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Saturday, December 26, 2009


LIMESTONE LOOP Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area Cave Creek Although it’s located just a few clicks north of the city, this scenic loop hike traversing both Spur Cross Conservation Area and adjacent Tonto National Forest lands, encompasses some of the most spectacular desert scenery around. Think—a gurgling desert creek lined with cottonwoods and Goodding willows, outrageous forests of gigantic saguaros and sweeping views of the Valley. Although there are several options for making loop hikes using Limestone trail #252 (visit the Web site listed below for a detailed map) one really sweet option works like this: From the conservation area entry point and pay station, hike up the road and continue straight (north) on the Spur Cross Trail. Follow this wide old Jeep road (aka Forest Road 48) for 1.8 miles (hopping the creek several times) to an abandoned circular corral area where you’ll find a tiny “trail” sign pointing south. Follow the generic signs (there’s no “Limestone Trail” signage) to a narrow, rocky path that veers west heading steeply uphill. From here, this sketchy, un-maintained 2.3-mile segment vacillates between easy-to-follow and essentially—invisible. No worries, though—if you think you’ve lost the trail, just take a deep breath and scope out the intermittent rock cairns that mark the faint sections, leading hikers past two springs at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain. The worst route-finding challenges end at a fancy trail marker etched out of stone where you’ll veer left (east) heading toward Spur Cross and continue 0.4 miles to the Elephant Mountain junction. From here, stay on the main, wide trail (straight ahead) and hike another 0.3 miles to the Tortuga Trail junction. The quickest way back to the trailhead is to head left at this junction and follow the Tortuga Trail for 0.7 miles to the Spur Cross trail junction. Hang a left here and continue 0.6 miles back to the parking lot. LENGTH: 6-mile loop RATING: moderate-rocky, loose footing, creek crossings ELEVATION GAIN : 1000 feet GETTING THERE: Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area is located approximately 35 miles north of central Phoenix. Interstate 17, State Route 51, and Loop 101 can all be used to reach the park. From the intersection of Carefree Highway and Cave Creek Road head north on Cave Creek Road about 2.5 miles to Spur Cross Road. Turn north for approximately 4.5 miles to the public parking area on the right. As of summer 2016, the road is 100% paved.  INFORMATION: FEE: There’s a $3 per person daily fee. PLEASE BRING EXACT AMOUNT. The self-serve pay station does not make change. Free maps are usually available at the kiosk.

Friday, December 25, 2009


COLOSSAL CAVE LADDER TOUR Colossal Cave Mountain Park, Tucson Guided tours of Colossal Cave are offered to the public several times each day except on major holidays when the park is closed. Entrance to the cave is by guided tour ONLY. The easy, basic tour takes about 45 minutes. The more difficult “Ladder Tour” (1.5 hours) and the “Wild Cave Tour” (3 hours) require reservations. Both tours require hikers to be in good physical condition and able to climb narrow, vertical ladders. Participants are required to wear helmets with headlamps that are provided by the park and must be able to maneuver through some tight spaces and walk on narrow ledges with deep drop-offs. A tour through the “dry” cave includes visits to a series of “rooms” with names like “Crystal Forest”, “Silent Waterfall” and the “Kingdom of the Elves” that lend a sense of wonder to the limestone chambers of stalactites, stalagmites and bizarre water-borne rock formations. LENGTH: 1 mile underground RATING: fun ELEVTION CHANGE: 50 feet FEES: visit the Web site for current fees and tour information. GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take I-10 south past downtown Tucson to exit 279 (Vail/Wentworth exit) and follow the signs for about 7 miles to the park. (16721 Old Spanish Trail, Vail, AZ 85641) INFORMATION: or (520) 647-7275

Monday, December 21, 2009


JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER Hi hikers, as avid outdoors persons, I'd like to solicit your input regarding what drives you to purchase hike-related publications. Content? Impulse? Cover photo? Cover lines? Price? What?? Your input is greatly appreciated. Please add your comments!!! Thanks, Mare