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Posts Tagged ‘Arizona Trail Presentation’

Woman with a backpack stands next to a sign that says Arizona National Scenic Trail

Arizona Trail thru-hike completion at the Utah border

Listen to a short interview on Cascade Hikers Podcast about the talk and the Arizona Trail!

I am thrilled that my company, Trails Inspire, is partnering with the Arizona Office of Tourism to bring two presentations on hiking the Arizona National Scenic Trail to the REI Flagship store in Seattle, Washington, 222 Yale Street. The AZT traverses “sky island” mountain ranges, the Sonoran Desert, the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest, the Grand Canyon, and 9,000-foot peaks.

I will be doing a photographic tour of the 800-mile trail from Mexico to Utah and sharing stories as well as tips and tricks for planning your own hike!

The talks are free but registration is required – register at the links below.

1:00 – 2:30 pm Saturday, February 10th: https://www.rei.com/event/hiking-the-arizona-national-scenic-trail/seattle/196596

2:00 – 3:30 pm Sunday, February 11th: https://www.rei.com/event/hiking-the-arizona-national-scenic-trail/seattle/196597

 

Please share with friends and hope to see you there!

Here’s a short film on the Arizona Trail and my 2014 thru-hike:

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My readers that live in Arizona are no doubt aware of the fact that the state is planning to close most of the state parks due to lack of funding. Without getting into too long of a rant, I think it is unconscionable that this is the way that the state plans on solving its budget shortfalls. One of Arizona’s main industries is tourism, and closing most of the state parks is a horrible, short-sighted way to save money. Besides, we still have to clarify what “closing a state park” means. Does it just give free reign to whomever can jump the fence or arrive via an alternate route? What about the state parks that have precious archaeological resources, like Homolovi Ruins? Do we just close these parks and hope that everyone is good stewards of the land and doesn’t take advantage of the closed status to go looting? The impending closings made it imperative that I check out two state parks before they closed: Picacho Peak SP and Lost Dutchman, both slated to close in June.

Lost Dutchman State Park in bloom

In Tucson, if the springtime is good for wildflowers, a trip up Picacho Peak is a must-do. The name is actually redundant, “picacho” means peak in Spanish, so it translates to “Peak Peak”. I hiked the steeper and more direct Hunter Trail last Monday, which takes off a short distance from the fee station. The trail climbs to the top of the peak in a short but steep 2 miles. I started early to beat the crowds, and I’m glad I did, because on the way down the trail was getting pretty crowded, even on a weekday. There were big patches of yellow poppies in bloom as I made my way up to the saddle.

Poppies and Lupine at Picacho

After the saddle, the fun begins- there are cables bolted to the mountain so that there is something to hold on to while descending steeply from the saddle- my pictures barely show the steepness. This is a good point to put away the hiking poles and put on some gloves to grip the cables.

Cables bolted into the mountain to ease yourself down from the saddle

Several parts of the trail have the cables- since I had an early start I encountered no one going up or down at the same time, but at the narrowest part of the trail I met Bill Cole, from Phoenix, out to enjoy the park before its scheduled closing. I was happy that I was doing this hike on a weekday, because there is no opportunity for two-way travel on some of the parts of the trail- I would have had to spend a bunch of time waiting. I was on a bit of a time crunch this morning because I had to get back to ready the house for visitors that were coming that night. I haven’t hiked this trail in several years and I was surprised to see how much precarious (albeit protected) climbing there was to get to the summit.

Trickiest part with the bolted cables

The trickiest part went straight up the rock with great foot and hand holds. I unfortunately got my hiking poles (which were stowed in my pack) caught up in the cables and had to gingerly extricate myself before continuing on. When I arrived at the summit there was a couple just heading back down, so I had the summit to myself. There were wonderful views in every direction, and a Harris’ Antelope Squirrel that was searching for any dropped snacks.

Antelope squirrel action shot!- click to enlarge

Posing for a picture, hoping for some snacks

As I was coming down from the peak, I decided to go check out the peak to the north for some views of Picacho:

Picacho Peak from the peak to the north

I was really glad that I got an early start, because on my way down, I met many hikers headed for the peak, and even more people at the trailhead poppy-peeping. I talked to several groups that said that they were out there to catch the views before they closed the park.

Poppies!!

Later in the week, I had to go to Phoenix to do two Arizona Trail Talks at both of the REI locations, so I took the opportunity to visit another park that is scheduled to close in June, Lost Dutchman State Park. I have been hearing about this hike called the Flatiron for a while now, so I decided to finally do this hike while I was in Phoenix for my talks. It turned out to be a perfect hike! I am somewhat disenchanted with dayhiking lately. For a dayhike to wow me, it’s got to be a good “bang for the buck” kind of hike. I have also recently gotten very into scrambling, which is basically hiking so rugged you have to use your hands to pull yourself up in places. The Flatiron definitely fit the bill! I hit the trail by 7:15. The trail to the Flatiron gets progressively more difficult as you leave the trailhead- from wide, flat trail to a  well-maintained steeper portion and progressing to a scramble topped with a 10-foot wall to climb right as you reach the saddle.

Flatiron on the right, the chute to climb to get there in the center

As I reached the more difficult parts of the trail, I met a group of hikers that lived in nearby Mountainbrook Village. Several of the hikers had been to the Flatiron before, so I was able to follow them and use the path of least resistance, marked with spray-painted blue or white dots on the rock.

Looking back toward the chute I scrambled up

The 10-foot wall that I had heard so much about wasn’t too bad, just required a little thought into the hand and foot placement, and before I knew it, I had reached the saddle. Thankfully, my early start meant that the bulk of the climb was done in the shade, this would be one toasty hike at the wrong time of the day. At the saddle you can go right to the Flatiron or left toward Peak 5024. The group I tagged along with headed over to nearby Peak 5024, and I was glad I followed them. There were some parts that required me to take my pack off and shimmy underneath a passage in the boulders and hoodoos. This is one of my favorite parts of the Superstitions that I have been to thus far.

Hoodoos on the way to Peak 5024

The summit was spectacular! Views all the way south to the snow-covered Catalinas near my home in Tucson, a view of Weaver’s Needle and the interior of the Superstitions, and the Four Peaks as well.

The Mountainbrook Village group on the summit

4 Peaks from the summit of Peak 5024

Looking down on the Flatiron

The peak was so wonderful that by the time I headed down to the Flatiron, it was a little anticlimactic. I would urge those planning to hike the Flatiron to check out the nearby peak as well, it is certainly worth it! I had to get back to town to get ready for my speaking engagement at REI, so after spending some time on the Flatiron, it was time to head back to the car. On the way down, there were many more crowds, and I was glad that I had started early. The downhill scramble was much easier than uphill, and I made great time getting down to the trail in Siphon Draw. It is called the Siphon Draw because it drains a large portion of the Western Superstitions, and the water has carved out a beautiful natural bowl in the rock.

Siphon Draw

Once past the Siphon Draw bowl, its back to good old trail again, and I would have flown down this area if I hadn’t stopped so many times to take pictures of the greenery and wildflowers. The brittlebush hadn’t bloomed yet, but there were great swaths of purple lupine, scorpionweed, poppies, blue dicks, and chicory all the way to the parking lot.

Wildflowers looking back at the Flatiron

Hopefully, the state will figure out an alternative to closing the state parks. My two Arizona Trail talks in Phoenix went very well, and I was able to raise almost $200 for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Fundraiser. For today’s Wildlife Rehab picture, here’s a tiny Harris’ Antelope Squirrel.

Feeding a baby Harris' Antelope Squirrel at the Wildlife Rehab

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Update (9-15-10) There is now a trailhead at the Ritz-Carlton resort that cuts out a portion of the boring wash walk I talk about in the beginning of the post.

First of all, I am excited to announce that will be doing a talk about my Arizona Trail hike at Summit Hut! Thursday, January 14th at 8 pm at 5045 E. Speedway Blvd. in Tucson. For those of you who may be new to my blog, this past May I completed the  Arizona Trail that goes 800 miles from Mexico to Utah. I hiked it to raise awareness for Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition that I have had for 13 years. I will be sharing my tales and photos from my mostly-solo hike across this amazing state. You can read more about my Arizona Trail hike at www.aztrail4fms.org

I had big plans for today’s hike. I was going to get up before sunrise, drive two hours up to the White Canyon Wilderness area and do an off-trail hike of The Spine. The Spine is a boulder-topped ridge that runs northwest from the Gila River and the hike was described as “epic”. Big plans that I realized were not going to happen as I lay awake at 4:00 in the morning. I had gone to bed early, but was woken up by my dog Zeus throwing up at about 12:30. Normally, I have no problems going back to sleep after waking up, but this time it just wasn’t going to happen. I finally got back to sleep at about 5 am. So when I woke up at 11, still feeling weird, grumpy, and sleepy, I wasn’t sure that I was going to go for a hike at all. I was disappointed that my day on The Spine was going to have to wait. After eating some breakfast, I figured I would rather be outside than inside. It was a beautiful day and being outside always lifts my mood.

A saguaro with an array of arms that looks like a hand. I feel better already.

I got on my favorite website for hike planning HikeArizona.com and perused my options. This is one of my favorite websites- the founder, Joe Bartels, a hiking madman himself, has put together a tremendous resource for the hiking community. There are trail descriptions, maps, GPS tracks, pictures, and triplogs so you can really get a feel for each trail. The forum is great, and I have learned about a lot of areas that I otherwise may not have heard of.

Since it gets dark out early this time of year, I needed something close by for my “consolation hike”. I have been meaning to return to the Tortolitas, mountains north of Tucson, and today looked like it was going to be the day. I had last hiked here about 4 years ago. The first part of the hike goes through a lot of construction and noise and that turned me off a bit to this area. I don’t think that the trail system through here was complete at that time. Now the trail system is complete and what I saw of it was in fantastic shape and well-maintained. I chose to hike the Wild Burro, Upper Javelina, and Wild Mustang trails to an overlook- about 8 miles round-trip.

I got a pretty late start, but I had warm clothes with me and a headlamp if I needed to do some of it in the dark. The first 1.3 miles on the Wild Burro is the way to get into the trail system. There is a path that is well-marked or you can just hike up the wash. The wash was not too sandy, and this part would be a pleasant walk if there was not a GIGANTIC hotel right on the wash. This is the new Ritz-Carlton hotel. I looked it up when I got home, and it was slated to open the day after I did this hike. So it wasn’t even officially open, and it was already noisy. At least they made it the same color as the mountain. There is also construction noise on top of that- there are several houses being built in the area as well. I suggest a pair of headphones for this part of the hike. I was glad I had mine.

Ritz-Carlton hotel

The trail junctions are well-marked and I took the Upper Javelina that climbed and contoured around the hill, above the pool of the hotel. This part was a little strange, I felt exposed and at the same time I thought it was weird that you could see right into the hotel. The trail finally contours into a drainage and you lose sight of the hotel. The trail construction is great in this area, winding around large boulders. I was really impressed with the condition of the trails, they were in such good shape I would consider coming back here to do a night hike. The Upper Javelina trail climbed to a junction with the Wild Mustang trail. The Wild Mustang switchbacked up to the junction with the Cochie Canyon Trail and a great view of many of the mountains in the Tucson area. I could see Pusch Ridge, Mt. Wrightson, Baboquivari Peak, Kitt Peak, the Tucson and Silverbell Mountains, and Picacho Peak. Nice!

Wrightson and Tumamoc Hill

Mount Wrightson and Tumamoc Hill

It was getting close to my turnaround time, but I wanted to get to the overlook I had heard about, so I pushed myself to get there. I was getting pretty tired, at this point I had gained about 1300 feet of elevation and had not slowed down or taken a break since I started.  I made it to the overlook with five minutes to spare, and was relieved to have a seat, enjoy the view, and eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And what a view- I was high enough that the whole of snow-capped Mount Lemmon was visible, along with Samaniego Ridge stretching out to the north. Cathedral Peak was visible, as well as the peaks of Pusch Ridge. Satisfied with my destination for the day, I headed back the way I came. The Wild Mustang can be combined with several trails to do a 10-12 mile loop. I will be back to do this soon.

Mount Lemmon and Samaniego Ridge from the overlook

The light as I was coming back was really pretty, and I had a feeling I was in for a good sunset. I reached the junction with the Wild Burro trail and sat for a while, watching the sun set and writing in my journal. I put on some music to drown out the noise from the hotel (kids screaming at the top of their lungs added into the mix from before). The sunset was beautiful and I hiked the last bit of the trail with my headlamp, reaching the car as the last glow of the sun illuminated a thin sliver of moon. Not too bad for a consolation hike.

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