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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Take the “A” trail, out Wickenburg way.


Sophie Burden made wicked good beer biscuits---an accidental concoction she created when camping companions guzzled the milk she was saving for the recipe. Not one to be so easily disarmed, she rustled up some good 'ol fashioned western ingenuity, tossed a can of brew into the batter instead and viola, a Wickenburg icon was born. Dubbed the "First Lady of Arizona Inn keeping" by former governor Paul Fannin (1959-1965), Sophie ran popular Wickenburg dude retreat Remuda Ranch (where her biscuits were legend) frequently taking guests on cookouts to the flats, hills and trails surrounding the property. The ranch was sold in 1968 and is now a high-end treatment facility for eating disorders, where they likely do not serve ale-addled quick breads.  The ranch site is private, but the peripheral stomping grounds remain open to recreational hikers and equestrians.  A roomy, rustic trailhead with separate parking areas for cars and horse trailers anchors the site’s 7.1-mile main “A” loop trail. The hiking here is a leisurely amble through a hilly landscape shaped by mining, ranching and harsh desert conditions.  This area northeast of Wickenburg consists of 9.4 miles of non-motorized trails laid out in wagon-wheel-style, looping among shared motorized use dirt roads.  A maze of washes, Jeep roads and unnamed trails intersect the route, so be sure to follow the “A” signs to stay on course.

LENGTH: 7.1-mile loop
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 2400'- 2740'
FACILITIES: restroom, map kiosk
From Phoenix, travel north on I17 to Carefree Highway/SR74 (exit 223) and go west toward Wickenburg. Drive 30 miles on SR74, turn right at US60 and continue to just before  the Hassayampa River bridge traffic circle in Wickenburg and turn right on El Recreo.  Go 0.25 mile, veer right onto Constellation Road and continue 2.7 miles to Blue Tank Road on the left.  Follow Blue Tank Road 1.3 miles to the trailhead. The last 4 miles are on sedan-friendly dirt roads. 
INFO: Bureau of Land Management

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New Phoenix Sonoran Preserve trails

Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, North

Climbing Ridgeback trail

On Saturday, November 9, 2013,  former Phoenix mayor Skip Rimza and other city officials dedicated the Apache Vista trailhead amid a crowd of eager Valley hikers, bikers and equestrians. With 21 miles of new trails, deciding where to begin exploring this northern extension of Phoenix Sonoran Preserve can be a dilemma. Suggestion---head for the hills. Ridgeback Overlook and Apache Vista are highpoints capping this cluster of Sonoran Desert trails.  A map board at the trailhead shows how to cobble together a route to climb to both hilltops.  The peaks each have short loop trails winding over the cholla-encrusted summits that give excellent 360-degree views of both the trail system layout and iconic Valley landmarks.
Looking south from Sidewinder trail

From the trailhead, hike north on Sidewinder to Apache Vista.  After ascending, hike back down and continue on Sidewinder, connect with Apache Wash, turn left  and hike to Ocotillo.  Turn right, hike Ridgeback Trail to the overlook loop. After ascending, climb back down, backtrack to the Ocotillo/Apache Wash junction and follow Ocotillo back to the trailhead.

LENGTH: 5.50 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 1720' - 2002'
HOURS: 5 a.m. to sunset or 7 p.m., whichever comes first.
FACILITIES: restrooms, shaded seating, horse staging area, map kiosk (no water)
Former Phoenix mayor Skip Rimza dedicates the site

From Loop 101 in north Phoenix, take Cave Creek Road exit 28 and go 4.5 miles north to Sonoran Desert Drive.  Turn left (west) and continue 3.5 miles to the trailhead on the right.
INFO & MAPS: Sonoran Preserve Ranger Office: 602-262-7901