“No sign-up, just show up.” This is the directive of the Rio Verde Hiking Club leader, Jim Urban. Jim has been the leader of the Rio Verde Hiking Club, and in Jim we trust! His knowledge of the area trails and history make him a interesting guide and fountain of knowledge. Our first hike of the season was November 14, and about 27 Rio Verde hikers showed up in the parking lot to set out to Kentuck Mountain in the Tonto National Forest.
Driving up to Carefree, we veered off to the Northeast in the direction of the Bartlet Dam, and parked at the trail head. The trail is a Jeep road, about 700 feet elevation change, and we set off to travel 2 miles in and then out on a moderate difficulty hike.
The hike featured an unbelievable expansive view of the Verde River Valley. Rio Verde takes it’s name from the Verde River, so we could enjoy a high view of our valley. At the end of the 2 mile hike in, the trail took a steep ascent up a hill to an area of Hohokam ruins. The Hohokam civilization lived primarily in the Gila-Salt river basin from the time of Christ until the 13th Century. The Hohokam existence centered around agriculture, and canals were built by the Hohokam to aid in their farms, their homes featured organized courtyards, ball courts, and they were the first culture to use acid-etching in their artwork. They also engaged in trade with Mexico, and there were similarities between the Hohokam and the Mexican culture. It is believed that flooding in the mid-1300’s may have radically changed their canal system, and the Hohokam culture never recovered.
Enough of the history stuff, back to our hike! As I pointed out, to view the Ruins, we had to climb a steep hill about 200 feet up. It was covered with loose gravel, and had a deep erosion cut in the middle. You should have seen us, slipping and straddling the cut in the middle of the trail. Outrageous behavior by a group of adults. We were rewarded with an opportunity to view what was once the summer home of a Hohokam extended family. We also noted that one of the “homes” featured a “window” that perfectly featured a view of Four Peaks in the Mazatzal mountains. I wonder if those ancient peoples realized that hundreds of years later, we are paying top dollar to have the same view in Rio Verde….
We enjoyed our snack, but my group was hatching a plan for the return trip. The prospect of trying to go down that slippery slope had “slide on your butt” written all over it. So we hatched a plan to go down the side of the hill, traverse over to the bottom of the slope, and pick up the trail there. Off we go! We learned a lesson early: Traversing leads to more traversing, and down hill has no end. Usually the idea of just going downhill did not work since the cars were down and over. We had too much down, and not enough over! Jokes about this hike being like the first day of class in college where you get scared by the killer pop-quiz to make you drop out of college had us laughing. Thinning the herd. Bush-whacking was our new method, and every “it’s got to be just over that ridge” lead to another “this is not it” ridge. Finally, Judy saw the promised land. The CARS!! Happy, happy, happy.
We made it, no problem. When is the next hike? That was fun! December 11th we will meet in the parking lot to take on Tom’s Thumb trail.