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Browns Peak Day Hike
Mazatzal Mountains
June 14, 2014
by Michael Humphrey
by Bill Zimmermann

Eleven Trailblazers assemble at Lone Pine Saddle Trailhead. [photo by Bill]
Funyung, Quy, Diane, Monika, Bill, Wayne, April, Nancy, Steve, Jeri, Michael

We have eleven persons going to challenge Browns Peak today. The weather looks to be good. Phoenix will be in the 100s, but we will be in the high 70s to low 80s. There are two trails that begin at Lone Pine: the Four Peaks Trail #130, which connects with the Arizona Trail, and Browns Peak #133. We are doing the Browns Peak Trail today. This is the eastern edge of Maricopa County and western edge of Gila County. The road from US87 to the trailhead is a rough dirt road. High clearance is recommended.

Four Peaks, here we come!
Up we go, from Lone Pine Saddle Trailhead.
    We start out at 5700' and will end up at 7600'. The trail is well marked and follows the ridge line up, so we keep crossing the boundary.

The trail is on the edge of the old Lone Pine fire zone, so some parts of the trail are well shaded and other parts are open sun. Sunscreen is a must on this trail. We come to the place where the Browns Trail heads down to Trail #130, but we go straight here. The forest service is changing the Amethyst and Browns Trails. Amethyst in the past went from #130 to the saddle between Browns and the next peak south. There is high quality amethyst in that saddle, but that is a commercial mine now, so the forest service is moving the trail to join with Browns. We got to see this work in progress, but that is in the supplement report from Bill.

From here on is the unofficial trail to the top of Browns Peak.

Our path up is plenty rugged.
The chute is a real challenge.

When we get to saddle, the wind is blowing very hard. Most of us continue on up, but some stay here. As we continue on up the wind picks up speed. We are at the highest place in Maricopa County, so there is nothing to slow the wind down. We get to a sheltered spot just before the chute, where there is a horned toad taking in the sights.

Ready. Aim. Click!
Now why are you all looking at me?

Most of the group turns around here, as the wind is really blowing up on the side of Browns today. Three persons continue on and make it to the top.

Steve, April, and Wayne made it to the top.

They had to use their daypacks to prevent the camera from blowing over. On the way down we got to see a mushroom made of stone. This is caused by the iron in granite, which, if exposed to water, becomes rust. The part of a boulder below ground stays wet longer, so it can flake and decay faster. The weather is getting warmer, so cactus blooms are opening up on the way down.

Claret-cup cactus brightens our climb.
Edible mushroom? No, this one is made of stone.

Both groups meet back up at the trailhead and relax in the shade of the trees around the parking lot. This is a fun hike, with varying degrees of difficulty depending on what the weather is doing that day. The part of the hike up the “chute” does require some short climbs up rocks, so gloves are very highly recommended.

Supplemental Report
by Bill Zimmermann

Bill’s adventurers reach a signed trail junction.
Bill, Monika, Jeri, Quy, Funyung

Rather than follow the same trail back to the Lone Pine Saddle Trailhead, Bill decided to make a loop of it. Jeri, Quy, Monika, and Funyung joined him. It was to be all trail. At a trail intersection “TX133” we started. The trail showed as dashed line from Bill’s National Geographic TOPO software. It was sort of steep and wide at the beginning.

OK, Bill, are you sure this is the right way?
I see the lone pine. Now where’s the saddle?

As we continued the trail grew faint. Cairns stopped. Bushes thickened. No trail. We followed bits and pieces of animal trails that always seemed to dead end under thick vegetation. We worked our way back up a ridgeline where at “FT” we found a faint trail. We continued down to a junction at “TJ” where we took a left. Soon the trail widened. We followed it to the intersection with “Trail 130”. Another left, and sprits were high. Monika was out front, like a horse headed for the barn.

Our trail follows the crest of the Mazatzals.
Century plant has a commanding view of the foothills
Jeri, Quy, and Monika find their way through a thicket.

We had walked parts of the Amethyst Trail #253 that no longer appears on the foldout version of National Geographic Trails Illustrated map #851.

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updated October 12, 2016