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Desert Trekking: Tallest Saguaro and Balanced Rock

It was disappointing not having had enough time to search for the “Balanced Rock” during the previous trip, “Desert Trekking: Unida Wash and Beyond“. It certainly didn’t take any coaxing when I suggested to my trekking partner, Dennis Orr, “we need to complete that trip”.
Lots of BouldersThis time, we drove to the trailhead near the White Mine stamp mill site via Scenic View drive instead of hiking Unida wash. That gave us more time to explore “the beyond”.

We re-visited the tallest saguaro with tape measure and combination square-with-spirit-level in hand to measure its growth since that reported by Dana Burden (1). We measured 56 feet versus Dana’s 50-1/2 feet. Obviously, it is still alive and growing, but did it grow that much in the last 3 or 4 years? Guess a re-measure is in order.

Balanced RockTo get to the Balanced Rock, we took the Ore Car rail trail from the stamp mill site to the White Mine shaft, then the “Discovered” trail leading east from the mine shaft site to Slim Jim Wash, and continued on Dana’s “Tallest Saguaro – Balanced Rock” trail leading out of Slim Jim wash. Range cattle also use part of this trail and in places have created their own, which caused us to get off trail. Nothing serious though as it soon became obvious that we’d been led astray. Balanced Rock is impressive, resting with so little surface holding it in place. And its location, in the boulder-laden Etos wash, is distinctly different and more rugged than other washes. It is indeed a very geologically scenic area — a good place to hold up for lunch.

Balanced Rock Area
Balanced Rock Area

After our lunch break, Dennis wondered out loud, “what might be over that next ridge?” I’ve heard those words before and have nearly always found myself another mile or so further along the trail. Just beyond “that next ridge”, off in the distance, we sighted the ruins of another mine site, which of course needed exploring. So on we went.

Altos MineIt turned out to be the Atos mine site with a quantity of old rusting items strewn around (2). The early and hardy miners continue to amaze us at the work and logistics involved to transport all the heavy metal equipment and concrete material to these rugged locations, then mine and transport the processed ore back to “civilization.”

Farther up the valley we could see another mine site that needed our attention but alas, it was time to turn around and head for home.

On our return trip, we turned off Scenic View drive and followed the Hassayampa River with a brief stop at the ever-scenic (when not trashed by inconsiderate visitors) Box Canyon. We drove down the river, which is dry this time of year as the river goes “underground” through this portion. We turned left onto Rincon, the first graded road crossing the river wash, which after a ways re-crosses the river wash and shortly joins Highway 93 north of Wickenburg.

Trip Details:

Distance: Scenic View drive is 4.7 miles from downtown Wickenburg AZ stoplight off highway 93. The trailhead is 13.7 miles from Highway 93 with plentiful parking. A 4-wheel drive is required as the road, after crossing the Hassayampa River, is not maintained and is in poor condition, especially after a monsoon rain. Follow the “main” road to almost the end. If not familiar with the area, it is suggested that you make up your own waypoints from the tracking data (GPX file), as there are various roads that turn off and lead a visitor astray.

Difficulty: Some “scrambling” is necessary on the trail leading down to Slim Jim Wash. There is some exposure along the ore car rail trail and along the old discovered trails on the sections overlooking the Hassayampa River.

Time: The trails traversed are about 4 miles long round trip. Allow 8 hours for a round trip from Wickenburg.

Features: Fascinating geologic features, a mineshaft, tallest saguaro, two stamp mill foundations, balanced rock (boulder), lots of desert scenery especially this time of year when many of the plants are in bloom and awesome overviews of the Hassayampa River.

Equipment: Lots of water, camera, lunch, a first aid kit with tweezers for cactus thorn removal(s), pair of gloves for the scrambling and hiking boots. A GPS unit, while not necessary, would be a good addition if not familiar with the territory.

Data: A PDF map file and GPX file of waypoints and tracking data is available. A utility program, GPSbable, can be downloaded from WWW.GPSBABLE.COM which converts waypoints, tracks and routes from one format to another, whether that format is a common mapping format like Delorme, Streets and Trips or even a serial or USB upload or download to a GPS receiver such as those from Garmin and Magellan.

1 Desert Hiking, Out Wickenburg Way by Dana W. Burden, Library of Congress Control Number 2004095910, is available in a number of shops in Downtown Wickenburg, including the Old Livery Mercantile, which also sells the book online.

2 From documents provided by Scott Rogers & Allan Hall: The original name was George Washington Mine and renamed ATOS when it changed hands. Commodities Au, Ag & Pb (gold, silver and lead); Used cyanide leaching; Roosevelt issued Executive Order E-208 closing all mines not essential to the war effort at the beginning of WW II in 1942.

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