One morning while getting ready for work, John and I decided
to organize a group day hike. We would invite some of my friends, as well as
his parents and his friends Brent and Mary, and pick a moderately easy day
hike that we would all enjoy. There was a lot of excitement about the idea,
and had we picked another day to do the hike, we would have had a lot more
takers. However, Charlene and her boyfriend-soon-to-be-fiancé Mike were
vacationing in Florida, where he was planning to propose to her (or so I had
been told); and Brent and Mary were scheduled to participate in the Skydiving
Nationals at Skydive Sebastian in Florida with Mary's team, Flash Point.
John's parents also had previous plans, this being the last free weekend they
would have before John and Bill left to hike the entire length of the
We did have takers, though. Marcheta and her husband Erik, and Debbie and her
boyfriend Brian, all planned to join us on our hike. At the last minute,
though, Debbie had to cancel, so it would just be the four of us hiking the
Groom Creek Loop Trail #307, a moderate nine mile-long loop trail in the
Prescott National Forest. The trailhead was located just off of the Senator
Highway (FR 52), which was good dirt road - meaning that we probably wouldn't
be getting the van stuck this time.
We picked up Marcheta and Erik at their home at 7:00 a.m., and soon thereafter
we hit the road. It took us just shy of two hours to get to the trailhead,
during which time we all talked about an assortment of topics, including
Charlene's upcoming engagement - or so we hoped - married life, skydiving, and
past adventures (mostly mine and John's). We also discussed the possibility of
doing a group camping trip sometime before the end of the year, before the
weather got too cold. Like John and me, Marcheta and Erik loved to camp, so we
all wanted to get the rest of our group out into the woods to experience "the
good life" - roughing it!
The trailhead, as we found, was rather easy to get to. From I-17, we took SR
69 into Prescott then took Gurley Street to Mt. Vernon Ave, which becomes the
Senator Highway. The Senator Highway (which is also called FR 52) eventually
becomes a dirt road, but for the first 6.5 miles leading to the trailhead, it
was paved. The trailhead is located 6.5 miles from the city of Prescott, in a
US Fee Area parking area called Groom Creek Horse Camp, complete with
restrooms and an information kiosk.
We arrived around 9:00 a.m.; and, after gearing up, we began our hike, taking
the loop counter-clockwise towards Spruce Mountain...and, almost immediately,
we got lost. The trail seemed to go into the woods, but then it disappeared!
Eventually, after searching for the trail for a few minutes, we discovered
that it followed along the power lines for the first half mile. Like the
Burros Trail, the power lines certainly take away from the wilderness
experience. Fortunately, the trail began to turn away from them after we
crossed Groom Creek.
After that, we found that the trail was very pretty. We walked through forests
of ponderosa pine, oak, and blue spruce trees (Marcheta pointed them out to
Erik, stating that they can, too, grow in Arizona!). And since all of the
creeks were running with water, we came upon several little waterfalls, the
largest of which was probably only five feet tall. Marcheta, who has been
taking photography courses and has become a very good photographer, took many
pictures along the way, including some creative shots of the rest of us behind
a group of trees and some of all of us on top of giant boulders.
We stopped to take a break on a saddle, where trail #307 intersected with
trail #377, an unnamed trail that we thought may have been part of the Groom
Creek Loop. Fortunately, we didn't take that trail - we continued on along
#307 - because we later found out that trail #377 wasn't part of the loop
after all. Instead, it went down to a lake.
From the saddle, the trail continued to climb gently for another mile and a
half, until we reached a picnic area just below the summit of Spruce Mountain.
When we arrived, it was noon, so we decided to have our lunch at one of the
picnic tables - John, however, had lost his sandwich along the trail, so he
had to eat Power Bars and raisins for lunch. While we were eating, a bicyclist
stopped to tell us how to reach the top of the mountain and that we could get
the best view from the pile of rocks that was about twenty feet away from the
base of the lookout tower. We thanked him for the information, stating that we
were going to hike the last hundred feet to the summit after lunch.
The view from the top of the mountain was incredible. From the lookout tower,
the four of us had an incredible 360 degree view of Prescott Valley, of
Granite Mountain and Thumb Butte, of all of the lakes in the area, and even of
the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff. The view from the pile of rocks was
beautiful, too, except for the construction vehicles that were tearing up the
side of a hill in Prescott, to pave the way for progress. Prescott no longer
has that small town charm that it used to have. It is quickly becoming a big
city, with shopping malls and casinos and new housing communities springing up
left and right like wildfires.
Having successfully reached the summit and enjoyed the view from the top, it
was now time to descend the mountain and complete the nine-mile loop. It was
only 3.5 miles from the picnic area to the van continuing along the loop, and
most of it, with the exception of a few areas, was all downhill. For the first
mile or two, the trail switchbacked down to Groom Creek. Here, the switchbacks
were steep; John and I remarked that we were glad to have taken the
counter-clockwise loop because those switchbacks would have been a bitch to
After descending, the trail began to follow a ridgeline. Then, it met up with
the power line road, which took us back to the trailhead. We finished hiking
at 2:00 p.m. that afternoon - roughly a five hour hike, including several long
breaks. Hot and tired but still in good spirits, we all piled into the van and
drove back into Prescott, where we hoped to celebrate the end of our hike with
a couple of beers at the local Applebee's - and had the bartender not ignored
us, we would have had those beers! Instead, we went to Wendy's and had
Frosties and sodas to cool us down before we began the long drive home.
I really enjoyed that day hike. I liked the trail, and the company - Marcheta
and Erik - was great! As we dropped them off at their house, we promised that
we would arrange more group hikes like that one -- maybe we could get Charlene
and Mike and Debbie and Brian to join us next time. Then, I could share with
them the incredible beauty that I see from week to week when hiking with John.