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Thu, Oct. 17

Johnson: Hiking in the Upper Verde River Wildlife Area, plus fireworks from Glassford Hill
Hiking Arizona

Alas, biking in to work in Spring Valley from Cordes Jct. along a portion of Big Bug Creek, the flow of water has finally dried up. This is so typical in Arizona. The stream beds are mostly intermittent. Thus, on a topographic map, the blue line representing them is dashed not solid. What to do?

Fortunately, perennial streams do flow in Yavapai County. You just have to be diligent about picking these cool, wet needles out of the hot, dry haystack. The Upper Verde River is one such oasis.

This is a good place to discover the benefits of a hike-ride too. That is, a bike ride to a hike. A gate blocks the last mile of the road from the rim to creek-side. Since it’s a road, I’d rather bike it to save time, enjoy the ride down the hill and the workout coming back up.

Hiking here is like taking a stroll through an ancient garden paradise. The gentle stream sings with the birds as the lush vegetation sways in the breeze. Aquatic plants undulate with the flow of water with hypnotic regularity. You can hike upstream or downstream, as you like. The path is primitive but easy enough to follow. Return via the same route. Enjoy the aroma and sound of water flowing through a dry and thirsty land. Sit in the shade and just absorb the peace and quiet.

I am not a fan of noise, so motorized recreation does not appeal to me. Therefore, I am happy that the trailhead has been pushed back an extra mile from the stream. I thought the same aspect was in place on Glassford Hill but, then again, I have been wrong before. I was wrong on July 4th as well.

Viewing Fireworks from the Summit of Glassford Hill

Leaving the UVRWA, I ventured to the Glassford Hill trailhead in Prescott Valley. I wanted to see fireworks in all directions. I reached the summit about 8:30pm as the sliver of a moon sank slowly in the west. Two recent arrivals from Alaska were there too.

After chatting for a few minutes about the many distinctions between Arizona and Alaska, we sat in silence, waiting for the fireworks to begin. We noticed headlights from several vehicles approaching the towers on the higher summit to the west. I reasoned that they must be “official” personnel making sure the towers were safe from illegal fireworks and any subsequent threat from a wildfire.

Immediately, we were blinded by a full-sized pickup coming up the road/trail to our viewpoint. As people piled out of the vehicle, I teased the driver about motorized vehicles not being allowed up here, thinking it must be someone official. Not so. The driver said he knew the “family” and offered me a beer. A motorcycle arrived next. “What gives?” I thought.

I was disappointed with the view of the fireworks, since looking down on them is not the same as looking up at them even with seeing them go off in three directions. After about half an hour I began my descent only to encounter three more vehicles coming up the road/trail. So much for a prohibition on motorized vehicles. I suppose it’s not what you know but who you know that matters. Why didn’t I take the beer when it was offered?

Next: Hiking in Pine Mountain Wilderness

Ted Johnson is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at

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