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Wed, Oct. 23

Amazing Places: Hike offers Cowboy Prayer, intrigue

Cowboy Prayer (Nigel Reynolds/Courtesy)

Cowboy Prayer (Nigel Reynolds/Courtesy)

I have lived in Prescott for 20 years and love exploring. I’ve found many amazing places and this column is about one of them – the Cowboy Prayer – an intriguing name!

You may have heard of this interesting site before, and some of you may have visited it. The photo shows the Cowboy Prayer – not too easy to read with the lichen on the left (also, the fourth line appears to have some extra letters at the beginning). It is inscribed on a vertical rock-face in the Butte Creek area of the Prescott National Forest.

The words say:

I LET MY SADDLE FALL

MY WEARY HORSE I TEND

DEAR LORD I HEAR YOU CALL

FOR I’VE REACHED THE END

No one seems to know who inscribed this short poem (or doggerel if you are a purist), nor when it was done. The web is no help, but if you have good information, please email me. The best guess is the prayer was inscribed around 1930 to 1940. If a cowboy did it, he didn’t have his horse with him because the location is definitely not horse-friendly – too many dropoffs, and steep rocks. I have been there perhaps a dozen times over the last decade, but it still isn’t easy to find.

The best way to get there involves a three-mile round trip hike. WARNING: You need to be in good physical condition to do this hike, especially the last part, which is not on an official trail. DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Drive west out of Prescott on Gurley Street for 1.9 miles to Sherwood Drive (on the left, just after Hassayampa Village Lane). Gurley Street has changed its name to Thumb Butte Road before this junction. On Sherwood Drive, go a little over 0.1 miles, looking for a sign on the left that says “Stricklin Park, Butte Creek Trail.” Park there by the curb. This is the trailhead (TH) for this pretty trail built by the City of Prescott (thanks, Chris Hosking). The elevation at the TH is about 5,530 feet.

Hike on Butte Creek Trail for 1.4 miles to an open gate that leads into the national forest. The elevation there is 5,850 feet, so you have ascended 320 feet from the TH. On the way:

• The trail crosses over Butte Creek (often dry) on a metal bridge immediately after the TH. The many signs along this trail will help you stay on track.

• You’ll soon cross a residential road, and go along next to the golf course (close to houses on your right). Much of this trail is under trees, a little bumpy and steep in places, winding through the ancient granite rocks.

• At 1.0 miles from TH, cross another residential road. There‘s a steep climb with a few steps just before the road.

• At 1.4 miles, go through gate onto forest trail 321. Butte Creek will be below on your right.

To get from the gate to the Cowboy Prayer is a little tricky. I’m not going to give you the details in the paper because I don’t want this special place to be overrun, and perhaps result in vandalism. Instead, send me an email requesting the final route.

Nigel Reynolds was born in England and has lived in Arizona for nearly 30 years and Prescott for 20 years. “Exploring is in my blood,” he says.

EDITOR’S NOTE – Nigel’s columns are a mix of hiking and destination trips, with the flavor of Days Past history. Watch for them in the Courier and on dCourier.com. To contact Nigel, email twieds@prescottaz.com, subject line: Amazing Places, and we will forward the message.

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