The original purpose that created this adventure was to find a cabin that was supposed to be up Wildcat Canyon. It belonged to my friend Terry Maxfield’s grandfather. As near as we could determine, the trail began just south of Emery and climbed up a canyon to Wildcat Knoll.
According to the maps, it is Link Canyon, but the locals call it Wildcat Canyon and, being a visitor, I was not going to challenge them. When it comes right down to it, the adventure is more important than the name of where you are, so we had an adventure up Wildcat Canyon.
Rolling into the quiet little town of Emery (population 287), we unloaded on a street on the east side of an old church. Had I been with anyone else, I would have thought, “Look at that old church.” However, I was with Terry Maxfield who spent a lot of time in this part of the country as a boy and he had a story about this church.
His grandpa, Carlos, was up on the mountain tending cattle on the summer range. Down in town, there was a dance being held at this church. Knowing that Carlos was away, a local boy invited his sweetheart, LaVera Larson to the dance. A friend of Carlos was there and knew that the cowboy on the mountain might like to know what was going on in town.
Jumping on his horse, he lit a shuck for the mountain to find Carlos. That is cowboy talk for riding fast with a purpose. Finding Carlos, he conveyed his message. Carlos was interested and left his friend to watch the cattle while he lit a shuck for the church below.
Galloping into town, he didn’t stop outside the church. He rode his horse right through the open door and onto the dance floor. His sweetheart stared in disbelief while the culprit skedaddled out the back door. Skedaddled is a technical term meaning to flee in panic. “Oh, Carlos,” she sighed and sometime later they got married. Because they got married, sometime later came grandson Terry Maxfield.
With that piece of history, we visited the cemetery — we didn’t mean to, we just took a wrong turn at the city park. Finally we were on the trail heading west.
As we climbed the trail up the canyon, we stopped for another story. The cars that Grandpa Carlos and his friends drove had gravity fed fuel systems. At steep places in the road, they had to turn around and back up the mountain. We decided to ignore that tradition and ride forward up the trail.
Making another stop at the Link Canyon Mine, we walked down a short trail to a horizontal opening that was covered by an arched metal roof and blocked by a fence that covered the opening. We discovered that it was a ventilation shaft that was drawing a huge amount of air into the mine. So much that getting too close to the opening pinned you to the fence.
Unpinning ourselves from sucking wind, we rode past Solomon Gulch, a steep and rugged canyon and made it the top. I was surprised to learn that this was Trail No. 9 on the south side of the Arapeen Trail System. It was smooth and fun to ride.
Making our way around Wildcat Knolls, we were searching for the site of the Maxfield Cabin. Terry told us that this was one of those cabins that had been built on Forest Service land on a 100-year lease program. The lease had expired and according to locals, the cabin had been removed, making it harder to find.
Working our way by the mouth of East Fork Box Canyon, we turned onto Trail No. 92. We didn’t go far because nothing looked right for our search. I later learned that it makes a loop up on the mountain and back down to Trail No. 9.
Backtracking, we took another trail near the point where we topped out of the canyon. This smooth trail took us through groves of aspen and by tall ponderosa pines standing in blankets of manzanita. We found wonderful places for a cabin, but we didn’t find “the cabin site.”
We came off the mountain finishing a ride of about 45 miles. I will be back to ride more of these fun trails. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and light a shuck for the ATV trails out of Emery.