Monday, March 19, 2018

Second Water, Boulder Canyon, Dutchman Loop—Superstitions First Water Trailhead

Weather:  70º, sunny, breezy

About this Hike:  My hike a few weeks ago on Boulder Canyon #103 via Canyon Lake Trailhead gave me a newfound appreciation for the Superstitions.  Flatiron via Lost Dutchman State Park has given me an eerie, uncomfortable feeling in the past.  I still wonder if it has anything to do with the Nov. 2011 plane crash—not to mention all the folklore surrounding Superstition Mountains...

However, I feel quite the opposite as I've been discovering the canyons and other-worldly rock formations that make up the rest of the Superstition Wilderness.  It's like a cross between The Valley's low desert climate and the rocks of Sedona. 

This 10+ mile loop took me through Garden Valley which would be a-bloom with Mexican poppies and other desert wildflowers in a normal year.  In this dry year I just noted a lot of saguaros.  And black rocks...piles upon piles of black rocks.  At the end of Garden Valley as descent into Boulder Canyon begins, the trail parallels a black creek bed.  The rocks look like fresh lava flows from Hawaii.  Near the canyon floor there was some standing water in a semi-riparian area. The water was stagnant, but that didn't stop some frogs from jumping in as I approached.

I got to experience another end of Boulder Canyon than what I did a few weeks ago.  Battleship Mountain was directly in front and I met a few hikers coming back / heading up the trail.  Battleship Summit is said to be a primitive, largely unblazed trail.  The reviews I have read make me nervous, but someday in the near future I expect I'll be trying this one out—after it gets a little more wear and tear. 

While cairns are a debatable point among hikers, I was grateful for many well-placed rock stacks along Boulder Canyon Trail.   The trail crosses the creek bed many times, and finding it on the other side is not always easy. 

Nearing the end of Boulder Canyon brought spectacular views of Weaver's Needle from multiple angles and Palomino Mountain.  From the well-signed junction I opted to take Dutchman Trail back to the First Water parking area.  Black Mesa Trail was another option and one I may want to experience in the near future.

All these hikes have left me 'hangry' for more.  But I'm quickly exhausting the limits of what I can do with my little Mazda in terms of trailhead access.  I'm seriously considering a second 'beater' SUV that can do some off-roading.  Think, Nissan Xterra.  There's still so much of Arizona to explore.

Not your typical angle for Weaver's Needle pix
Like Hawaii lava flows...

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Attitude Adjustment on Piestewa

Weather:  77º, overcast, some humidity

Time:  27 minutes

About this Hike:  I went into today almost loathing this hike.  Like, let's check this one off the to-do list.  That's never a very good hike-a-tude.  The crowds of people are really starting to get to me as Phoenix trails become America's best-kept secret.

Parking was anything but abundant today.  I was lucky to catch a guy leaving and parallel park in his space. It was tight, and I don't know how I did park jobs like this in the days before back up cams.

I utilized the Alternate Summit Trail, which is pretty much standard procedure for me now.  The crowds were heavy, but manageable.  There weren't any bottlenecks on the ascent. 

Phoenix PD gave us a show in the chopper, and then a vintage airplane was doing dives and scary maneuvers around the mountain.

Otherwise this was an enjoyable, uneventful hike. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Boulder Canyon #103 - Superstitions

Weather:  72º, sunny, breezy

About this Hike:   I've spent many weekends kayaking on Canyon Lake.  However, this is the first time in six years that my feet have touched the Boulder Canyon Trail which begins across the street from Canyon Lake Marina. 

Six years ago I took pictures of the captivating vistas high above Canyon Lake.  I took many a photo of Battleship Mountain and Weaver's Needle in the distance.  Last time I believe I began hiking up the boulder-strewn creek bed toward the hull of the battleship.  And then I must have turned back. 

This time we kept pressing on down Boulder Canyon Trail.  The elevation varies widely on this hike, and we enjoyed some good uphill workouts followed by careful descents on both the out and the back portions. The first descent is into La Barge Creek.  Next up on the trail is the canyon's namesake Boulder Creek.  Being in the canyons near these seasonal creeks lends to some interesting vegetation.  The area has a semi-riparian feel to it.

Large vegetation - Indian Paint Mine sinkhole
Prior to getting to Boulder Creek we came into an area of red rock.  And do I mean red—like Sedona red.  An old foundation, walls, and a sinkhole greeted us in the red rock area.  It appeared Jack's Beanstalk was shooting up out of the sinkhole.  Around this area are some narrow but very explorable canyons in the red rock.  I learned this is known as Indian Paint Mine , and apparently the sinkhole is where natives extracted red rock to create paint and pottery.  Very cool stuff. 

By continuing on #103 the Paint Mine's red rocks quickly fade back to the orange, yellow, and black lichen-covered escarpments that are so prevalent in this area of the Superstitions. 

The well-signed junction with Second Water Trail was the next waypoint and then another creek  came into view.  This creek actually had some water in it, reminiscent of rains The Valley experienced earlier in the week.  The water was trickling but looked stagnant. 

Kayaking at Canyon Lake has afforded me considerable knowledge about the topography of the Superstitions; the Salt River watershed; and this eerie, magnificent portion of the Tonto National Forest.  I greatly enjoyed visiting Boulder Canyon again. 

And now my curiosity is piqued.  I hope it won't be another six years until my next visit.  Before the weather gets too hot, I plan to explore First and Second Water Trails in this area. 

Battleship Mtn. & Weavers Needle in the background

Looking down the canyon as it drains into Canyon Lake

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Warming Up Piestewa

Weather:  47º, sunny, breezy

Time:  27 minutes

About this Hike:  When I first flipped the TV on this morning the little weather thing in the corner read 37º.  And this was after sleeping in (by my standards) on a Saturday morning.  I was nervous this would be a chilly hike and dug out one of my thermal hiking shirts.  I also swapped hiking shorts for pants.

Once at the trail, both myself and the desert sun climbed higher.  I quickly felt myself growing warm—perhaps even a few degrees warmer than I would have liked.  Then the chilly wind blew again...

The much-delayed winter that The Valley is finally enjoying may have kept some hikers away.  The residential street parking was fairly open this morning.  I chose this over going into the preserve and driving around to see if a spot was open in any of the main lots.  Besides, parking in the neighborhood gives me easier access to the Alternate Summit Trail. 

As I hooked onto the Piestewa Summit Trail, I spied the main parking area and quite a few open spots down below.  Despite a lighter parking load, the trail was very crowded.  Judging from conversations I overheard, there were a lot of tourists (Spring Training fans?) on the mountain. 

I will admit that this hike has lost some of it's luster. I guess several hundred times will do that to you... More than anything the weekend crowds just get to me anymore.

Upon reaching the summit I thought seriously about turning right around.  I chose to force my way on top, if for nothing else then to look northeast toward the Mazatzals for snow after this week's cold and precip.  Four Peaks stood bare.  Regardless, this was a routine Saturday morning workout.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Presidential Camelback

Weather:  63º, overcast, very windy

Time:  30 minutes

About this Hike:  Presidents Day isn't a huge holiday, right?  (Technically I'm not supposed to have it off, but was granted it this once...but that's another story.)  So I thought...

I ventured up to Echo Canyon at about 1 p.m. today.  The 'Lot Full' was sign was up; the gate was down.  Cars were circling the area like vultures waiting to pounce.  Residential streets in the area have since erected 'No U-Turn' and 'Local Traffic Only' signs due to the high number of parking-spot seekers who turn around in their driveways. 

So I headed to my secret spot.  Fitting for today as said secret spot has a presidential suite and has hosted both President Trump and former President Obama in recent years.  They still haven't put gates back up, although a sign warns that Camelback hikers should visit the valet stand first...I guess they're on to us; the secret is out. 

About 10 minutes later I had returned on foot to the Echo Canyon trailhead.  The lot was no longer full.  Gates were re-opened; signs were down.  This happens 9 out of 10 times when I choose to park off-site. WHY!?!

Today I could have used a close parking spot at the trailhead.  With the howling wind it was chilly.  It's about three months later, but winter finally got the memo... The trail was crowded, but there were large sections of open trail.  I made a number of water stops not because I was thirsty (the cool temps will do that), but because I knew hydration is not to be forgotten. 

In the end I reached the summit in about 30 minutes—maybe even a hair less.  Not bad considering the crowds.  I've also got the remnants of a cold that's all in my lungs.  Thankfully my chest didn't hurt too bad on this hike.  Hopefully that howling wind didn't have anything toxic in it...  I will say that wind nearly blew me off balance a few times.  Naturally, I didn't remain on the summit for long, just long enough to snap this panorama.  Dark skies are to the west; slightly clearing skies in the East Valley.  Such a beautiful, blustery winter day in Phoenix:

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Heart Stress Test on Piestewa

Weather:  85º, sunny

Time:  26.5 minutes

About this Hike:  This past weekend I had an incident. The dawning hours of Superbowl Sunday found me in the ER with an uncontrollably racing heart.  Assured that my vitals were good and that my heart wasn't beating fast enough to cause any damage, I was discharged and on my way.

However, after that scary episode I've been concerned about my ticker.  While my heart rate and my daily routines have returned to normal, my Samsung Galaxy S-Health heart monitor has been getting more use lately.

I've been doing my usual workouts no problem.  Today I wanted to stress test my heart.  Anyone that knows me knows what I think of running on Phoenix (or any for that matter) mountain trails.  I didn't run up, but I did push hard.  I got my heart rate into 'Vigorous' territory according to S-Health.  No chest pain was felt. 

I did begin to tire as I reached the top.  This winter's unseasonable heat and sunshine may have had something to do with that though.  I didn't quite go to the summit, but pulled time early as a handicap.  The mountain wasn't busy today, but I did stop my hike to put my finger on the S-Health sensor quite a bit.  Being in a bit of a hurry, my feet didn't quite the touch the summit before I pivoted to head back down. 

Overall an enjoyable hike.  Glad I'm still tickin' and able to do hikes like this.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

First Piestewa of 2018

Weather: 72º, sunny

Time:  27 minutes

About this Hike:  The construction on Squaw Peak Drive (I'm still calling it that despite Mayor Stanton's efforts...) is done and the main road is repaved which is a nice reprieve from mud and messes.  Parking was still a beast today.  I was lucky to nab a spot on the residential streets.

Tis the season. Piestewa is going from winter crowds to late winter / spring crowds, tourists, and snow birds.  It was definitely far more crowded than I prefer today.  These types of hikes can be frustrating because you're constantly in other hiker's way and they let you know it. 

Regardless, the far-less-traveled Alternate Summit trail gives a little reprieve before you join the mass of humanity on the main trail.  After a day of feasting yesterday, it was good to get up to the mountain and hike off some calories.