Rim Country Rover

Story and photo by Alan Hudson

Are you up to the challenge of The Devil's Chasm Salado Cliff Dwelling?
by Rim Country Rover Alan Hudson
Earlier this year I stood near Aztec Peak, looking east, down into the Sierra Ancha Wilderness, imagining all the Native American ruins nestled in the various canyons along Cherry Creek. Last weekend I finally visited one of the well-preserved ones: The Devil’s Chasm Salado cliff dwelling.
The true “Rover” of “Rim Country Rover” (my dog Major) had to sit this one out. Opposable thumbs are required for the hike—there is a section that involves climbing a short rope to scale a pile of boulders and the last hundred yards of the hike are very steep, slippery and a good deal of athleticism.
This is a stunning area. The trail runs along a flowing creek for about a third of the hike and much of the rout is densely forested with oak and juniper. The topography is extremely rugged with tall, multi-colored geologic columns and steep cliff faces.
Devils Chasm was home to an ancient people now referred to as the Salado. They built the fortress-like structure sometime between 1280 and 1350 AD. While the second floor of the structure is gone, the original timbers that supported it are still there. There are multiple rooms and a couple of broken metates inside; these are the stones used to grind grain and seeds. When I finally recovered from the climb I was awestruck by the place—the vista and the archaeology affect something sublime.
Payson Daily Bugle readers will have to do their own research as to the exact location of the site (for obvious reasons). If you choose to hike in there, know this: You'd better be up for a challenge. Allow at least four hours for the hike.
Major enjoys a romp at Black Canyon Lake    Photo by Alan Hudson

Rim Country Rover Alan Hudson at Bear Canyon Lake
The Willow fire has spared Bear Canyon Lake and both the lake and campground are open! Major and I visited before the fire broke out and I wasn’t certain how close the fire came. I had visions of something akin to what happened to Black Canyon Lake as a result of the Rodeo-Chediski Fire. When we returned yesterday, no burnt areas were visible from the shore. I guess it didn’t get that close. 
The lake was quiet with the exception of a few children hiking and playing around the shore and the thuds of Major’s triumphant gallop on the trail. Dense forest runs all the way to the shoreline.
Due to the lakes high elevation (7560) we were comfortable—even chilly at times. And an early morning shower kept the dust at bay on the way in.
 We didn’t land any fish but we got a few “nibbles.”  And, occasionally, while I reeled-in a Rapala lure, a large trout would ascend from the deep and peel off as the lure approached. I got the impression that this could be a very good lake to fish on the right day. Major’s occasional dips into the water probably didn’t help my luck. A serious fisherman would have landed a few.  It was a little breezy but not enough to disturb my casts. Like Chevelon, the shoreline needs a little more clean-up.
There are two parking lots at Bear Canyon Lake: The first one has restrooms and is a little closer to the lake than the second. A primitive bench just a few feet down the trail from the first parking lot offers a premature rest with a picturesque view of the water framed by Ponderosas.  A very short (but steep) hike is necessary to get to the water from the second parking lot and the trail is a bit rough. The lake is about 45 miles from Payson. Go there during the week.

                                Major at Chevelon Lake                           Photo by Alan Hudson
Rim Country Rover
All ways into Chevelon Canyon are Hard Ways
Alan R. Hudson

There are more than a few ways into Chevelon Canyon, either to the lake or the creek, but they all involve traversing long unpaved roads and hiking ankle-twisting access trails. We found our way in near where the creek empties into the lake—a short hike of about two thirds of a mile, but not so near that we didn’t have a bit of a hike along the side of the lake on what amounts to glorified elk and deer trails. This isn’t easy stuff but it’s worth it!   
Constructed in 1965 for flood control and recreation, Chevelon is long, relatively deep (maximum depth 80 feet) and quite narrow. The trails around the lake are primitive and often on steep slopes—even Major lost his footing. 
Chevelon is considered a prime fishery for Brown and Rainbow trout. We can attest to this because, on other visits we have landed more than a few but, as Major looked on intently, I didn’t get a single bite. This made little difference though—the scenery was awesome and there wasn’t a single soul around. Fishing with bait is prohibited at Chevelon and there are strict guidelines on outboard motors. This seems like a moot point because getting even a small boat or kayak into the lake would be a herculean task.  A float tube, though, would be a feasible way to fish these waters. We found evidence of cheaters and litterbugs along the shore; old empty bait containers, water bottles, waste from an old M.R.E. and even a broken fishing pole and other trash strewn along the shore in places. On our next visit we will be prepared for a little clean up.  
When we got to the end of the lake, Major chased ducks and butterflies and I just absorbed as much of the serene setting as I could. It’s really open and kind of marshy where the creek flows into the lake; really wet and green! This is one of my favorite spots in Rim Country.
Anyone who is moderately fit won’t have any problem hiking down one of the established trails into Chevelon Canyon. I had problems.