|Bird of Paradise plants frame the San Tan Mountains|
Saturday, September 8, 2012
VETERANS OASIS PARK TRAILS
LENGTH: 4.5 miles of inter-connected trails
ELEVATION: 1270' -1311'
FACILITIES: restrooms, drinking fountains, horse watering station, dog poo bag posts
DOGS: must be on leash and kept out of the water
Park: 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily
Preserve: 6 a.m. to sunset daily
Environmental Education Center: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday and Friday, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. Tuesday - Thursday. Closed weekends and holidays.
From Phoenix, travel east on Loop 202 to exit 44 for Gilbert Road. Go 3 miles south to Chandler Heights Road, turn east (left) and continue 1 mile to just past Lindsay Road. The entrance is on the north (left) side of Chandler Heights Road.
4050 E. Chandler Heights Road, Chandler, AZ 85249,
INFO: City of Chandler, 480-782-2890
Thursday, September 6, 2012
WOODLAND LAKE PARK
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
FACILITIES: restrooms, picnic ramadas
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.
Town of Pinetop-Lakeside
Sunday, September 2, 2012
Hiker Jeopardy! And the answer is: because it’s there. Question: Why climb Pat Mullen Mountain?
In preparation for this hike, you’ll need the usual stuff---sturdy footware, water, sun protection and also, a fist full of pennies. The gear is for your body, the pennies will be for your wishes---which I’ll explain in a sec. From the parking area, trail 632 takes off by the info kiosk and also across the road at a small wooden sign that states Pat Mullen Mountain is 1.6 miles away. Either way works—it’s a loop. Just be sure to follow the blue diamond White Mountain Trail System tree markers to stay on track. There are several old roads that intersect the route, so be sure to locate the diamonds before making any turns. The turnoff for the half-mile spur trail up the mountain is marked by a sign reading “vista point trail”. But, don’t expect world-class epic views. The trail is swaddled in trees and although there are some pretty great “peeks” through the foliage, the "vistas" are sparse. On the way up, you’ll notice a magnificent old Alligator juniper tree decorated with all sorts of “offerings”. This is the Magic Wishing Tree, where a community of resin gnomes live in the hollow trunk guarding over a brass spittoon filled with pennies. A sign proclaims that wishes cost a penny apiece, but from the looks of the place, the gnomes also accept hats, buttons, sunglasses, Mardi Gras beads—or, whatever. (2016 update: several hikers have reported that the gnomes have been removed). On the tree’s lower branches, an empty Camelback bladder hangs among elaborate wind chimes. I deposited my payment --to protect against bad juju just in case this tree is actually some deranged lawn elf tollbooth or something--before continuing on up to the summit. At first, I wasn’t even sure if I had found the summit, but a local hiker assured me that the nondescript clearing with an arc of lava boulder seating was indeed the top. After taking a few photos, I headed back down to complete the loop, seven cents lighter and feeling lucky. (UPDATE: a hiker reports that the gnomes were gone on 2-23-14. Not sure if they hibernate and return in spring. Please leave a comment if you know their habits.)
LENGTH: 4.5 mile loop
ELEVATION: 7200'- 7612'
From the Lakeside Ranger station on AZ260 (White Mountain Blvd.) in Lakeside go 4.8 miles east and turn left onto Bucksprings Road (mile post 355 at the traffic signal). Continue 0.5 mile and turn LEFT onto to Sky Hi Road (FR182). Follow Sky Hi Road 2 miles to the 632 trailhead on the right near the junction with FR 185.
INFO: White Mountain Trail System