Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hike #8: West Clear Creek Trail, Coconino National Forest

Length: 8 miles

After seeing the West Clear Creek Trail included on multiple "best trails" lists, I decided that I had to see what all the hype was about. Fortunately, I can say that the West Clear Creek Trail completely lived up to its reputation!

The trail, which as the name suggests follows the West Clear Creek, provides lush green forests, beautiful red cliffs, and multiple chances for water excursions! (In fact, you'd better bring your water shoes along because the trail crosses the creek 4 different times. And trust me, you'll want to wear your water shoes at each crossing...after walking a mile in soaking wet hiking boots, I can personally attest to this!) I would also recommend wearing/bringing swimming apparel so that you can take the time and actually enjoy a cool dip in the water.

The West Clear Creek is a little busy at its start with swimmers, but the further you get from the trailhead the more secluded it becomes. In fact, when first entering the Wilderness area there are so many trails leading to the creek that it can be hard to stay on the main "West Clear Creek Trail". I personally would recommend skipping the first part of the established trail and enjoying a relaxing hour of exploration along the creek. Just know that you can always find the main trail by working your way left from the creek.

To view my photos of the West Clear Creek Trail, click here.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hike #7: Sierra Vista Mountain Range, Coronado National Forest

I woke up this morning with the intent of heading north to the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness; however, when I got in my car, I spontaneously decided to spice it up and head south towards Tucson and the Green Mountain Trail (another of the famous 30 Summer Hikes.) I had assumed that the general directions from the magazine would be enough to get me to the I didn't bother to run back into my apartment to look for detailed directions or a map...BIG MISTAKE!

I had no trouble making it to Tucson (even though the vast majority of downtown Tucson was under construction.) However, when I got closer to Coronado National Forest, I apparently followed the wrong highway (even though I have NO clue how this happened!) Anyway, instead of ending up in the nice hiker-friendly area with lots of trails, I found myself in the white trash region of the forest! Instead of the quiet hikers with their friendly dogs, I was in some type of twilight zone of the forest - everyone was either shooting rifles at the distance cactus...or riding a dirt bike/ATV.

Well, since there weren't any trails along the road I traveled, my trip today was more of a drive rather than a hike. However, the view of the mountain was pretty amazing...and I found the cow crossing signs to be pretty funny. I did try to make the best of a bad situation by making several stops along the dirt road and venturing out among the rocks...following whatever makeshift trail I could create (though I would warn against this due to the sharpness of cactus and most other desert the numerous broken beer bottles and shotgun shells.)

To see more pictures of the Sierra Vista Mountains, click here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hike #6: Donahue Trail, Tonto National Forest

Length: 6.5 miles

Today, I again ventured north to the Tonto National Forest to hike one of the "30 Great Summer Trails".

The Donahue Trail was quite different from my previous hike in the Payson region of the Tonto National Forest. The Donahue Trail had the same beautiful mountain scenery as well as spectacular views of the Mogollon Rim; however, unlike my previous trek in the area, the Donahue Trail goes straight up and provided an amazing panoramic view of the area from above!

Unfortunately, these wonderful views did come at a price - the Donahue Trail is a 3-mile climb to the top of a fairly steep mountain! The first half of the trail was well shaded and fairly flat...however, the second half was a series of switchbacks leading to the top of the mountain. (Switchbacks are a series of zig-zagging trails that gradually lead to the top/bottom of a mountain.) After going back and forth, over and over again, you begin to think that the top of the mountain is never going to come. Although this makes for hard going on the way up, the way down is fast and simple. In fact, on the way down we were rewarded for all our hard work by the breathtaking view of a large elk standing just off of the trail.

Although the heat and steepness of the trail made for hard-going, the remarkable views and the chance to interact with wildlife easily made it all worthwhile.

To view more pictures of my excursion to the Donahue Trail, click here.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Hike #5: Ranch Trail, Prescott National Forest

Length: 3 miles (just a part of the full trail)

The Ranch Trail runs through the Prescott National Forest just off the main road to Lynx Lake. Although the trail is easy to follow with several log benches along the way for well-deserved rests, the scenery from the trail left a lot to be desired! As with the other areas of Prescott Forest that I observed, there was just far too much development in the mountains surrounding the forest. I'm sure the people who own those houses have lovely living room views of the forest - but for the average hiker, these houses have ruined most of the landscape.

I would personally recommend just skipping the Ranch Trail. The trail didn't have many trees in the immediate vicinity, so there was very little shade....which made for a rather warm hike. The lack of trees also provided room for other, smaller vegetation....which mainly amounted to tall unattractive wild grasses. Overall, it just wasn't worth the time and energy.

To view more pictures of the Ranch Trail, click here.

Hike #4: Lynx Lake and Lynx Lake Ruins Trail, Prescott National Forest

Length: 4 miles

Lynx Lake is just an hour and a half northwest of Phoenix in the small town of Prescott. The lake itself was quite beautiful and very busy with both boaters and fishers. The trail itself was very easy...and almost mundane. At least half of the trail was paved with a nice sidewalk, and the other part was very well marked. However, I would recommend ditching the main trail and exploring some of the trails that lead into the forest - away from the activity of the lake. One particularly good trail followed this shallow stream and provided amble chances to cross from bank to bank over fallen logs and large rocks.

In addition to the route around Lynx Lake, we also visited the short Lynx Lake Ruins Trail. This trail leads to the ruins of a small pueblo, thought to have been populated by a small group of Indians from 1100-1350. Now, while this might sound interesting, the ruins are nothing more than a massive collection of rocks - which at one time were apparently a group of stone houses. Although the forest service has erected a nice observation deck overlooking the ruins and the surrounding mountains, the view was somewhat ruined by the many houses that have been built on the edges of the forest. My recommendation is to forget the Ruins Trail altogether!

For more pictures of the Lynx Lake, click here.