Buck Mountain • Mormon Plateau
• Coconino County


Sign to the top
 

Gate at the last turn
 

Sign at top
 

The lookout
 

Benchmark and memorial stone
 

Huge clearing for power lines
 

Silly sign
 

Stoneman Lake depression
 

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Date: March 27, 2016 • Elevation: 7,571 feet • Prominence: 641 feet • Distance: 3 miles • Time: 1 hour • Gain: 470 feet • Conditions: Sunny and lovely

Beth and I planned to camp up on the Mogollon Rim, our original goal to explore the Chevelon Butte and the old Chevelon Crossing. We left Scottsdale in the late afternoon and got ourselves to the general area - around Clints Well - at dusk, but noted with concern that all of the forest roads on the east side of the highway were gated closed, even though conditions had been dry for weeks. Not wanting to gamble, we pulled into the first camp area we could find, a pleasant locale called "The Park", about five miles northeast of Clints Well on state route AZ-87.

We had a peaceful night here. The temperatures were cold during the night, down to about freezing, but we also had a (mostly) full moon. We slept well under our massive two-person mongo sleeping bag. We were in no hurry and we lingered around the area until almost 10 a.m.

We drove back to the gas station at Clints Well and topped the tank. I talked with the lady there, hoping she may have some knowledge on the roads. She said that all roads west of AZ-260 are open, all roads east of AZ-260 are "probably" closed. Since we were still sixty miles from the Chevelon Butte area, we decided not to chance it. Instead, we explored the high country along Coconino Forest Road 3, also known as Lake Mary Road. The last time we were here was in 2008.

I was aware of a couple easy peaks in this area, and hoped I could hike one of them on this trip. Buck Mountain comes first, about a dozen miles north of Clints Well. It has a lookout on top, plus a lot of roads surrounding the peak. If we could get close in the car, that would leave a short, easy hike for me.

From the paved Lake Mary Road, I followed Forest Road 229 west, following the bends and the signs leading to "Buck Mountain LO". I was able to drive us in about two miles. The road was in fine shape. One slightly steep section had exposed rocks in the road, but the Subaru and its high clearance eased over these rocks with no difficulty. I turned onto the final leg, the road now trending south to the lookout. I parked off the road at 7,100 feet elevation.

The hike was easy: I followed the road uphill slightly under a mile, then went left at one last junction. The road was gated here, but apparently is open for vehicles during normal "business" hours. The sign said the lookout was a mile, but looking at the map, it was no more than half that. I was on top after about thirty minutes walking, a one-way distance of about a mile and a half.

As I neared the top, I heard an engine, and then saw a Forest Service fireman rolling up in an ATV. He said there was a report of a smoke plume, and was heading up to the lookout to inspect. I did not scale the lookout, figuring he had actual work to do. Instead, I walked the area and snapped a few images. The benchmark is underneath the tower, alongside a memorial stone for Carl Grass, pushing 90 years of age when he passed. I don't know who he was, probably a lookout man.

I hiked back down to Beth, my total time gone about an hour. The day was sunny and pleasant, temperatures about 60 degrees in the sun. We were in no hurry. We exited back to Lake Mary Road then drove north. Next, we wanted to explore Stoneman Lake and Stoneman Lake Road. We overshot the junction at first (by "we", I mean "I"). Then we found it, and also noted an amusing "Speed" sign. Apparently, the sign-maker never took a calculus class.

We found Stoneman Lake and drove the road down to its shore. I've seen photos where the lake is filled, but in my two times here, it's a brackish marsh, maybe a little soggy in the center. Still, it's an interesting feature, looking a lot like a sinkhole with about 150 feet of subsidence.

From here, we drove west to Interstate-17, and there on home, our total time gone just under a full day.

(c) 2016 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.