The Mountains of Arizona •
Thick Top • White Mountains
• Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
• Apache County

Thick Top's ridge as seen from across the way on Terry Flat

The loggy slopes

Approaching the top

Summit area

Descending, a view over at Escudilla Mountain

This is (was) Thick Top in 2005. Note the obviously healthy thick forest at the summit. The Wallow Fire of 2011 obliterated much of the forest all over Escudilla Mountain

All images

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Date: May 27, 2023 • Elevation: 10,082 feet • Prominence: 322 feet • Distance: 0.6 mile • Time: 30 minutes • Gain: 185 feet • Conditions: Sunny and warm, strong breeze


Thick Top is a low ridge rising over Terry Flat, on the south end of the Escudilla Mountain massif in eastern Arizona. It's a peak in the technical sense since it meets the 300-foot prominence rule, but visually, it does not stand out as a peak. Its name comes from Bob Martin's Mountains of Arizona book and has become the peak's de-facto name. Otherwise, it is known as Escudilla Mountain South Peak. It is just one of 17 ranked summits in the state to exceed 10,000 feet in elevation.

I was spending a weekend in the Springerville-Alpine area tagging peaks, and by now, had hiked five ranked summits today, including a quartet down by Alpine which included two nasty bushwhacks. It was about 2 p.m. when I was done there. I was tired but still feeling energy to tag a couple more summits. I had two more on the agenda: this one, and another peak along the road that leads up to Thick Top. I was hoping they'd go fast because I did not want any more bushwhacking epics.

From US-191 between Alpine and Nutrioso, I got onto forest Road FR-8056, which leads uphill to the Escudilla Mountain Trailhead. My wife and I hiked Escudilla Mountain in 2005. This would be my first time back to the mountain since then. The road is well-maintained so that just about any vehicle can drive it. It is steep toward the end, but otherwise, not a problem at all. A little under five miles later, this road comes to a split, a left leading to the Escudilla Mountain Trailhead.

The road hereafter is actually a loop, running about 5 miles long that encircles Terry Flat, which lies on a broad southern bench of the Escudilla massif. Had I gone right at the split, it would have worked out just fine. But I went left. I intended to drive the whole loop so the direction made no difference.

The road around Terry Flat is slightly rougher, more prone to rutting and ponding with an uneven tread, but most vehicles would probably be okay if everything was dry and the driver was careful. Some clearance is required. I soon had a view of Thick Top, covered in standing dead trees and thousands of downed tree logs. When we were here in 2005, it was all healthy forest (see my image at the left). In 2011, the Wallow Fire, one of the state's biggest ever, ripped through the whole region including most of Escudilla Mountain, and obliterated the forests. This is 12 years later and obviously, the effect is still evident. This is a skeleton forest. A couple trees appear to be alive, but everything else is dead, both vertically or horizontally.

I parked beside the road as close to the highpoint as I could determine. From a distance, it appeared the highpoint was amid a tiny batch of living trees. It's hard to tell just by looking, as the ridge is very uniform in shape. This put me a little over a quarter mile and less than 200 vertical feet from the top. I was okay with that, not really up for more leg-busting hikes.

The downfall was heavy, but the undergrowth was light, no thorny crap to grab at me. At first, the downfall was such that I could either just step over a log, or walk around it. They really weren't piled atop one another very much. Sometimes, I would just walk along the log itself like a balance beam. Higher up, the logs were more abundant, piled atop one another. I just had be more clever getting around or over them. The ones that moved were the most exciting.

I was on top quickly, perhaps just 15 minutes after starting. The highpoint does appear to be within this small copse of living trees. I found a cairn and signed in the register, replacing a battered ziploc baggie with a sturdier jar I had in my pack. I later found out that the cairn and baggie were placed there by the famous climber Redbeard Stender.

The views were ... interesting. I could see a lot of downed logs and standing dead ones. When the wind blew, some of the trees whistled and creaked, and not just soft creaks but loud ones, like they were getting ready to tumble any at moment. It occurred to me this is exactly how trees fall: a stiff wind pushes them over. So I grew a brain and started downslope back to my car. I had been gone a half hour and I enjoyed this little outing, for what it had to offer. It is sad to compare how it looks now to how it looked pre-fire.

I drove the remaining loop of Terry Flat Road back to the main road, then slowly drove that down. The last peak I had in mind I skipped. By now, I really was beat and just wanted to get back to my hotel for a shower.

Matthias texted me that he was in the area hiking some peaks of his own, so we met up at the Subway in Springerville to chat and catch up on our climbs. We were there for about an hour. It was funny to cross paths with him so far from home. Me, I just went back to the hotel room and laid low. Anything on TV was good by me. I watched some of the Alien Resurrection movie.

(c) 2023 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.