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Wednesday, November 10, 2010


SPUR CROSS-METATE-TOWHEE LOOP Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, Cave Creek This short loop hike makes for an excellent introduction to the diverse bio zones of Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. The route wanders through rare mesquite bosques, creekside riparian habitats and a forest of some of the most outrageous saguaro cactuses anywhere. Handy steppingstones make short work of crossing usually shallow Cave Creek while gentle uphill grades lead to high ledges where views of famous local geological features like Elephant Mountain, Sugarloaf and Skull Mesa soar over pristine swaths of Sonoran desert. The route is well signed and maintained. Park rangers and volunteers offer a full schedule of public programs that range from hikes to archeological sites to talks on native flora and fauna. Check out the Web site below for details. HIKE DIRECTIONS: From the permit kiosk, hike straight ahead on the wide dirt road to the first major trail junction and take the left leg (heading northwest) of the Spur Cross Trail (SX). Follow SX 0.2 mile to the Metate Trail (MT) junction, hang a right (northeast) and follow MT 0.2 mile to the Towhee Trail (TW). Veer right onto TW, which will rejoin MT in 0.2 mile. Follow MT 0.5 mile back to SX, hang a right (south) and continue 1.5 miles back to the trailhead. LENGTH: 2.8-mile loop RATING: easy ELEVATION: 2,200 – 2,300 feet BEST SEASONS: October - April 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. After 3 miles the road turns to all-weather graded dirt and is passable by sedan. The last 1.5 miles can be confusing; continue north on the graded road past the green house, through the tall gateposts and on past the horse corrals to the signed public parking area on the right. FEE: $3 daily fee per person. Bring exact change for the self-serve permit kiosk. FACILITIES: port-o-potties INFORMATION & MAP:

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Joe's Hill as seen from the Sunset Point rest area
JOE’S HILL Agua Fria National Monument Next time you’re traveling along I-17, make a stop at the Sunset Point rest area near Black Canyon and look east across the freeway. That low mound sitting above the Agua Fria Canyon is Joe’s Hill, a shield volcano like the ones in Hawaii. Although it’s possible to hike to the summit of this hill, you’ll need good route-finding skills, at least a high clearance vehicle and much patience to do so. For geology buffs, this volcano has a lot to explore, but for the average hiker, the big draw is getting to look down into the gorge of Agua Fria Canyon. This is of particular interest to hikers who have explored the canyon from Badger Springs Wash---this hike takes you to the edge of the cliffs above. LENGTH: 3 miles (exploratory) RATING: moderate (cross-country, bushwacking) ELEVATON: 3,600 – 4,045 feet BEST SEASONS: October - April GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, go north on I-17 to Bloody Basin Road (exit 259). Turn right and follow Bloody Basin Rd. roughly 11 miles to Forest Road 14. Go right (south) and continue to the second unmarked dirt road on the right. From here, it’s a quagmire of un-maintained dirt roads---so you’ll basically head toward the mound of Joe’s Hill as far as your vehicle will allow. We got to within a half-mile of the volcano’s base in a Jeep. Do your research, get maps and drive at least a high-clearance vehicle. From your parking spot, head toward the hill and pick your way up. GPS: N 34.18753 and W -112.06321 INFO & MAP: