Located just north of the east end of Roosevelt Lake in Gila County’s Sierra Ancha, Armer Mountain is where, on December 30, 1951, a C-47 carrying 28 passengers and crew, including 19 West Point cadets, crashed. All aboard were instantly killed. Wreckage was scattered for half a mile.
The featured plane this month on my Commerative Air Force (CAF) calendar is the C-47. I decided on this hike before I knew what the September plane was. So, every once in awhile I glanced up at it, trying to familiarize myself, so I might be better prepared for the hike, in which I hoped I might find the remaining wreckage. It was predicted to be 100° at the Tonto Ranger Station on Roosevelt Lake (el. 2000), while the Armer Mountain TH is el. 5800, and the summit el. 7310. So, I figured I would be dealing with ~90°.
Ward #1 was having a camp out at the Sawmill Flats TH. A couple of young boys asked us to keep an eye out for their BBs. If it was anyone else, I would have been nervous leaving my wife behind.
While there was a fair amount of deadfall in the canyon, it was easily avoided. What was not so easily avoided was the grab & stabs. They were not normal Arizona catclaw-type grabbers, but large ripper vines covered with long spikes, just like in North Carolina’s swamps. (A place I have some painful familiarity with.) I tried side sloping for about a quarter mile on the way up, but it was steep and loose and actually slower going than just bashing through the grab & stabs. By the end of the day, I looked like I had lost a fight with a bag of alley cats.
It has been so long since anyone drove the “jeep trail” along the highline — probably since the West Point C-47 crash — that there are 12-foot manzanita’s growing in the middle of the trail. (Manzanita seem to grow about a foot every five years, so the timeline fits.) There are two hilltops you have to work your way around before beginning the summit climb: Once you start heading west along the north side of the southern hill, the jeep trail clears up and becomes smooth sailing (on foot). Better yet, the hill tops provided much needed shade.
I checked out some possible wreck locations, but all I found was a small piece of sheet metal. As it was rusted, and thus not aluminum, I doubt it belonged to the C-47. My search included two old trails south of the Armer Mountain summit. Judging by posted routes, they had not been previously searched.
The official location of the summit log is ~70 ft. east of its actual location. (I measured with +/- 11 ft. accuracy … according to my crappy Garmin 62S.)
From various points along Armer Mountain’s highline, I could clearly see Thompson Mesa (~4 mi. away); Dutch Woman Butte (~7 mi.); Windy Hill, Rock Island and the marina on the south shore of Roosevelt Lake (~14 mi.); Four Peaks (~22 mi.) and even the copper mines in Globe (~28 mi.).
A hawk flew so fast & low over my head that his body — not his wings, his body — made a vibrating whoosh when he passed overhead. Sounded just like a baseball bat when it is swung real hard. Very cool.
I accidentally turned off my crappy Garmin 62S while trying to adjust the illumination — Garmin made the interesting decision to adjust illumination using the on/off switch — resulting in a net AEG of outer space: 59,791 ft.
On the way down, I got rattled in the canyon. I was so tired, it took a few seconds before I realized what was happening. I never did see the snake.
I was exhausted, shirt white with sweat salt stains, covered head-to-toe in dirt, scratched all over & bleeding, when I made it back to the trailhead. I was spent. Only one family from Ward #1 was left, and their son came running over with an ice cold bottle of water. Wow, that was nice of them.
I was cramping so bad on the drive back down AZ 288 that I had to pull over. The cramps continued into the night, so that despite being exhausted I barely slept. But I made it!
GPS File: Armer_Mountain
Distance: 7.30 miles
AEG: 1,810 ft.
Time: 4h 49m