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Arizona: Mogollon Rim, AZ North of Pine on the FR 300
Posted on Tuesday, May 31 @ 11:51:03 CDT by jhallamek

Horse Camping & Trails
Memorial Weekend Trip: Saturday May 28 thru Monday May 30th 2005
by: John Hallamek

Location: FR 300 Road east of 87 on the Mogollon Rim, Coconino National Forest Arizona: first undesignated campsite just east of the General Crook trail marking on the north side of FR 300. 

Elevation at camp:
7800 ft MSL.

This our first primitive horse camping trip this season, I wanted to go somewhere in Arizona I have yet to explore.  The tall pines of the Mogollon rim north of Pine, AZ seemed to be the best choice.  Partly because of the geographical central position between my riding partner and myself.   The drive seemed short at only 2.5 hours from Apache Junction.  Monica and I passed each other just south of our intended destination. Considering we both left our homes at approximately the same time, I think we picked a good halfway point.  My original choice was just south of Pine at the pine trail head, however, after stopping for ice in Pine, a local clerk who happened to also be a trail riding enthusiast, suggested the FR 300 on the top of the rim as the best for camping and riding.  I’ve never camped in this section of the rim and didn’t know what to expect. 

Our camp for the next two days would be just east of the General Crook trail marking.  After setting up our camp and watering the horses, we decided to venture out for a short ride before dinner.  The trail directly behind the trail marking looked to be the best choice for our first afternoon excursion.  

General Crook Trail Marking Stated on the sign: “Under the direction of general George Crook this was built in the early 1870’s.  Starting at Fort Whipple, it winds down to Fort Verde then eastward across the Mogollon Rim to Fort Apache covering 200 miles.  It was used as a supply route by wagons and pack animals and as a tactical road by the cavalry during the Apache Indian Campaign.  A few old trees and rocks can still be seen with original blazes which mark the mileage from the various Forts.  Many landmark names come from mileage such as Thirteen Mile Rock and Twentynine Mile Lake.”

The trail, well groomed and soft dirt, headed slightly down hill and to the west.  We both agreed this could be a nice route to venture first thing in the morning.  The weather was beginning to turn ugly with dark ominous looking clouds lurking above and thunder to the north.  The decision was made to return to camp if only to cover and protect our wood pile from a possible downpour.  We arrived back at camp not a moment too soon as a light rain began. 
Snacks before Dinner

Blue chips with melted cheese made a great snack before dinner. (Monica’s creation)

That evening got a little cool and wet.  I hadn’t tested my tent in a rain storm since 2000 and didn’t know what to expect.   The rain, driven slightly horizontal by the wind, turned to small pea sized hail before subsiding.  My tent was showing signs of water leaking on some of the seams.  I took this momentary break in the storm to reposition the 10’ x 10’ EzUp above the tent.  This did the trick. 

The storm and sound of large falling branches in the forest around us combined with the brisk air kept me from drifting into a sound sleep.  Sometime around 6:00 am, I heard Bally whinnying.  This specific sound could only mean his buddy RB had somehow gotten loose from the trailer.  My suspicion was correct and quickly got dressed to head out in the cool morning air to retrieve the escapee.  The night before, RB had bullied Monica to grab a few nibbles on a patch of lush green grass aside the road.  This was, of course, where he was having his pre-breakfast snack.  After a brief round of RB playing “You can’t catch me because I’m allot faster than you” we came to terms.  Mostly because he noticed his morning alfalfa rations at the trailer.
Sunday Morning Camp
Sunday morning fire was slow starting and smokey after Saturday’s storm.

Bally tied to trailer Sunday Morning

RB tied to trailer Sunday morning

Bally, bright eyed and bushy tailed (above right), RB, not looking too
excited about the days ride (left).

After a filling breakfast of scrambled eggs with fresh spinach leaves, sausages and grilled pita bread, we were off to explore.  
The trail wound through the trees and at some points, if not for the chevron markings on the trees indicating direction, disappeared from lack of use.  I found myself constantly checking the markings to confirm I was still following the designated trail.  Fortunately, the markings were frequent.  The ground absorbed the bulk of the rain from the previous night, however, a few standing puddles remained.  After approximately 2 miles the chevron marking lead us to a gate at highway 87.  On this gate as seen from the highway was a sign stating the trail we had traveled led to General Crook Road.  Directly across the highway was another gate without any sign and as we were soon to discover, no chevron marking on the trees.  This trail was also very difficult to discern and ended abruptly after turning slightly to the north.  A map of the area later showed a road approx 100 yards further to the north, but not at all obvious while on the trail.  On the return trip to the gate on the West side of 87, we somehow ended up 100 yards south of our crossing point.  I think this trail could still be a feasible ride, but will have to wait till another day.   

The gang after lunch break
From left to right- Bally, John, Monica, RB, and Bouncer.

Our picnic spot, an open field, was sunny and warm with a floor pine needles and leaves.  After lunch of pita bread stuffed with avocado, soy based turkey and sprouts combined with approximately an hour of soaking up the sun and the picture above, we returned to the trail.  This ride would prove to be a short 6 mile round trip.  We came across a road we passed on the way out that dead-ended to the west approximately 100 yards at what appeared to be some sort of remote weather station.  Bouncer, not wanting to stay in the saddlebags, traveled on foot, or should I say paw, for most of the trip back to camp (1.5 miles from this point).  Other than the small amount of stress from constantly worrying that RB could step on the little guy, he did great for his first trail ride and his little legs amazingly kept up with us.  Once back at camp we set out on a quest for firewood.  It made perfect sense to utilize bally to drag gatherings of fallen branches.  At first, he wasn’t too pleased, but once realizing what I wanted, performed perfectly.  We were able to gather plenty of fuel for that night and the next morning’s fire. 
Sunday night was much warmer and dryer that the previous evening. I actually slept soundly and woke at 7:30 am Monday morning with both horses attached to the sides of my little two-horse trailer just as they were the night before.  I always get a laugh from the little chuckle sound the horses make first thing in the morning when they hear me shuffling with my clothes or unzip the tent.  I’d like to think they are just saying good morning, but I know its food that motivates them.  The air was fresh and brisk and not a cloud could be seen.  I waited to wake Monica until after I fed horses, generated a warm fire and heated up water.  Breakfast this morning consisted of scrambled eggs again with fresh spinach leaves, soy ham slices, hash browns and a few sausages left over from the yesterday mornings breakfast.  Once again I felt satisfied and energized to explore a new direction. 

Packing camp was first on our priorities list this morning since we would be leaving for home on our return from the ride.  Slightly to the west of camp a well-traveled 4wd road led over a small hill to a camping area below.  Chevron markings again were obvious on the trees aside the path and pointed us east.  We passed other campers and a maze of well-used connecting trails we started on a trail that followed what seemed to be a semi dry river valley.  The trail, except for the occasional downed tree blocking the path, was clear and open and mostly dark soft dirt covered with grass and a few rocks.  With every step away from the sound of dirt bikes and ATV’s, the scenery became more beautiful, the atmosphere more serene and the trail ahead more intriguing.  Two miles into the trip we came to a Y in the trial.  To the left the slightly rocky trail seemed to climb up and to the west.  To the right, a lush green pasture with the passage between a steep hillside on the right and the fence on the left.  We were once again faced with a choice in trail direction and decided since today was under a bit more of a time constraint, we would head in the direction that would most likely lead us back to camp, or at the least the direction of the 300 road.  The first small hill brought us a surprise, a small lake blocking the path.  To the right side was dense with small trees and shrub but passable on horseback.  In passing the lake, RB decided to head out for a drink or maybe a swim with Monica on his back.  Fortunately she was able to stop him from continuing.  I know horses can swim well with a person on board, but the water would have been cold and I wasn’t too excited about getting the leather saddle wet.   At the 2.3 mile point another cross road to the east or west.  The east direction looked, as most of this trail, intriguing and I made a mental note for future exploration.  At 2.7 miles another choice, a trail that seemed to be an extension of the one we were on heading west in our preferred direction and another north looping back to the trail in the river valley.  Our decision to follow the westerly route was in error as the path seemed to stop abruptly on a hilltop.  I could see the valley we had traveled below, but didn’t really want to navigate through the dense brush in hopes that obstructions wouldn’t prevent us from reaching the trail.  The trail that headed to the north was the only choice and connected to our original route in the valley.  Today was an even shorter trip of approximately 4.7 miles, but very relaxing and rewarding. 
Other than the stress created by the trouble starting the diesel truck when leaving, this trip left me feeling satisfied and anticipating our next outing.

Related Links
· USDA Forest Service
· Veterinarians
· More about Horse Camping & Trails
· News by jhallamek

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