|the Little Colorado River in the Round Valley, an area surrounded by a landscape shaped by ancient volcanic activity|
A morning climbing an ancient cinder cone and contemplating the hundreds of thousands--the millions--of years this landscape spewed lava and volcanic boulders before that legislator placed her feet on this ground helped put those ridiculous words in perspective. From Springerville to Show Low, one drives through an ancient volcanic field of cinder cones, while to the south are Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir-covered mountains, the remains of older volcanoes.
Yesterday morning, a bright, cool and pleasant Sunday morning, we drove west on U.S. Highway 260 to Apache County Road 4128. From that county road, we turned into a dirt road which took us to the foot of a tall cinder cone covered with native grasses rooted in soil weathered from ancient basaltic rock. A trail labelled "foot access only" but originally created by some gas-powered vehicle, soon turns into an almost vertical ascent up the sides of the tall hill. Not having done any serious exercising since before Christmas, when I was on my elliptical machine almost every day, the hike was a strenuous one for me. I stopped often to catch my breath and made it to the top to survey the grassland-covered volcanic field to the north and west and the White Mountains to the south and southwest.
|trail to the top of a cinder cone in the Springerville volcanic field|
Today we had the trail to ourselves, and judging by the lack of footprints on the path, this particular trail is not traveled a lot. Below are some photos I took from the top of the cinder cone.
|view of the Springerville volcanic field from the top of a cinder cone south of U.S. Highway 260|
|looking toward Springerville and Eagar, AZ, with Flat Top and Escudilla Mountains in the distance--note the basaltic boulders in the foreground that were spewed from the cinder cone and deposited here at the top rim|
|description of the Grassland Wildlife Area|
|trail through the grasslands and over juniper-covered hills|
|view from a higher spot on the trail--On the right, evidence of an enclosed water shed|
|corral and barn|
|signs of a once-working ranch|
At the end of our hike through the grasslands, we decided to drive up Arizona Highway 261 toward Big Lake. The road is closed during winter, but we thought the road was now open. However, seven miles into the steep drive that switch-backs up the mountain, we discovered that the road was closed, though we noticed several vehicles going around the metal gate to continue to Big Lake. We stopped, however, at the picnic area and overlook that provides a wonderful view of Round Valley and the towns below, and then drove up to a parking lot and access to several trails in the Apache National Forest.
|trails in the Apache National Forest, off of Arizona Highway 261, in the mountains above Eagar and Springerville|
|Beyond the rim, a view of the Round Valley below--here, an open area of grassland|
|trail through Ponderosa pine|
|At the end of the Apache Vista trail, with a view of Escudilla Mountain|
More info on Arizona geology: