18-Sep-2005 -- My wife Beth and I spent an enjoyable overnight camping in the Tonto National Forest near Workman Creek Falls. The oppressive summer heat had finally abated and we were enjoying beautiful clear and relatively cool conditions for the first time in months. The lure of the backcountry was too much to ignore!
Sunday the 18th, we were driving north toward the town of Young along AZ-288, which is a graded dirt highway for much of the way through the forest. We were aware of a confluence (34N 111W) not too far west of the highway, and made plans to seek it out. We were surprised to see that no one had visited this particular confluence since 1999 (going by the website, of course).
We turned onto Forest Road 486 (near milepost 298 along AZ-288) and traveled west along a relatively bumpy road that required 4-wheel drive in some places. The road actually crosses both the 34th parallel and 111th meridian at different points; the 111th crossing puts one within a quarter-mile distance to the confluence but requires a fairly hefty downclimb into a brush-choked canyon bottom, and up an equally brushy slope to attain the magical point (this is what I think the previous visitors did). On the other hand, if one starts from the 34th crossing, the confluence is a 3/4-mile hike through mostly open pinon and juniper forest with about 120 feet of elevation differential. We chose to start from where the road crossed the 34th parallel. An erosion-control ditch allowed us just enough room to keep our truck off the main road, and we started in.
At first the forest is somewhat thick, requiring us to weave through open sections to maintain a westerly bearing. We noticed surveyor ribbons tied to some branches, and we followed these, not sure if they were significant or not. After a few hundred yards of hiking, the forest opened up considerably, allowing for mostly straight, line-of-sight navigation to our intended point. The trees were mostly pinon and juniper, nothing over 20 feet tall, and mostly open. A unique moutaintop known as Jerky Butte served as a good navigation device. The ground was rocky and covered in very low grasses. Thickets of madrone bush occasionally forced us to detour, but in time we found ourselves within feet of the confluence.
We did have to downclimb into the canyon just a bit, no more than maybe 100 feet down. Getting to the actual confluence was minorly challenging, as we were forced to avoid thicker scrub brush and cactus, but in short order we found the confluence amid a pile of downed tree limbs. The GPS danced around a bit; I was admittedly lucky to get all zeroes as it would vary back and forth as it tried to lock in amid the forest. I had to lean over the branches to get all zeroes; where I stood was probably 2-3 feet off the mark. This one definitely has some wiggle room. We took a 20 minute break and snapped our photos. Frankly, the photos at the confluence are dominated by forest and don't give a true sense of the region. Views along the hike were quite nice and very enjoyable.
We egressed back to our truck, for a grand total time of about 90 minutes in the brush. From here we drove onto Young and points north, before going back home in the Phoenix area.