Ranchers in the deep Southwest summer their cattle in the cool high-elevation pine country, driving them to lower elevations for winter. The grazing lands are a mix of private property and leased public lands from the Forest Service, BLM, and the State. Working cattle in the rugged mountains of the Prescott National Forest is demanding on both cowboys and their horses. A good cowboy will use three horses in a day pushing through the scrub brush on loose rock hillsides looking for scattered cows and calves in deep in shaded canyons. The 7UP Ranch is one of those rough-and-tumble cattle operations that evokes the storied history of a harsh land and the sturdy people that struggled to tame it just enough to exist here. And a road runs to it and beyond. Starting on Camp Wood Road, Seven Up runs north through deep Ponderosa Pine forests beside buff and gray granite outcroppings that look as if a leviathan stacked stones in a monumental cairn. A bit over 3 miles into the drive, you arrive at the picturesque ranch headquarters, its pastures dotted with cow ponies, and a myriad of cottages, barns, and outbuildings. Seven Up continues past the ranch, offering shaded flat campsites and possible glimpses of deer, turkey, and javelina if you keep your eyes peeled into the shadows of the pines. Just past the high point of the trail is a hairpin turn to a steep switchback. Just make sure you turn to avoid a Thelma and Louise moment. The view from the top of the switchback is definitely worth a quick stop. Soon enough, Seven Up deposits you into a lush valley where the North and South Forks of Walnut Creek converge. Seven Up's a good ride. Mount up and give it a try.
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