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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Aztec & Apache Peaks

The path to 100 continued this weekend as I teamed up with Matt, Ben and Justin for a double peak bag in the Tonto National Forest of Central-Eastern Arizona.  We took on two prominent peaks in two completely different mountain ranges that were close enough in proximity to make reaching both peaks a reality. 

It all started at Starbucks just after 6:00am where we met and then drove East on US 60 towards Globe, AZ.  I followed the directions given to me by a member of HikeArizona.com, allowing us quicker access and supposedly an easier route to the summit of Apache Peaks (right).  It's label as "peaks" because there are four peaks at the top of this particular mountain, though only one true summit can exist.  That summit rests at 6,940ft and is the highest point in Blackjack Mountains and 36th most prominent in Arizona.  As far as the hike goes, if this was the easier route, I would not want to attempt it any other way.  Is it really that bad?  Yes!  For starters, there isn't a trail to be found so it is up to you to navigate the best way uphill.  By best I mean the one that has less rocks, thorns, bushes with low branches, and loose rocks. Then you reach a grade so steep you have to climb up scree on all fours before clawing your way though thicket for the final quarter mile.  Hiking back down wasn't much easier.  It became mentally taxing as you literally had to focus on every step.  After 6 miles we were happy to be done with peak number one and the four of us agreed we would never return!

We hit the road and drove nearly two hours North past Roosevelt Lake into yet another unique area of the state; the Sierra Ancha mountains.  Within an hour we went from low lying Sonoran desert to high pines and mountain streams resting above deep canyons that this area is famous for.  The forest service road to the trailhead (FR487) will leave you in awe by the diversity found in this very underrated state.  Traveling through this canyon, you'd guess you were in Colorado.  Anyways, our next objective was to reach the fire tower at the top of Aztec (below), which is also the highpoint of the Sierra Anchas at 7,748ft.  A much easier path (a dirt road) led us to the top, a relief from the grueling effort on Apache.  We had a chance to snap a few pictures and take in the view before descending by way of trail on Abbey's Way #151 back to my vehicle.  I couldn't resist the urge to soak my legs in the stream after the beating they took climbing two peaks and spending roughly 7 hours in the car.
 
 
 

The fire tower at the summit of Aztec

 
Boone and Ben reviving their legs in the icy stream



Apache Peaks
Blackjack Mountains
Tonto National Forest
Mileage - 5.92
Time - 3:25
AEG - 2,386ft

Aztec Peak
Sierra Ancha Mountains
Tonto National Forest
Mileage - 5
Time -1:37
AEG - 930ft

(Photo credit - Matt K & Justin F)

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