Except I Never Found It!
Calling this page The Bones Trail would be a little misleading. I started at the Raptor trailhead in Dead Horse Ranch State Park, just like I had done 1 1/2 hours earlier (see Thumper Loop).
My plan (this time) was to go left when the Raptor Trail ended… 3 miles up the trail, then take a left on the Bones Trail. This trail would then take me down to Peck’s Lake and Tuzigoot, where Cindy was checking out some Indian Ruins.
Length: 7.2 miles
I was really exited to be riding the Raptor again. This time I rode up all the hills, and by thrusting my hips forward I made it over each cap-rock crust on top (earlier in the day I didn’t make it over any). I made the Raptor-Bones Junction in 30 minutes, and after a short hydro-break, I “bit into” the Bones Trail.
Just about .25 miles from the Raptor junction I reached the Upper Raptor Trail to the north, which was closed. At a little less than a half mile I came to a place more open (bushes more spread out). On the side of my trail there were two white signs.
That, I later learned, turned out to be my big mistake.
I eventually came to a Kiosk… which had the same exact map as the Kiosk starting the Raptor Trail. There was no YOU ARE HERE marker, and the trail could only go west… so I thought I’d found the Bones Trail.
I headed west down the dirt road… the only way I could go.
I should have turned back! If I would have looked more closely at my GPS I might have realized I’d traveled too far to hit the Bones Trail. So… the rest of this ride was an adventure, but not one that took place on the Bones Trail.
So you don’t end up making the same mistake I did while trying to find the Bones Trail, please enjoy this custom trail map I made. You’ll find the actual Bones Trail start near the eastern end of the red line.
Have you ridden the Bones Trail before? Share a story of your trip by clicking Visitor Stories.
I left the kiosk heading west down the flat dusty road. Soon the dirt road turned north, and I dropped sharply to the bottom of an arroyo, then up a short bank to a flat circular area that showed signs of traffic… a lot of traffic, hoofed traffic, to a trough full of water.
Along side the trough was a large steel tank, which was full of weeds, and a big brown cube of salt (needed to keep bovine blood pressure high).
Thirty yards past the salt lick there was a skinny building that looked like it contained a well-pump, and behind that was some weird looking piece of machinery.
Within 50 yards of the “cattle pub” my road intersected another heading west…which was the direction I needed to go. I took this one and flew down its smooth surface. I kind of had a feeling this was not going to get me to Peck’s Lake, as I had already ridden 3 miles from Raptor Junction… and the Lake was only supposed to be 2.5 miles… but I was heading west so I knew I would get there until… my road turned dead north!
I could see down that road for a good 2 miles and knew it was only going to take me away from my destination… so I took the first road heading to the west … a pole-line road. Actually, my GPS said it was heading southwest, which was perfect… perfect until it ended at a 20 foot cliff. I was standing next to a telephone pole located at the top of the cliff, and the next pole was 200 yards southwest on the side of the ravine. I could see a new road starting at the distant pole and heading off into the horizon. All I had to do was to get there.
I searched around and found a dirt road that looped around the cliff and ended in the ravine. I carried/pushed my bike through sand and bushes and eventually reached the next pole.
From that pole I could see the new road followed the deepening gorge a quarter-mile or so, then turned sharply to the south and climbed straight up the side. When I reached the turn I saw why it didn’t keep on going straight. I was looking over a (dry) waterfall of some 40 feet. The road exiting the wash looked like it had been used for a jeep climbing contest.
After slipping and sliding (pushing my bike) up the climb, I was pleased to see the road begin heading southwest on a plateau.Things were looking swell until the double track entered another ravine… smaller… with a smaller waterfall… and the same jeep-competition-climb exit. I had to cross 3 of these ravines before the last plateau sloped right down to the Verde River.
While coming down the hillside I noticed a giant cement smoke-stack, at least 50 feet tall. It was on the other side of the river amoungst some trees. I later found out this used to be a power generating plant no longer operating.
The Verde River is like an oasis snaking through these arid lands… with deep green Sycamore and Cottonwood trees lining its banks. Parallel to the river was a well-traveled dirt road (which I later learned was called Sycamore Canyon Road). I turned left (south) and cranked hard down the dry, sandy surface, often passing vehicles parked on the side shoulders and spurs. Fishermen, I assumed. Shadows were starting to get long… Cindy would be starting to worry about me. I cranked even harder.
As I rounded a large radius turn I found myself looking at a huge (maybe 100 feet high and 100 yards wide) pile of dark brown…? I didn’t know what it was.
I could tell the brown material had been dumped there by man, not created by the river. I had a feeling the material had something to do with the numerous mines in the area… but what was it? Next day on the Verde Canyon Train I learned the stuff was called “slag”, which was a by-product of copper mining… and was dumped (poured) into that pile in a molten state.
After passing the brown pile of slag the road turned to asphalt and climbed up a hill above the river. Once on top I could look straight down at the river. It looked as if there was once some kind of dam made of steel that angled across but had mostly washed away. Maybe they were trying to get the water to go to the far side of the river bed… I’m not sure.
While coasting down to Tuzigoot Road I could see the Indian ruins to the left, and the bridge (and highway) to the right. I also looked far to the east and thought I’d spotted the Bones Trail coming down the mountain. I would need to turn right. Cindy called me just as I approached the stop sign. She was at the hotel and wanted to know if she should come get me. It was starting to get dark but I told her I would ride back to the hotel.
I do not like biking any place people are driving autos. A few years earlier I found myself pedaling between a Hummer (on my left) and parked cars (on my right). The Hummer driver insisted on driving my same speed even when I tried slowing. His passenger door was so close I could easily touch it without totally extending my arm. Although I managed to outmaneuver him and not crash, this and other scary episodes have made me choose to stay on the trails, if possible. If I get hurt (which I occasionally do), at least it is my own doing.
The road-ride back to town turned out well because… I got a great photo of the moon coming up over Old Town Cottonwood. I reached the hotel right about dark and Cindy was out front waiting (and worrying that I might have left my skeleton on the Bones Trail). The 27-mile day kind of kicked my behind.
However, the next day I was going to spend as a passenger on the Verde Canyon Train… thinking about all the things I got to see that day because of missing the Bones trail turn-off… and resting for the following day’s trek up Prescott’s Spruce Mountain.
To see some footage of this ride, play the YouTube video above.