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Friday, April 5, 2013

52 miles of new, local trails set to open in June


BROWN'S RANCH TRAILHEAD UPDATE
McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Scottsdale
UPDATE: June 10, 2013---trailhead is now open to the public. 
Work continues on the much-anticipated JUNE 2013 opening of North Scottsdale's Brown's Ranch trailhead. The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy is still in need of dedicated volunteers to staff and patrol what will undoubtedly be a VERY popular destination. Check out the website below learn how to get involved. The next volunteer orientation is APRIL 13, 2013.
Linda Raish, the Conservancy's Community Development Director has provided the following

The City of Scottsdale expects the following to be ready by June, 2013:
  • Trailhead complete and operational
  • 52 miles of trails operational from the trailhead including trails around Cone Mountain, Brown's Mountain, Little Granite Mountain and Fraesfield.
  • Trail signs installed along these 52 miles of trail
  • Trail map
  • Granite Mountain Trailhead complete and operational (136th Street and power line corridor .The city has created sustainable trails that accommodate multiple users. Sustainable trails are trails that have been built on proper grades, that use side-hill contour trails and that do not run down a fall line (thus decreasing possible erosion).  This will mean that users will not experience the ruts that have long been the norm in the area. 

The majority of the 52 miles of trail are 32" to 48" wide (except for trails built along previous jeep roads, which may be a bit wider). Depending on use, most trails will naturalize to become between 12" to 18" (forming a single track). There are 140 miles of total trails on the trails plan for the north area, which means that an additional 90 miles of trail will be developed beginning in October 2013. 

The Conservancy will begin to patrol the area in September, with the expectation that our patrol program will be fully functional in October, 2013. Also, Pathfinders will begin trailhead shifts in October, to talk to visitors about which trails will be best for their fitness level.  The Grand Opening of the trailhead is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, October 19, 2013.
Just a reminder that people should not try to access the trailhead or trails until June as they will be ticketed!!
INFO:

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A storm of seeds


RIO SALADO HABITAT RESTORATION AREA
Downtown Phoenix
Cottonwood seeds in irrigation channel

Like ephemeral misty extras in a fantasy film, a matinee of billowy white cottonwood seeds are now playing in downtown Phoenix.  If you've ever watched movies that feature elves, forest faeries or warring factions of sword-wielding gladiators, then you may have noticed how Hollywood likes to use  mood-enhancing showers of airborne white stuff (seeds, snow, ash) to build drama while tickling trees and mythical characters alike.  That's what it looks like right now along desert waterways where the seeds of female cottonwood trees are  bursting free and hitching rides on air currents before settling into lofty drifts among blooming shrubs. The easy trails of Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Project offer quick, barrier-free access to this annual natural event which runs through mid-April.
Seed drifts beneath mesquite trees

LENGTH:
To 19th Ave:  2.0 miles one way
To 7th Ave 0.8 miles
To 12th Ave scenic overlook: 1.2 miles one way
Basic stroll on paved surfaces: 0.5 mile one way
ELEVATION:  1050' - 1070'
RATING: easy, paved, partially barrier-free
DOGS: allowed but leash & waste pick-up laws are strictly enforced to protect the habitat

HOURS:  sunrise to sunset (or 7 pm, whichever comes first)
GETTING THERE:
There are several access points.  The cottonswoods are best at the Central Ave location at 2439 S. Central Ave. Phoenix.
INFO: City of Phoenix, 602-262-6863
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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Marvelous places with lots of trees


MOUNT ELDEN ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY AREA
Flagstaff

I grew up in the projects outside of Hartford CT.  As kids, the nearest semblance of the great outdoors for my friends and I was “Clay Mountain”, a vacant lot across the street, which the town folks used as an impromptu dump and summer car burning venue.  Next to chasing tar trucks through our asphalt jungle, escaping to Clay Mountain, with its scraggly, over-climbed trees, anemic scrub and festering pools of tetanus-infused toxic waste, was our go-to destination for recreation.  We thought we were the luckiest kids in the universe.    Of course, we really weren’t allowed to go there, but, well, what can I say?  Summer camp and trips to fishing lakes had exposed us to the bigger wonders of Nature, but our worlds were still too cloistered to grasp the concept that some kids actually lived within walking distance of marvelous places with lots of trees.
Grave of John Elden

Since then, my hiking habit has lead me to many easy-access, kid-friendly and educational outdoor classrooms.  One of my favorites is a familiar haunt to the lucky kids at Flagstaff’s Christensen School.  Mount Elden Environmental Study Area is a maze of short exploratory trails with intriguing names like “Forces of Nature” and “Walk Through Time”.  Located a stone’s throw from busy Flagstaff Mall and just a short walk from the school, the easy trails are intended to educate young and old alike about the natural and human history unfolding at the base of Elden Mountain.  The trails are a wiggle through a concoction of volcanic boulders, spring water, Ponderosa pines and blooming shrubs backed by a muffled soundtrack of trains and traffic along Route 66.  This forest-urban interface at the edge of a trailer park where everybody has chickens, kind of reminds me of my childhood stopping grounds---except without the biohazards---unless you count the underground gas lines.  Lucky kids.  Yet, in the middle of all this wonderful, walk-able wilds lies one not so lucky kid. Six-year-old John Elden, (the youngest son of the family for whom the mountain is named) who in 1887 was tragically killed by a renegade muleskinner’s errant bullet is buried beneath a sprawling Alligator juniper tree along the main trail just beyond the spring at the base of what was undoubtedly his own version of Clay Mountain.
Elden Spring

LENGTH:  2.5 miles (I actually hiked on Pipeline up to Oldham trail and back to add a few more miles, but, that’s not this story)
RATING:  easy
ELEVATION:  6800’ – 7200’
FACILITIES: none, but there are restrooms and ice cream (lucky kids) at the Mall.
GETTING THERE:
From Phoenix, travel north on I17 to Flagstaff.  Drive into town and head east on Route66/US 89 to the traffic signal at Flagstaff Mall.  Turn left on Cummings and drive 0.2 mile to the Christensen School, veer left onto El Paso and go 0.3 mile to a parking lot on the right across from Hamblin Road. The trailhead is the unsigned, white gate. 
HIKE DIRECTIONS:
From the trailhead, hike 0.25 mile uphill on the pipeline road to a large wooden Elden Environmental Study Area sign.  Turn right and follow the main path that will lead to the spring, Elden homestead site and John Elden’s grave.  A few yards beyond the gravesite turn left and follow Pipeline Trail back to the trailhead.  NOTE:  explore the many side trails at will.  Just return to the main path to complete the loop.
INFO: Flagstaff Ranger District, Coconino National Forest
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