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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Winter water clears the weir

Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness
Wet Beaver Creek near the weir

Near the weir
Finding “Bell Trail Virgins” isn’t easy.  Ranking high on the flagpole of fabulous Arizona hikes, Bell Trail is a destination most seasoned trekkers have visited at least once.  "Virgins" are those who have somehow managed to miss this blaring giant of a trail.  As for me, I’ve hiked this trail so many times it cycles in my brain like an viral video over, and over, and over……again.  Yes, the beauty, the water, the juxtaposition of cactus-studded savannah with lush, streamside greenery and, oh yeah---those pool-wallowing naked people.  Never again.  I said.  Until a friend emailed me about introducing not one, but TWO “Bell Trail Virgins” to this iconic, Red Rock Country route, the anticipation of seeing the smiles on their faces was just too good to pass up so, I was on board, but with a twist that included a wander down the Weir Trail which branches off the Bell at the 2.5-mile point.  For years, I’ve had a hankering to explore this short diversion, however, since it seems to be a favorite haunt of the aforementioned skin-clad hordes, I never got around to it.  Alas, our hike this week amidst residual snow and 40-degree temperatures meant the weir was clear.  Turns out, the Weir Trail is a beautiful little trek that winds gently down to a concrete dam (the weir) and a gauging station that transmits flow data to---I don’t know.  Densely wooded with cottonwoods, sycamores, alders and willows, the creek near the weir is bolstered by rusty sandstone cliffs and sandy beaches.  One advantage of visiting this trail in winter is that the creek flows fast and wild, more so than in springtime when snowmelt wanes, the water warms and the nudists return to their wallows.
Water rages over the weir: Jan. 31, 2013

LENGTH:  7 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  3860' - 3760'
FACILITIES: restroom
FEES: none.  A Red Rock Pass is NOT required here.
BEST SEASON: October - April

From Phoenix, travel north on I17 to exit 298 for Sedona-Oak Creek.  At the bottom of the off ramp, turn right onto FR618 and continue 2.2 miles to FR 656 where there's a sign for “Beaver Creek Work Station” and the trailhead.  Turn left and go 0.1 mile to the Bell Trail parking lot. 
HIKE DIRECTIONS:  Follow Bell Trail 2.75 miles (past the White Mesa and Apache Maid junctions) to a large metal sign at the wilderness boundary. The Weir Trail #85 veers right while the Bell Trail continues straight ahead.  Follow Weir Trail .75 mile to its end, and then backtrack.

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


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Rain check hike

South Mountain Park, Phoenix 
If it hadn't rained this weekend, this was to have been my hike....

This sweet little traipse up a desert gully, has been entertaining Phoenicians since the 1920s.  The Kiwanis Trail #62 is an easy way to hike high enough in the hills to get excellent views of the Valley without breaking a sweat. Of all the trails in South Mountain Park, this is perhaps the best groomed— there’s little loose rock underfoot and even the shrubs and trees are trimmed. Stone steps and strategically placed railroad ties make the ascent effortless. In addition to the view, the trail features a healthy population of ironwood trees, which explode with pink pea-like blooms in spring. Also, keep an eye out for petroglyphs. Some are pecked into the cliffs while others embellish stones that flank the trail. The trail tops out at Summit Road where you can pick up the National Trail or hike another quarter-mile uphill to visit the Telegraph Pass lookout. LENGTH: 2.2 miles roundtrip RATING: easy ELEVATION: 1,570' – 2,070'  BEST SEASONS: October - April
DOGS: must be on leash
KID FRIENDLY?: yes   GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, go south on Central Ave. all the way to the end to where it enters the park south of Dobbins Road. Pass the guard gate and continue straight on the main road (San Juan Road) through a second gate at the old stone park administration building---where there are restrooms. At the 4-way intersection just past the admin site, turn left and follow the signs to the Kiwanis trailhead/picnic area. INFO: City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation: