Red Mountain, in the Blue Hills

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October 13, 2020, Dewey, AZ-

There are two Red Mountains, within a day’s driving distance of Prescott. One of these lies just south of this little ranching and farming community, southeast of Prescott. The Blue Hills, in which this Red Mountain may be found, are a rugged subrange of foothills to the larger Bradshaw Mountain chain, which stretches from Prescott’s southern edge to Black Canyon City and Crown King, at the southern tip of Yavapai County.

I’ve hiked a fair amount in the Bradshaws, over the past nine years. The hike today was my first visit to the Blue Hills region. I got there a little past 11:30, finding only two other visitors in the parking area. They were on their way out, so I had the trail to myself. Off it was, to Red Mountain of the Blue Hills.

The trail was introduced recently by the estimable Phoenix hiking trails writer, Mare Czinar. I found the trail exactly as she described it-beginning on a stony Forest Service road, then entering a forest of Gambel’s Oak and Alligator Juniper. After about 1.5 miles, the trail loses the forest, entering into a sparsely-vegetated area of scattered lone juniper trees and prickly pear cacti.

Switchbacks and mildly steep inclines take up the final mile or so, landing one very close to the summit of Red Mountain, with a Forest Service gate, that begins a trail to Lynx Lake, some five miles westward. I will check out Prospectors Trail, from the Salida Gulch area, later this Fall. For now, here are some of the views I encountered.

This message has wider implications for all of us.

Blue Hills Trail System joint-use guide
Red Mountain, from the Trailhead
Sandstone Outcropping, near Trailhead
Sandstone and Juniper mix
The trail passes alongside Green Gulch, for about .9 mile. Green Gulch, Red Mountain, Blue Hills-wonder where indigo and violet come in.
Year ago, there were miners panning for gold, in Green Gulch and in Salida Gulch, further southwest. This foundation is what’s left of one such mining claim.
Smidgens of Fall colours could be glimpsed, here and there.
This gate took m eout of BLM land and onto Prescott National Forest.
This is close to the end of the thick forest and start of high desert scrub.
The climb out of Green Gulch, and up onto the ridges of Red Mountain, begins here.
This large sandstone outcropping lies slightly to the east of the final ridge of Red Mountain.
Here is the reddish sandstone that gives the peak its name.
Once through this gate, one goes down into Salida Gulch, and on to Lynx Lake and Highlands Nature Center- five miles, one way.
This is one of several heart-shaped rocks, which always affirm my journey.

One Good Loop Deserves Another

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April 7, 2019-

A week or so ago, one of Arizona’s premier hiking columnists, Mare Czinar, wrote of a new trail, branching in elliptical fashion off the Prescott Circle Trail, which I have hiked and chronicled, in the past three years.

A group called “The Over-The-Hill Gang”, loosely named for a Western movie set of characters, has taken it upon themselves to build this, and other new trails, as well as maintain older trails in the area.  I value their efforts.

The West Loop Trail begins at a large, new parking area:  White Rock.  Prior to this, those who wanted to hike in the region west of Thumb Butte had to leave their cars parked just off the road, or into the brush.  White Rock is a decent compromise, between “no footprint” activists and those who object to cars clogging the side of the well-traveled recreational road.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The West Trail’s initial segment is .5 mile in length.  It features several granite and limestone boulder formations, so despite its brevity and flatness, this small sector is worthy of keeping one’s eyes open.  I reassured a tired little guy, doing the home stretch with his parents, that he was almost done.  It was nice to see that kept him going, instead of having Mom or Dad carry him.

The boulder fields are off-trail, thus making for a quick, easy start.

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As with any large number of rocks, the imagination can show a given boulder to have a human or animal likeness.  I see the boulder in the background as George Washington.

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Poking out from between two boulders is a charred tree limb, with the likeness of an angry snake.

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These sandstone boulders are laid out, almost looking like segments of a large worm.  It was about here, that I turned left, onto the Javelina Trail, a part of Prescott Circle.

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I took a brief rest at this spot, writing in my hiking journal, as to the ambiance of the place. I had the trail to myself, much of the time, with the preponderance of other users being bicyclists, whose presence is most always fleeting.  I step to the side for them, as downhill and flatland find cyclists going at a fast clip and uphill involves their huffing and puffing.

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Here, I see another giant watchman, in the center of this scene.

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This clump of boulders is another fine spot for sitting and meditating.

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“Little Italy” is a side trail, which I will investigate on another hike.

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This abandoned corral was part of a small ranch in the area, prior to the National Forest being established.  The rancher moved away, before the Forest took over.

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All that is left of his home is this chimney.  It seems to have been used as an outdoor oven.

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The reason for his choice of home is simple:  Here is the South Fork of Willow Creek.

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From the creek, the path becomes Firewater Trail.  A brief climb takes us past this stern eagle-like formation.

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Back on the flat trail, a dead alligator juniper resembles a welcoming totem pole.

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At the junction of Firewater Trail and the homestretch of West Trail, a clever OTHG member placed this trail marker.

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Surrounding peaks make their presence known, along the West Trail.  To the southeast, is Thumb Butte.

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To the north is majestic Granite Mountain.

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Working around a family who had come to this panoramic viewpoint for photos, I got this shot of the San Francisco Peaks.  SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

After taking a photo of the three family members together, I headed down the last half mile.  Just before the parking lot, I came upon this little “critter”.

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My left knee and cardiopulmonary system thank me for this afternoon- and I extend that thanks to the Over-The-Hill-Gang and the U.S. Forest Service.  It’s good to feel like old times.