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Monday, March 12, 2018


SPANISH RUINS, Mazatzal Wilderness
The mysterious monolith
The town of Payson at the base of the Mogollon Rim is a hiking hot spot with a diverse collection of trails. From creekside rambles (Horton Creek), grueling ascents (See Canyon), pine forest rambles (Highline Trail) and high desert cypress-and-boulder-centric paths of the Payson Area Trails System, there’s something for trekkers of every level. But if you want to hike outside the box; seek out the Payson Packers. The hiking group is a loose-knit, motley band of year-round and seasonal residents with a repertoire of classic and under-the-radar treks.
Hikers make the final scramble to the top.
They’ve been exploring around Rim Country and beyond for nearly 40 years.
Payson Packers working their way up to the ruins
There are probably about fifty or sixty folks who hike regularly with the Packers,” says Randy Cockrell who leads weekly hikes for the group.  The club’s 250 or so members communicate and plan hikes through an email chain. Even though there’s no club website, it’s not too difficult to find somebody who knows somebody on social media or hiker forums who can get you on the Packer hike invite list.
One of the Packer’s favorite excursions is a hike to the Spanish Ruins, an erroneously-credited Native American historical site. “It's atop a mesa west of Payson and is a lot of dry-stacked stone walls.  None of the experts can agree as to why the place was built, nor who built it,” Cockrell said.  The combination of sweaty exertion, vivid scenery and historical significance make the trek a perennial club destination. “I’ve been to the ruins about seven times and still enjoy taking friends and family there,” Cockrell shared.  “It’s close to town and a great spot for taking cool photos.”
The adventure begins with an 11-mile drive from town that dead-ends at the Doll Baby trailhead in the Mazatzal Wilderness. From the trailhead gate, the destination appears as a sheer, red-tinged plateau.
Randy Cockrell (L) of the Payson Packers at the metates
Although it’s just under two miles to the top, the hike is a steep, slippery slog. To get to the prize, pass the gate at the wilderness sign and begin hiking uphill on the dirt road.  Between gasping for breath and watching your step on the rocky treadway, be sure to look up occasionally to take in views of the cottonwood-lined course of the East Verde River and surrounding juniper-fleeced peaks.
Riparian corridor of the East Verde River
At the 1.4-mile point, go through a barbed wire gate (leave it as you found it) and pick up the narrow footpath on the left.  The next quarter mile plows abruptly uphill through manzanita and wiry scrub to a vertical cliff face where you’ll encounter two boulder obstacles that require hand-over-foot climbs to reach the summit.  From the mesa’s precipitous ledges, 360-degree views coupled with the kind of rush only dizzying, exposed heights can deliver are the hard-earned ROI.  To find the ruins, hike 0.1-mile south among ocotillo and insidious tangles of pants-grabbing cat claw and the haunting images of head-high stacked walls soon appear.
Ruins in the shadow of the Mazatzal Mountains
Although the history of the U-shaped complex is not known for sure, archeologists are certain that it’s not Spanish in origin.  The intricate fortress-like structure was likely built by Native Americans sometime before the 1400s.  With its eastern walls creeping up to a 500-foot drop off and the west side planted into the foothills of the Mazatzal Mountains above water-scoured basins, the purpose of the multi-room structure is a mystery. Jutting from the western wall is a roughly 7-foot-high upright monolith that strikes an arresting profile on the lichen-encrusted fortification. Whether the massive block was part of astronomical, protective, ceremonial or artistic endeavors, the deliberately-placed stone keeps its secrets close.  
"Pancake rocks" on the mesa
While visiting here, it’s important to remember that even though the site is well known and frequently visited, you’re walking within an irreplaceable heritage treasure.  Avoid touching, climb on or altering the precious artifacts. Nothing needs “fixing” here---leave everything as is.  To gain a deeper appreciation of the architectural ingenuity, look closely at how the walls were designed. Ancient, mortar-free technology used the art of cleaver rock stacking and the holding power of gravity to construct the walls that have remained intact for centuries.  
Payson Packers negotiate the final approach to the summit
South of the complex, a series of metates (grinding holes) worn into an oblong boulder whisper of human presence. The metates are situated at the mouth of a shallow cave and natural shelter of limestone overhangs that resemble layered pancakes.  Across the valley, you can see the zig zagging line of the Red Hills Passage of the Arizona Trail.
East Verde River
The remote and challenging route trickles off the slopes down to the East Verde River and LF Ranch which offers bunkhouse style accommodations for hikers.  From a niche in the wall near the monolith, the respite ranch with its known history and obvious purpose appears as a couple of dots near the river at the end of a twisting road.

LENGTH: 4 miles roundtrip
RATING: difficult
ELEVATION: 3360 – 4080 feet
From State Route 87 and Main Street in Payson, drive 10.9 miles west on Main and park at the Doll Baby trailhead. Main Street becomes Forest Road 406/ Doll Baby Ranch Road that’s mostly paved up to the 9-mile point.  There are a few rough, deeply rutted spots that require a high-clearance vehicle. The road gets very muddy and should be avoided when wet.

Monday, March 5, 2018


"A MISSION to GERRY’S GOINT": Arizona Trail Passage 15
Ray Mine near Kearny seen from the Arizona Trail
Uncle Scary hasn’t shaved since 1976. His white whiskers, gravelly voice and commanding presence scare the tar out of toddlers.  But everybody else in his adopted home town of Kearny
loves the vociferous old-timer who is sort of a one-man chamber of commerce for the tiny Pinal County community (population 1,950).  “We are The Friendliest Town along the Arizona National Scenic Trail”, boasts Gerry Kaufhold whose trail name is Uncle Scary. “We want to be the next Moab, only smaller”, he adds. 
Uncle Scary a.k.a Gerry Kaufhold
Kearny is a proud Arizona Trail Gateway Community that provides respite for long-distance hikers in need of a hot shower, a cold drink and a good meal while taking a “zero day” (rest day without hiking) from the 800-mile trek.  Business owners and residents alike have also been known to assist stranded thru-hikers with shuttle rides, lodging, food and showers when traditional resources are unavailable.  
It's all uphill from here. Cubby with Gary Birkett.
Pronounced Keer-nee (rhymes with fear knee) not Car-nee, thank you very much,
the mountain-bound mining town is an affable, who-knew kind of place with slow internet, fax machines and a visiting cardiologist who shows up once a month—usually. 
On the switchbacks of Arizona Trail Passage 15.
A delivery of fresh Honeycrisp apples to the local IGA can cause a stampede. “If you’re in a hurry; you don’t want to live in Kearny,” says Gary Birkett, owner of hiker hangout, Old Town Pizza. The hamlet strikes a pleasant equilibrium between frenzied big city life and the middle-of-nowhere, providing just what weary hikers need in terms of physical comforts but much more than they expect when it comes to emotional support. Hikers who wander through Kearny don’t stay strangers for long. 
Always on the prowl for newsy content for his next “picture-mentories” (promotional digital slideshows) about the town’s eclectic, often spontaneous welcome services, Kaufhold is perpetually working on projects he deems important to the town’s value as a travel destination.  His most recent endeavor was to determine whether the Arizona Trail is visible from town.  Like an itch that wouldn’t quit or a smoldering bar room bet, the conundrum was destined to be resolved and I was privileged to have been invited to participate in the pilgrimage of discovery.
On the flat.
Gorgeous desert plants and mountain vistas define the hike.
Although it was common knowledge that Passage 15 of the state-spanning Arizona Trail was out there somewhere in the mineral-bearing Tortilla Mountains just west of town, Kaufhold was fed up with not being able to accurately point to the site for curious visitors. To remedy the problem, he and Birkett decided that the only way to find out for sure was to climb to a highpoint on the trail and signal to somebody stationed back in town wielding a telephoto lens.  
Discovery of the "sweet spot".
Kaufhold (right) points out Kearny from Gerry's Goint.
“That would help us raise awareness of the trail for the townspeople and school children if they can see it without having to hike it,” Kaufhold said. The duo orchestrated an elaborate action plan. “Gary and I decided to hike up to the crest and hold up a bright orange banner while a photographer in town attempts to capture our achievement,” he added with a dose of determination.
Gary Birkett of Old Time Pizza at the trailhead.
To fulfill the mission, Kaufhold, Birkett, his dog Cubby and I made the 8-mile roundtrip trudge with a load of day-glow signal materials to find the sweet spot.  Turns out, we may have done this just in the nick of time.
The orange banner
You don’t have to be a hardcore trekker to experience the Arizona Trail in the happiest place between Oracle and Superior.  An out-and-back day hike is a rewarding trek with terrific views of the green riparian corridor of the Gila River and rugged back country. But the area is in for some major changes. “This is one (hike) you’ll want to experience soon as the route will likely need to be adjusted in the coming months,” says Matt Nelson, Arizona Trail Association Executive Director.  “There is a proposal for Asarco (mining company) to purchase a large swath of Arizona State Land to store excess mine tailings from the Ray Mine within the Ripsey Wash area. If approved, the Arizona Trail would be buried under a small mountain of waste rock. We would also lose the Florence-Kelvin Highway Trailhead,” Nelson said. “The good news is Asarco would fund the construction of 6.2 miles of new Arizona Trail nearby, as well as a replacement trailhead. The project would not impact Kearny, at least as far as I can tell. The positive side of the project is that it would extend the working life of the Asarco Ray Mine, which is a positive economic contributor to the area,” Nelson added. “There are many other projects that stand to impact the Arizona Trail even more, and part of my responsibility as Executive Director is staying on top of all of those, coordinating with land management agencies and project proponents to help them understand the significance of the trail and how we should all be working together to protect the resources most important to us all.”  Timelines for the reroute aren’t set but workaround plans are in place. Check the AZT website for updates.
Asarco Ray Mine near Kearny
Birkett's dog Cubby is a hiking pro.
We began hiking south from the Florence-Kelvin Trailhead shortly after sunrise with various obnoxiously bright materials in tow to use as signal devises.
The first two miles were easy going on a gentle grade among cholla, saguaros and Palo Verde-cluttered arroyos.  At the two-mile point, a gate marked the beginning of a relentless, switchback-enabled climb.  It’s an edge-hugging ascent that slithers uphill unpacking one epic vista after another before hitting a flat above the Copper Basin.  Here, the expansive, terraced trench of the Ray Mine shimmers in the distance while distinctive peaks and mesas like Teapot Mountain (4,485’) fill the horizon---but there was still no view of Kearny. Another mile (and what felt like 500 additional feet of up) later we rounded an elbow bend just before the trail began a downhill twist at the 4-mile point.  “This might be the place,” Kaufhold exclaimed.  Glinting nearly 1,500 feet below was the arched grid layout of the town with church, school, alfalfa field, lake and smelter all clearly visible. But, could the townspeople see us? 
Birkett and Kaufhold toast to a mission accomplished.
Kaufhold pulled out his trusty flip phone and called his “ground crew”.  “We’re ready to deploy the orange banner,” he instructed his spotters Sam and Carol Hosler, Dave and Jo Orzell and Tim Lusk who were standing by on Senator Chastain Boulevard with a gun scope and telephoto lens.  After about 10 minutes of phone banter, Kaufhold gave a mighty fist pump. “They see us!”  
Mission accomplished.
Decked out in bright orange and green, we celebrated like holligans on spring break. “Mission accomplished,” Kaufhold yelled, with arms held high.  As the sweet spot was located on an abrupt joint in the trail, I dubbed the spot “Gerry’s Goint”. At this festive moment, all we needed was some pizza and beer.  But wait; you can order up a party from this site and have it waiting for you back at the trailhead.  Birkett does so with a call to his pizza shop. He says that his town-to-trail pizza delivery service began by happenstance a few years ago in response to a call from two desperate travelers. They were hiking southbound on the Arizona Trail to the Mexico border when they found themselves totally spent and willing to pay anything (ANYTHING) for him to bring pizza and beer to them on the trail.  It happened, the word got out and now it’s de rigueur for Passage 15/16 trekkers to partake of Old Time Pizza.
"Ground Crew" photo of our location on the trail.
With the trail location identified and photo documentation in the bag, Gerry needs a new project.  On the way back to the trailhead, Kaufhold intercepted every hiker we passed to learn about their adventures and inform them of Kearny’s many fine points. The town has it all-- a laundromat, "the best hotel between Superior and Tucson", options for delivering trail supply boxes, hippie tie-dye parties and a population willing to lend a hand. 
"Ground Crew" telephoto shot of us on the trail.
Back at the trailhead, a large pizza in a warming koozy arrived right on time.  Not to be outdone by Birkett’s five-star service, Kaufhold produced a cooler of frosty Stella Artois beer he had stashed in his vehicle.  We gorged and swapped trail stories with passing hikers using a metal water cache box as a table.
When taking a trail break in Kearny, you might find Uncle Scary channeling Forrest Gump’s run on Highway 177 or chatting up the crowds at Old Time Pizza.  Buy him a beer and he’ll direct you to Gerry's Goint while sharing tales of how he got his colorful trail name (it involves a 3-year-old) and his ideas for future picture-mentries.  Although he looks like the kind of guy who could shoulder-hoist a $19.99 thirty-pack, he’s a man of discriminating tastes.  Only Stella will do.

LENGTH: 8 miles round trip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2,058 - 3,320 feet
From U.S. 60 in Superior, head 15.3 miles south on State Route 177 to the railroad tracks. Turn right (west) onto the Florence-Kelvin Highway, go over a single lane bridge (under construction) and continue 2.7 miles to the Florence-Kelvin Road trailhead at milepost 29. Roads are paved up to the last 2 miles which are on sedan-friendly dirt.
Arizona Trail Association
Old Time Pizza
370 Alden Rd Kearny

Monday, February 19, 2018


Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area, Kingman
View of the Monolith Garden area from Camp Beale Loop
Hikers, be forewarned; you might find yourself hitting the brakes while traveling through Kingman on State Route 93.  Several trailheads tucked among hulking white cliffs and a surreal landscape of mesas and buttes beckon hike-inclined travelers to take a detour of discovery on an eclectic collection of trails just off this bleak strip of highway in Arizona’s far northwest corner.
A wash of volcanic black sand below the trail
The Cerbat Hills Recreation Area in northwest Kingman has four interconnected routes, each with unique attractions. Camp Beale Trail, which sits at the heart of the system, offers a moderate day hike that links to the area’s more than 17 miles of trails. For newbies, it’s a good place to start.  At just over 3 miles in length, the Camp Beale Loop gives a scenic overview of the system with less than 500 feet of climbing.  From the trailhead, head right, following the well-defined path as it begins its ascent.  Almost immediately, you'll be treated to epic views of the Hualapai Mountains to the southeast that rise to over 8000 feet at the edge of the Mojave Desert.
Camp Beale Trail
These pine-capped volcanic sky islands jut 4000 feet above dusty creosote-populated plains. Sometimes, snow lingers on the high peaks through spring.  As the hike progresses uphill, huge panoramic vistas of the Grand Wash Cliffs and Hualapai Valley unwind with every few feet of elevation gained.  Next, the route ducks into a gorge where soft black sand scoured from ebony-colored lava flows lines a wash that wiggles though grasslands and stands of sharp yucca. 
Grand Wash Cliffs and Hualapai Valley
The short canyon segment morphs into another uphill trudge that ends at roughly the half-way point where benches mark the highpoint and the junction for the 4.45-mile Castle Rock Trail that heads north to a regal, turreted rock formation. Here, first glimpses of the Monolith Garden area appear to the south. The vertical silhouettes of the granite “monoliths” that stand like dominos (or Legos as I overheard a kid on the trail describe them) are the signature attractions of the Monolith Garden Loop that can be accessed via a junction farther down the Beale trail or a dedicated trailhead across SR 93.
Hualapai Mountains
The return leg of the loop bends around basalt outcroppings, deep gullies and cacti-blanketed slopes as it makes an easy decent. Keep an eye out for tiny quartz crystals blooming from lumps of russet lava scattered along this final section.  You’ll cross the black sand wash one last time before coming full circle. But, the adventure has one more stop.
Cerbat Foothills
On the way out on Camp Beale Drive, look for the 
Camp Beale Spring historic site on the right.  A permit is required to walk within the property, however, an historic marker and a monument outside of the grounds give special insight to the area’s rich and sometimes tragic past.
Monolith Garden area seen from Camp Beale Trail

Camp Beale Springs Historic Site
LENGTH: 3.26-mile loop
Other Linking Trails:
Badger Trail - 3.20 miles
Castle Rock Trail - 4.45 miles
Monolith Garden Loop—7 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 3640 – 4100 feet
From the Interstate 40/State Route 93 In Kingman take exit 40. Continue 0.5-mile to Fort Beale Drive, turn right and go 1.3 mile to the signed trailhead access road on the left and continue 0.2 mile to the parking area.


Monday, February 12, 2018



Cave Creek Regional Park
Slate Trail
The site of Cave Creek Regional Park has a storied history. 
Cactus sprouts
Before there were hiking trails, campgrounds and picnic ramadas, the park and its surroundings were used by the ancient Hohokam people, mine operations, farms and ranches.  The park’s relics of human endeavors are transient compared to its geological features.  Although the 2,922-acre site has been picked over by prospectors in search of gold deposits that never quite materialized, the peaks, gullies and bizarre curiosities borne of earth’s disruptive forces remain basically unchanged since before humans arrived. 
Jasper and Quartz
Taking a moderate-rated loop stroll on the Slate, Quartz and Go John trails reveals a wonderland of rock while staying (mostly) away from the park’s busiest routes.
Slate Trail departs from a paved parking area with restrooms, heading east on an easy-to-follow, wash-addled tread.   During the first stretch, minor outcroppings of vertical-tilted metamorphic rocks –the “slate”—begin to pop up along the trail. Then, just beyond the half-mile point, the scaly gray slabs take center stage. The outcroppings balloon in size running amok on and around the route.   Patches of Palo verde and ironwood trees provide a little shade, but mostly, this hike is open to the sky.
The fin-like rocks form a scrub board surface littered with chunks of milky quartz and blood-red jasper. Some formations jut skyward in shark fin style while others lean in stony waves with tiny cacti sprouting from cracks where splits in the decomposing rock harbor just enough moisture to nurse plants to viability. At the 0.6-mile point, head north on the Quartz Trail for a walk past a gigantic mound of white stone that stands near a bend where a crack in the hilly terrain reveals views of mountains on the western horizon.
This 1.4-mile section follows the contours of several small peaks before it connects with Go John Trail for the return trip. Go John is the longest and most heavily-used trail in the system. Park trails are also used by a nearby horse outfitter that offers guided rides and the swooping, undulating nature of Go John makes it a popular choice for mountain bikers.  So, keep an eye out for speeding bikes and plodding equine parades. Hikers should always yield to horse traffic by stepping off the trail and following the directions of the riders.  From the Quartz-Go John junction, head left, continue 0.9-mile to the Jasper Trail, turn left and hike 0.4 mile back to the trailhead, enjoying the scattered gems and crunchy slate underfoot.
Go John Trail

Quartz Trail

LENGTH:  3.2-mile loop
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2060 - 2300 feet
From Carefree Highway in Cave Creek, go 1.5 miles north on 32nd Street to the park entrance. Follow the main road past the visitor center and park at the Slate Trailhead.

Monday, February 5, 2018


View of Capitol Butte (Thunder Mountain) from Ridge Trail
Recent trail development in the southwest corner of Sedona has added miles of fresh dirt in the hilly terrain between Airport Mesa and Oak Creek.  Routes like Skywalker, Scorpion and Pyramid are terrific supplements that connect to a maze of old standards, providing additional access points and myriad opportunities to create loop treks. 
Wilson Mountain seen from Carroll Canyon Trail
Before exploring the new and shiny, take a walk on the original, well-worn Carroll Canyon Area Trails for an overview of the what makes this pocket of high desert and deeply scoured gullies so special.  Downloadable forest service maps and signs posted throughout make the system easy to navigate the core trails--Carrol Canyon, Ridge, Herkenham and Old Post.  Whichever way you lace this one up, be sure to include the 1.8-mile Carroll Canyon Trail because you won’t want to miss the best part—a dizzying traverse above a twisting limestone valley.
Here’s one circuit to try. 
Smoke Tree
From the Old Post trailhead, hike 1.1 mile uphill through patches of thorny Smoke Trees and yuccas with big views of Courthouse Butte, Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock on the southern horizon.  Turn right onto Carroll Canyon Trail and get ready for more stunning beauty. The route ascends along jagged sandstone and rough-cut steps to emerge at a scenic vista point. Here, glimpses of Capitol Butte (a.k.a. Thunder Mountain) and the flat-topped form of Wilson Mountain appear to the north.  
View of famous Sedona formations seen from Old Post Trail
The trail then ducks into juniper-cypress woodlands before rounding a bend where the contorted course of Carroll Canyon rolls out below.  A short passage hugs the lip of the steep-walled gorge that plunges 200 feet with views of Oak Creek and its surrounding floodplains peeking through the cracks.  It’s a queasy, edgy walk that ends with a descent into the first of several boulder-cluttered wash crossings.  Once through the wash, the route enters a savannah-like grassland, fringed with mesquite and the occasional cottonwood. 
One of several wash crossings on the route
At the next junction, pick up the Ridge Trail, hike 0.7-mile north and reconnect with the Old Post Trail for the final leg of the loop.  But the scenic wonders aren’t done yet. The back end of the circuit keeps delivering surprises.  
The limestone abyss of Carroll Canyon
Sunny plains sliced and diced into a jigsaw puzzle of flat fields, abrupt climbs and a web of water-whittled muddy ravines define the trail as it brushes past suburban homes before a powerline signals the final descent back to the trailhead.
A Shady passage of Carroll Canyon Trail
LENGTH: 5.5 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  4090 to 4440 feet
From the State Route 179/89A traffic circle in Sedona, go 4 miles west (toward Cottonwood) on 89A to Upper Red Rock Loop (Forest Road 216). Turn left and continue 1.8 miles to Chavez Ranch Road (Forest Road 216A), turn left and go 0.1 mile to the Old Post trailhead on the left.
INFO: Coconino National Forest

Monday, January 29, 2018


Rincon Mountain District, Saguaro National Park
Hope Camp
The Hope Camp historic site sits near the base of the Rincon Mountains wrapped in high desert grasslands, flood plains and thorny vegetation.  What remains of the long-abandoned cattle-herding camp is a barbed wire addled spread of dusty concrete troughs, corroded water tanks and a windmill that’s seen better days.  
View of the Rincon Mountains from Hope Camp Trail
This quiet pocket of relics and the trail that leads to it is now part of the Saguaro National Park Rincon District outside of Tucson.  The dilapited watering hole is the end cap of a remarkable trek and one of many points of interest hikers will encounter on the Hope Camp Trail.  From the Loma Alta trailhead that sits at the edge of Tucson’s eastern suburbs, the route reveals its treasures at a leisurely, constant pace beginning with a stroll on a wide dirt two-track popular with equestrians and mountain bikers.  The initial scene is one of sparse vegetation and little shade, but as the trail begins its descent into Rincon Valley, the landscape explodes with greenery.  At the one-mile point, Deer Camp appears in a depression off to the left.  A collection of rusty metal contraptions and crumbling troughs afflicted with the kind of decay that intrigues rather than offends, sits below a creaky windmill. 
Hope Camp windmill
With half its blades missing and the others dangling like loose teeth, the spider-like tower is a ghostly heirloom of a bygone era.  The trail then enters a mesquite-shaded stretch of washes and intermittent creeks before heading uphill to the hike’s biggest ooo-ahh moment. A short climb reveals a sprawling valley backed by the pine-juniper capped Rincon Mountains that rise to over 8000 feet.  
Hope Camp Trail is within Saguaro National Park
Clambering down from this highpoint vista, you’ll pass among stands of enormous saguaros, cholla and ocotillo before connecting with the Arizona Trail Passage 9 for the final half-mile walk to Hope Camp.  An arch of wooden benches beneath a patch of mesquite trees makes for a good place to take a break and explore the scrappy artifacts that groan and clink in mountain-borne breezes.  The toppled blade wheel of the Hope Camp windmill rests bent and broken at its base.  Look up and you’ll notice a famous name on the tail vane: F. Ronstadt.  Federico Jose Maria Ronstadt arrived in Tucson from Mexico as a teenager in 1882 and became a major contributor to the town’s pre-statehood commerce and culture.
Deer Camp
His business ventures in blacksmithing, wagon making, hardware and pharmacy are legendary. If Tucson were to  elect a “first family”, the Ronstadts would be strong contenders. In addition to his business and civic acumen, Ronstadt’s love of music led to the establishment of one of Tucson’s first orchestras--
Club Filarmonico Tucsonense.  Best known among the musical family members is Federico’s granddaughter, singer Linda Ronstadt.  
Hope Camp relics
Drenched in pioneer spirit, the Ronstadt family legacy is a permanent part of Arizona history. Hope Camp; not so much.  Who knows how long it will be before desert sand, encroaching shrubs and consumption obscure the site from memory.
Beneath the windmill, tucked among rusty-nail planks and unidentifiable tangled bits, a giant saguaro cactus skeleton trapped in the clutch of encroaching tree branches stands frozen, arms to the sky as if locked in a contest with its mechanical neighbor to see which can stay standing the longest.
Rincon Mountains
LENGTH: 5.6 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 3,120 – 3,360 feet
From Interstate 10 in Tucson, take the Speedway exit 257 and go 14.2 miles east to N. Freeman Road.  Turn right (south) on Freeman and continue 3.5 miles to a stop sign. Veer left onto Old Spanish Trail and follow the signs to the Saguaro National Park Rincon Visitor Center to purchase your $15 pass which is good for 7 days. (There are several pass options; visit the park website for details.)With pass in hand, circle back and continue 7 miles south on Old Spanish Trail to S. Camino Loma Alta. Turn left (north) and go 2.5 miles to the trailhead.  The last half-mile is on rough dirt passable by carefully-driven passenger cars.  Dogs are not allowed.