New River’s Wilds, Part I: Finding the Boy Scout Loop

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January 8, 2017, New River-  I did it right, this time; I found, and walked, the Boy Scout Loop.  Taking the northbound route, from New River’s Emery Henderson Trailhead, the next to last such springboard to Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, as one gets towards Phoenix, it was a non-taxing 5.75 miles, each way, including the Loop itself. Starting with the trailhead itself, there are five covered ramadas and BLM-style restrooms, greeting the bicyclists, hikers and equestrians who flock to this part of the Sonoran Desert, for a fair guarantee of a satisfying day in lush mesquite and saguaro forests.

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The first 1/4 mile is marked by what had been a developer’s road, complete with blue-staked gas lines marking either side of the trail.  There is no gas hook-up, nor are there any further signs of prospective development.  This project was one that went belly-up in 2008.

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Once past this bladed wasteland, the cacti, succulents and hardy desert trees take over.  The terrain is not as rugged as that further north, with the washes and creek beds of the New River and its tributaries generally dry, even with the goodly amount of rain we had, the first few days of the new  year.

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The rock above had been struck by lightning, some years back, thus showing the bright sandstone, under its veneer of gray.

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Near this crossroads, I came upon two runners- husband and wife.  The lady had been injured, whilst running, and fortunately, the driver of this truck came back from target shooting, nearby, and was able to give them a ride back to the trailhead.

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It’s always wise, even in easy terrain, to keep an eye out for the triangular Black Canyon Trail markers.  Numerous ATV and shooting range roads cross the trail.  I must add that target shooters have been uniformly careful, and respectful of those whose day in the desert is more oriented towards fitness.  Younger shooters, and off -road drivers, are well-supervised by older family members.  The teams are very careful, in my experience, to pick up their shell-casings and other trash.

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After 1 1/2 hours, and 4.8 miles, I came to the southern end of Boy Scout Loop.  I took the western route, going another 1.5 miles to the Loop’s northern terminus.  The west side uses a BLM road, and features a moderate ascent, the only remotely challenging part of this segment.  A Boy Scout troop  from Cave Creek, about ten miles east of here, is said to have built this trail.

There are a few low mountains rising, north of Boy Scout Loop.  One of these, at the base of which I stopped, the day after Christmas, turns out to be just across a wash bed from the BSL’s northern tip.  The fence below marks a boundary between BLM land and State Trust property.

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Above, is the rather well-hidden northern terminus of Boy Scout Loop.  A single track leads back to the other end, going around a small mountain and through New River’s dry bed, on its way.

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This segment, as indicated earlier, is a more leisurely, non-taxing route than its counterparts to the north.  Nonetheless, it, and the remaining Biscuit Flat segment, which I will visit at the end of this month, are good indicators of the fragility of the Sonoran Desert, and of the special relationship the residents of New River and Table Mesa have with their surroundings.  Indeed, on the way back, near where the runners were rescued, a man was coaching his daughter on proper shooting, cleaning a rifle and policing spent shell casings.  I feel safer among such folk than I do in some shopping malls.

I topped off the day with a unique Jalapeno Ranch Burger, the pride of New River’s Raodrunner Saloon, which was, suitably, packed with locals this evening.  Waylon and the kids are always gracious to those from near and far.

This was a fitting end to a well-spent Christmas-New Year’s.  Tomorrow, it’s back to work for nine weeks.  We will do well.

 

 

 

 

In Utmost Isolation

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April 30, 2016, Black Canyon-  This is a few days late getting to print, but here is what happened today. I started out in mid-morning, stopping in for breakfast at Flour Stone Bakery, a lovely little spot in the old mining town of Mayer, some 30 miles southeast of Prescott.  It has authentic challah, and finely baked rye and other loaves of bread.  I am inclined to stop here on future forays along Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, which I started walking, in segments, about 15 months ago- just north of Mayer.

Here is Flour Stone Bakery, inside and out.

It seemed that the entirety of western Yavapai County, from Prescott to Mayer, was hopping, with one form of mass entertainment or another- Bicycle Marathon, Antique Car Show and, here, just plain Antique Shows.

I needed to get back into the wilderness, though, at least for several hours.  So, on to Black Canyon it was.

The segment I hiked today extended from Black Canyon City’s trailhead to Cottonwood Gulch, about 6 miles one way.  It is roughly 3/8 of the Black Canyon-Table Mesa Road section of this amazing high desert system.  In a nutshell, that means I have hiked a bit more than half of the entire trail (44 of 81 miles), over the past 15 months. Manageable segments work well for me, in this regard.

Here are a few scenes from along the trail, which alternates between hugging the Agua Fria and exploring the rugged hills and mesas, west of the river.

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Here is a view of Horseshoe Bend, about two miles south west of the trailhead.  A family was enjoying the water of Agua Fria, at this serene spot. They were among the few people I encountered this afternoon.  Six bicyclists, here and there, rounded out the “companionship”.  Mostly, though, it was the desert and me, alone.  Plants, though, were quite prolific.

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Flowering barrel cactus, Black Canyon

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Emerging cholla, in basalt field

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Mr. Sandstone

He didn’t bring me a dream, but his presence was oddly reassuring, in the quiet of the afternoon.

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Hilltop bench, Cheapshot Mine region

I chose this little redoubt, atop Cheapshot Hill, to rest and write a bit in my journal. After a brief interlude here, I kept on going to Cottonwood Gulch, just shy of an intriguing Thumb Butte-like mesa, whose name escapes me.  I will check that one out on my next segment hike, from Table Mesa Road, probably next Fall.  Here is where I chose to turn around.

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This bush reminded me a bit of mimosa, though I know it is something different- just don’t know its name.  It looks like a four-wing saltbush, but the flowers resemble those of saltcedar.

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Desert lily, Cottonwood Gulch

Well, those last two gave me a reason to pick up a wildflower book, which was actually part of a map of Death Valley, of all places.

This trail was certainly the most isolated I’ve experienced since Seven Falls, northeast of Tucson, and it was every bit as satisfying a challenge- 12 miles in a day.

.Upon returning to community life, a poetry reading and a lively jazz-funk concert rounded out this last day of April.

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Heart-shaped Prickly Pear colony

 

Bell Trail

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February 28, 2016, Rimrock, AZ- I spent yesterday, it seemed, with fork or spoon in my hand, from 2-6 P.M.  There were three gatherings:  The first, a lovely afternoon tea, was the big meal of the day, it turned out.  Then, there was a small gathering at a local bakery (I had a cup of soup),followed by an appearance at a chili cook-off. The last one only had smatterings left, so the meal ended up being, thankfully, paltry- though, being chili, it was full-on tasty.

So, today, I headed off to visit some long-time friends near Montzeuma Well, a beautiful and refreshing extension of Montezuma Castle National Monument, on the northeast end of the town of Rimrock.  Further northeast, still, lies Bell Trail, which sometimes parallels the Verde River tributary of Beaver Creek, and sometimes follows a path down to the creek.

So, after a light lunch, and visiting with the family as a group, while they put together a rabbit hutch, for Hako,

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Hako

I headed out, with one of the family members, to explore Bell Trail.  The various stops,along the trail, gave much time for meditation, even as I listened to my friend’s stories of adventure, both home and in far off lands.  I shared a few of my own, along the same lines.

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Sandstone formations, off Bell Trail

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Sandstone “fortress”, off Bell Trail.

The trail ended at “The Crack”, an overlook and creek access point that is popular with students from Northern Arizona University, as well as local youth.  The whitewater of a currently deep Beaver Creek is visible  above, at lower left.  While we we there, about a dozen youth were there, and several more were en route, as we took the return trail.  It was tempting to get in the water, with temperatures in the upper 70’s, though when we stuck our hands in the creek, it felt like the water was about 55.  That didn’t stop some of the younger folks from jumping in, though!

The afternoon was another well-spent day on the trail.  I also thoroughly enjoyed my hiking companion’s stories of time spent in  China, Tibet, and the Navajo Nation.  Many of the latter experiences I shared, having been among the Navajo and Hopi, for 11 years.

The Road to 65, Mile 100: Cowles Mountain

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March 8, 2015, San Diego- This morning found me up early, as is customary during the Baha’i Fast, which falls between March 2-20.  Getting a solid breakfast at Gramma’s Country Kitchen, my favourite restaurant in Banning, and enjoying watching as the team got everything ready for what promised to be a busy Sunday after-church crowd, I rolled out of Banning relatively early.  The drive through Hemet and Menifee, then on down to San Diego, was smooth and uneventful, save for an overturned semi-trailer, near MiraMesa.

Aram and I both rested for a bit; he, because of having had watch, last night and I, because it was Noon and fasting makes a 30-minute nap especially important.  At 2 PM, we headed out to Cowles Mountain, in Mission Trails Park, on the east side of town.  It is the highest peak within the city limits.

I was my usual self, maintaining a steady pace and taking lots of photos.  It had been a while since I hiked uphill, so it was a rather decent cardio workout.

Here are a few photos, before I put the lot of them in Flickr. Aram, feeling in need of a brisk start, blazed ahead, with my blessing.

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We had fine views of San Diego, to the southwest, and the Cuyamaca Range, to the east.

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The scrub and sandstone were our hosts, and there were dozens of hikers out enjoying the picture-postcard afternoon.

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Lake Murray, a reservoir that is part of Mission Trails Park, is visible from the south face of Cowles Mountain.  It is a popular fishing and boating venue for San Diegans.

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I reached the top in about forty minutes.  It being 83 out, the sweat was not shy about making itself known.

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George Cowles, a pioneer in the area in the 1870’s, lent his name to the mountain.SAM_4482

On the way down, I got a better sense of the alignment of various boulders.  They are almost like family groupings.

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At the foot of Cowles Mountain, near a covered trash barrel, I spotted this canyon, in which lurked- a Sandbag Boa Constrictor! 🙂

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This was a truly fine day, capped by dinner at Zorba’s, a Greek cafe between the airport and Point Loma.  San Diego never disappoints.  Neither does my son.