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Thursday, February 16, 2012

The hike you must do...once

Cave Creek
Ancient rock puts the black in Black Mountain
Jutting more than 1000 feet above the desert floor, the imposing ebony silhouette of Black Mountain is a difficult-to-miss gateway to the towns of Cave Creek and Carefree.  Although its pyramid-shaped profile and collapsed south face resemble an extinct volcano--that's not what it is.  The massif's  impressive slopes are made of Precambrian granite and metamorphic rocks stained with a rich black patina for which the mountain was named.  When I quizzed a local hiker about the trail, she commented, “It's not my favorite, but everyone should do it once.”  I concur.  Short, straight-up-steep and uncomfortably crowded with just so-so views, I'm glad I hiked it, but, in my opinion—it's a one hit wonder.  Maybe my impression was sullied by the overcast skies on the day of my hike and the fact that I got rained on while on the summit. Many would disagree with me, though—including the gentleman I hiked down with who swears:  “It's the best hike in Cave Creek.”  Whatever way you swing, here's a good reason to tackle Black Mountain—photo contest!
Think you've got the chops?  Then grab your camera, hit the trail and enter the annual Black Mountain Photo Contest sponsored by Desert Foothills Land Trust---the organization that oversees the conservation of this north Valley treasure. You may just see your work published in their 2013 calendar.
But even if you're not a photo maven, visit their web site (below) to see how you can help this local non-profit group with their preservation work.
You WILL be hiking among dogs on Black Mtn.

LENGTH: 2.4 miles roundtrip
RATING:  moderate
ELEVATION: 2,164' – 3,398'
DOGS: leashed dogs are allowed
KID FRIENDLY: some high steps, best for older kids
the "trailhead"
Take I17 to exit 223 for Carefree Highway (SR74).  Go 10 miles east to Cave Creek Road, turn north (left) and go 3 miles to School House Road (in downtown Cave Creek). Hang a right (south) and continue to the parking area near Military and School House Roads.
From Loop 101, take the Scottsdale Road exit and go 12 miles north to Cave Creek Road. (Scottsdale Road will turn into Tom Darlington Drive north of Carefree Highway).  Turn left (west) on Cave Creek Road and continue 1.20 miles to School House Road, turn left (south) and drive to the parking area near the corner of Military and School House Roads.
Go north on SR51 to Loop 101.  Take 101 west to the Cave Creek Road exit. Follow Cave Creek Road  to School House Road (in downtown Cave Creek).  Turn right (south) and continue less mile to the parking area.
INFO: Desert Foothills Land Trust

Hike with an archeologist

March is Archeology & Heritage Month in Arizona and the Kaibab National Forest is offering a series of archeologist-led Saturday afternoon hikes all month.  The featured trail will be Keyhole Sink---an easy, wooded route leading to a enclave decorated with hundreds of petroglyphs.  In addition, dozens of other events and presentations are planned--click the link below for details.  So, here's your chance to learn more about the history of one of our state's most scenic and storied forests. Participants MUST register ahead of time.
Keyhole Sink

WHEN: Saturdays, March 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31
TIME: hikes start at 2 p.m. See link below for where to meet & what to bring.
LENGTH: 1.5 miles roundtrip
RATING: easy-moderate
INFO & REGISTRATION: Williams Ranger District, Kaibab National Forest, 928-635-5600
Petroglyph panel at Keyhole Sink

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Elephant walk

South Mountain Park, Phoenix
a fragrant elephant tree

View of the Sierra Estrella mountains
“It's pronounced Ber-SER-uh.”  my rather persnickety gardening expert friend chaffed when the word tumbled a clumsily from my lips---“BOO-sir-ah”.  I stand corrected and in awe of the rare plant  Bursera microphylla---better known as the Elephant Tree—that lives on the slopes of South Mountain Park.  Brush up against one of these squat, red-green-barked trees with swollen, contorted pachyderm-like trunks and a pungent aroma of camphor will waif from its tiny leaves.  Related to the plants that produce frankincense and myrrh, sap from the elephant tree also can be dried and burned as incense. But, don't rush out with a collection bucket—the trees are a protected species in Arizona.
To get an up close look at this plant that grows only in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and parts of southern California and northwestern Mexico, just follow the Bursera Trail which was just completed in 2011.  The route is simple-to-follow and connects with both the National and Bajada (Ba-HA-duh)
Trails for those who want to add mileage to their hike.  Also, because it's wide and not too steep, the route is very popular with mountain bikers.  One bit of advise—although the elevation change for the hike is only 653 feet—you’ll do it twice for an out-and-back-hike.

LENGTH: 2.9 miles one-way (6.68 miles roundtrip including access trail)
RATING:  moderate
ELEVATION: 1,235' – 1,888'
DOGS: leashed dogs allowed

From Phoenix, take I-10 south/east (Tucson) to exit 161 for Pecos Road.  Drive 7.2 miles east (right) on Pecos to 17th Avenue.  Head north (right) on 17th Ave. and continue 0.7 mile to Chandler Blvd.  Turn left and go 0.3 mile to the end of the road. There’s only parallel parking—do not block private drives. A  generic "trail" sign marks the start point.
From the trailhead, begin by hiking west, making a sharp right about 0.1 mile in at a post for Pyramid Trail .  Continue 0.44 mile to the junction with Bursera Trail, veer left and follow the signs.

INFO: City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation