Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Line Cabins / Sedona Overlook

Overlooking Sedona and Rock Park Wilderness Area
Overlooking Sedona and the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness Area from the Mogollon Rim

Phoenix is hot.  Too hot.  We've been having record breaking temperatures, and it's just miserable.  So Paul and I decided to head North this past Sunday and go check out some line cabins north of Sedona.  Just for fun.  We weren't sure about the roads - we had heard they could be nasty, and we heard that a car could drive them.  So we took the VooDoo FJ this time - because Calamity Jane doesn't have much in the way of recovery gear if we were to get stuck.  

Sunrise through the smoke haze

The morning started off with an eerie glow to the sun...the California fires and the fires up North are creating a haze of smoke in the Valley and the sun burned bright orange at 6:30 a.m.

As we headed up the I-17, we could see smoke from fires up north, but it was a lovely morning, and it was SO nice and cool up near Flagstaff.  We topped off the tank, got some tootsie rolls, and headed down the 89A towards Oak Creek Canyon - turning off just before at Fry Park Road.  

Fry Park Road was packed full of campers - huge groups of people everywhere.  People getting out of the heat and enjoying the cooler weather - it was a balmy 74 when we turned off on the trail.  Lots of quads out bouncing around, cows lying in the sun, and the smell of pine trees!  One of my most favorite smells ever!  We decided to hit up Winter Cabin first - a cabin that Paul had heard about and had marked on his Google Earth.  We knew it would require a small hike.  We didn't know how hard it would be - but we were both wanting to get out and move!  So we parked at the trailhead, and started down the trail.  

Paul headed down Winter Cabin Trail

About 15 minutes in, I mentioned to Paul that we've been going down hill the entire way, which meant up the hill the whole way out...but we were both enjoying the weather, the shade from the pines, the sound of the wind rushing through the tree tops, and the fact that we were the only ones there!  The trail wasn't hard, but was severely washed out in numerous places, requiring us to hike along the edge and several times we had to navigate large fallen trees.  And some of those trees are BIG!  But nonetheless, we pushed on - taking photos of the meadows and the scenery, which was stunning!

Me and Paul on the Winter Cabin Trail

After the 1.2 mile hike in, we finally caught site of the Winter Cabin.  I don't have much history on any of the cabins we saw today, except I believe them all to be line cabins, also known as buckaroos, cow camps or simply shelters. These cabins are built by ranch owners to shelter their cowhands while out working on the ranch and away from the main ranch house/bunkhouse.  There are lots of them in Arizona, and many are still used today by hikers as shelter during overnight trips. 

Winter Cabin Line Cabin - Winter Cabin Trail
The Winter Cabin had a dirt floor interior, but was well built.  The old stove out back was all rusted out, and the only thing remaining in the Winter Cabin was an old set of bed springs.  The ceiling was low, and the cabin was small.  But the setting was outstanding!  And there is a smallish spring not far that has a constant source of water - the only one for miles as best I can tell.  

Baby horned lizard - we saw a number of these today!

After resting for a bit, we started the trek back out.  Well, that hike threw us both for a loop - I knew my lungs were going to have a hard time (asthma and all), plus we are both of of shape.  But there was a TON of discussion on the way out, amidst the numerous "we need to rest" stops about getting ourselves in better shape over the upcoming months.  But you know what?  We made it.  It wasn't horrible - and although I had to stop a number of times, we had water, it was cool, there were lots of climbs, but quite a few flat areas too - and shade.  All in all, the hike was worth it!  

Back at the FJ, we had some Gatorade and snacks, then decided to head down to the next cabin - which we could drive to.  

Off we went, down a dirt road that didn't really require anything except maybe a bit of clearance - but I'm not sure that was even necessary until we turned off to actually drive to the Buck Ridge Cabin.  We still didn't need 4 wheel drive, but clearance was necessary here.  

Original Buck Ridge Line Cabin with the fallen tree

As we came around the last little turn, the Buck Ridge Cabin loomed before us.  Along with the MASSIVE tree that had fallen down on it.  As we approached the cabin, we could see a newer cabin up the hill, so we started there.  Clearly another line cabin, there were bunks with mattresses, an old refrigerator used to store things like notebooks, etc. (not food), a large drum stove, a cool old water pump, and outside there was an outhouse.  It was obviously newer, but didn't appear to have been used recently.  

Replacement Buck Ridge Line Cabin

I hiked back down to the original Buck Ridge Cabin to take a look at the tree that had fallen on it.  The cabin was built much like the Winter Cabin - low roof, small door, one small window.  One set of old bed springs still inside - but this massive tree had collapsed most of the roof and one of the walls, necessitating the building of the newer cabin.  Paul brought the FJ down and we poked around the cabin for a bit, then decided to head off towards the final line cabin of the day - Hidden Cabin.  

We head back the way we came, and then turn off towards Secret Canyon to get to the Hidden Cabin.

Hidden Cabin - note the Hantavirus warning

This little cabin is well preserved.  Probably because of the Hantavirus warning posted on the outside wall.  And the piles and piles of rodent droppings (which is what hantavirus comes from).  This is more of a "home" type cabin than a line cabin - there is a kitchen, a bedroom, and a store room.  The bed and mattresses are inches deep in rodent droppings, and while we poked around a bit, we were careful not to stir up any dust or disturb anything.  Cute little cabin - but obviously off limits for anything except a quick look/see.  

Now we have a nice and easy forest road drive over towards Fernow Cabin (a rental cabin that the Forest Service rents out), and we drove through the northern part of Secret Canyon - a stunning canyon meadow full of ferns.  It was the oddest thing to see in Arizona...but beautiful with the occasional pine trees popping up in the middle of millions of ferns.  By now it is warmer - but still in the mid-eighties - so it's beautiful out, and again, the scenery is gorgeous!

We pop out on to the main, well graded road that heads up to the lookout tower (our end goal on this road), and we stop to see the Fernow Cabin.  It is, of course, closed, so Paul hikes up to take a quick look while I take a short nap in the truck (you know - to guard it!  LOL).  

Me and Paul overlooking Sedona and the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness area

And off we go again to go up to the lookout towers.  Which - as usual - were closed.  Sadly we had to turn around, but on the way back out, we decided to stop and take some pictures from the Mogollon Rim overlooking Sedona and the Red Rock Secret Wilderness Park.  It was stunning...you could see for miles.  We took a number of pictures, and then back to the truck to head out - and we decided to take another side road north which appeared to go to an overlook of Oak Creek Canyon.  That little side trip was also well worth it!

As we headed back towards Fry Park Road, and then out onto the 89A, the sun was going down, the cows were all up and wandering around the road and meadows, and the campsites were clearing out - making for a beautiful and peaceful drive out.  We aired up the tires, and headed back to I-17 where we had to navigate some major traffic accidents (yay for my navigation skills as well as knowledge of side roads, etc).  We finally made it to Black Canyon City where we decided to try Chilleen's having never been.  It was decent food - and we were hungry.  Which makes for a good combination!

And then home we went...

Oak Creek Canyon overlook

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