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Apache Maid Lookout/Ranchhouse
June 20, 2020
by Mark Purcell
  GPS Map 
by Tom Simonick
Trailblazers all together. [photo by Quy]
Heather, Mark, Quy, Randall, Lin, Steve, Li, Chris, Michael, Vicki, Debbie, Ralph, Tom, Diva
Mark’s group of seven at the ranchhouse. [photo by Quy]
Convoy forming to the trailhead. [photo by Quy]
Mark’s group. [photo by Li]

Even though I am fortunate to live in Sedona, where club appropriate hikes are plentiful, at least once a year (generally in the warmer months) I look for heretofore unexplored areas of the Trailblazers to lead. Altruism is secondary as I very much enjoy uncovering, scouting, and then hosting my trekking friends and acquaintances on new adventures.

In initially planning and scouting this nine mile hike on a Sunday in early March before COVID19 fully emerged, my first thought was to schedule in perhaps the fall of 2020. Of course, as the virus became more prevalent the club suspended hikes until May, when I was able to lead the Canyon of Fools hike. However, knowing we certainly had club members longing to return to organized events, and with still significant holes in the club schedule, I reviewed the proposed Apache routing and with predicted temps at that elevation still reasonable and elected to advance the hike to mid-June.

When the club did reactivate in May, one of the restrictions was a limit of 10 participants. Although a wise decision by the Executive Committee, an unintended consequence is that hikes fill up so quickly that members, both current and potential, can become discouraged if they are not actively monitoring new additions to the event listing. Fortunately this hike had two separate and distinct destinations where we could support TWO groups of ten and still maintain the spirit and intent of the club edicts.

Of course, to accommodate this plan I needed a co-leader. Lin Chao enthusiastically volunteered. We scouted the hike mid-week in early June encountering almost no one else, drafted plans to execute, and were confident that this would work well.

All’s well that ends well, Tom. [photo by Ralph]
Even though we approached the 20 hiker limit in the days before, due to attrition fourteen met at a turnout just east of the Stoneman Lake exit. With appropriate PPE, there was some consolidation from sedans into high-clearance vehicles in the convoy as a section of the USFS road required to reach the trailhead was unpaved and somewhat rough.

Speaking of the trailhead, which is really just a small parking area in the middle of a campground, when I first visited on that Sunday in March, every campground space (perhaps 15-20) was taken. When Lin and I scouted in June there were no campers, but none unexpected mid-week. So the day of the hike, on a weekend Saturday, I was anticipating we would again meet a fulI campground and need to scatter our parking. Therefore I was somewhat taken aback as we entered the trailhead there was NO ONE there and parking aplenty. Apparently, COVID19 had indeed deterred human presence and gathering, but we did have to contend with other inhabitants—dozens of cattle roaming the area. Not to worry though—it was not an “udder” disaster. We walked the trails right behind them.

Li and our “cattle” escort. [photo by Tom]
Water to drink.  Yum!  [photo by Ralph]

To aid efficiency, Lin and I had already pre-determined rosters, two teams of seven, and gathered our troops for our first stop. Her group headed up 1200 ft to the Apache Maid Lookout, while my brood went the opposite way shadowing the wary cattle towards the Ranchhouse.

Ranchhouse. [photo by Quy]
Ladies in Mark’s group. [photo by Tom]
Heather in front of ranch house. [photo by Tom]

Although the history of the Ranchhouse is not well documented, it has been designated as a protected USFS archaeological site. Probably constructed in stages in the early 20th century, I would estimate it covered around 2000 square feet and had some at that time modern conveniences such as vented heating from a fireplace, root cellar, and running water thanks to a gravity fed system and tank on a hill next to the residence. Approximately 100 yards away was a smaller structure with similar conveniences, including electrical wiring likely fed by some type of water flow generation from a wash next to the residence. Several large fruit trees were adjacent also so I suspect pies were a seasonal staple.

On the road to adventure. [photo by Quy]
Now let me tell you ...  [photo by Tom]
Hike leaders Lin and Mark comparing notes as our teams meet.

As expected, as the teams reversed course towards their second respective destination. We met on the road to the Lookout and compared notes. On my first visit in March, I missed a not so obvious sign at a gate that the Lookout platform was closed, and therefore climbed up to the top. There I was met by Don, who was manning the Lookout and quite hospitable despite my oversight. Frankly, I think he was gratified to have a companion and we had a very nice socially distanced conversation about his experiences and lifestyle at the Lookout. This relationship came in handy, as he was also there for Lin and my scouting hike, and once again for the main event where he recalled us and allowed our members to not climb to the top, but at least ascend to a landing for better views. A minor disappointment was due to smoke from numerous brush and forest fires in Northern Arizona. The horizon and its landmarks such as the red rocks of Sedona and Humphreys Peak was compromised by haze.

Mark, Quy(barely), and Diva deadlift an old drivetrain. [photo by Ralph]
Ralph’s rescue of the wayward ATV. [photo by Ralph]
We did it! [photo by Ralph]

As my group descended from the Lookout, we came across an accident where an ATV heading in the opposite direction veered off the road and down an embankment. Other ATVs were present, unsuccessfully attempting to extract the wayward vehicle. But our fellow hiker Ralph Glenn, upon arriving at the trailhead the conclusion of the hike, drove his capable and well-equipped Jeep to the site and ably came to the rescue.

Although the Teams did not complete their second leg simultaneously, and a few had already departed as planned, the combined teams were able to socialize distantly for a short time before heading back to the convoy launch and unloading the carpools. The day’s activities and arrangements worked magnificently, and I would encourage hike leaders to look for opportunities where dual destinations from one trailhead may be viable.

In conclusion, thanks to Lin Chao for her co-leading. Her participation was vital to making this work.

→   More pictures, by Debbie
→   More pictures, by Lin
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated July 3, 2020