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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Historic trail building effort needs your help.

view from within the newly-acquired land

Because of the efforts of the McDowell Sonoran Conservany, 2013 is going to be an epic year for Valley hikers.  Recently acquired land in the Brown's Ranch area of north Scottsdale has bumped the pristine desert terrain of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve to over 27,000 acres.  And with all that grand space comes the promise of extended recreational opportunities.  Three new trailheads and roughly 120 miles (you heard right) of new and improved trails are in the works NOW---and, that's where you come in.  The conservancy is in need of dedicated volunteers to build and maintain trails, patrol the preserve to support conservation efforts and serve as on site educators for the visiting public.  So, whether you prefer to swing a pick axe, work a crowd or wander the desert in solatary bliss, there's a place for you and your talents among the  volunteer ranks.  This is  a rare opportunity to get involved in an historic,  ground-up effort.  As the conservancy has agressive plans to soft open trailheads by late spring-early summer 2013 with grand opening ceremonies planned for October,  the need is URGENT. 
January 12, February 9, March 9, April 13.

McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, 480-998-7971,

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year, hikers! Now, let's go hike.

Oak Creek, Munds Mountain Wilderness
Shortie inspects an icy pool

the red rock "beach"
What could be better than hiking in Red Rock Country on a crispy cool winter morning? Sedona’s backcountry is especially stunning under a layer of frost as we experienced on the Woods Canyon Trail this week. Following the gorge created by Dry Beaver Creek, this trail begins with a traipse through Jacks Canyon Riparian exclosure---a delightfully lush strip of cottonwoods and reeds where you’ll need to make a pair of easy creek crossings.  Beyond the crossings (which were frozen over on our hike) the trail encounters a cattle gate and its first of two junctions.  Just past the first gate, go right at the sign that warns of extreme conditions in the area.  Not to worry, trail #93 is pretty easy up to 4 miles making for an easy out-and-back day hike.  The first mile follows a two-track jeep road through a yucca-studded savanna prowled by resident cattle, but soon dissolves into a sandy-muddy footpath as it delves into the canyon.  At 2.1 miles, the junction for Horse Mesa/Hot Loop pops up on a sunny ridge. Here, be sure to turn around for some super sweet views of Mingus and Woodchute Mountains (snow covered on our trip). Veer right at this junction to continue on Wood Canyon Trail, which will enter the Munds Mountain Wilderness Area in another 0.1 mile.  Now, the really good stuff starts to show up.  The hike transitions from a flat stroll into a gentle ascent along the cliffs above Dry Beaver Creek.  Leafless, white barked sycamore trees clutter a creek bed full of gunmetal gray basalt boulders washing up against rusty sandstone escarpments.  The cool winter color palette here is a memorable sight. The skeletal trunks interspersed with junipers and ponderosa pines against a backdrop of red and gray is chilly and wild.  The highlight of the hike is “red rock beach”, a slab of brilliant russet sandstone jutting into a stream of boulders.  Beyond the beach, the trail gets sketchy and ledgey, which is why many hikes make it their turnaround point.
crossing in Jacks Canyon riparian area

LENGTH:  5.3 miles one-way (trail degrades after 4 miles)
RATING:  moderate
ELEVATION:  3890’ – 4310’
From Phoenix, travel north on I17 to ext 298 for SR179, Sedona-Oak Creek, Go left (west) and continue 8.5 miles to the turn off for the Red Rock Ranger District Station on the right.  Trailhead is located within the ranger station complex in the south (lower) lot where a small metal sign indicates the start point.
early morning start on trail #93

INFO & MAP: Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-203-2900

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Short fitness trail

McDowell Mountain Regional Park, Fountain Hills
Jump start your New Years resolutions

Before reading this blog post, please insert the following earworm in your brain:  the theme song from the Rocky films. Ready.  Set. Go.  Instead of the Philadelphia Museum of Art stairs, or ballpark bleachers---use this trail.  'Nuf said.

LENGTH:  0.5-mile up-and-back
RATING:  easy
ELEVATION:  1860' - 1961'
FEES:  $6 daily fee per vehicle, $2 walk or bike-in, annual passes available.
FACILITIES:  restrooms, water, visitor center, picnic tables, camping
From Phoenix, go east on Loop 202 to Beeline Highway (SR87). Head north on SR87 to Shea Blvd, turn left and drive less than a mile to Saguaro Blvd, turn right and continue to Fountain Hills Blvd, turn right and continue 4 miles to the park entrance. Pay your fee and drive thru the park to the main trailhead staging area at the end of Shallmo Drive.  Maps are available at the park entrance and visitor center.

INFO: Maricopa County Parks & Recreation, 480-471-0173