Saturday, December 1, 2012

Weather's (a little) Cooler - Trails Even More Crowded

Hike time:  32 minutes to the summit

Weather:  65°, sun

About this hike:  Cooler weather, a week after Thanksgiving, the fact the trail's closing in little over a month—these are things that spur hikers on to Echo Canyon.  Needless to say, I took the shuttle today.  Was a crowded, but uneventful hike.  I was able to force my way thru the crowds and rarely stopped, so taking more than 30 minutes was a disappointment.  Summit was crowded and obnoxious...I heard an attempt at a capella group beltin out the Titanic theme song, witnessed an imitation of J.D. & Turk's (from Scrubs) pastime, "Eagle", and found some lost keys on the way down.  Glad they weren't mine.  I did report them to the ranger...such a nice guy :-)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cholla & Baggage

Hike time:  40+ minutes to summit

Weather:  ~73°, sun to twilight

About this hike:  Went with a friend, and we couldn't get parking at Echo Canyon.  We found a spot on Invergordon Road and took the Cholla Trail up.  I hate that trail.  It's no challenge, and it's boring compared Echo.  He was tired and slow, and overall, I feel this hike is hardly worth mentioning.  Had a group of PHX EMTs in front of us mapping out the Cholla trail, as they expect increased traffic (and likely injuries/rescues!) in upcoming months.  Echo Canyon will close in January while a much overdo reconfiguration of the parking area is completed.  I hope this alleviates some of the cluster that is the current parking situation.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Thanks Again NFL...

Hike time:  30 minutes to the summit!!

Weather:  90°, sun

About this hike:  Parking, while crowded on this warm fall afternoon, wasn't impossible...thank you football games.  I nabbed a spot on Echo Canyon Drive.  Today's hike proved my worthiness in an elite club:  those who can make it to the summit in 30 minutes.  This should've been an easy climb, after nearly an entire week of 5-10 mile daily hikes in Sedona.  For whatever reason, however, my legs were feeling the exhaustion today.  I have no idea why.  Regardless, I pushed on to the sparsely populated summit where my favorite area of smooth sandstone was available.  Sprawling out and catching some sun for about 20 minutes had me good to go for the hike back down.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Where the Pavement Ends...

Weather:  Mid 70s, warm in the sunshine

About this hike:  I took a Jeep tour on Tuesday, which inspired me to check this trail out, as it parallels a popular Jeep route.  Trailhead is along Schnebly Hill Rd., right before the pavement turns to dirt.  The Munds Trail is a nearly four mile out-and-back.  The scenery along the way is absolutely beautiful, taking you through dry washes; past what must be an amazing, roaring waterfall after a rain; and up to Merry-Go-Round rock.  Scenery along this hike also includes phenomenal views of Snoopy Rock and other red rock formations.  The trail is a bit tricky to follow at first, but like most Sedona trails maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, wire cages full of rocks are abundantly placed as trail markers.  Along the way is a picnic area with tables and benches.  The trail basically parallels Schnebly Hill Rd. and Jeeps of every color and tour operator—red, yellow, pink (of course!)—are constantly whizzing by.  Several times the trail actually crosses the road as it winds up toward the lookout point on the Mogollon Rim.  This trail ended at Schnebly Hill Road Trail, which I didn't bother pursuing.  All in all, this is a great hike that isn't too strenous.  There's some uphill, but nothing too challenging. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Failed to Ring the Bell on Top...

Weather:  low 70s, breezy

About this hike:  Parked at the Bell Rock trailhead just off of route 179.  I followed the Bell Rock loop trail to a summit trail.  There were numerous other hikers trying to make the ascent, and I saw several already atop one of the spires of this rotund red sandstone formation.  I didn't have much success.  Not only is finding the trail to the summit tricky, it's on slick red rocks.  The trail frequently vanishes, as after a certain point it's no longer marked and isn't regularly maintained.  I reached the vortex point and sat for a while.  Can't say I felt anything that you're supposed to feel in a vortex...just insane fear considering if I fell Bell Rock would be a little redder with my blood...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mount Wilson - Sedona

Hike time:  ~2.5 hours

Weather:  ~72°, party cloudy

About this hike:  This was a great and rewarding hike that is easily accessible in Oak Creek Canyon along AZ 89A.  I started at the Encinoso picnic area.  There are two points at the summit, one called first bench and one called the second bench...I think I only reached the first bench, but it was still an intense hike.  Mount Wilson is over 7,000 feet at the summit.  Along the way vegetation began to remind me of growing up in the northeast, with a variety of pine and scrub oak and maple.  The fall colors were contrasted with an abundance of evergreen, and I was constantly reminded that this is still high desert with aloe vera plants popping up across the landscape. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Super Summit - Superstition Mtn.

Hike Time:  2+ hours to the summit

Weather:  ~80°, sunshine; cooler at the summit

About this Hike:  Began at Lost Dutchman State Park and worked our way up to the Flatiron Rim.  I never cease to be amazed by the geology of Superstition Mountain:  The hoodoos and canyons.  The veiny lava flows.  The red and white rocks, with the yellow Goldfield Mountains as a backdrop.

I've done Flatiron Rim a couple of times, but my hiking buddy, sensing there was more to be had, insisted we get to what appeared to be another summit, this with a flag on top.  We had scoured the Web previously to get more info on this climb to the top, but to no avail.  So I'll share my version of directions here and tag this post up good in the hope that it helps some other hikers someday...

Reaching Superstition Summit:  Take the trail from Lost Dutchman (begins as Siphon Draw Trail) to the Flatiron Rim. After ascending a nearly 10 foot, scary rock wall, you're basically at the top.  Follow the trail right for the Flatiron Rim.  However, if you work your way straight up, you will find the summit trail.  There are magnificent red hoodoos all around, and the trail is not the easiest to find.  Look up and see if you can spot a flag atop the piles of hoodoos.  In times past I've seen an American flag flying up there.  The best advice is to basically keep to your right...the trail, while identifiable, is not always very obvious.  There are places where you have to cautiously bushwack and carefully sidestep some nasty desert plants.  The trail itself does have white dots painted in places to mark it, but it's still pretty rugged.  You'll know you're going the right way if you hike through some little rock tunnels, caves, and other challenges.  It's only about 1/3 mile to the summit, and the views are incredible.

Super Summit!

Above the Flatiron Rim
Views to the east

Camelback is a baby mountain from Superstition

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Cold FX for this Hot October Hike...

Hike time: 37 minutes to summit

Weather: 85°, sunshine.  Brown cloud pollution was disgusting over downtown today.

About this hike:  Pretty uneventful.  Crowds were horrendous.  I almost snagged a parking space but was beat out by a Crown Victoria (no, it wasn't a cop).  Ended up taking Park 'n Hike shuttle.  Mountain was crowded with frequent traffic jams.

At the summit, I had fun with the Coors FX app recently downloaded on my phone.  From a marketing standpoint, this app is ingenious:  users can personalize a brand by adding it to their own photos and videos, and convenient links for Tweeting and/or Facebooking are included (too bad it subsamples these images to death).  So yeah, it was like the Phoenix Lights of 1997 all over again...only this time an aluminum pint was seen shooting over downtown...      

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Serene & Sunny Sunday

Hike time: 37 minutes to summit

 Weather: 101°, sunshine, slight breeze

 About this hike:  Trailhead was very empty on a hot Sunday afternoon.  Most of the trail is shaded this time of day, and with the helpful breeze, this hike wasn't too bad.  The heat slowed me down a little, hence the sub-35 minute time.  I also forgot my gloves, which absolutely sucked climbing on those disgusting hand rails and over jagged rocks.  Ran into one of the drivers from Park 'n Hike near the summit—we die hards know best...when heat drives the crowds away, it's the best time to come out and play!

A crazy man (delusional from the heat?!) was singing and whooping at the summit.  I spent a lot of time thinking, reflecting, and enjoying the view up there today.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Take Yourself to Higher Places...

Hike time:  32 minutes to summit

Weather:  87°, sunshine, windy

About this hike:  First time in over a month that I had to use Park & Hike shuttle.  Started at 8:45, and Echo Canyon lot was not only full, but there was a traffic jam.  The trail was crowded with novices.  I bet I would've made it to the summit in 30 min. if crowds (and incessant text messages!) hadn't slowed me down. At the summit a helicopter came and hovered for a minute...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sometimes Things Go As They Should...

Hike time:  32 minutes to summit

Weather:  83°, sunshine, breezy—perfect!!

About this hike:  Nabbed a parking spot at the busy Echo Canyon Trailhead!!  Lots of novices out today made for a somewhat aggravating hike, as they slow everybody down, stare at you with deer-in-the-headlights as you're coming at them, etc.  Sept. 11 Memorial is gone from the summit.  Spent about 20 minutes on top.  Views were fabulous, although marred by some hazy smog.      

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Perfect Mid-September Weekday Hike

Hike time:  35 minutes to summit

Weather:  90°, sunshine

About this hike:  Took advantage of a comped half-day of work and cooler (by PHX standards!) temperatures.  Was a great hike, and of course, the trail was quiet as could be at 2pm on a warm Wednesday afternoon.  New at the summit was a September 11 memorial:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Camelback Courtesy of the NFL

Hike time:  37 minutes to summit

Weather:  90º, party cloudy, breezy (perfect!)

About this hike:  Parking lot was nearly empty when I arrived at just after 2pm.  It wasn't that hot, and with the breeze and cloud cover it was actually a perfect day to climb Camelback.  NFL Sunday may have had something to do with this.  I'm not complaining; this was an perfect late-summer hike, and I hate football...

King of the Mountain...the summit was void of the usual hikers

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hell or High Water Won't Keep Me from Climbin'

Hike time:  Guesstimated at 35 min.

Weather:  ~95º, sun, wind, rain, hail, thunderstorms

About this hike:  Driving to Echo Canyon, the dark clouds to the north began to unleash rain drops.  I wasn't stopping.  Last night's hike got railroaded, and I wasn't having this again.  Got trailhead parking no problem tonight!  Thunder crackling over head, I started up the Echo trail, wondering why I'm stupid enough to climb a mountain in a thunderstorm...especially a mountain where one must hold onto metal handrails part of the way up.

About halfway through, the downpour started.  I crawled into one of the small caves that pockmarks the red sandstone.  After spending at least 15 minutes in my cave, the rain and soft hail began to slow to the point where I could continue on, albeit very carefully.  Wet rocks can be slick!  I was having flashbacks to getting caught on Superstition Mountain in a hail/snow storm last fall.

Luckily the rain soon passed, and the warm sun broke through again.  Thanks to gusty wind, the rocks dried quickly.  My hike was certainly enriched by this experience, and the views of the thunderclouds now to the west, along with the soaked and steaming Valley, were awesome to say the least.  Come heat of hell or high water, I won't be stopped...

Monday, September 3, 2012

It's a Labour of Love...

I went up to Echo Canyon park around 5:00pm.  I expected it to not be busy... after all, it was 102º out and it's a holiday.  Was I ever wrong...

Parallel parking on Echo Canyon Drive was not to be had.  Hopeful hikers were actually queuing up in a double-parked formation.  Surprisingly, rangers weren't giving them a hard time, although the security guard at the Echo Canyon Estates guard house waddled out occasionally.

Problem was, the main lot was closed as fire trucks were everywhere and one of those infamous "Mountain Resuces" was in progress.  I've had hiking plans complicated (but never defeated) by at least four of those now in 2012.

I drove around several surrounding neighborhoods hoping just one might not have the infamous "P" with a slash through it.  No such luck, although a few bordering streets did have signs stating, "No parking sunrise to sunset".  I just got a new hiking headlamp...could a night hike be in order?  (Echo Canyon lot forbids just the opposite:  parking sunset to sunrise.)  I'll need to research the legality of this first, but the city lights from the Camel's summit would be amazing.

So after labouring away at finding parking, I had no luck.  This was the first time I ever went home without accomplishing what I had set out to do.  Probably a good thing too.  News reports stated that the rescue didn't complete till after six.  That would have put the better half of my hike in the dark, with no headlight, and my car would be illegally parked at Echo Canyon.          

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Camelback Climb

Hike time:  35 min. up, 20 min. on summit

Weather:  101°, sunny, hot!

About this climb:  Arrived just before 10am expecting parking to be a non-issue.  Was very wrong!  However, I was fortunate to be the only car circling Echo Canyon at the time and a car in front of me backed out.  Got a great spot in the main lot!

Summit was absolutely beautiful, no swarms of flying ants like two weeks ago.  I spent 20+ minutes enjoying the view before heading down.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Mission & Purpose

It is a regret of mine that since first coming to Phoenix I haven’t kept some kind of a record of my hikes. From the great urban parks in the city, to the surrounding areas (Superstitions, etc.), while I have beautiful photographic records, other details of my hikes have been lost…But no longer.

Climbing Camelback is my favorite for a challenging, relatively quick, any-time hike. In the 20 – 30 times that I’ve ascended our city’s signature mountain, each hike has posed something unique: The euphoria of being at the right place at the right time and snagging a parking spot (arguably the most challenging part of a Camelback climb!), losing a hiking glove along the way, seeing a huge green snake, delays due to mountain rescues, getting caught in a monsoon…

Then there’s the logistics: How long did the climb take? What was the prevailing weather? The best days will be documented with plenty of pictures too.

 And don’t think it’s just Camelback…other hiking adventures will be posted on here as well.