Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Post-Christmas Piestewa

Weather:  70º, sunny

Time:  27 minutes

About this Hike:  After a booze and carb-fueled holiday in Upstate NY, it was time to burn off some of those calories.  I just got back into PHX today, and with my ridiculously early flight, was going on no sleep.  Lack of rest didn't stop me from posting an OK time to the summit, all things considered...

I was hoping that being a weekday the trail wouldn't be crowded.  With many people and kids on vacation, I was very wrong.  The only parking I could find was on the residential streets just outside of PHX Mountain Preserve.

There was no Christmas palo verde tree at the summit this year.  In fact, the palo verde that I'm pretty sure was decorated in years past appears to be dead.  Regardless, this was a good post-Christmas hike.  And as a sidenote, there were multiple rescues today at Camelback.  With all the novices out there right now, I guess I chose the safer mountain to be at today...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Merry Camelback Christmas!

Weather:  58º, sunny

Time:  34 minutes

About this Hike:  Been a while since I've been to Camelback.  I've made hanging an ornament on the Christmas tree an annual tradition, and I wasn't about to miss out in 2016.

I arrived at the trailhead to traffic backed up onto McDonald Dr. and the 'Lot Full' barricade up.  Being one who takes the path of least resistance, I turned around and went to my 'secret spot.' I'll reveal that it's a local resort whose parking garage gates used to always be open. Recently this has not been the case, and today was no exception. I pulled up to the gate and wanted to see if parking rates were published. A car pulled up behind me and now I had no choice but to pull a ticket and drive in.

I got Jake the Juke parked and made the 10 minute walk back to the trailhead.  Upon my arrival plenty of parking spaces were open.  This has happened to me so many times.  I guess I need to be patient and circle the lot.

The mountain was still fairly crowded.  I reached the top in an abysmal 34 minutes, but I guess that's to be expected when you're months out of practice.

For my 2016 contribution to the Christmas Tree, I used an old IKEA Christmas candle lid that was laying around the house (I used it as a coaster).  Since it's going to be discarded anyway once the tree comes down, I figure why not repurpose household trash? I'm so green and resourceful...

I thought seriously about getting a picture with Camelback Santa, but decided I didn't feel like waiting in line.  Instead I got some cool shots of the tree and sunbeams shining through.  Oh, and this year the City of Phoenix generously posted a permit for the tree to be atop the mountain (even though this has been a tradition nearly as long as I've been alive).  Anyone who follows local news knows there was some controversy this year regarding the Camelback Christmas Tree...

It ended up taking me an appalling 42 minutes to get off the mountain.  I fear I'll never post the times I did back in early 2016 when a hike up Camelback was part of my daily 'funemployment' routine.  Arriving back at the resort parking garage, I discovered it was going to be a $10 fee for parking. For all the times I parked there free, I should've bit the bullet. Instead, I visited the front desk and inquired about spa services. They generously validated my parking ticket.

Camelback Santa
Repurposed IKEA candle lid

City of PHX permit

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Hot October & Piestewa

Weather:  86º, sunny, breezy

Time:  26 minutes

About this Hike:  I took advantage of a rare Saturday morning where the stars aligned such that I had a chance to hike. For some reason Piestewa was just calling out to me over my beloved Camelback.

Let's face it—I'm not in the shape I was in early 2016.  During this extended period of fun-employment climbing mountains every morning was a daily routine.  Lately my mountain climbing has equated to me sprinting up the stairs to my office on the eighth floor, so I wasn't disappointed by this "average" time to the summit.   I did experience a little fatigue on the way up, but I never needed to all out stop for a break.

Despite being hot for October, the trails experienced typical Saturday morning crowds, but there were some quiet breaks.  As I approached the trailhead I noted the parking area was very empty.  Then I saw all the fire trucks—another mountain rescue in progress.  It broke up as I was walking along the main road back to my car, so I'm guessing this one wasn't too severe.  All in all, I enjoyed being back at Piestewa today.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Aerie, Doe Mountain, Fay Canyon

Weather:  76º, sunny

About this Hike:  I couldn't wait to check out the Aerie trail.  It sounded wonderful in descriptions.  In reality, it's a lot of flat typical Sedona scenery.  I hiked Aerie to where it joins Doe Mountain and hiked up Doe Mountain.  This was the best part of the hike.  But, Doe Mountain does have it's own parking area.

So that said, getting up Doe Mountain isn't that hard, but it is a fun climb.  On top Doe Mountain is a big mesa.  The views are wonderful and it's very serene and peaceful.  You get a great perspective on Thunder Mountain as well as a "Baby Thunder Mountain" (I really need to find a good topography map) behind it.  You can see into the Brins Mesa and Soilder's Pass area.

Back at the Aerie trailhead, I started down Cockscomb but quickly became bored.  I know about three years ago I did a lot of these trails along the Dry Creek area.  I checked out Boynton Canyon, but with limited time didn't think the $5.00 required parking pass was worth it.  Next time.

I ended up at Fay Canyon, which I did three years ago.  That time I reached the Fay Canyon Arch.  Not feeling so adventurous, I just checked out the trail and left.

It's been a wonderful week of hiking in Sedona / N. AZ.  I'm sore and with shin splints, hence why I decided to cut things a little short today.  All the weeks I've spend in Sedona, and I never cease to find new hikes and things to do in this town.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Hell with the Bell

Weather:  85º, hot & sunny

About this Hike:  I’ll start by saying I’m done with Bell Rock.  A few years ago I blogged about “failing to ring the bell on top”.  Today I hiked along the Bell Rock Climb trail until the U.S. Forest Service cairns vanished.  I reached what I believe to be as high as sane humans can go.  It’s a spire on the north side of the butte.  Getting up there is tricky, but the dry sandstone offers good traction.

Some European tourists hiked ahead of me and were seated atop the spire.  I had no such luck. I got to the base of the spire but could go no further.  My fear of heights kicked in.  Getting down off that thing was very tricky and I felt panicky at times.  There’s not a well-definied trail, and it takes a lot of careful scrambling.  Meanwhile the cairns of the official (easier, safer) trail seem tauntingly close as you work your way down a layer cake of sandstone. 

So, with RV and bus parking abundant at the (fee) trailhead, I feel that Bell Rock is a tourist trap and not worth my time.  But, for all intents and purposes I reached the top, and I no longer believe there’s a bell up there to ring…

The spire I could've gone to the top of...close enough

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Soilder’s Pass & West Urban Trails

Weather:  82º, sunny (I got sunburned!)

About this Hike:  I explored Thunder Mountain Trail and Lizard’s Head today.  These comprise the “urban trail system” in West Sedona.  The trailheads are easily marked but are in residential areas.  Part of me was curious about reaching the summit of Thunder Mountain, but from what I read this is a treacherous hike and sounded like it could potentially ruin my vacation if something went wrong.

I also did the Sugarloaf Mountain summit which offered some nice views but not much else.  Underwhelmed, I went over to Soilder’s Pass Trailhead where I read there were Seven Sacred Pools. 

Soilder’s Pass ended up being the winner of the day.  Also part of the West Sedona area, it feels less urban as it ascends up the Brins Mesa and into the wilderness.  Along the way is  Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole, which as the name implies, is a massive sinkhole.  Next up are the Seven Pools.  Nothing like the Seven Sacred Pools on Maui, these are stagnant pools carved into the red rocks. A few had tadpoles swimming in them.

The hike continues on through forest and many dry washes as it makes its way up Brins Mesa.  Along the way you’re afforded great views of Coffee Pot Rock and the backside of Thunder Mountain, which from the back angle is much smaller looking.  Atop the mesa the topography quickly changes to grassland.  There are nice views of the wilderness, but not much else. 

Satisfied from a full day of hiking, I started back from there. Along the trail I met a friendly guy who works as a tour guide in Sedona. (He was off duty and just hiking for pleasure.)  We had a nice chat, and then I found my way back to the trailhead.  There’s a side trail that is signed as “1.2 Miles to Trailhead,” but I have no idea if that’s the  Soilder’s Pass Trailhead or possibly Teacup Trailhead.  I stuck to the beaten path, although the explorer in me wanted to see what was down this side trail.

All in all, West Sedona offers some nice views and varying trails all with great no-fee parking areas.

Seven Sacred Pools of Sedona

Devil's Kitchen Sinkhole