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Posts Tagged ‘Maryann Pratt’

LF Ranch House

LF Ranch House- photo by Wendy Lotze

Your trip through the wild and rugged Mazatzal Wilderness on the Arizona Trail isn’t complete without a stop at the LF Ranch! The ranch was homesteaded in 1909 by the Fuller family. When the Mazatzal Wilderness was designated in 1964, the ranch was grandfathered in- 37,000 acres that straddle the East Verde River. In 1976 it was bought by the Pratt family, who own and operate the ranch to this day. They run 160 head of cattle on the Bull Springs Allotment.

LF Ranch Sign

LF Ranch Sign- photo by Wendy Lotze

There’s no easy way to get to the ranch- the closest access is a four mile hike or horseback ride from the locked wilderness boundary gate off of Doll Baby Road outside of Payson. From the north, you’ll have to hike in 11 miles on the Saddle Ridge Trail. From the south it’s 36 tough miles on the Arizona Trail from the Mount Peeley Trailhead.

Doll Baby Trailhead at the locked wilderness gate

Doll Baby Trailhead at the locked wilderness gate

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Looking down on the ranch

Looking down on the ranch

This spring on my thru-hike, by the time I arrived at the LF Ranch I had been out for four days. As I neared the ranch house I heard the peculiar calls of peacocks, completely out of place in the middle of the desert. After going through a gate that says “Welcome Hikers” I was greeted by Maryann Pratt, matriarch of the ranch, and an assortment of friendly dogs, cats, peacocks,  and chickens. A signpost at the ranch has the mileages to Mexico and Utah as well as signs pointing the directions to other notable landmarks on the ranch.

LF Ranch welcomes hikers!

LF Ranch welcomes hikers!

Peacocks!

Peacocks!

In addition to being a working cattle ranch, there is a small bunkhouse with showers to house weary hikers or horseback riders who arrange to stay over on their journey. It’s not fancy, but even the most spartan accommodations feel like such a luxury in the middle of the wilderness. Picket lines are available for horseback riders.

Little Zelda munching on a bone

Little Zelda munching on a bone- she’ll grow up to be a good cattle dog someday

Meals are also available, but only by prior arrangement, and the ranch also accepts resupply packages. Many a weary traveler has shown up to the ranch house hoping to get a ride out to the wilderness gate or into town, but unless you’ve made prior arrangements, don’t get your hopes up. The closest store in Payson is an hour and a half drive away on a bone-jarring road. The day-to-day chores of running the LF are endless and the folks on the ranch are almost always busy.

Yum!

Yum!

Sunset at the LF Ranch

Sunset at the LF Ranch

Once at the ranch, there are many places to go exploring nearby. There are swimming holes in the East Verde River and Rock Creek and a nice afternoon can be had following the East Verde River up or downstream. Polk Spring is worth a visit- a beautiful running creek with plenty of areas to relax nearby.

East Verde River

East Verde River

Near the East Verde

Campsite at Polk Spring- photo by Wendy Lotze

Wikieup at Polk Spring

Wikieup at Polk Spring

Undoubtedly, one of the most interesting things about the LF is Maryann herself. Get her talking and you’ll realize the strength and tenacity it takes to run a ranch in such a remote place. The ranch is powered by solar panels scattered around the property and the occasional generator. Constant vigilance is required to shoo off predators that might want to eat at the LF Ranch Smorgasbord. Just rounding up cattle and moving them from one area to another is made challenging given the rugged nature of the landscape.

Maryann Pratt

Maryann Pratt

So if you’re going to be “in the neighborhood”, hiking the Red Hills #24 and Whiterock Mesa #25 passages, follow the barking dogs and peacock calls to the LF Ranch. You’ll be glad you did!  For more information visit http://www.lfranch.com.

In Wildlife Rehabilitation NW Tucson news, I am so thrilled to be able to work with these animals and birds. It’s good to be back, I had to take a long break during my thru-hike and river season. Recently, we took a drive out to Arlington Wildlife Area to release some hooded skunks that had come to us as babies. It was a wonderful thing to see these guys go out into the world and they were nice enough to not stink the car up on the ride over!

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Hooded Skunk #1

Hooded Skunk #1

Hooded Skunk #2

Hooded Skunk #2

Loaded up with ducks and skunks

Loaded up with ducks and skunks

Duck release!

Duck release!

Skunk #2, the more docile one, took off right away!

Skunk #2, the more docile one, took off right away!

Skunk #1 was reluctant, so we took apart the carrier

Skunk #1 was reluctant, so we took apart the carrier

Unfortunately we had forgotten to close the other carrier and he went in. So we took apart the other carrier.

Unfortunately we had forgotten to close the other carrier and he went in. So we took apart the other carrier.

Quite a tail!

Quite a tail!

Trying to get back in

Trying to get back in

Free at last!

Free at last!

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