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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Four Forest Restoration Initiative update

Forest Service Provides Early Opportunity to Preview 4FRI Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Coconino National Forest

As avid hikers, we should all be aware of restoration and woodland health efforts planned for the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests.   Today, the forest service released to the public a draft of the plans and how they may impact the landscape.  Our input is encouraged.  Let's be proactive in assuring forest health is maintained while protecting access to public lands.  Here's the press release and link to the draft statement:

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Forest Service is providing the public with an early opportunity to preview the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI).  The DEIS for the first analysis area on the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests has been posted to the 4FRI website at

In response to public input, the Forest Service will offer a 60-day formal comment period on the DEIS, which will begin with the publication of the Notice of Availability (NOA) in the Federal Register.  The NOA is expected to be published in late March.

In order to allow additional time for public consideration of this extensive document, online access to the DEIS is being made available by the Forest Service prior to the official start of the formal comment period.

“There are numerous individuals and groups with an interest in this document,” said Coconino National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart.  “We wanted to provide as much time as possible for people to digest the information and begin to form comments and questions.”

When the official NOA is published, the Forest Service will announce dates for public meetings.  The public meetings will provide interested individuals the opportunity to learn more about the DEIS and comment on its contents.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Wildflowers of the wild west

Superstition Wilderness
corral at Whitlow Canyon

Fairy Duster
Early spring brings a magical transition to the Superstition Wilderness.  It's a time when winter-worn shrubs and the gray stubble of last year's flora make a yawning renewal.  Right now, the craggy, hilly terrain is awash in splendor-hinting shades of green with the first of the early blooming wildflowers already beginning to show on sunny side of the mountains.  Although most any trail in the Superstitions would be good for viewing wildflowers, the routes leaving from the Peralta trailhead are particularly productive due to the way water rolls down from hoodoo edged ridgelines over loose-soil slopes before settling into deeply incised canyons where mesquite and Palo verde trees play nurse maid to myriad fragile perennials.  For our first wildflower hike of the year, we selected a mostly unshaded route to catch the early bloomers. This week we observed spotty specimens of wild hyacinth, fiddleneck, scorpion weed, buckwheat, brittlebush, red maids, filaree and Mexican gold poppies.  Best of all, an abundant crop of sprouts teased for a better-than-average wildflower season to come. Color was best along the Dutchman's Trail, especially where riparian life zones thrive around lingering pools of water.  At 2.6 miles, we turned onto the Coffee Flat Trail with the goal of visiting the mesquite bosque and old stock corral at Whitlow Canyon. The corral is a collection of knotted barbed wire and rusty signs drenched in rugged old west character.  Before heading back the way we came, we took a break beneath a twisted mesquite tree surrounded by greenery that will soon burst into fields of golden poppies .
Water on the Dutchman's Trail

From the Peralta trailhead, begin hiking east on Dutchman's Trail #104.  At 2.6 miles veer right at the signed junction for Coffee Flat Trail # 108.  Follow #108 for 1.7 miles to the prominent wash of Whitlow Canyon, cross the wash and within a few yards, look for a cairned "Y" intersection.  Take the right fork to get to the corral. See "more photos" for images of these unsigned waypoints.

LENGTH:  9.2 miles roundtrip
RATING:  easy- moderate
ELEVATION:  2287' - 2680'
FACILITIES: restrooms
From Phoenix, travel east on US60 to Apache Junction.  Continue roughly 8 miles to Peralta Road (FR77) located between mileposts 204 and 205.  There’s also a sign indicating "Peralta Trailhead". Turn left and follow Peralta Road 7.2 miles to the trailhead. 
INFO: Mesa Ranger District, Tonto National Forest, 480-610-3300

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Desert wildflower season 2013

Mexican gold poppy: Feb. 23, 2013

Red Maids: Feb. 23, 2013
Desert Rock Pea: Feb. 23, 2013
Wild hyacinth, aka Blue Dicks: Feb. 23, 2013
Desert wildflowers are popping up all over the low deserts this week.  With a decent amount of cultivating winter rain and warming temperatures, the show is off to a good start. Here's a sampling of what's blooming in the Superstition Wilderness right now.  Stay tuned for updates and wildflower hike trip reports. Can't wait?  Click on the "wildflower" link in this blog's trail index for dozens of top blossom-viewing trails.