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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hiking Arizona's "everglades"

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

Carnero Lake, June 2, 2012
Even to the casual observer, it's clear that Arizona boasts  a plethora of environmental diversity.  Over the years, I've hiked through deserts, chaparral, prairies, alpine meadows, volcanic highlands, river canyons, wildly contorted mountain peaks, coniferous forests and even tundra.  Now,  "everglades" joins the list.  What? Huh? In Arizona?  Yuppers--Carnero Lake is a swamp.  Located off AZ260 between Pinetop-Lakeside and Greer, this shallow, 65-acre lake is prone to summertime weed growth.  This green quagmire may frustrate anglers hoping to nab the stocked rainbow trout, but for camera-toting hikers, it's a beautiful destination with lots of opportunities to view wildlife.  A slim footpath-- with many spurs leading to the water --circles the spruce-and-aspen fringed lake.  Thick woodlands on the south side of the lake provide good cover for photo stalking.  Waterfowl are easy to spot among the reeds and on my visit, a huge Ferruginous hawk put on an acrobatic air show above the water.  Antelope, elk, black bear, squirrels and lizards also inhabit the area.  We did this hike as a double-header with the Green's Peak trail (see separate blog entry) for a pleasant afternoon of off-the-radar trekking.

LENGTH: 1.63-mile loop
RATING: easy
BEST SEASON: May - October
From Show Low, travel east on AZ260 to FR 117 near milepost 380.  Turn left (north) and continue 2.5 miles on FR117 to FR117A, turn right and continue 0.5 mile to the signed turnoff for the lake. The access road is rough, but still passable by sedan.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hike to the high point of the Springerville Volcanic Field

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Looking southeast from the summit of Green's Peak

More popular with hang gliders than hikers, this volcanic peak northwest of Greer is a little gem of a trek. Having driven by this grassy knoll numerous times while on my way to other White Mountain trails, a trip up this hill has been on my to-do list for far too long. So, when I finally put boots on the ground this past weekend, my sense of accomplishment was quickly usurped by a sense of awe. The peak is an extinct cinder cone volcano surrounded by myriad geological curiosities---like the mima (pronounced may-muh) mounds.
halfway up 
One of the enduring mysteries of White Mountain geology, is the origin of the mounds. Rodents, imbedded root systems and creatures from outer space all have been credited with making these roundish, 2-to-9-foot-high lumps of gravel in the meadows surrounding 10,133-foot Green’s Peak—the high point of the Springerville Volcanic Field. The prevailing theory is that these curious features are remnants of a glacial ice field that receded some 25,000 years ago leaving behind a landscape that smacks more of Iceland than Arizona.  Bald on its south side but forested on its north flank, 
it’s easy to spot the cinder road etched into the slopes that’s used to access the fire tower and communication equipment on the top---this is the trail.
Once at the apex, stroll around to get extraordinary views of the cinder cone-dotted countryside and scope out future hiking destinations like Pole Knoll, Railroad Grade and Mount Baldy. Also visible are the scars of last year's Wallow Fire that mar the woodlands around Greer.  When we visited here yesterday, the New Mexico Gila Fire had grown to over 200,000 acres and strong winds sent a veil of its smoke into the White Mountains. 
the mima mounds at the base of Green's Peak

LENGTH:  2 or 4 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 9,520'- 10,133'
smoke from the Gila Fire covers the horizon
From Pinetop, travel east on AZ260 (Toward McNary).  Continue to roughly 3 miles past AZ273 to FR 117 near milepost 380 on the left (about a mile past the Railroad Grade trailhead).  Follow FR117 north for 3 miles to a "Y" junction at FR 61 where a signs states “Greens Peak 2 miles”. You can park here for a 4-mile roundtrip hike or veer left and drive another mile to the next “Y” intersection at FR61/61C
for a 2-mile hike.  Roads are maintained cinder and passable by sedan.