it was probably even more. I managed to climb down the cliff a little, but the closest I could get was 150m. We had a great hike and enjoyed our visit to the National Forests and this Wilderness, but a successful visit to the confluence will take more effort. 35°N is becoming our nemesis in Arizona, we now have failed to reach 112° W, 113° W and 114°W on this latitude.
The pictures are taken from the cliff closest to the confluence and give an idea of the topography and the great views over the canyon.
As far as I can tell this confluence will be a tough one. To get to the bottom of the cliff seems to require some serious hiking down into the canyon on one of the trails in the Wilderness. The closest trail in the canyon is a few miles from the confluence. So this may be a multi-day backpack (or a very, very strenuous day hike) on which one has to carry all the water. Not an easy undertaking this time of the year.