Sunday, April 4, 2010

Battleaxe Trail - April 4, 2010

Battleaxe Staging Area

**UPDATE - 2020** - the Coke Ovens are closed to the public.  Do not trespass.  Do not open the fences.  View them from a distance.  Vandalism has caused the collapse of one.  Leave them for future generations.  

The BattleAxe Trail - sounds ominous, doesn't it?  Not sure you should even take the kids on the trail, right?  The books list it as a difficulty level number 5 (scale of 1 to 10), on the low end of difficult...  As we parked, some nice, older folks in a Jeep Rubicon said the trail is better than the Florence-Coke Ovens trail, but its not great.  "It gets a bit bumpy and rough towards the end" the gentleman said.  I asked if they were going all the way to the Coke Ovens.  "Oh no, we're just going down to the Gila River - the Coke Ovens trail is too rough and too long."

Ha - BattleAxe - Ha.  It didn't even live up to its name.  "Leisurely ride to the Coke Ovens" should be the trail name.  

So, 9:30 in the morning, we head out on the trail after a 2.5 hour drive to a turn off about 8 miles South of Superior.  I'm a little bit tentative about the trail - worried it will get too difficult for me, knowing my past reservations about rough trails.

Start of Battleaxe trail

I have the Garmin GPS out, with each and every waypoint pre-programmed in, and each waypoint name matches the pages I've both copied out of the book (book was too big to take with) and the Google Earth Map pictures I printed.  I'm checking each and every waypoint (remember the Tule Creek Homestead incident?).  After we make the turn into the wash going around the mountain, under Copper Butte, I realize the trail is fairly obvious.

Bailey and Quel looking downright cute as buttons

We splash through the creek bed a few times, and discover the little artisian well, and stop for a break.  Bailey, as usual, starts asking for food.  The child eats like a bird, except when we are out riding, when she gets the biggest, most voracious appetite in the world.  Wants to eat about every 10 minutes.  So we feed the bottomless pit and move on.  

More Bailey and Quel cuteness

We head around the mountain, and climb up to the shelf road.  I'm prepared for our first major obstacle - the "rock crawl" mentioned in several books.  Except this time, I have exact GPS coordinates.  I have the GPS turned on, and I'm watching us get closer and closer on this shelf road on the side of the mountain - deep canyon on the left...  .20 miles - .15 miles - 500 feet - 20 feet - 2 feet - 30 feet - 80 feet - wait - we passed it.  I actually stopped to look for it.  There was no rock in the middle of the road.  None.  Not even sure where it went.

We move on, down into the valley and wash.  This is where it is supposed to get a little tricky - lots of turns, easy to take the wrong one, according to the books.  Again - had no issue at all.  Starting to think maybe the trail is easier than we thought.  We're still cruising along at a pretty fast clip.  Except when we stop to feed Bailey.  LOL

As we climb back out of the wash and away from the Gila River, the trail gets a little more difficult.  What I mean by that is that there are a few more rocks to avoid, and the trail gets a bit more rutted.  In fact, there is one point where I chose to take the right-hand rut, and probably should have chosen the left hand rut.  The fact that I jack-knifed the quad trying to cross the rut (which was roughly 3 feet deep) and jammed the handlebar into my thigh, proved I didn't take the best route.  It's all good - Randy got the quad out of the rut (by brute force and lifting), and we went on. 

The coke ovens

As we got close enough to start seeing the other Coke Oven trail (which we meet up with approximately 1 mile before the Coke Ovens), the trail got really rough.  Four wheel drive and low, and we barreled up the side of the mountain.  I didn't even falter!  Woohoo!!!  My courage was in over drive, and I felt pretty good about my accomplishment.

The rest of the ride to the Coke Ovens and back was uneventful.  The wildflowers were in bloom, and the desert was absolutely gorgeous.  I was glad to know that my daughter was able to see the Coke Ovens.  I have a deep concern that in 10 or 15 years, they will be closed due to vandalism or because the trails will become completely impassable.  Showing young people the wonders of our past is important.  You need to explain where they came from, what their ancestors went through to give them the kind of life they have today.

Bailey in the North Coke Oven

**UPDATE** - the Coke Ovens are fenced off and private property.  DO NOT TRESPASS.  The oven that Bailey is standing in above has collapsed due to vandalism.  Visitors are no longer welcome at the Coke Ovens.  Go see them - but view them from a distance.  My "deep concern" from above has come true - and it only took 10 years.  People are destroying these amazing items from our past.  


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