Prescott National Forest Rd 72 Adventure

After an unintentional hiatus, we resumed our Friday Adventure Series yesterday.  I had envisioned us tootling around some back roads and working our way up towards where there are some real, live, water-filled creeks south of Prescott, west of the Bradshaw Mtns.

So, with Grandpa Joe (my stepdad, and the most-involved Grandpa that my kids have) along for the ride, we set out on Friday just before 11 a.m.  This was *way* later than I’d wanted to leave, but my dh Martin is trying to sell my Explorer, and a guy wanted to look at it on Friday a.m., and we had to stick around in case Martin needed a ride back home.  He didn’t;  the guy offered $1,250 less than what M has the truck listed for, and *that* price is below Kelly Blue Book.


We took our New-River-Dam-Floodplain/Desert shortcut, and headed west on Carefree Hwy/AZ-74 to Wickenburg, then north of Wickenburg, via the AZ-89.  If you haven’t taken that drive, you must.  The few-mile stretch between Congress and Yarnell is worth it.  I applaud the guys who made that road.  I remarked to Joe, “This is mighty precipitous.”  Golly.  One literally climbs about 2000 feet in less than five miles.  The view (for the passengers) is simply amazing.  The view for the driver is fixed on the road ahead, a la Dory, “Just keep driving, just keep driving, just keep driving, driving, driving.”  We passed a bicyclist.  The guy must have been in training for the Tour de France.  Hats off to him.  I was puffing when we got to the top just from manhandling the steering wheel of the Suburban!

We got to the top, and I discovered that I love Yarnell.  I would seriously move there.  I was having flashbacks to my childhood, driving through there.  It has the balanced huge granite boulders like Carefree, but at about 4780 ft elevation with meadows, much less populous, and with *NO* dose of the North Scottsdale/Carefree/Cave Creek lifestyle.  Yum. 

About 15 miles north of there, just before Kirkland Junction, we took the dirt County Road 60 east towards Walnut Grove, which inexplicably becomes paved after a while.  Before reaching Walnut Grove, we turned north on Forest Road 72, and found a stopping place a little ways in.  It was a nice, unofficial dispersed camping spot adjacent to a wash/dry creek bed.  I fed the bitsy while the boys went on a “hike” w/ Grandpa Joe.

 G attacks with a walking stick

It’s hard to bird while having noisy kids run around, and since I forgot my baby carrier, I couldn’t hold Audrey, lift my eyeglasses, and focus my binocs all at once;  I’d need another arm.  So…  I didn’t do much birding.  I did, however, spot a Northern Cardinal, and got one (too-far-away) pic.

I also found a still-unidentified purple machaeranthera of some sort (about 8″, sticky, slightly hairy stems, purple w/ a yellow disc, dark grayish green foliage and fern-like leaves).  And Scarlet Creeper, Globemallow, and Annual Goldeneye.  Later on in the trip, we identified Bluestem Pricklepoppy, Apache Plume, and (I think) Golden Crownbeard.  (I’ll hot link those later.)

Here’s Audrey in the back of the Suburban, as I was preparing lunch for everyone:
 Audrey Sophie in the back of the 'Burban

We ended up spending about 2 hours at this first “quick” stop;  everyone was having a really good time.  The boys collected bits of bark, leaves, pebbles, etc., for some picture frames we’ll decorate this coming week.

We left there, to go deeper into the “real” woods.  FR 72 crossed several dry stream beds, and went up and down rocky hills.  One particular incline was *very* steep, and about halfway up, there was a sign that said “Steep Hill.”  Joe and I busted a gut laughing over that one, like, “Um, thanks for the tip!”  However…. we got to the top, and discovered that the sign was a warning for the way *down* the hill.  Hard to tell from this pic, but it was extremely steep.
The view from FR 72

The colors look so muted in my pics.  The greens were so lovely and bright, and the view was for miles and miles.

We also stopped here to pick some prickly pear fruit.  There was a huge… uh… stand(?)  of prickly pear cacti at the crest of this hill, so we got out the bucket and tongs and went to work.
E picks the prickly pearsWes tongs a prickly pear

We nearly filled a 2 gallon bucket.  I have surfed the ‘net for recipes for jam, and have learned that prickly pear jam/jelly is notoriously uncooperative in actually jelling, so I may just end up with a bunch of syrup.  But, that’s OK, too.  I was hoping to get the stickers and glochids singed off today, and maybe even get the jam started, but I could not squeeze it in.  I did go grocery shopping and get a 10 lb bag of sugar and a bunch of pectin, so hopefully after church tomorrow, I’ll have a leisurely afternoon making prickly pear jam.

Audrey was asleep in the truck (and I didn’t think to use the timer to fit myself in), so here are the guys & Grandpa:
 The guys & Grandpa Joe 

That’s Ethan with our bucket of prickly pear fruit in the foreground. 

I saw a bunch of unripened prickly pear fruit in a “specialty” basket at the grocery store tonight, for $1.79 a pop.  I gloated internally.

After that stop, we did stop one other time along the road, b/c Audrey needed to eat again…  G’pa Joe took the boys off on another hike during that time.  But, we didn’t get nearly as deep into the woods as we had originally planned;  it was just getting too late, as we were making ssllllooooowwww time (which was OK w/ me) because the road was so rough.  Also, a better map, like a topo map, would have been *great* because on my atlas, FR 72 looked like a fairly easy loop, not the twisty, turny, bumpy stretch of serious backroad that it turned out to be.  Both Joe & I thought that I must have taken a wrong turn at some point, because the road was much longer than it appeared in my atlas.

We did, however, eventually make it back onto the 89.  

FR 72 follows for a ways along the bottom of a river whose name we did not know (wasn’t marked on my atlas).  Well, after I check some online topos, it turns out it was the HASSAYAMPA Non-RIVER, again!!!!  I should have known.

The stretch of road along the Hassayampa is particularly interesting and needs some further exploring by me.  It is combination riparian/high desert, and has a stand of the largest Fremont Cottonwood trees I think I have ever seen.  It was all I could do to *not* pull off and leave everyone in the truck and go bird for a while.  The only bummer — and this was a HUGE bummer — is that people are using this area as a dispersed camping site, and there is a gigantic area strewn with literally hundreds of bags of trash, most of which are broken open and whose contents are spread around the better part of a mile or more.  Argh.

On the way home, back down the “hill” from Yarnell, I stopped in Congress at a mini-produce store/extra-large produce-stand owned by an extremely crotchety older man.  I bought a quart of mesquite honey.  Don’t ask him if it is local honey, like I did, trying to ascertain if the “local honey” sign means “honey from around here.”  He’ll go off on you, likely, like he did on me, saying something to the effect of, “It’s LOCAL to Arizona.  AAAHHHbviously, pecan tree honey isn’t going to come from the same place as the mesquite honey or the clover honey.”  And he wondered why I didn’t want to stay longer and peruse the produce.  Still, though, it’s *excellent* honey that we spooned liberally on our grits this morning, and into our coffee.

After Congress, we made one more stop for ice cream in Wickenburg.  I think it’s oddly ironic that an ice cream shop is directly across the street from one of the most famous eating disorder treatment centers in the US  (Remuda Ranch).  Once back towards home, it was too dark to cut through the desert.  And, we missed the turnoff to the newly-extended Jomax Ave, that now reaches from 83rd Ave to 67th.  I should have turned around.  It would have saved me at least 10 miles and a good half-hour, since there was an awful lot of traffic we had to wade through.  I pulled into our driveway just after 7 p.m., rather grumpy, but glad to be home.

So… Prescott National Forest Road 72 made for an odd destination, b/c it wasn’t really a destination, but it was definitely a worthwhile trip. 



About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on October 15, 2006, in Arizona, Cooking/Baking/Food/Recipes, Extended Family Drama/News, Homeschooling, Life in the Desert, Loving Nature!, The Kids, Travelling. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. You are SOOOOO brave. The backroads of AZ? A steep way down? Do you have a spare tire? Grampa was such a good sport. I will never forget going apple picking somewhere past Wickenberg….the whole thing was irrigated but it was an adventure getting there….
    I admire you and I hope you boys got to see some great wildlife.



  2. Lisa, I don’t know if it’s so much that I’m brave as it is that I’m
    a) oddly unaware of my own safety, or lack of it
    b) seriously motivated to get out into the natural surroundings that I love.

    But…. besides birds, the only wildlife we saw was *dead* at the side of the road. We even saw a dead wild donkey!!!! Seriously. We’ve heard him (or one of his buddies) close by before at night, but now he’s dead. 😦 It was along Lake Pleasant Pkwy. We also saw numerous other dead furry critters.

    BTW – May. The trip is in May now. After M gets his Christmas bonus, we’re going to buy the tickets so we’ll have solid dates to plan around, and adequate time to do so.

  1. Pingback: The Date Creek Rd/Santa Maria River Adventure « Only Sometimes Clever

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