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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

RACKENSACK CANYON

RACKENSACK CANYON Cave Creek Occupying a non-descript crack in the landscape just a few miles north of the tony golf communities of Cave Creek, Rackensack Canyon retains an “old west” ambience. A 2005 wildfire swept through this part of the Tonto National Forest, but it’s amazing how fast the canyon’s vegetation is recovering. Although it’s kind of “out there” in terms of ease-of-access, Rackensack is no secret to bird watchers, wildflower aficionados, equestrians and hikers alike. This year, we selected a warm sunny day following a couple of rainy weeks to visit this place, which several hiking friends assured us, would be teeming with spring wildflowers. We were disappointed. Although we found some isolated blooms, the canyon was mostly barren. Our “finds” for the day included a single Desert Golden Poppy, one primrose, a tangle of wild cucumber vines and intermittent patches of Desert Rockpea and Goodding’s Vervain. Looks like 2011 is not going to be a good year for desert wildflowers. LENGTH: 3 miles roundtrip to the water tank; 5.40 miles roundtrip to Rackensack Spring RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 3,362’ – 4,158’ GETTING THERE: From Loop 101 in North Scottsdale, take the Pima/Princess Road exit and go 13 miles north on Pima Road to Cave Creek Road. Turn right (east) and continue on Cave Creek Road 8.5 miles (past the Sears Kay Ruins) to where the pavement ends. From here, go another 0.4 mile to a wide parking apron on the right. For reference, there’s a “do not block drive” sign across from the parking area marking the start of the hike. NOTE: Cave Creek Road is also referred to as “Seven Springs Road” and FR24. Do not block the dirt side roads; there are some private properties in the area that use them. HIKE DIRECTIONS: From the parking area, cross to the west side of the road and follow the old tracks OR drop into the canyon on the east side of the road and bush whack your way roughly 2 miles to Camp Creek. BEST SEASONS: October - April ROAD CONDITIONS: Paved up to the last half-mile and passable by sedan in dry conditions. Do not attempt after heavy rain, as the road may be flooded. INFO: Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District (480) 595-3300 RESOURCES: ARIZONENSIS—great resource for identifying plants, animals and geology. http://www.arizonensis.org/sonoran/places/rackensack.html http://www.arizonensis.org/sonoran WILDFLOWERS of the SONORAN DESERT—a local hiker and plant enthusiast shares his sightings: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wildflowers-of-the-Sonoran-Desert/94940691403 http://phoenixwildflowers.com/

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