VIEW FULL VERSION: Link
Title: Crown King and the Hike into Hells Hole
Tags: Arizona Back Roads Crown King Hells Hole Hike
Blog Entry: Crown King and the Hike into Hells Hole   OK, so get this…we were driving on old rutted gravel roads far into the Bradshaw Mountains in the hot Arizona desert looking for this hiking trail that would take us four miles down into Hells Hole to a secret swimming hole called “Big Dipper”.   We passed dilapidated old mining operations along the way.   Hotter than the depths of hell.   We saw the skeleton of a dead cow, the horns long ago taken by other desert travelers.   Too bad… I really want a cow skull with horns.   Miles and miles we drove the old Landcruiser, vibrating over the cat tracks.   Dust everywhere.   Kids looking at us like we’re crazy… probably right.                           Then the elevation raised somewhat and pine trees began to appear around the sage brush.   Before long we were in a genuine forest.   Out of nowhere we rounded a corner and found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the town of Crown King, Arizona.   Houses, a cafe, a saloon, a general store, and some cabins to rent.   I looked at Kim and said, “what the…?”               Who knew that so far out in the middle of absolutely no where was a thriving little town that time forgot.   No paved roads.   No street lights.   No cell phone coverage.   I thought to myself that this was incredible!   I didn’t know such places existed.   Stick this into Google Earth and check it out!   This place has hardly changed since the 1800’s.   It used to be an old gold mining town but now just relies on poor lost souls like us to stumble upon it and have to stay and eat because it’s too far to go back.                   The Landcruiser was running poorly after the journey, so we rented a cabin.   We ate at a restaurant called the “The Mill”.   I guess it used to be the old smelting mill.   They said I needed a reservation.   I said, “Really?!”   Sure enough, the place was packed.   They had a gourmet chef on staff that was said to be a culinary magician.   I gave them my sob story about being stranded and hungry so they gave us a table anyway.   Not the first time I skyped a table with my stranded sob story.             Sure enough, the food was excellent.   I had the trout… not sure where it came from up there.   Kim had a chicken dish, Katlyn ordered steak, and Zach had the usual… chicken strips and fries.   The atmosphere was excellent, the food was good, and I still couldn’t believe that I was eating at a nice restaurant in the middle of no where.   Hours before, I was preparing myself for ramen noodles and hotdogs roasted over a campfire in the desert.             If you have a four wheel drive, I highly recommend driving the 60 miles out of civilization and eating at The Mill in Crown King.   If you don’t have a four wheel drive, buy one and go there.   Unforgettable.             The cabin was descent.   Cozy and the owners were nice.   The only problem was the loud rucous saloon next door.   Country music blaring down the streets.   Not really a problem except I couldn’t sneak down there and partake in the fun.   It reminded me of the old west and how it must have been when the minors and the cattlemen came in for a night of fun after a week of sweaty hard work.             The next morning, I popped the hood of the Landcruiser and spotted the problem.   The ruts in the road caused the air filter attachment to break.   Some duck tape was enough to fix it temporarily until we got home.   We were off to our original destination… the hike into Hells Hole.   We left Crown King with a tear in our eye.   Well, OK, allergies from the dust… but just the same, that place was awesome.               About five miles out of town we located the unmarked trail head.   Making sure we were well hydrated and carrying a lot of water, we dove into the abyss.   A deep canyon struck through the landscape where desert met pine.   We were in for a long hot hike with a swimming hole at the end.   The kids did very well.   There is something very satisfying at watching your 8 year old boy and 14 year old daughter with their hiking gear on and heading out for an adventure.   A family working toward the common goal of the destination is something to give you pause.   I remember my boy saying, “It feels good to get out and go!”   Another tear… or allergies.                 It was extremely steep and required many resting stops on the way down.   Rule of thumb is you multiply your downward resting stops by four and that is how many times you will have to stop on the way up.   It was a good thing we all had good quality hiking shoes.   Desert hikes are best done in a cross trainer hiking shoe.   They are light weight but sturdy.   We all had on Merrell cross trainers which did very well.   In fact, three years and many hikes later, I still wear the same pair.   You don’t find quality like that these days, so it is worth mentioning. You can find excellent prices on them here.                      About two hours later we made it to the bottom of Hells Hole.   Temperature was about 40 degrees cooler, so we were about 70 degrees at the bottom.   We had expected a refreshing dip in the secret swimming hole which had drove us on at a fast pace.   But once we got down there, we found it far too cold to brave the water.   Imagine that… in the middle of the desert, in the summer, it is too cold to swim.   The extreme diversity of the environment here is amazing.   To go from 110 to 70 degrees creates a hike that will bring you through many climactic zones and ecosystems.   A great educational hike.   Being later in the summer, the water was a little low.   I recommend heading down there early in the summer so there is plenty of great holes to swim.                             The hike back out was agonizing.   A good workout.   I do not recommend this hike for anyone not in shape.   Not the best for young kids under age 10.   The trail was well maintained but it was STEEP.   One of the steepest we’ve been on.                       Overall, a great weekend adventure.   Crown King is worth the visit.   The hike was awe inspiring and rewarding.   It would be good to pack a tent and camp, but be aware of mountain lions and rattle snakes.   Us?   We can’t wait to go back.