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Friday, February 8, 2013

Take the Sedona Hike Challenge

Hike in Sedona for a chance to win prizes.

No doubt---Sedona is a world-class hiking destination. So, why aren't you getting out there more?  Perhaps the Sedona Hike Challenge will inspire you to make a couple of trips to Red Rock Country this winter.  Sponsored by The Hike House, Sedona businesses and hiking equipment companies, the challenge is easy and some lucky winners will walk away with an AWESOME prize package just by hiking 2 Sedona trails.  Plus, its PRIME hiking season---so, this is a win-win challenge.
Here's how it works:
1.  Go to to learn about the event and prizes.
2.  Bring your camera and hike 2 Sedona trails.
3.  Upload your hike photos to to be entered into the prize package drawings.
Event runs through March 15, 2013.  Check the web site for deadlines and details.  Good luck!

The Hike House
431 SR 179 #B-1
Sedona, AZ 86336

The author is not participating in this event and has not received trade or payment for this blog's just a cool opportunity worth a mention. :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An "upside down" river ramble

The Nature Conservancy, Wickenburg
River Ramble Trail

Palm Lake
Tucked between  US60 and  BNSF railroad tracks on the outskirts of Wickenburg, an enchanting forest thrives in a rare riraprian corridor of an "upside down" river. Like many desert waterways, the Hassayampa River--which runs 100 miles from Prescott to the Gila River southwest of Buckeye--flows underground except in only a few places, thus earning its Yavapai moniker "upside down" river. One place in the river's course  where water flows year-round is The Nature Conservancy's Hassayampa River Preserve. More than two miles of hiking trails wind through this 700+- acre property.  The paths range in difficulty from barrier-free (Palm Lake Trail) to mildly challenging (Lykes Lookout) and each showcases a particular aspect of the site's ecological diversity.  The most wild of the trails is River Ramble  which  wanders along the waterway in a tangle of gigantic cottonwoods and Goodding willows with a carcophony of bird songs drifting through the canopy.  Here, it's easy to spot herons and other water fowl lurking among cattails. Along the muddy banks, a frenzy of racoon, opossum, skunk and fox prints betray the critters skulking in the underbrush.  Other preserve trails focus on endangered mesquite bosques and a spring-fed lake replete with water-loving vegetation.  It's no wonder this place is a magnet for birds both common and rare.  In February, Cedar Waxwings and Yellow-rumped Warblers splatter flicks of lemony color through trees and shrubs.  More common aboreal winged creatures like brilliant scarlet  Northern Cardinals and vociferous Curve-billed Thrashers add familiar sounds to the bird convention.  February is a terrific month for viewing either on your own or as part of a guided tour.  Either way, plan on spending several hours exploring this incredible roadside gem.

LENGTH: 2.54 miles (6 short trails)
RATING:  easy-difficult
ELEVATION: 1900'- 1980'
FEES:  $5 per person ($3 for members). Kids 12 & under get in free.
DOGS: pets are not allowed in the preserve
HOURS:  Sept - May: 8 a.m - 5 p.m. May - Sept 7 a.m. - 11 a.m.. Hours/Days vary by season, so visit the website or call ahead. Closed on Mondays,Tuesdays and most major holidays.
From Phoenix, go north on I17 to Carefree Highway (AZ74)  at exit 223.  Turn left (go west toward Wickenburg) and continue 30 miles to US60.  Turn right (north) and go 6 miles to the Conservancy turn off on the left near milepost 114.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Mountain lions and waterfalls

Saguaro National Park, Rincon Mountain District
Bridal Wreath Falls: Feb. 1, 2013

Douglas Spring Trail
Sometimes, timing is everything.  This is particularly true in the desert where spectacular waterfalls appear like raging liquid phantoms after periods of rain, only to dissolve into trickles and knat-loving muddy drop pools within days.  One of the most accessible transient water shows happens in Saguaro National Park East.  Almost anybody with a pair of decent hiking shoes, a few liters of drinking water and a spare afternoon can marvel at the wonder of an ephemeral desert water chute by way of the Douglas Spring Trail to Bridal Wreath Falls.  Because it's so easy to access, the trailhead is a busy place, especially on weekends.  A shaded kiosk marks the trail gateway into a sunny land of cactus and scrub backed with views of Tucson’s Rincon and Santa Catalina Mountains, which tower to over 8,000 feet.  The route is tantamount to a 2.5-mile staircase. It’s a constant and sometime steep climb through a landscape that morphs from classic desert into a massive grassland with the feel of an African savannah.  Although there are no wildebeasts or giraffes roaming these plains, it’s prime habitat for mountain lions.  A sign posted at the trailhead warns of numerous recent mountain lion sightings and as of January 30, 2013, the Three Tanks Trail, which connects with Douglas Springs, is closed due to their high activity in that area.  In addition to the big cats, javalina, rabbits, and deer share the wilds with gila monsters, raptors and desert tortoises.  The turn off for the short hike to the falls shows up at the 2.3-mile point. Here, surrounded by miles of shadeless, mesquite-dotted prairie, the only clue that a waterfall is nearby is the park service sign pointing the way.  A mild descent leads to a grotto of polished stone where a mild boulder scramble is required to get to the 50-foot cascade plunging over bare rock like a wind blown ribbon.  Alas, the falls were more like a dripping faucet on our February 1, 2013 visit, however, they are known to rage like a white water river after heavy rains and during high snow-melt season.
Snow on the Rincon Mountains

LENGTH:  5.2 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2745' - 3827'
DOGS: sadly, canine hikers are not allowed on Saguaro NP trails.
FEE: no fee at this trailhead
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX:  137 miles one way
From Phoenix, travel south on I10 to Tucson.  Take exit 257 at Speedway Blvd and head east (go left).  Follow Speedway Blvd 17.5 miles to where it dead-ends at the Douglas Spring Trailhead.  Roads are paved all the way.
INFO & MAP: Saguaro National Park