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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Scottsdale's Brown's Ranch Trailhead now open!

McDowell Sonoran Preserve

The long awaited Brown's Ranch Trailhead in north Scottsdale was opened for public use on Monday June 10, 2013. Fifty-five miles of new and rebuilt non-motorized trails are now signed and ready to explore----and many more are planned as work continues to expand the system to the north and west. I'll be heading out there this weekend, so stay tuned for photos and a trip report.
Grand opening ceremonies are planned for Saturday October 19, 2013.
HOURS: gates are open roughly sunrise to sunset daily---a specific time schedule is available online.
FACILITIES: 200-car parking lot, restrooms, water, shade ramadas, equestrian staging area.

30301 North Alma School Parkway, Scottsdale.
From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Pima/Princess exit 36 and head north on Pima to Dynamite Road. Turn right (east) and go 2.9 miles to Alma School Pkwy, turn left (north) and drive less than a mile to the trailhead.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Challenging decent to West Clear Creek

Mogollon Rim

Looking for a challenge? This discombobulated, demolition zone of a trail offers a dour dose of adventure for denizens of danger. Perhaps that’s why, on any given weekend, droves of adrenaline junkies flock to this primitive route, which drops into the wild upper reaches of West Clear Creek.
The “trail” starts at an old, non-descript wood post at the northwest end of the parking area progressing downhill through an insanely steep quagmire of dead trees, moss-encrusted boulders and scree -- for a memorable, vertical plunge. The difficult climbing ends at the bottom of the canyon where the waters of West Clear Creek lap up against contorted, towering cliffs and slender sandbars. Beyond this point, wading, swimming and bushwhacking are required to continue exploring either up or downstream. Head left to see the famous “hanging gardens”—limestone cliffs imbedded with drooping green plants---or, go right and follow the waterway to a gallery of ancient rock art.

LENGTH: 1-mile roundtrip (from the rim to the creek)
ELEVATION: 6,600 – 5,950 feet
RATING: insane
DOG RATING: only very experienced dogs should attempt this trail
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 113 miles one-way
From Payson, go north on AZ 87 (toward Pine-Strawberry) to AZ 260. Turn left (west) and follow 260 3.1 miles to Forest Road 144, near milepost 249. Turn right (east) and go 1.8 miles to Forest Road 149, turn left (north) and continue to a 3-way junction at Forest Road 142. Go right onto FR 142 and drive 0.9 miles to Forest Road 142E on the left---this is an easy-to-miss unmarked road—if you reach Forest Road 142F, you’ve gone too far. Follow FR 142E 2.7 miles to a large, unsigned parking area.
INFORMATION: refer to the Coconino National Forest map, USGS map, Calloway Butte

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I.D. that tree


One of the great things about hiking is that it gets us out of the concrete jungle and into the natural world.  And, if you're anything like me, you enjoy learning about the plants, animals and geology decorating the trails.  Princeton University Press recently sent me a complimentary review copy of The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trees (Second Edition)  by David More and John White.
The hefty, volume features more than 2000 species accompanied by 5000+ illustrations of many of the most common trees that grow along northern Arizona hiking trails.  Tree descriptions are written as concise, approachable entries with adjacent, skillfully rendered watercolors of leaves, seed stages, bark, full plant scales and depictions of seasonal changes.  This is a comprehesive, user-friendly tool for identifying mid-to-high elevation trees in Arizona.  Although it's lacking in the desert species (specifically, our legumes like ironwood, Palo verde, mesquites) coverage is good for the trees we encounter on summer hikes: pines, firs, maples, willows and junipers. It will become available on June 19, 2013.
The section on aspens---my favorite tree

INFO:  Jessica Pellien, Princeton University Press

Second Edition
David More & John White
Cloth | 2013 | $49.95 | ISBN: 9780691158235
832 pp. | 7 x 10 | 5,000+ color illus.
Pub date: June 19, 2013

Monday, June 10, 2013

Safe hiking in summer heat

Beautiful. Hot. Deadly.

And so the 2013 summer hiking season begins---one hiker dead near Hoover Dam, a 21-year old dies from the heat at the White Tank Mountains and another was rescued with heat exhaustion in the Castle Dome mountains. And it's only June. These tragic heat-related hiking accidents should remind us that we must take extra precautions when recreating outdoors during summer. It doesn't take long for even the most physically fit hikers to succumb to heatstroke, heat exhaustion or hyponatremia. Now's the time to study up, plan your treks and hit the trail prepared to survive. Heat COULD kill YOU. Have you ever heard a news report in which the victims were not "experienced hikers"? Think on it. 
The national park service has an excellent checklist for summer hiking:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A cool creekside hike

Mogollon Rim
East Clear Creek

A leisurely amble through the pristine and complex canyon system of upper East Clear Creek reveals wonders that even the most well traveled Arizona hikers will find astounding. There’s the epic views from the coniferous forest rim, a scenic drop into the canyon along a fossil-encrusted limestone trail, and an emerald-green riparian environment along the water.
Sandwiched between two reservoirs, East Clear Creek slices into soft sedimentary pediments leaving behind a meandering sheer-walled canyon.  This 50-mile-long ribbon of life-giving water flows northeast from Blue Ridge Reservoir to Clear Creek Reservoir near Winslow where it merges with the Little Colorado River.  Although traversing the entire length of this gorge would involve technical climbing skills, swimming and rafting, all that’s needed to hike the Horse Crossing trail #20 is a pair of boots and a day pack.  Exploring the mid-section of the creek, Horse Crossing is hemmed in by hard scramble rock escarpments.  At the bottom of the canyon, running water sculpts sandstone walls that look like dunes tilted on their sides in layer-
cake formation.  Tens of millions of years ago, the landscape surrounding East Clear Creek was part of a vast ocean and the fossilized remains of sea-dwelling algae, coral and brachiopods are strewn about like scattered bones.  Like all of the “crossing” trails on the Mogollon Rim, this one continues up the opposite side of the canyon. However, it’s more fun to bush whack and wade for several miles up or downstream where clouds reflected in mirror-like pools in the worn sandstone gives the impression of walking on the sky.

LENGTH: 3 miles round-trip (on trail)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 6,900’ – 6,400’
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 170 miles one-way
From Payson, travel north on AZ87 (Beeline Hwy) to Clints Well.  From there, continue on AZ87 for another 9.4 miles to the turn off for Forest Road 95 (between mileposts 299 and  300).  Turn right (east) on FR 95 and drive 4 miles to Forest Road 513B.  Go left (east) on FR 513B and continue 2 miles to the trailhead.  A high-clearance vehicle is required on FR 513B.
INFO:  Mogollon Rim Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, (928) 477-2255