Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hike #14: Granite Mountain Trail, Prescott National Forest

Length: 4 miles (only a portion of the trail)

After my last rather disappointing visit to the Prescott area, I was a little hesitant to return to the area. However, when a colleague recently mentioned she was organizing a group to attend a nature hike in that area, I said 'what the heck' and added my name to the list.

Fortunately, I can say my second visit to the Prescott National Forest was much better than the first. While the forest along the south side of town seemed to be little more than overly-developed shrubland, the forest north of Prescott was full of majestic granite mountain cliffs and areas of rather diverse forest vegetation (which in late October provided some rather nice fall foliage.)

Granite Mountain Trail is actually relatively easy to follow. Starting near the Granite Basin Lake, the trail follows and easy path for the first mile until you come to a large wooden fence. After the fence, the trail begins a quick assent with a series of rather steep switchbacks. Although it may be a bit of a workout, the view from above is well worth the effort! I will definitely be planning a return trip to the Granite Mountain for more exploration of the many trails this area has to offer.

To see more photos of Granite Mountain Trail, click here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hike #13: Horton Creek Trail, Tonto National Forest

Length: 10 miles (8 miles of the Horton Creek Trail plus 2 miles of the Highland Trail)

As the name suggests, the Horton Creek Trail traces its way along the Horton Creek to its spring source. As the creek slowly tumbles its way to the bottom, the trail weaves through the forest beside the creek. The forest itself is quite beautiful; with a large numbers of oaks and maples, this forest is perhaps the most "eastern" of any I've yet seen in Arizona.

However, the creek is by far the true star of this trail. With the cool spring being at the top of the mountain, the creek has to work its way down the gradual slope - this means more picturesque waterfalls than one could imagine! In fact, I would highly recommend foregoing the established trail and working your way along the makeshift trails along the creek banks whenever possible!

My only complaint about this trail is the difficulty in locating the second trail that was suppose to complete the loop. Although I walked the Highland Trail for a good mile, I found very few trail markers and knew little about where the return trail was suppose to, I chose to return the way I came rather than continue towards the unknown.

To see more pictures of the the Horton Creek Trail, click here.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Hike #12: Butcher Jones Trail, Tonto National Forest

Length: 2 miles (just a short portion of the trail)

With the cooler weather in the Phoenix area lately, I decided to try another attempt at the Superstition Wilderness, which is the mountainous area just east of the city. Several months ago, I attempted the Boulder Canyon Trail...only to succumb to the heat and humidity of July in Arizona. Well, I can gladly say that the weather was perfect this morning for my trip to the Butcher Jones Trail!

The Butcher Jones Trail traces it way through the riparian and desert areas along the western shores of Saguaro Lake. The lake, which is the smallest formed by a series of dams along the Salt River, provides a beautiful oasis of wildlife and vegetation quite uncharacteristic of the desert. The first 1/4 mile of this trail is well-developed with paved sidewalks, hand railings, and plenty of trees.

However, the trail soon leaves the shoreline, and the path becomes much rougher! For about a half mile, the rocky trail weaves it's way between a variety of interesting cacti. Unfortunately, the trail soon all but disappears....becoming overgrown and all but impossible to follow. Although I made several attempts to find the correct path, I only found myself scrambling again and again through low underbush! In the end, I had to admit defeat and give up on the Butcher Jones Trail.

On a side note, I would like to mention that all areas surrounding the Saguaro Lake require a Tonto Forest Parking Pass. Before I went this morning, I had read a number of sources that said that the fee had either been discontinued or that you could pay for the permit on site. Neither of these things were true! You must purchase a day pass at a gas station in town before heading out there...learn from my mistake and save yourself the extra 20 miles required to return to the nearest gas station!

To see more pictures of the Butcher Jones Trail and Saguaro Lake, click here.