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Monday, July 28, 2014

SUMMER HIKING AT SPUR CROSS RANCH


SUMMER HIKING AT SPUR CROSS RANCH
Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, Cave Creek
 
Photo of a 2010 flood in Cave Creek
The Jewel of the Creek could use a good flood.  So says Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area Ranger Kevin Smith. It's been four years since the last deluge purged the bumper crop of plants and invasive species like crawfish that have taken root in the hiatus. Although this opportunistic  thicket of willowy shoots and swaying cattails resembles a lush tropical jungle, the pressure it puts on water resources is not so healthy for the ecosystem.  Who knew? This is just one of the enlightening topics covered in Ranger Smith's 2.5-hour "Life Along the Creek" guided hikes.
A satisfying retreat for urban-centric and   destination hikers alike, the county park straddles an emerald gorge of riparian opulence along Cave Creek. Known as the Jewel of the Creek, this cloistered oasis in the desert is managed by Desert Foothills Land Trust and is on high rotation for ranger-led events, especially in summer when cooler, early morning air and cottonwood shade offers welcome relief for heat-weary hikers. Although the beauty of this place is obvious, the rare and fragile site holds many secrets. Guided hikes reveal features that the casual trekker may walk right by without noticing. Ranger Smith uses archival photos and a deep knowledge of the area's natural history to point out remnants of the area's gold-mining heritage, ecological concerns, edible legumes, indigenous animal species and plants with super survival strategies. 
The Jewel of the Creek

Although ranger-led hikes offer extra safety and opportunities to gain knowledge about the desert wilds surrounding Metro Phoenix, it's important to remember to bring ample water and wear sun protection--hat, light weight long sleeves, SPF 30+ and sturdy footwear.
How much water do you need to bring on a hike? John C. Lincoln Health Network* offers these hydration tips.  Before hitting the trails, drink 16-20 ounces of water and then consume 6-10 ounces of fluid every 10-20 minutes while walking. So, for a 2-hour, easy hike, you'll need a minimum of 36-60 ounces of fluid (that's 2 to 4, 16 oz. bottles). You'll need even more during the heat of the day and when on strenuous trails. When in doubt--bring more water than you think you'll need.  You can always hand off your extra to a poor, dehydrated soul who didn't bring enough.
Ranger Smith talks about area mining history

GETTING THERE: 44000 N. Spur Cross Road, Cave Creek
From the intersection of Carefree Highway and Cave Creek Road head north on Cave Creek Road about 2.5 miles to Spur Cross Road. Turn north for approximately 4.5 miles to the parking area.  The last 1.5 miles can be confusing; continue north on the graded dirt road past the green house, through the tall gateposts and on past the horse corrals to the signed parking area on the right.
FEE: $3 daily fee per person (exact change required)
FACILITIES: restrooms
The Jewel of the Creek

INFO: Maricopa County Parks & Recreation, 480-488-6601
Desert Foothills Land Trust
*John C. Lincoln Health Network