October 23, 2016, New River- I was on the northern fringes of this scenic community, at the northern edge of Maricopa County, for about two hours, this afternoon. Two accidents, one involving two vehicles and the second involving twenty-two, framed my drive to and from here and Prescott.
The first accident shut the freeway for about forty minutes, until the vehicles and their occupants could be safely removed. I got to the exit, curiously called Table Mesa (“mesa” being Spanish for table.), around 1:30. The drive to the Table Mesa trailhead, of Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, was another ten minutes. Although it was still a bit on the toasty side (93 F), there were several people at various sites along the way in. There were a few target shooters, at the rifle range, about 1/4 mile west of the highway. A few ATV drivers were on hand, as well. Some hikers complain about All Terrain Vehicles, but I see them as good folks to have around, as long as they stick to the plentiful mine roads and don’t tear up the vegetated terrain.
My game plan is to hike this segment of the BCNRT, in three stages. The first, and shortest, was a preliminary jaunt, from the Table Mesa Trailhead to the edge of Williams Mesa-Little Pan loop, about 3 miles, round trip. This was definitely enough for today, as I had a service act to do in Prescott Valley, beforehand, and the afternoon temperature was,as I mentioned, quite warm.
This segment of trail is easy- to -moderate, and has no outstanding features, other than the dry, grey limestone of the Agua Fria Riverbed, about 3/4 of the way to the loop.
Table Mesa itself lies about two miles west of the BCNRT, and is one of several such flat-topped promontories in this region.
There are a few smaller outcroppings nearby, such as the one below, which could easily have served as a hideaway or vantage point, during the conflicts between Apaches and white settlers, in the 1870’s.
Williams Mesa, to me, the most majestic of the area’s tablelands, lies another 3 miles northward. It will be the focus of my second hike here, most likely in early November.
The route for the loop is marked by a single green flat pole, with Williams Mesa Trail as the west route and Little Pan Trail as the east route. It will wait, patiently, until I can devote a full Saturday or Sunday.
The drive back was most sobering: The aftermath of the 24-vehicle pile-up, which resulted from a cattle hauler, whose brakes had apparently failed, losing control, was still very much in progress,at 3:40. As several drivers made the wise choice to double back northward, and go around through Prescott or Camp Verde, to return to the Phoenix area, the northbound lanes of I-17 and the westbound Hwy. 69 were slow going, as well.
It was great for our area’s restaurants, though, including my dinner-time choice, Leff-T’s Steak House, always a laid-back and gracious place for a burger or fine steak. I’d been away from there too long, and crowds don’t bother me, so the Ranch Burger, salad and plenty of iced tea went down well, as several Phoenix-bound people took in several NFL “games of the week”, and the waitresses bantered with the regulars.