Last Wednesday, we loaded up our camping gear and headed for Potato Patch Campground at the summit of Mingus Mountain. The next morning we tackled the Woodchute Trail.
We drove to the end of the paved road and parked near the restroom. Then we started up the dirt road for .7 miles to the trailhead. As we walked, I realized that the dirt road was very passable even for my little Honda Civic. Next time I plan to drive to the trailhead. (On the way back, I was really, really wishing I had done that.)
Because the trail is in a wilderness area, we signed the register. After checking out warnings about bears and mountain lions, we opened the gate and passed through. The first part of the trail is through cool, shady pines–very enjoyable in the early morning. But soon we found ourselves hiking under the warm sun along a ridge. Far below we could see and hear cars on Highway 89-A. Reaching a saddle, we were treated to a double view. Looking east, we could see the picturesque Verde Valley stretching out toward the Mogollon Rim. Turning to the west, there was the sprawling Lonesome Valley. It was easy to pick out the green sections that are Prescott Valley. Beyond that, we could see Granite Mountain and even Thumb Butte.
At the bottom of the trail, we re-entered the pines until we reached an area known as Rick’s Tank. Continuing on Trail 102, we made the steepest climb of our hike until we were on another saddle. Crossing the saddle, we came to a fork. The 102 continued to the left, but we took the trail to the right. Our trail soon came to an end on a steep cliff. The view from that point was the most spectacular of the day. There at the north end of the Verde Valley we could see Clarkdale and Sycamore Canyon and even the San Francisco Peaks. It was there that we ate our lunch, taking in the view and listening to the whistle of the Verde Canyon train.
The temperature that day was eight-five degrees, which wasn’t too unbearable. Our hike was eight or nine miles round trip, which was not too exhausting. We were certainly grateful for the shade when we found it and glad to get back to our campsite for some rest.
When it comes to summer hiking, I would recommend Mingus Mountain as an excellent choice. There are lots of trails to choose from and many with much more shade than the Woodchute. The Butterfly trail is one of my favorites. The trailhead is also at the summit, on the east side of Highway 89-A. Take the dirt road for about a mile. At a hairpin turn, you will find the trail begins on the left side of the road just beyond an old concrete dam. It is a short, easy loop through the cool pines.
Hopefully we will get in a few more summer hikes before September when we will begin the challenge of Hiking Spree 2016.