THERE are several small groups of wild burros around Lake Pleasant. They are descended from the pack animals that were commonly used to cart stuff like prospecting gear, and goods in the days before even wagon roads appeared.
Shy and wary (in recent history unknown persons have killed entire families) they are not often photographed and rarely even seen. I got lucky this time and on previous rides in the area, only once before saw them and then it was at a distance.
There were 6 individuals, one dark brown the others, tan... able to literally walk into concealment like chameleons, blending in with the bush and appear to disappear in a second. Soon as I cut the engine, they began to move away from me and I had to creep up on them in stealth mode, hard to do in heavy Icon boots and riding gear!
Not able to get closer than 200 feet, I used the zoom on my little Olympus to snap a few pics of the wild creatures. What a great way to begin my day.
Shortly after I came across a Jeep TJ with Washington plates on it. They flagged me down in a wash, something I am always cautious of since my very first encounter with a game warden/ranger here 16 years ago. At that time I asked him what kind of animal would require the heavy caliber handgun on his hip and the rifles in his truck. The answer... "Poachers." Imagine having to prowl around in the back country rarely sighting another human day after day, knowing that you could be in the cross hairs of a high powered rifle. Seems since cutback in funding, rangers traveled alone and several had been ambushed and killed over the years. There are Trophy sheep and deer, and poachers apparently are not above killing humans any more than bighorn sheep.
The husband and wife Jeepsters were asking me for directions, I replied that yes indeed, that compound they passed a few miles back was the Castle Hot Springs (look it up) but no, I didn't know if those old buildings before that were part of the complex, I didn't think so. They were quite surprised to hear I was actually a Canadian riding here. We parted company, I continued NW, they opposite.
At Champie road I crossed the dry riverbed I'd been following, which makes up much of the CHS road, and headed north, climbing steadily higher and higher. This is a short detour that connects the hot springs road with Cow creek. At that junction, where I have been several times now, you could continue north to Crown King one of two ways. The direct route which I wrote about for CDN Biker a couple of years back, or another through Minnehaha, which I intend to try. Twice before on my way to Prescott through the mountains I was defeated. The first time missing the obscure, only the locals know cut-off and ending up dead ending on the Castle creek road? where Jeeps fear to tread! Man that was an ordeal (view blog a couple of years back) The 2nd time the going was just too tough, I was exhausted in the heat and had a recurring pain in my left shoulder. Hard to muscle around a 300 lb bike like that.
Today I had no such aspirations, this was a warm up ride and believe me, it was warm. Hot sun, no cloud, little shade and my thermometer read 88 F !
I looked north and smiling, assured myself that this year... I would make it through via Minnehaha. Like I say, there are several loops that I have touched on at various junctions but my goal is to close up as many as I can.
It was at this Champie/Cow creek junction two years ago, I met two deputies in a Sheriff's 4X4 that warned me not to try the CK trail, how more than a hundred vehicles get stranded each year in there. They were surprised to hear I'd done it the year before on this same motorcycle.
After a few photos I turned right and began the trip home. It was already early afternoon, I'd had a late start and I was getting tired. The familiar ride by yet another abandoned and decaying homestead, eventually but not before several exploratory detours that really highlighted the fact I was out of shape for standing on the pegs bouncing over dry washes and rocks in near 90 degree heat, made me glad I use discretion as much as reckless, dam the torpedoes, full speed ahead abandon riding this country.
I was pleased I'd seen the burros, had a good hundred twenty mile warm up ride, the bike worked better than it has yet at any time, and I filled up on cheap gas, body and bike covered in fine dust, I was back home by 4 pm, tired and dry but pleased with my first ride of the desert season.