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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fancy fowl and a flower-rimmed lake.


WOODLAND LAKE PARK
Pinetop-Lakeside
Ferruginous hawk

On a balmy early September afternoon, I spent nearly an hour watching a lone Ferruginous hawk turning aerial acrobatics on the wind currents above Woodland Lake.  I was thankful for the oak shaded bench at the edge of the marshy end of the lake that provided support as I tried to capture photos of the graceful predator. Soaring overhead, the bird’s unmistakable rusty markings stretched and contracted with the beat of its wings much like the attitude-soaked moves of a hard-edge model on a New York fashion week runway. Except, this well-dressed beast eats rodents, instead of, well, not eating at all?
Five easy trails roam within and around the 100-acre park complex, which includes tennis courts, softball fields, covered picnic ramadas, grills and playgrounds. Even with all the adjacent family-friendly amenities, the hiking trails are pleasantly quiet and very scenic.  Lake Loop is paved and suitable for strollers, wheelchairs and walkers. It's a good place to begin, as it's the hub for various routes.  As its name implies, Lake Loop circles the water, passing a boat ramp, fishing dock and a cattail-cluttered wetland. The summer wildflowers that flourish on the moist banks provide convenient cover for flocks of Yellow headed blackbirds and a vociferous stew of waterfowl.  Connecting trails cut through sunny meadows and pine-oak forests.  It's also possible to hike from the lake to Big Springs Environmental Area (see separate blog post)---just follow the Hitching Post Loop for 1.5 miles to the signed turn off and hike to explore yet another open air theater for “fashion week” fowl shows.

LENGTHS:  park maps do not give mileage for all the trails, but the total length for all the trails felt like about 6 miles to me
Lake Loop:  1.25 miles
Hitching Post Loop:  2 miles
Turkey Track Trail: ~1 mile
Meadowview Trail: ~ 0.25 mile
Walnut Creek Trail:  ~ 1.25 mile

RATING:  easy, Lake Loop is paved and barrier free
ELEVATION: 6950'
FACILITIES: restrooms, picnic ramadas

GETTING THERE:
From AZ260 in east Pinetop turn right (south) on Woodland Lake Road---located past Blue Ridge Schools at milepost 353 and there's a Chevron station on the corner.  Go 0.25 mile on Woodland Lake Road to the park entrance. Drive to the end  of the road for barrier free access or else park at any of the lots for unpaved access to the Lake Loop trail.

INFO:
Town of Pinetop-Lakeside
928-368-6700

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