Six Hikes in Arizona 19/25-Mar-2018

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VanMarmot
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Six Hikes in Arizona 19/25-Mar-2018

Post by VanMarmot » March 28th, 2018, 3:17 pm

Months ago we assumed that it would rain a lot like it did last year (wrong!) and planned way ahead for a dry week in Arizona. For all the cold and snow and rain we've actually gotten in this seemingly drier and warmer than "normal" year, we could have stayed home. But, no, nonrefundable tickets had been purchased! Thus we found ourselves in Phoenix and Tucson for a week, visiting some old friends and doing six local hikes. The weather pretty much cooperated the whole time, with sunshine, mild air temperatures (mid 70ºFs to low 80ºFs), and only artistic clouds. There was a potent, cholla-hurling windstorm with clouds one afternoon but that was it for weather drama. We chose hikes that covered habitats fron saguaros to oaks to pines, at altitudes between 1,500 and 8,000 feet. Cacti spines were dodged, no snakes were startled (or startled us), and a good time was had by all.

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Ford Canyon Loop (Phoenix, Arizona) 19-Mar-2018

Our first hike was the Ford Canyon Loop in White Tank Mountain Regional Park immediately west of Phoenix. We started from the Waddell Trailhead and took the Waddell Trail north from there to its junction with the Ford Canyon Trail. We followed that trail up Ford Canyon, through some interesting rocky sections and past an old dam, to a saddle at 2,800 feet and then down to a junction with the Willow Canyon Trail. That trail took us down, with a short side-trip to a huge pour-off, to a junction with the Mesquite Canyon Trail. We followed that trail down to the trailhead. Overall, 9.5 miles with 1,500 feet of elevation gain.

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Sunrise Trail (Scottsdale, Arizona) 20-Mar-2018

Our second hike was the Sunrise Peak Trail in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve. We ended-up there because The LovedOne’s knee was acting up and we didn’t feel comfortable committing to a longer hike. The straight out-and-back trail to Sunrise Peak is short (4.4 miles round-trip) but steep (1,100 feet of elevation gain) and immensely popular. It had been a long time since we’d seen this many people on any trail, particularly on a weekday. But then there are 1.6+ million people in Phoenix, so some of them undoubtedly had the day off. As feared, The LovedOne only made it to the “Scenic Viewpoint” (about 1.3 miles in) before her knee started protesting mightily. So she descended while I made a quick trip to the summit and back. Good views from up there but not a hike for those craving solitude.

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Elephant Mountain Trail (Cave Creek, Arizona) 21-Mar-2018

Our third hike was a loop past Elephant Mountain in Maricopa County’s Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, the newest addition to the county’s regional park system. After some cold packs, ibuprofen, and a night’s rest, it seemed like we’d convinced The LovedOne’s knee to allow for more hiking. We did a loop that started at the Spur Cross Trailhead, then followed the Spur Cross Trail to the Tortuga Trail to the Elephant Mountain Trail and around on that to return via the Spur Cross (6.9 miles round-trip with 1,600 feet of elevation gain). It was busy at the start but the masses faded the closer we got to the Elephant. The knee held (with ibuprofen support) but we had to offer first aid to a poor dog who’d run into a cholla patch. Having done that myself in earlier days, I know the immense pain of close contact with cholla needles. The dog’s owners had no leash (against park rules), no dog booties, and no idea how a cholla worked (they were on vacation from elsewhere). We pulled out as many needles as we could (and the dog would allow) but there was still much suffering ahead for the poor thing.

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Marshall Gulch (Pusch Ridge Wilderness, Arizona) 23-Mar-2018

After taking a day to travel and visit friends (and give The LovedOne’s knee a rest), we selected as our fourth hike a short loop (4 miles round-trip; 900 feet of elevation gain) in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness in the Santa Catalina Mountains immediately east of Tucson. Starting from the Marshall Gulch Trailhead near Summerhaven and Mount Lemmon, we ascended the Marshall Gulch Trail #3 and returned via the Aspen Trail #93, all at an altitude over 7,500 feet. The Marshall Gulch Trail is a small part of the 800-mile Arizona National Scenic Trail which traverses the state from Utah to Mexico. This pleasant hike gave us a change of pace from the saguaros of the Sonoran Desert below and a chance to experience Canadian Zone riparian areas and ponderosa pine forests. It also didn’t put too much strain on The LovedOne’s fragile knee. This is apparently a very popular area, so we were lucky to be able to hike it on a weekday (yet the parking lot was almost full when we got back!).

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Madera Canyon (Coronado National Forest, Arizona) 24-Mar-2018

After The LovedOne’s knee held-up during our short hike in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness, we decided to try a slightly longer route (5.4 miles round-trip; 1,800 feet of elevation gain) in Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains (about 30 miles south of Tucson) for our fifth hike. Starting from the trailhead at the Madera Canyon Picnic Area, we followed the Bog Springs Trail #156 to its junction with the Kent Spring Trail #157, then took that trail up to Kent Spring. From there, we followed the Bog Springs Trail back down to that junction and then followed the road (easier on the knee) back to the picnic area. This figure-8 route took us through forests of silverleaf oak, alligator juniper, and ponderosa pine, past a waterfall and three springs. Porcelain-white stands of gnarled old Arizona sycamores contrasted sharply with the surrounding forest’s brown and green tones. This is another a very popular area (particularly for serious birders), but with an early start, we were ahead of most of the weekend crowds. This was the one day we had weather in the form of clouds and strong winds – the worst of which arrived after we’d gotten back to the car.

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Wasson Peak (Saguaro National Park) 25-Mar-2018

The LovedOne’s knee was a no-go after our fifth hike, so she decided spend the day in Tucson looking at art instead of going on yet another hike. Fortunately, Wasson Peak, a local favorite in the western section of Saguaro National Park, was close-by and she was able to drop me off at its El Camino del Cerro Trailhead in the morning well before the art museums opened. From there, I went up the Sweetwater Trail to where it ends at the King Canyon Trail on a saddle at about 3,800 feet. From there, I continued up the King Canyon Trail for 0.9 miles to a junction with the Hugh Norris Trail, then followed that for 0.3 miles to the summit of Wasson Peak. I was up and back in time for The LovedOne to meet me for lunch. Along the trail I passed some old mines high on the ridge (the sheer effort those old miners put out usually for no payoff always amazes me!) and several wildflowers in bloom. A sixth hike done solo (sigh) but still a good one (8.9 miles round-trip; 2,200 feet of elevation gain). Despite its local popularity, I only passed about a dozen folks during this weekend hike.

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When we got back, it was as warm and sunny here as it was there. Go figure... :D
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Don Nelsen
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Re: Six Hikes in Arizona 19/25-Mar-2018

Post by Don Nelsen » March 28th, 2018, 5:04 pm

Nice report and pics - especially the beautiful cloud photos.

dn
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Re: Six Hikes in Arizona 19/25-Mar-2018

Post by VanMarmot » March 29th, 2018, 10:36 am

Don Nelsen wrote:Nice report and pics - especially the beautiful cloud photos.

dn
Thanks! The clouds were just enough to make the photos look better but not enough to ruin any hikes!
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Re: Six Hikes in Arizona 19/25-Mar-2018

Post by jessbee » March 29th, 2018, 1:18 pm

Beautiful adventures! I'm heading to Arizona tomorrow! Thanks for getting me even more excited :)
Will break trail for beer.

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Re: Six Hikes in Arizona 19/25-Mar-2018

Post by Don Nelsen » March 29th, 2018, 4:00 pm

jessbee wrote:Beautiful adventures! I'm heading to Arizona tomorrow! Thanks for getting me even more excited :)
Hey Jess,

AZ has a wealth of wonderful hikes and as Bruce describes, Wasson is a great one just a few minutes west of Tucson. Also, at the far north end of Saguaro Park is Safford peak - really nice hike and a cool rock climb for the final pitch. Another, about 40 miles north of Tucson is Picacho Peak. Fantastic views! I can hardly wait to get back myself and explore some more. I could spend decades in AZ and never run out of things to do.

dn
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Re: Six Hikes in Arizona 19/25-Mar-2018

Post by jessbee » March 29th, 2018, 9:29 pm

Don Nelsen wrote:
jessbee wrote:Beautiful adventures! I'm heading to Arizona tomorrow! Thanks for getting me even more excited :)
Hey Jess,

AZ has a wealth of wonderful hikes and as Bruce describes, Wasson is a great one just a few minutes west of Tucson. Also, at the far north end of Saguaro Park is Safford peak - really nice hike and a cool rock climb for the final pitch. Another, about 40 miles north of Tucson is Picacho Peak. Fantastic views! I can hardly wait to get back myself and explore some more. I could spend decades in AZ and never run out of things to do.

dn
Thanks Don, it looks like a hiking paradise. We'll be sticking to the northern third of the state so no Tucson this trip. There will be plenty of things to do around Flagstaff and Sedona :shock: . Guess that means I'll have to go back another time!
Will break trail for beer.

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Re: Six Hikes in Arizona 19/25-Mar-2018

Post by romann » March 30th, 2018, 9:55 pm

So nice! We're going down there for a week in April.

Thanks for the link to Arizona trails in your blog - we're visiting Sedona but I've been itching to add some hikes with Saguaros as well, something in Phoenix area.

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Re: Six Hikes in Arizona 19/25-Mar-2018

Post by VanMarmot » March 31st, 2018, 2:46 pm

romann wrote:So nice! We're going down there for a week in April.

Thanks for the link to Arizona trails in your blog - we're visiting Sedona but I've been itching to add some hikes with Saguaros as well, something in Phoenix area.
I'd strongly recommend the Ford Canyon Loop just west of Phoenix. Easy to get to and it has a bit of everything - saguaro, granite ledges, tanks, views, etc.
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Don Nelsen
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Re: Six Hikes in Arizona 19/25-Mar-2018

Post by Don Nelsen » March 31st, 2018, 5:42 pm

jessbee wrote: Thanks Don, it looks like a hiking paradise. We'll be sticking to the northern third of the state so no Tucson this trip. There will be plenty of things to do around Flagstaff and Sedona :shock: . Guess that means I'll have to go back another time!
Another great hike, though short, is Piestawa Peak on the north end of Phoenix. Less than 1 1/4 miles one-way (depending on where you start it could be 1/2 mile farther or more) but it rises nearly 1200' in that distance. Rocky, lots of stairs but fantastic views of the whole Phoenix valley. Also, there are many trails besides the main one to the top and you could hike clear around the peak if you wanted making it much more of a hike. Lots of barrel cactus and saguaros too.

Two awesome hikes north of Flagstaff: Humphreys Peak, the highest in AZ and nearby Kendrick Peak. Excellent trails, completely forested (though Kendrick suffered a fire a few years ago) and awesome views, especially from Humphreys, where the timberline is about 11,500' and some trees even at nearly 12k'. It's 12,633' but this is an expecially low snow year so it may well be bare even at that altitude. BTW, on a really clear day, you can see the Barringer meteor crater from Humphreys, 43 miles away to the ESE. Very impressive!! - and worth the trip in itself.

Have fun and we hope to see a TR!

dn
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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