Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ft. Tule/Tule Creek Homestead and Riparian Area - March, 2010

Ft. Tule Riparian Area

Well, this Sunday's little trip turned out to be a very interesting one, indeed.  Originally, Randy and I were going to take the girls to the Cochran Coke Ovens via the Battleaxe Trail (going in from the East side, South of Superior instead of from the West).  But due to the rains, and because part of the Battleaxe/Coke Oven trail runs along the river bed, we decided it was a bad time to do so...

So - at the last minute this morning, we decided to try the Fort Tule/Tule Creek Homestead and Riparian area North of Lake Pleasant.  It is listed in the Wells book as the easiest of the "Moderate" ATV/UTV trails.  The girls were excited - they saw the pictures and couldn't wait to go see the old homestead.  Randy and I were looking forward to a nice, leisurely ride with some extra time to perhaps go check out Indian Mesa and TipTop and/or Gillette.  

So we head up past Lake Pleasant on Castle Hot Springs road.  Its muddy, and Castle Hot Springs road was closed at the intersection to Cow Creek road.  But we finally park, unload the quads, and head out.  I am the navigator, as usual, as I have the GPS, and I have put in all the way points starting with waypoint 4, which is the first major intersection we should stumble upon.  

North of Lake Pleasant

We ride up the road that indicates "Humbug Creek" - I am certain I know where we are going.  We ride on - its beautiful out.  Because of the rain, there is no dust, and everything is green and bright and beautiful.  I check the GPS - 1.29 miles to waypoint 4.  We keep riding until we reach a gate that has the road closed.  I check the GPS - we are now 2 miles from waypoint 4.  We start realizing I missed a turn somewhere...

We decide to ride back and start over...but as we ride back, we check out a few little side roads to see what is down them.  We go down one, and head down a nasty rock ledge that Randy had to take both quads down.

When we get to the bottom, we stop for a snack, and the rain starts pouring.  Randy rides ahead and realizes we cannot get out the way we came, or the other obvious way out - one has a four foot high rock ledge, the other is steep and Randy almost went over coming down it.

The girls and I wait patiently for about 20 minutes or so while Randy rides down the creek bed.  The girls are upset, afraid we won't be able to get out.  I keep reassuring them we'll make it.  I'm just hoping Randy finds a route I can handle...

Finally, he comes back, and says he found a road out, but that it has a few areas that are going to be iffy for me, but he'll help me over them.  Mostly, he says, we are going to be following a narrow trail/ledge along the edge of a canyon that the river is running in.  We forge ahead...

The little canyon we followed back towards Ft. Tule
The canyon was beautiful.  It was terrifying.  But it was absolutely easier than the alternatives.  About 1/2 way through the canyon, it occurs to me that we may be down an "optional difficult route" listed in the book off the Tule Creek route.  I'm thinking maybe we'll still make it to the homestead, but I'm just not sure.

We make it back to where we can cross the river, and I decide to check the GPS.  And guess what - we are at waypoint 4.  In the book, it clearly says not to take the East route because it is a difficult canyon run back to Lake Pleasant - I was right!  We just came up the "optional difficult route."  Well, with the difficult route already done, there can't be much else that is hard, right?  Right!

We decide to attempt the homestead now that we know where we are.  The route is 99.9% easy, with some low level moderate rocky areas.  We fly through it, and the rest of our waypoints match up perfectly.  As we pull up to the Riparian Area fence, we are all getting excited as we can see the chimney of the homestead.
Green ride to Ft. Tule
Ft. Tule Homestead
The Riparian area was stunning - green, wet, and seemingly untouched.  It has been beautifully taken care of, and it is clear that this riparian area is thriving.  The homestead itself is fascinating - three rooms with a porch, across the "road" is a workshop.  The girls were so excited to actually see the building we saw in the book.  We explored around, we looked at some quartz, we looked at a bunch of mica pieces.  We discussed how gold and quartz tend to be found together.  We snack on the last of our crackers, have a juice or iced tea, and decide to start heading back.  We've already been riding for 5 hours, and we wanted to get back home in time for bedtime.

The ride back was fun, quick, beautiful and uneventful.  There were lots of side roads we wanted to explore, but again, time was not on our side today.  We got back to the truck, loaded up, and headed in to town for Pizza, our usual stop after riding around North of Lake Pleasant.

Today it was so nice to see an area so beautifully taken care of.  Its unfortunate that we have to assign areas as preserves or riparian areas in order to keep people from destroying these natural habitats.  But if, as the sign says, it is our tax dollars at work, I'm more than happy to keep paying those taxes!  What a lovely ride, no dust, lots of fun, a little adrenaline rush, and a beautiful destination!

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