Friday, October 15, 2021

The Sierra Anchas - three cabins and a spectacular view!

Road to Dupont Cabin - the clouds were perfect today - and made for gorgeous pictures
Summer is almost over, I've taken my daughter back for her freshman year at college, and I'm a bit stir crazy.  So Paul and I decide to take the Lewis & Clark and head out for a two night camping trip.  It took us about a week to finally decide on where to go - but we chose an area of the State that I have not been to much, and two cabins that Paul had visited, and a third that we almost didn't go to - but were glad when we did (and neither of us had been to it before).  
PB Cabin in the Sierra Ancha/Tonto National Forest
So off we head towards the Sierra Ancha Wilderness for some "in the pines" tent camping (no Expedition Trailer this time) and some rest and relaxation (read here - no phones, no internet, nothing but nature).  I left work early, got home, and we tied down the boxes to the top of the Lewis & Clark, and we headed out towards Globe.  
Meadow at the PB Cabin where the original cabin used to be
The Sierra Ancha Wilderness was first established in 1933 as a "primitive area" with gorgeous box canyons, high cliffs, pine covered mountains, and some stunning cliff dwellings if one is fit enough to scramble up to them (which we currently are not).  We planned our first night stay at the PB Cabin (info to follow) and had no set plans for the second night.  
PB Creek
As we meandered up and through Superior to Globe, AZ, we decided to make one last stop for food, and stopped at the Burger House, which was extremely busy with a boy scout troop heading somewhere, and a number of locals just coming in for the good food.  We got our burgers, ate, and then jumped back in the truck to top off and get on our way.  We headed North on the 188, and just before we hit Roosevelt Lake, we headed northeast on the 288 towards Young, AZ.  The 288 Globe/Young Road is sometimes paved, and sometimes just graded dirt - but it is a small highway - and as it was already dark, we carefully wound our way up almost to Young, but turned off onto the Cherry Creek Road.  The Cherry Creek Road is a 40 mile dirt road which is now mostly only passable to 4 wheel drive, high clearance vehicles.  It has been rumored as of late that the road will not be fixed going forward - and therefore, will no longer be considered a scenic road.  For the short 4 miles we drove on it, it was definitely high clearance, although 4 wheel drive was probably not necessary if you stayed on the road.  Once we turned off to PB Cabin, however, 4 wheel drive, locking diff and a-trac were a must if you wanted to drive all the way to the cabin (the PB Creek is heavily eroded from all the flooding and unstable at the crossing).
It's always fun to drive down roads that I've never been on, and Paul doesn't remember well, while in the dark.  Especially while looking for a cabin turn off that we did not have marked correctly.  Crossing the PB Creek was scary - so much so that I got out of the truck - I was sure it was going to roll - but Paul let it slowly sink down (very, VERY loose dirt, poorly stacked rocks, and a HUGE mess of erosion).  BUT - we made it!  We made a note to ourselves to record our treks the following day so we had appropriate GaiaGPS routes for the future, and we quickly set up our tent and went to bed.  I wasn't feeling 100% after the long drive, and slept poorly, although the sound of the PB Creek next to us along with the rustling of the pines above us was relaxing, and I did finally fall asleep close to morning.   One of the wonderful things about this particular trip - because it wasn't freezing cold outside, and because it wasn't raining, or snowing, we left the fly off the Marmot tent - we could see the stars and the moon, and it was nice and cool all evening as though we were sleeping outside - but without any bug problems (lots of bugs this time of year - particularly mosquitos - so we didn't want to just sleep in the open air). 
View from the tent
Paul let me sleep for a bit - but we were still up early, wandering around, exploring the area.  There is obvious flood damage in the area from, I assume, the massive monsoons we have had this past summer - the flooding of the PB Creek went up and under the cabin itself-the foundational blocks are covered in branches and other flooded river debris - there are HUGE trees that were downed, ripped downriver, and are wrapped around other still-standing massive hulking trees!  We were surprised that the outhouse wasn't destroyed as the floodwaters reached up as high (and higher) than the outhouse as well.  But the cabin itself looked to be in very good shape.  It was clean with a few canned goods on the shelves, a propane stove which was usable last time that Paul was here (May of 2020) although it was missing the hoses.  We signed the log book, and made our way over to the meadow which was covered in wild grasses at least 3 foot tall.  You could barely make out the original Cabin structure.  
Breakfast on the front porch of the PB Cabin
My information on the history of the PB Cabin was extremely limited, but there was a sign inside the cabin with a bit of history.  There were apparently two "old timers" named Pendleton and Barkley (ie - "PB").  They ran 200 head of cattle in a partnership and built the original cabin (not the one in these pictures) around 1898.  In 1910, Pendleton and Barkley sold out to a neighboring ranch called the Cherry Creek Ranch.  The old cabin was then used as a line cabin until 1950 when the current cabin was built by miners who were mining down on the creek.  The Cherry Creek Ranch (still in operation today) still uses the cabin, but they allow USFS personnel, nature enthusiasts, hikers, hunters, etc to use the cabin.  People have taken remarkably good care of the PB Cabin - and in case anyone is wondering, they do state that they don't mind if you carve your name or initials on the cabin porch, as they feel it is tradition, but they ask that you not carve anything into the surrounding trees.  
PB Cabin History
Inside the PB Cabin - the old propane run stove, a telephone and years of log books
We made our usual eggs and bacon breakfast (which I've recently started topping with avocado - which makes it even more delicious - well, for me anyway - Paul doesn't like avocados.  He's weird), took down the tent, packed everything up, and decided to head out.  By this time it was after 9 a.m. as we'd been lazing around all morning - but not a soul was in sight, and the creek was babbling away and there was a slight breeze in the trees.  The PB Cabin was a magical place, and I cannot wait to go again!
PB Cabin and Lewis & Clark
Lewis & Clark getting ready to cross the gnarly PB Creek
I'm still not feeling 100%, although I didn't know why - but we decided to head over to the Dupont Cabin anyway.  We weren't sure where we would end up for the night, but Paul had mentioned that he knew of a beautiful overlook that we could camp at if we wanted to, so that was the vague plan depending on how things went at the Dupont Cabin.  The day was beautiful - light clouds, but sunny and not too terribly hot.  So off we went back up out of the canyon and back up to the 288 road, where we would catch a forest road to head over to the Dupont Cabin.  
Along the way, we stopped to check out some construction equipment - Paul has always loved construction equipment, and I have a newfound appreciation and interest in it as I'm now the office manager for a local construction company.  So it's always fun to find old equipment and be able to recognize some of it!  
Dupont Cabin
A Caterpillar D4D Dozer left in the middle of a field on the way to Dupont
The trek down to Dupont Cabin was uneventful, and the Cabin was interesting, but not as exciting as the PB Cabin was.  I have found little to no information about the Dupont Cabin except that it was built some 100 or so years ago by some old miner (Dupont?) and for as far back as the Tonto National Forest knows, it has been an emergency shelter.  We didn't stay long - we had thought about taking the old Dupont Tank road and jeep trail around buck peak and over to the JR Ranch, but we quickly decided not to as we were clearly driving down an old jeep road that had been rutted out and was now filled with very loose "baby heads" - round rocks about 5-10 inches round that make everything unstable.  I still wasn't feeling great, so we chose to go back the way we came out and go find a camping spot and literally do nothing for the afternoon.  
Stunning views overlooking Cherry Creek Road
We drove back up to FR609 and headed back to the 288, then went down to Reynolds Creek, where we drove down the road for a bit, then turned off and headed in on another old forest road.  We passed an older gentleman in another FJ Cruiser - he seemed shocked to see us out there, but we waved and went on - and then we came to the end.  A glorious and stunning overlook into the Devil's Chasm area of Cherry Creek Road and canyon.  Luckily, while the canyon wall was steep and not one I'd like to accidentally fall over, there were several "steps" of rocks which allowed me to get close without feeling any sort of fear of the height.  
My view from my chair - relaxing
We decided to set up camp right there - sure that others would be coming along soon because it was one of the best and most beautiful camp sites I had ever seen.  But nobody - not one single soul - came along that road all afternoon, evening, night or the next morning.  We set up our reclining chairs, our tent (with the fly off again - it was just so gorgeous out), and I climbed in the tent to lay down for a few minutes.  Those few minutes turned into a couple hour nap - which I needed.  
Early morning sunrise view from the tent
As the air cooled down and the sunset turned the canyon gorgeous colors, we made our usual dinner of steak and stuffed mushrooms (always so amazing while out camping!), and then we just sat by our small fire enjoying the cool air.  All afternoon it was dead silent at the camp ground, which was a bit creepy, but after the sun went down, the insects started making noise and we watched as the bats flew around clicking with their echo location and swooping down to grab a bug.  
The Sunrise over the Cherry Creek Road and Canyon
We went to bed in the nice and cool weather and woke up refreshed the next morning to an absolutely stunning sunrise over the cliffs of Cherry Creek Canyon.  I finally felt much better and was ready for a little exploring on Sunday morning.  I made a wonderful breakfast for us, and we packed up camp.  We explored a few little areas here and there, and we discussed whether or not we wanted to try to go to the old Asbestos Mine (last we had heard, the trail was extremely rough), but we agreed we didn't want to do any rock crawling today and wanted to take it easy.  
Early morning views
Right...our curiosity had other plans...
The "Angel's Wings" - the tailing piles from the asbestos mine - the "Wings" can be seen for miles and miles
The last place I had wanted to explore was an old cabin tucked up in the Sierra Ancha, but only accessible via 4x4 from the South or hiking in from the northeast.  When we first turned off to head to the Boyer Cabin, we didn't know what to expect, but the road was long, straight and while it was somewhat washboard, it wasn't horrible.  We aired down the tires and off we went.  
Tucker Box Canyon at the bottom
Then came the Tucker Box.  I was absolutely not prepared for the Tucker Box, and when we first rounded the corner to start descending the loose, steep trail into the box canyon and up the other side, I told Paul we hadn't signed on for this today and we could turn around.  I'm telling him all this, but he's still moving forward.  Now we are half way down and I'm holding on for dear life and hyperventilating.  We are sliding all over the place and I'm just hoping we don't slide over the edge of the canyon.  Paul is just crawling along like nothing is going on.  I keep telling him we won't be able to get back up the other side, or even out of the box canyon once we are at the bottom.  He told me we HAD to get out, and to just trust the truck and trust him (okay Paul...okay...maybe).
Our first glimpse of Boyer Cabin
So we descended a couple hundred feet in one small switchback and a very steep, very loose slate road, and made it to the bottom.  Which was absolutely gorgeous.  But then we had to go back up the other side with a similar road taking us up and out of the box canyon.  With our rear diff and a-trac on, we slipped and slid up the other side, both of us leaning forward to compensate for the steep incline.  We couldn't see the road in front of us for the first 10 feet or so, so we were both semi-hanging out of the windows and I was praying really hard...praying that we would be able to get back out.
Inside the main house at Boyer Cabin
The rest of the road was really rough - but only because it was all rocks and stair stepping.  For the first time in either me or Paul's life, we saw two cattle guards that actually had ramps attached due to the erosion that has clearly happened over the years.  These old roads are still used...there are cattle tanks everywhere, and miles and miles of beautiful grazing land.  The grass was tall due to all the rain, and there were flowers everywhere.  There were roads on the map that we could see no trails for - but we could see gates - that's how overgrown the grass is out there.  But it was beautiful. We continued to bounce along, getting closer and closer - Paul with a very determined "we've gone this far - we aren't turning back now" look on his face.  Despite the scary shelf road (which was thankfully short) and the constant jolting from the rough road, I was enjoying today and the scenery.  
Boyer Cabin Complex
And then we pulled up to the Boyer Cabin.  What an amazing gem in the middle of nowhere.  A cabin, an open barn, an old generator shanty and an old workshop/bunkhouse.  All in amazing shape, and all clearly still being used on occasion.  The history that I have on the Boyer Cabin begins in 1891 which is when Joseph Boyer registered his official cattle brand in Globe.  The Boyer Cabin Complex as it was known then was the site of the Boyer Ranch - a large working ranch.  The cabin has a stove/oven, old beds (in a separate bedroom no less!), and at one time had some kind of electricity, which Paul surmised was powered by a generator as there is no sign of any electric coming in from anywhere.  Apparently the history of the cabin may go back even earlies to 1886 as it is said that old Joseph Boyer was around when the Pleasant Valley War begin (cattlemen vs sheepherders - also known as the Graham-Tewksbury Feud).  
Inside the bunkhouse/shop
The Boyer Cabin is in amazing condition - and I hope it stays that way.  I found the Boyer Cabin on Google Earth from sheer determination and research after seeing pictures of it that some folks on a side by side took.  If you want to go and you have the equipment, it's not hard to find.  I do not recommend attempting to make this trip if you don't have lockers, traction control, really good off-road tires, skid plates and high clearance.  It is worth the trip, but will jar the heck out of you, and will damage your undercarriage if you aren't careful and are not equipped.  Do not go alone, and take LOTS of water.  It's a VERY long walk to get out if you break down.  It was a beautiful setting, however, and even though we had agreed not to rock crawl on that day, we also agreed it was worth the challenge.  
The road goes on past Boyer, but quickly becomes a hiking or horse trail.
And then - we had to leave.  And go through the Tucker Box again.  I knew we would make it out - so this time I video'd the little excursion.  The video doesn't do the steepness justice.  But it gives you an idea of what you are facing if you choose to head that way.  
So out we went, successfully I might add (thank you Paul - and Lewis & Clark).  I wanted to show Paul the Roosevelt Dam, which he found fascinating, and then back in to Globe we went to fuel up and head home after a long day on the trail.  Construction on the Roosevelt Dam was started in 1903 and finished in 1911.  At the time, it was the world's highest masonry dam at 280 feet with a length of 723 feet.  It cost $10 million at the time to build.  In 1989 they decided to renovate the dam to keep it safe - the renovations cost $430 million.  The Roosevelt Dam is considered to have contributed more to the the settlement of Arizona than any other Dam in or around Arizona.  
Theodore Roosevelt Dam - I was privileged enough to see it before the concrete covering was put on in the early 90's
There is so much to still explore in the Sierra Ancha Wilderness.  It is wild and rugged terrain - and an area of Arizona I've not frequented in the past - I foresee many more camping/exploring trips that way as there is still much to see!  But this weekend - we saw 3 historic cabins, and had a most spectacular view over the canyons!  What a beautiful way to spend a weekend...just me, my best guy, and one of our trucks.  Hardly another soul in sight.   
A picture Paul snuck on my phone at Boyer Cabin...there's even love out there in them 'thar hills.

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