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Monday, January 30, 2023

V Lazy Y Cabin


V Lazy Y Cabin in Coconino National Forest

Welcome. July 1959.  The words etched into a concrete step at V Lazy Y Cabin place the now dilapidated homestead in Coconino National Forest squarely in an era of souped-up Chevys, sock hops and television as the big new thing.

Rustic fence along FR 142G

The structure, which is the centerpiece of a rickety ranch spread with barn, well, corrals and an outhouse, remain standing by the courtesy of decades of patch jobs, its corrugated metal roof sagging over boarded up windows and asphalt shingles slapped on in willy-nilly style.
Icy pool in a draw along FR 142G

What looks like a fruit tree, near the end of its lifecycle, grows by the front porch.
Coyote tracks in snow on FR 142G. Jan. 28, 2023

Shaded by a stand of tall Ponderosa pines, the site is located 1.5 miles north of State Route 260, 23 miles east of Camp Verde. Forest Road 142G, one of several rough dirt roads that wander among the juniper-studded terrain, runs by the cabin complex and can be used for an easy, scenic hike.

Stick-and-wire fence surrounds the cabin site

Barn at the V Lazy Y Cabin site

The cabin is situated in open rangeland between West Clear Creek Wilderness and Fossil Springs Wilderness. 

Decades of repair work visible on V Lazy Y Cabin

Compared to the jaw-dropping scenery of the water-carved wilderness areas that buffer its north and south edges, the grassy pastures, shallow draws and low hills around the cabin site embody a stark beauty, the kind that needs time to bloom in the brain—the kind that only blossoms with a long walk and immersion into the quiet mysteries of the remains of a Mid-Century home on the range.
A message from the past at V Lazy Y Cabin

The trek into the past begins where the unsigned forest road crosses a cattle guard. The road  passes by the junction with the General Crook Trail before heading north through scrubland with hazy mountain vistas peeking out over the horizons. A stick-and-barbed-wire fence line runs the length of the road, meeting up with a major corral complex about a mile in. 

FR 142G crosses General Crook Trail

Cabin site viewed from FR 142G

Beyond the corrals, the ranch appears on the west side of the twisted two-track.  It’s easy to envision the weather-ravaged structures in their prime as purpose-built: unfussy and utilitarian. 
Corral near V Lazy Y Cabin

Snow in Coconino National Forest. Jan. 28, 2023.

Bales of wire, rusted gates and a smattering of broken furniture lie about in disuse.  What can sound sort of like rustling livestock is only wind pushing through open doors and cracks in walls.
Well pump and water tank at V Lazy Y Cabin.

Around the back, a large, rusted water tank and well pump speak to the self-sufficiently required of a place like this one.  Less than two miles from the highway, yet more than a half-century removed from the present, the cabin stands as a reminder of simpler times, livestock roundups and a working life in the outdoors.
The trailhead on FR 142G

LENGTH: 3 miles round trip

RATING: easy

ELEVATION: 5,870 – 5,960 feet


From Interstate 17 in Camp Verde, take the State Route 260 exit 287 and continue 23 miles east (toward Payson) to Forest Road 142 G on the left between mileposts 241 and 242. Forest Road 142 G is not signed, but there’s a stop sign and a cattle guard a few yards up the road. Park in the dirt turnouts along the road.




Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Rawhide Wash


Hiking in Rawhide Wash is tougher than it looks

The sandy gap between the Axle Grease and Hawknest trails attracts a lot of horses.  The north-south running ribbon of soft stuff in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a perfect substrate for hoofed travelers. But, for bikers and hikers, not so much.

View of Cave Creek Mountains from Rawhide Wash

That is, unless the goal is to get the outdoor equivalent of a stair stepper gym workout. Even though the 4.2-mile route is mostly flat, wide, and easy to follow, its shifting grains put extra pressure on leg and foot muscles, including some that ordinarily don’t protest. 
The first mile of Rawhide Wash is on standard dirt trail

The drag of the sand slows the pace, which in this case is a good thing because there’s plenty to see along the ephemeral desert spillway.  Beginning at the Pima-Dynamite trailhead, the first mile is a normal dirt singletrack that swings among some spectacular saguaro specimens. The work begins where the trail touches a walk-in gate on Pima Road before bending east following the natural corridor of velvety grit.
Avoid desert washes during and after rain storms

The impact of sand versus compact dirt is felt right away. The rhythm of wash walking is one of shallow sinking, pulling, and wobbling that, unlike hiking regular trails, demands more attention to what's underfoot.  Flood debris, hidden stones and uprooted trees and shrubs are common encounters that douse the trail with a wild flavor.
Rawhide Wash seen from Basalt Ridge Overlook

The ragged edges are also reminders of the power of running water.
Buckwheat blooms February through June

That’s why it’s smart to avoid desert washes like this one during and immediately following rainstorms.  Lined with Palo Verde, mesquite, hackberry trees, and wolfberry shrubs the wash meanders in a northeast arch on the Preserve’s far north west edge. 
Desert Wishbone blooms March through October

Springtime brings a plethora of colorful wildflowers that thrive in the loose, disrupted soils.  Ubiquitous Mexican poppies, desert lavender, brittlebush, desert marigolds, buckwheat, and globemallows are easy to spot while the tiny blooms of Red Maids, Desert Rock Pea and Desert Wishbone are rarer sightings.

Wolfberry shrubs bear orange fruits in late spring

The wash trail ends at Browns Ranch Road below the Basalt Ridge Overlook where hikers may consult preserve maps to either backtrack or return via one of several intersecting trails that dial down the quad-burning demands on tired legs.

LENGTH: 4.2 miles one way

RATING: easy-moderate

ELEVATION: 2,310- 2,613 feet


Pima-Dynamite Trailhead

28777 N Pima Rd. Scottsdale


Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Cholla Loop


View from near the summit of Cholla Loop

No stranger to hikers in search of a summit, the Arrowhead Point Trail in Glendale’s Thunderbird Conservation Park gets plenty of love.

An edge-hugging section of Cholla Loop

The 1.5-mile route crushes its way up to a familiar mountaintop cairn and American flag by way of compressed switchbacks.
Brittlebush bloom profusely in the park

It’s a great way to get a quick workout and enjoy the company of other hikers. But for those who prefer a longer, slightly less strenuous, and crowded alternative--there’s a flip side. 
A gentle descent on the trail's western leg

The Cholla Loop is located across 55th Avenue which bisects the 1,185-acre park in the Hedgpeth Hills.  One of 8 paths that make up the park’s 15-mile non-motorized trail system Cholla Loop may be accessed two ways from the Pinnacle Peak Road  trailhead. 
New River Mesa on the horizon

For direct access and to get most of the steep climbing done early in the hike, walk a few yards west from the parking area, cross 55th Ave and follow the trail signs. After a short warmup section, the trail takes on the hill in zig-zag format, climbing steadily among volcanic boulder fields, rockslides, and acres of blooming brittlebush.
Scorpionweed is a bright early bloomer

Several level spots on the way up  afford excellent views of the north Valley, surrounding suburbs, distant mountain ranges and parade of hikers scaling Arrowhead Point. The saguaro-ringed high point is attained about a mile in. 
Use Coach Whip trail to tie up the loop

Here, vistas extend to include the skyline of Downtown Phoenix and the long profile of New River Mesa. 
View of Arrowhead Point from Cholla Loop

Shaded only by an occasional Palo Verde tree, the trail departs the highpoint on a series of edge-hugging, but less severe switchbacks, swinging along the hill’s northeast face in an in an undulating style that adds to the hike's over 700 feet of accumulated elevation change.
Thunderbird Park is an island of natural space.

A quick slingshot turn takes the trail over to the west face for its final descent where it meets a pedestrian bridge where hikers can pick up the Coach Whip Trail for return leg of the trip.
Looking west from Cholla Loop

LENGTH: 3.9 miles

RATING:  moderate - difficult

ELEVATION: 1,353 – 1,812 feet (771 feet of accumulated elevation change)


Pinnacle Peak Road trailhead:

From Interstate 17 in Phoenix, take the Pinnacle Peak Road exit 217 and follow Pinnacle Peak Road 3.7 miles west to the park entrance on the left just before the traffic light at 55th Ave.

FACILITIES: picnic ramadas, wildlife observation areas

HOURS: sunrise to sunset daily


City of Glendale

Friday, January 6, 2023

Javelina Summit Trail


Brittlebush colors the Tortuga Trail

One of four difficult-rated summit hikes in the Skyline Regional Park in Buckeye, the Javelina Summit doesn’t scrimp on thrills.  The 0.9-mile-long trail spools off connecting routes in the park’s far east end. 

View from the Javelina Summit Trail

While it’s “just” a 745-foot climb from trail base to summit, that accounts for less than half the story.
Javelina Summit (right) viewed from Tortuga Trail

Getting to the 2,200-foot mountain highpoint involves using three trails and logging over 1,700 feet of accumulated elevation change.
Hike begins on tehe Quartz Mine Trail

The rollercoaster-style trek starts from the main trailhead area with a 1.6-mile hike on the Quartz Mine Trail. About a half mile in, first peeks at the destination loom on the horizon. The prominent ridgeline rising over foothills and valleys looks imposing. And irresistible!
Beginning of the Javelina Summit Trail

The undulating path winds through washes and slopes below ragged ridges and stone outcroppings before making an ascent to a saddle where the Tortuga Trail spins off to the east.
Brittlebush are plentiful in Skyline Regional Park

The Tortuga Trail leg of the hike takes back much of the elevation gained with a smooth downhill on long lazy switchbacks. At the half-mile point, the route encounters its final segment, the 0.9-mile Javelina Summit Trail.
View of the White Tank Mountains

It's here where the real work begins. While the lower quarter mile feels just moderate and has a few level bends, the climbing becomes an unrelenting uphill haul with loose rock and a fair amount of exposure. The trail is well engineered but still very steep and precipitous as it clamors along a knife-edge sharp, rocky backbone. Persistence and careful footwork pay off on the tiny summit.

Rock outcropping on Tortuga Trail

Javelina Summit Trail is steep and edgy.

The airy pinnacle displays 360-degree vistas of the southern White Tank Mountains, the distant profile of Downtown Phoenix, the Sierra Estrella Mountains and sprawling desert plains.

LENGTH: 5.8 miles round trip (out and back hike)

RATING: difficult

ELEVATION: 1,312 – 2,200 feet (over 1,700 feet of accumulated elevation change)


Skyline Regional Park, 2600 N. Watson Road, Buckeye.

From Interstate 10 in Buckeye, take the Watson Road exit 117 and go 2 miles north to the park. Roads are paved.

HOURS: Sunrise to sunset daily


FACILITIES: restrooms, picnic ramadas, camping


Skyline Regional Park

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Second Water Trail


Mountain vistas on Second Water Trail

Garden Valley, on the western edge of the 160,200-acre Superstition Wilderness, is one of those places that sears vivid images into the memories of those who trek through it. 

Chain fruit cholla in Garden Valley

Rife with otherworldly scenes of desert life in an environment sculpted out of ancient volcanic ash, the area’s story arc spools out from violent origins, cataclysmic geological events, erosion and resurgence.

Globemallow bloom year-round in Garden Valley

Between 25 and 15 million years ago the craggy backcountry was a roiling cauldron of molten rock and white-hot ash that eventually collapsed on itself forming a series of depressions called calderas.  The grand scale “super-volcano” activity was like what’s incubating beneath Yellowstone National Park right now.

Flatiron (center left) seen from Second Water Trail

Ringed by mesas, mountain ranges and bizarre pillars and piles of solidified ash or “welded tuff”, the yawning basins have settled into a quiet old age marked by a slow-motion epoch of falling apart.

Four Peaks viewed from Second Water Trail

 The Second Water Trail offers an approachable option for exploring this haunting hinterland of rugged terrain and mysterious tales of hidden gold caches and lost souls.
Lush desert plants on Second Water Trail

Beginning at the First Water trailhead that’s located roughly 45 miles from Downtown Phoenix near Apache Junction, Trail No. 236 is accessed by following the Dutchmans Trail 0.3-mile to the first signed junction.
Hackberry Mesa (left) rises over Second Water Trail

Twisting over slickrock and sections of crumbling stone, the trail bends northeast, flanking scoured gorges above the course of First Water Creek.
Petrified volcanic ash in First Water Creek

Recent wildfire damage has left spots of charred cholla and scarred saguaros, but expansive views of the Goldfield Mountains, Superstition ridgeline, the Flatiron and iconic Weaver’s Needle remain as breathtaking as ever.
White bladderpod blooms Jan - May

The trail swings by the junctions for Black Mesa and Hackberry Spring trails which may be used to build longer loop hikes.
Rugged terrain along Second Water Trail

Second Water trail continues through a series of rocky uphill segments that land hikers in the heart of Garden Valley—a sprawling flatland dominated by chain fruit cholla, prickly pear cacti, jojoba, mesquite, hackberry shrubs and fields of wildflowers.
Desert vegetation in Garden Valley

Superstition Ridgeline on the horizon

This once botanically lush plateau took a major wildfire hit, but many survivor specimens and green sprouts pushing out from deadwood hint at recovery.
Weaver's Needle stands out over Second Water Trail

Here, the massive forms of Hackberry Mesa, Four Peaks and the mountains around Canyon Lake to the north begin to stand out on the horizon. Plant life grows more robust as the route starts a spiral down into a reedy, damp gorge where it intersects the Boulder Canyon Trail, the turnaround point for the hike.

Jojoba shrubs and saguaros on Second Water Trail

A major geological upheaval notwithstanding, the slow-burn erosion and superficial smudges incurred regularly on the Second Water Trail are barely perceivable over a single human lifetime.
A rocky ascent on Second Water Trail


Fires, rock falls, flood displacements and seasonal transitions are like costume changes in a long-running show with ear worm tunes that hijack the mind but somehow never get old.

Saguaros clutter a ridge above Boulder Canyon

LENGTH: 7 miles round-trip (out-and-back hike)
RATING: Easy-Moderate
ELEVATION: 1,940 to 2,420 feet (878 feet of accumulated elevation change)


From Phoenix, go east on US 60 to exit 196 for Idaho Road (State Route 88). Turn left and follow Idaho to SR88, turn right and continue to First Water Road (Forest Road 78), which is located about a half mile past the entrance to Lost Dutchman State Park (between mileposts 201 and 202) and is signed for First Water Trailhead. Turn right and go 2.6 miles to the trailhead. Forest Road 78 is maintained dirt with some potholes and washboard sections passable by carefully driven sedan.

INFO: Mesa Ranger District, Tonto National Forest