Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dripping Springs and Squaw Peak

I spent the night in Las Cruces last night because I was supposed to pick Noelle and Sierra up from the airport in El Paso around 2 pm and I figured if I stayed close to El Paso I would have the opportunity to go for a hike in the morning. I awoke this morning, got a breakfast burrito at a gas station, and headed into the Organ Mountains.

After checking in at the visitor center, I hit the trail. I opted to hike to Dripping Springs and make an ascent of Squaw Peak before I headed back to the car. I had been to Dripping Springs before with Noelle. It had been a long time though, and so I was excited to return and experience the area again. As I made my way into the mountains I was treated to some wonderful views of Squaw Peak, my objective for later in the morning.
Squaw Peak photo SquawPeak_zps66475c28.jpg
Eventually I headed towards a canyon amongst the high, jagged peaks of the Organ Mountains.
Heading to Dripping Springs photo headingupcanyon_zps92d51979.jpg

Dripping Springs was once a resort and later the site of a sanatorium. There are lots of structures and ruins left from the days of old. The first set of structures that I encountered were some stables and a corral.
Squaw Peak from Corral photo SquawPeakfromCorral_zpsce2d0821.jpg
As I headed further up into the canyon I encountered the ruins of the old resort hotel.
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Old Window photo oldwindow_zpsfcf86a41.jpg
From the hotel ruins I followed the trail up to the the old sanatorium.
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Cistern photo cistern_zps6dea1d32.jpg
Behind the sanatorium building was a mostly intact house
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and some low wall ruins. There was also a trail there that led to a dam above Dripping Springs. This was the water source for the hotel and sanatorium.

After exploring the ruins for a bit I started to make my way back towards the parking lot. By this time the early morning's blue skies had given way to overcast and the wind began to pick up. Still, I was determined to make my way to the summit of Squaw Peak and so I eventually left the trail and made my way cross-county to one of the ridge that ran up the mountain. At first the ascent was gentle, but eventually it got steep. In fact, I was forced to use my hands quite a bit as I made my way upward. As I made my way higher the winds got quite fierce, but eventually I topped out onto the summit of Squaw Peak.
Squaw Summit and Organ Mountains photo SummitandOrgans_zps6cec2d4c.jpg
I admired the view up there for just a few minutes before retracing my steps down to trail.
Heading Down photo headingdown_zps705a500a.jpg
Along the way I found a shed deer antler. 
Antler photo antler_zps7412876c.jpg

When I approached the car I decided to turn my phone on just in case Noelle called me with information about her flight. Unfortunately, she had left a message telling me her flight had been cancelled due to high winds. After talking with Noelle I learned that she will try to fly into El Paso tomorrow instead. sadly, I will have to wait an extra day to see my girls.                

Monday, February 18, 2013

Saguaro National Park: Cactus Forest Trail

The drive from Picacho Peak to Tucson was uneventful, but the amount of sprawl in Tucson was astonishing. I'd been through Tucson before, on a visit to Saguaro National Park about 11 years ago, but things seemed even more sprawling now. I made the long drive through strip malls and traffic on Broadway until I finally found Old Spanish Trail which I followed into the park.

Once in the park I visited the visitor center and picked up a site bulletin on hiking trails so that I could plan my course of action. Since I didn't have a car on my last visit, I decided I would drive the scenic loop road and hike a few of the short trails along the road including the Cactus Forest Road. After purchasing a patch and magnet at the bookstore I set out to the road.

The drive was pleasant. The day was warm, but thanks to mostly overcast skies it was not too hot. I hiked a short nature trail and then moved on to the trailhead for the Cactus Forest Trail.
Eric on the Trail photo Ericontrail_zpscb61ee5a.jpg
The trail, like the drive was very pleasant.
Trail and Giant Saguaro photo trailandgiant_zpsbed2d8ba.jpg
There were lots of saguaros along the trail of course, and I found myself wanting to photograph each and every one.
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Even the skeletal remains of the dead ones were interesting.
Saguaro Skeleton photo deadguy_zpsb3fe0504.jpg
There were also lots of great views of the surrounding mountains
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Twin Giants photo twingiants_zps83089dd2.jpg
and the views got me reminiscing about my hike up Tanque Verde Ridge to Manning Camp on my last visit.

Eventually I came to the site of some old lime kilns
Lime Kiln photo limekiln2_zps11765d1f.jpg
and shortly thereafter I took a side trail that lead to Lime Falls. I wasn't sure what I would find at the falls, but I was curious. I knew there would be no rushing waterfall, still I had to see what as there. I found the dry falls and decided to see what lay above. Above I found a small pool of water and a small white-tailed deer who I presumed had just stopped by for a drink.
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A Deer Friend photo deer2_zps1c1355e5.jpg
I have to admit, I was surprised to see a white-tailed. I would have expected to see mule deer living in such an arid enviroment.

After visiting the falls I retraced my steps and continued on the Cactus Forest Trail. There were even more impressive specimens of saguaros as I hiked along. I came  to the other end of the trail, stopped for a snack and then retraced my steps back to the car. Along the way I passed not only saguaros, but barrel cactus
Big Barrel photo weirdbarrelcactus_zps32667736.jpg
and chollas as well. When I had returned to the car I realized that my time in Arizona was coming to an end. While I had enjoyed myself in the Grand Canyon State, I was excited to see my girls Noelle and Sierra again.

I had one more stop before I hit the road, another short nature trail that led to an old homestead. While there was not much left of the old homestead I did get to see some birds: a thrasher
Thrasher photo curve-billedthrasher_zps83c512df.jpg
and a phainopepla. 
Phainopepla photo phainopepla_zpsc2533bcb.jpg

Picacho Peak State Park: Hunter Trail

After my hike up Piestewa Peak last night, I got out of Phoenix and headed south towards Tucson. I made it as far as Eloy, AZ and even got some dinner at Culver's. This morning I awoke early and made the short drive down to Picacho Peak State Park. I arrived just after the park opened and headed over to the trailhead for the Hunter Trail.
Trailhead View photo firstview_zps2c1146ae.jpg
After arranging my pack I hit the trail. The walk was pleasant with lots of great views. The trail seemed tame enough as I slowly ascended the distinctive Picacho Peak amongst plentiful saguaro cacti.
Trail photo StartofTrail_zpsb43fe35e.jpg

Tall Saguaro photo tallsaguaro_zps1f819861.jpg
Distant Peak and Interstate photo distantpeak_zps7b785cac.jpg
Lone Cactus photo solosaguaro_zps240175c0.jpg

 The hike remained pretty tame until I reached a saddle between the main Picacho Peak and a small sub-peak. From the saddle there was an extremely steep descent along the west side of the mountain. It was so steep in fact, that there was a cable handrail to hold onto as I made my way down. This would be a sign of things to come.

After descending down to an elevation roughly that of the trailhead, the trail began to ascend again. There were some extremely steep sections and lots of cables to hold onto. In fact, I would call this ascent less a hike and more of a scramble. The cables added to the fun of the hike and after a short time I ascended through a forest of saguaro,
Saguaros and Rock photo peakandcacti_zps9c058666.jpg
up a last cable section
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and onto the summit.
Eric on Summit photo onsummit_zpsbd5f1c8b.jpg
There were great views of the surrounding desert and the interstate connecting Phoenix with Tucson. A little ground squirrel friend joined me up there.
Summit Friend photo summitfriend_zpsa59a83ee.jpg
Perhaps he or she was used to getting scraps of food from hikers.

After a short time on the summit I began my descent.
On the Way Down photo headingdown_zps56211059.jpg
While I pretty much had the place to myself on the ascent, there were lots of others now making their ways up the mountain. I figured things could get interesting at the cables on a busy day like today (it is President's day after all) and I was glad to be getting down when I was. After the saddle, the hiking got fast and easy and I was back to my car in no time at all ready to head to Tucson and Saguaro National Park.             

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Piestewa Peak Park: Piestewa Peak

After my hike on the Bell Trail I hit the road headed south towards Phoenix. I was excited to see some saguaro cacti, but as I drove I didn't see any saguaros. I headed further and further down in elevation, but still no tall cacti, then I crested a ridge and they were everywhere! I decided right then that I wanted to hike amongst them and I didn't want to have to wait until tomorrow. I had remembered seeing a hike on the north side of Phoenix and so when I stopped the car for gas I looked up the hike and traced out a route to get there. The hike was at a place called Squaw Peak Park and ascended to Squaw Peak itself.

As I made my way through the sprawl that is greater Phoenix, I had a remarkably easy time finding the park, but the entrance was blocked off when I arrived there due to, as I would learn later, a search and rescue operation. I followed the lead of the others and parked outside the park on a side street and walked in. Soon after entering the park I found the Summit Trail and started my ascent.
Trail up Peak photo trailuppeak_zpsab3c88e2.jpg

There were lots of people on the trail, after-all it was a beautiful day and President's Day weekend as well. The ascent was surprisingly steep and I spent much of the hike passing other hikers and getting passed by runners. There were lots of saguaros to gawk at along with the people.
Small Peak photo smallpeak_zpseab00855.jpg
Hiker on Trail photo hikerontrail_zpseb9797a7.jpg
Eventually I found myself at an exposed rock outcrop that was covered with people.
People on False Summit photo Peopleonfalsesummit_zps392b6569.jpg
I supposed this to be the summit and sat down for a rest.

As I was sitting I realized that another, nearby rock outcrop was the true summit. It looked very exposed, but after looking around I found a safe route up to the top.
Summit Photo photo Ericonsummit2_zpsd5c501bd.jpg
There was some old graffiti up there
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Graffiti photo summitoldgraffiti_zps8f3562b4.jpg
and great views of the surrounding metropolitan Phoenix area. I spent some time people watching, contemplated watching the sunset from my high perch, but then decided against it and started my way down.

Despite the waning sunlight there were still lots of people making their way the mountain as I made my descent. While I didn't get to see the sunset from the summit, I did get to watch as the sun slowly made its way lower on the horizon and painted the mountain, cacti and rocks orange until it disappeared.
Distant Peak Alpenglow photo distantpeakatsunset_zps70afd7b7.jpg
Cactus at Sunset photo glowingsaguaro_zps4420169a.jpg
I did get to see the actual sunset, but from a much lower elevation than the summit.
Phoenix at Sunset photo sunsetinPhoenix_zpscb3f0cef.jpg
I also learned that the peak is no longer referred to by the politically incorrect Squaw Peak, but now goes by the name Piestewa Peak, named after Lori Piestewa, a part-Hopi woman soldier who was killed in Iraq.
Orange Palms photo endofday_zpsea6ae6c3.jpg

Coconino National Forest: Bell Trail

After checking out the very interesting V-V Heritage Site I made the short drive over to the the Bell Trail trailhead for a hike along Wet Beaver Creek. The hike started out on a wide trail, more like an old road actually, far from the creek.
Bell Trail photo BellTrail_zps4bb7a696.jpg
According to a sign at the start of the trail, the Bell Trail was built in 1932 by Charles bell to move cattle up and down the Mogollon Rim. As I hiked the trail there were plenty of distant views of the red rock canyon up ahead. Not long after the start of the hike I noticed a large basalt boulder near the side of the trail, after passing it I turned around to have a look at the other side of it, and sure enough I found some faint petroglyphs pecked into it.
Petroglyph Boulder photo Petroglyphs_zps7863195a.jpg

After passing the petroglyph boulder I started to get closer to the creek, though the trail climbed high above it.
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Looking Upcanyon photo LookingUpstream_zpsc9bfb582.jpg
There were lots of great views of the surrounding Red Rock Country.
Red Rock Bluff photo RedRockBluff_zpsd090b844.jpg
Hiker on Trail photo AnotherHiker_zps79f8873d.jpg
I followed the trail higher and higher up the canyon.
Above Wet Beaver Creek photo highAboveWetBeaverCreek_zpsf823900c.jpg
Eventually the trail descended to Wet Beaver Creek.
Wet Beaver Creek photo WetBeaverCreek_zpsb2c2ddd6.jpg
The trail crossed the creek and continued on the other side. I thought about continuing on as well, but the water was high, swift and cold. It would have been a difficult crossing. Instead of crossing I rested at a campsite for a bit and then started heading back to the car.

The views on the way back were just as spectacular as on the way in.
Another Hiker on Trail photo HikeronTrail_zpsdccd277f.jpg
Because the way back was downhill, the going went pretty quickly.
Looking Downcanyon photo LookingDownstream_zps4bad9bd4.jpg
As I got down out of the canyon section and back onto the wide section of trail near the start, I saw something intriguing that I had somehow missed on the way in. It was a jumbled pile of stone and I immediately recognized it as the site of a pueblo. Sure enough as I inspected the site I found an intact section of stone wall,
Ruin Wall photo PuebloRuins_zps12cba559.jpg
some pottery sherds,
Pottery photo PotterySherds_zps279b990c.jpg
and a collapsed section of stone wall as well.
Collapsed Pueblo Wall photo CollapsedRuinWall_zps86645e2e.jpg
I guess the more time one spend in archeological sites in the Southwest, the easier it is to identify such sites.

From the pueblo site it was a quick walk back to the car for a drive south towards Phoenix.