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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fruits of the Desert Guided Hikes

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, Cave Creek
Saguaro fruits ripen in early July
The Rim is on fire, Flagstaff is covered in smoke, there's a blaze on Mt.Graham and who knows what other wildfires will break out and cause closures to our high-country hiking trails over the next few weeks?  Of course, we must first be concerned with the safety of firefighters and the communities surrounding the blazes. No matter how badly we Valley dwellers want to escape the heat and hike in the cool pines, we should stay out of the way. So, what? Give up hiking until the monsoon comes? No way. Instead, stay in town and take part in a hike that celebrates the annual ripening of saguaro fruits.  Ranger Kevin Smith at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area in Cave Creek has educational hikes planned for July 1, 7 and 8 that focus on the identification of wild foods hiding in plain sight along local trails.
Harvesting saguaro fruits
The treks start early and end before the heat of day kicks in. Ranger Smith leads participants into the hills above Cave Creek and demonstrates traditional techniques for harvesting cactus fruits and other desert delicacies.  And, yes, the tour includes free tastes. So, why not learn a little bit about native Sonoran Desert edibles while getting your exercise and waiting for the rains to return. There’s no need to sign up, just show up promptly at 7 a.m.
Plus, this program is part of the “County Parks are Getting Wet 
‘n’ Wild this Summer” promotion. At the end of the hikes, there will be a drawing for a family four-pack (4 free tickets) to the Wet ‘n’ Wild Water Park.
Engelmann prickly pear fruit
LENGTH: variable but usually 2-3 miles
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 2,200' - 2,800'
Tasty jojoba seeds

From Loop 101 in north Phoenix, exit at Cave Creek Road and drive 15 miles north to Spur Cross Ranch Road, turn left and continue 4.2 miles to the parking lot on the left.
FEE: $3 per person permit required. Bring exact change for the self-serve pay station.

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