Sept 22, 2018 “BACK IN THE SADDLE” RIDE SUMMARY – Lake Pleasant to Wickenburg
With only 24 hours notice, we still had a nice turnout of 7 vehicles for Saturday’s “Back in the Saddle” Exploratory Ride from Lake Pleasant to Wickenburg led by Bob M and Bill P. The attendees came from the Phoenix Metro Area, Glendale, Peoria, and Cave Creek. It was an 82-mile ride that left at 8:15AM and returned by 4:20PM and included numerous meet-and-greet scenic stops and a 50-minute lunch at the Tastee Freeze in Wickenburg. We had good sunny driving weather with constant breezes at our scenic stops.
I want to give a big shout-out THANK YOU to my Co-Ride Leader Bill P and a SPECIAL THANK YOU to Jim B for being the group’s TAILGUNNER and for both of them watching over the group. Also, I want to give a THANK YOU to both Jim B and John B for offering an OPEN SEAT on their vehicles to other members for the ride. With the short 24-hr notice, there were no takers for the two open seats. Dust conditions were bad on the heavy-traffic powdery Castle Hot Springs Road for the first 6 miles until we hit Cow Ranch Road. Once off the main roads in the Lake Pleasant recreational area, the dust conditions were okay for the speeds that the group was traveling. I also want to THANK EVERYONE for adhering to our time management concerns at the scenic stops and for quickly gearing up when I blew my whistle.
REFERENCE SCALE FOR DIFFERENT TRAIL BOOK RATINGS
Easy / Moderate / Difficult / Extreme = Green / Blue / Red / Black = Levels 1 / 2 / 3 / 4.
Since this was an exploratory ride, I’ll share some trail conditions, timing, and destination highlights in case anyone wants to explore our track or do part of it at a later time. I give the morning ride segment an EASY-level rating from Lake Pleasant through Castle Hot Springs down into Castle Creek and through the Buckhorn Mountains to Constellation Road. Many sections were relatively graded roads alternating with sandy washes and trails. The 6-mile side trip out to the Castle Creek Hoodoo rock formation and Charlie Brown/Snoopy mural was rated from EASY-to-MODERATE. The trail has recovered somewhat from the 2014 New River Flood but there is still some rocky areas offset by some new half-graded shortcuts around some river rock/boulder fields. Unlike past rides in this area, there was no running water in the Castle Creek section at this time of the year. It was bone dry but not much dust which made for some fast and fun riding. We saw one burro in the Castle Creek area near the Walker’s Gulch turnoff.
TRAIL CONDITIONS, TIMING, ODOMETER READINGS, GPS COORDINATES
AND DESTINATION HIGHLIGHTS
[8:15AM – N33° 54.247′ W112° 19.558′] Set odometer to zero (0). Departed Castle Hot Springs Road staging area after our Safety Meeting. Headed north on Castle Hot Springs Road for 7.9 miles arriving at our first destination highlight at 8:40AM. This section is graded and EASY-rated but has a few river rock creek bed sections.
[8:40AM – 7.9 miles – N33° 58.930′ W112° 21.884′] Arrived at first destination stop highlight to view the renovation efforts of the 1896 Castle Hot Springs Resort with nearby Governor’s Peak mountain. It is re-opening in late October 2018 as a high-end destination resort. After a 10-minute history lesson and photo stop, we continued and made a left turn at the Champie Road T-intersection [N33° 59.838′ W112° 23.015′] and stayed on Castle Hot Springs Road to the Buckhorn/Castle Creek turnoff [N34° 00.072′ W112° 23.789′]. We descended down into EASY-rated dry Castle Creek bed and drove to the Buckhorn/Walkers Gulch intersection [8:55AM – 13.8 miles – N34° 01.548′ W112° 25.605′] for a 20-minute meet-and-greet water bottle stop and trail talk regarding the alternative Walkers Gulch loop route that I lead.
Continued traveling east in Castle Creek through a gate for 3.2 miles (EASY-MODERATE rating) to see a second destination highlight to visit the [9:20AM – 17.0 miles – N34° 02.917′ W112° 27.625′] Castle Creek Hoodoo rock formations and Charles Schultz petroglyph (aka the Charlie Brown/Snoopy wall mural). Bill thinks he got stung there on his back shoulder blade by one of the numerous yellow jacket hornets in that area. I reminded everyone to not swipe at the hornets and to restart our engines altogether to make a quick exit. The hornets seem to be curious about us in our bright neon green and orange riding shirts. After a nice photo stop there, we backtracked and returned to the Buckhorn/Walkers Gulch intersection.
[10:07AM – 20.1 miles] Traveled northbound on Buckhorn Road through the EASY-rated Buckhorn Wash trail and nearby towering scenic Buckhorn Mountains range stopping the group periodically to maintain radio communication. Average speed 20-25 MPH to maintain my vehicle’s suspension/handling “sweet spot”. We continued north until we arrived at the Abe Lincoln Mine [27.4 miles – N34° 02.758′ W112° 32.609′] for a 20-minute water bottle break. We departed at 11:15PM. Although the large Abe Lincoln horizontal adit mine tunnel into a hillside is viewable from the road, it is not accessible due to a gate on posted land. We arrived at the end of Buckhorn Road where it hits the Constellation Road at [11:30AM – 32.7 miles – N34° 02.546′ W112° 36.759′] for a 10-minute leg stretch/pee break.
[11:40AM] Headed southwest on the EASY-rated two-lane level-graded Constellation Road at 30-40 MPH arriving at the Wickenburg Rodeo Grounds at [11:55AM – 40.6 miles – N33° 58.834′ W112° 42.638′] where we collapsed the group that had spread out due to the speed. We did 8 miles in 20 minutes although some of the group claimed speeds of 60 MPH which resulted in a number of the members questioning each other’s speedometer readings. Ha-ha! Maybe the brisk oncoming breeze gave them a sense of traveling faster than what my GPS unit reported.
Well, that got me curious about my speedometer readings after all the ribbing about how fast we were going so I checked out my Garmin GPS unit’s speed readings when I got home. I hit a top speed of 40 MPH for only 116 ft on that road and only averaged 30.2 MPH for the whole 8 miles in 20 minutes excluding the 4 times I slowed down or stopped to let the group catch up. We left the Buckhorn Road intersection at 11:37 AM and arrived at the Rodeo Grounds at 11:55AM. We descended from 3273′ to 2128′ in those 8 miles. Must have been the drop in altitude that affected everyone’s perceptions or being hungry for a burger in town. Ha-ha! Sad that those 1000cc RzRs could not keep up with my little old 500cc ATV. LOL Ha-ha!
We continued into Wickenburg to the Tastee Freeze restaurant [12:00PM – 41.6 miles for a meet-and-greet lunch departing at 12:50PM]. Gasoline is available in Wickenburg. Bill P carried two 1-gallon gas tanks to refill his 4-gallon gas tank in the parking lot. The food and trail talk conversation were great!
[12:50PM] We backtracked on Constellation Road 3 miles to check out a hairpin curve slot canyon where a former club member had told me about some petroglyphs and a geode hill. It was a nice easy slot canyon hike in for about a city block climbing over some meandering bedrock canyon formations in the narrow hiking canyon. Nice photo stop but found no petroglyphs. We did find a neat large 15′ tall cave opening where people had stayed and had built a campfire inside it. We departed the area at 1:15PM.
[2:45PM – 65.9 miles – N34° 01.548′ W112° 25.605′] Arrived back at Buckhorn/Walkers Gulch intersection. We stopped again for a 20-minute water bottle break and attended to Antonio’s hand. She got stung by a yellow jacket hornet which flew into their SxS while traveling at 20 MPH on the Buckhorn trail. We all shared a good laugh when Bill claimed that he was flying in a Missing Man wedge flight formation with two yellow jackets on each side of him at 25 MPH on that trail. I guess it pays to be up front in the pack. We must have stirred up a hornet’s net driving that last mile or so. We departed at 3:05PM backtracking on our morning route southwest through Castle Creek to the Castle Hot Springs Road.
At the Champie Road/Castle Hot Springs intersection [3:20PM – 69.9 miles – N33° 59.834′ W112° 23.009′], we headed northeast on the twisty Champie Road with its many changing elevations and scenery. We had a short 5-minute stop at a recently built desert mansion property to show how the owner had dammed up a spring to make his own little swimming hole on his property. Another property owner has been grading a private switchback up a few thousand feet to build a house on the nearby mountaintop. The Champie Road shortcut ends at Cow Creek Road [3:40PM – 74.3 miles – N34° 01.188′ W112° 20.244′] where we turned right (south) on Cow Creek Road. This section is rated EASY. We waved and saluted as a Yavapai County Sheriff leap-frogged past the group on the trail. Great radio communication from Jim our tailgunner as a number of vehicles attempted to leapfrog the group from behind and as I warned the group of approaching traffic. We stopped to collapse the group and view the Half-Dome rock formation as the clouds moved to reveal it in a bright golden color. It looks especially nice at sunset. We continued south on Cow Creek Road looking down and out at Lake Pleasant in the distance. We stopped at the kiosk at the Cow Creek OHV Air Strip to point out the three kiosks that the AAR club maintains and to show the attendees where we have staged there on previous rides. We continued southwest 1.7 miles to Castle Hot Springs Road and headed south 3 miles to our staging area.
[4:20PM – 82.0 miles – N33° 54.247′ W112° 19.558′] Arrived back at our staging area. Everyone enjoyed the ride and are looking forward to the next adventure. Thanks again to everyone for watching over their trail buddies and making this an enjoyable experience.
See you on the next ride. Until then… Happy Trails to You and Keep the Rubber Side Down!