Waterfall & Black Rock Trails Sunday, Oct 30 2011 

Water Tank in White Tank Mtns

Water Tank in White Tank Mtns

The White Tank Mountain Regional Park, located on the far west side of Phoenix, is composed of freestanding, deeply serrated, 4,000 foot-high peaks where floodwaters have scoured out a series of depressions, or “tanks,” in the white granite rock.  The Waterfall Trail, an easy, level, two mile hike, provides a good introduction to the area.  Hohokam Indians, who hunted game and as skilled desert agriculturists built an intricate irrigation system and network of canals, blanketed this area with petroglyphs, scratched geometric designs on a rock surface.  An old, bullet-ridden steel stock tank remains from an early cattle rancher.  The trail ends at a point where the canyon narrows to a boulder-choked ravine lined with towering rock walls.  Apparently, the waterfall only runs after monsoon storms in July and August.  On our return on this out-and-back trail, we added the 1.3 mile Black Rock Long Loop Trail through open desert.  The drive to this park goes through an irrigated agricultural area growing a variety of crops.  Just off Interstate 10 there is also a large state prison.  The White Tank Mountain Regional Park provided us with another interesting area to explore.

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Arizona State Fair Sunday, Oct 23 2011 

AZ State Fair

AZ State Fair

The Arizona State Fair, located in Phoenix, runs from October 14 through November 6 excluding Mondays and Tuesdays.  We visited yesterday which was cooler than the previous Saturday but still with temperatures in the 90s.  We were among the first guests visiting the Butterfly Adventure.  A monarch butterfly, even one on the ground, could be easily encouraged to attach itself to a Q-tip laced with nectar.  One even tried to escape by reposing on a hat.  The Saharan Bazaar Fossils and Minerals display located near an entrance to the commercial exhibits was quite colorful.  The Republican booth had a disturbing white board message announcing that the Democratic Party was further left than Cuba.  The Democrats booth was not yet staffed.  The Fine Arts display in the Coliseum featured interesting art work such as an intricately detailed drawing of a wild cat in a tree.  We couldn’t figure out why there was a wall display of different pictures depicting Marilyn Monroe.  Our search for the Caribbean Village Plaza to see the Native Spirit Dancers was made easier when we could hear a steady drumbeat.  The dancer’s costumes were colorful and intricate.  We were especially impressed with the hoop dance.  Speakers showed a sense of humor and emphasized the oneness of all people.  From the large selection of fair food we chose the Navajo Taco Stand and were pleased by the fresh ingredients.  We did not partake in drinking a $7.50 beer or $12 margarita.  In the cattle barn we saw zebu cattle, a small sized breed adapted to high temperatures, that neither of us had previously seen.

TNT-FMX

TNT-FMX

There were a few llamas, one with fetching long eyelashes, and some very shaggy sheep.  The Agricultural Center featured the wide variety of Arizona poultry, some quite colorful.  Tom Turkeys puffed up their bodies and spread their tail feathers while grunting “”Gobble, gobble.”  There is a chicken breed whose grey feathers look like fur.  The daredevil acrobatics of TNT-Freestyle Motorcross in the Grandstand arena awed us.  Three young motorcyclists performed aerial maneuvers, two of them completed full flips of their motorcycles.  The Arizona State Fair is worth visit.

Black Canyon Trail Saturday, Oct 22 2011 

Black Canyon Trail

Black Canyon Trail

The trailhead for the Black Canyon Trail off highway 69 three miles east of Mayer is at an elevation of 4,000 feet.  It is on Bureau of Land Management land and part of a sheep driveway corridor that has been used for a hundred years to herd sheep from the Phoenix area to the cooler climate of the Mongollon Rim during the summer.  The current trail goes all the way to the Carefree Highway.  I hiked 2.6 miles over the dry creek beds of Big Bug Creek and Hackberry Creek climbing only 150 feet to the intersection with YC 74, Antelope Creek Road, before returning.  I didn’t see any sheep, but I did come face to face with a bull as the trail looped around a juniper.  I backtracked and angled my way to the trail keeping an eye on the bull.  Flashback to Sunday drives with the family in a Chevrolet station wagon, three boys filling the back seat.  My father had installed a fog horn.  He enjoyed driving back roads in the Willamette Valley.  When he found a field of cows with no farmhouse in sight, he parked and then blew the horn.  Normally complacent cows would charge.  His behavior is an example of how my parents embarrassed me.  My empathy was with the cows.  Fortunately in my present day hike the emaciated black bull stayed in the cool shade guarding his tree and I didn’t need to ward off a charge with my walking stick.  More shade seeking cattle were off the trail as I proceeded.   This hike, my eighth of this year’s “Take a Hike” offerings, qualifies me for a medallion.

Little Granite Mountain Trail Friday, Oct 21 2011 

Prescott National Forest Prescribed Burn

Prescribed Burn Smoke

The Little Granite Mountain Trail (#37) is the only one of this year’s twelve trails in the “Take a Hike” program that I have previously hiked.  The trailhead off Iron Springs Road starts at an elevation of 6,050 feet and climbs 500 feet in a mile to a gate which was the turn around point.  I kept walking, passing a scenic view with a balancing boulder where we previously turned around, to an even wider valley panorama where the trail abuts the Granite Mountain Wilderness.  On my return the smoke from a prescribed burn in the Bradshaws behind Thumb Butte held my interest.  I detoured north under the power lines on MOT #619 for a panoramic view of Skull Valley.  Another invigorating hike on an azure sky day.

Vista, Panorama & Petroglyph Trails Thursday, Oct 20 2011 

Willow Lake Vista

Vista View

This year’s “Take a Hike” program has introduced me to several new trails including the City of Prescott trails discussed in this entry.  The Vista Trail starts at Vista Park in the Prescott Lakes area.  One segment quickly becomes the Panorama Trail which ends on Solstice Drive where a 150 yard walk connects with the Petroglyph Trails.  The high point is a mesa with an elevation of 5,480 feet and clear views in all directions.  Willow Lake, Granite Dells and distant mountains are visible in one direction, new houses are being constructed near a golf course in the opposite direction.  Bark chips cover the loop trail on top of the mesa which also has an interpretive sign describing images of nearby petroglyphs.  Native peoples viewed the summer and winter solstice from this location.  The summer solstice sun sets in a Granite Mountain notch; the winter solstice sun sets behind Thumb Butte.  Unfortunately, the petroglyphs here and in other locations in this community have been disturbed from their original locations.  Nevertheless, it’s great to have such interesting trails within Prescott.

General Crook Trail Wednesday, Oct 19 2011 

General Crook Trailhead

General Crook Trailhead

What is now called General Crook Trail (#64) originally connected Fort Whipple and Fort Apache and covered approximately 200 miles.  This is one of twelve trails selected for this year’s “Take a Hike” program and one of four chosen because of its historic interest during the Arizona Centennial.  General George Crook was assigned to Fort Whipple, Prescott in the 1870s.  I admit to getting confused in trying to follow the map for this 2.8 mile out-and-back hike.  The initial portion of the trail has clear signage but gets confusing when it intersects with old roads.  Cairns help to define the trail but after arriving in the cottonwoods at Ash Creek I missed the trail and followed the creek for some distance.  I the pondered whether to bushwhack to highway 169 which was visible or circle back to find a road or the trail.  I decided on the latter course and gained an appreciation for hiking on a trail after encountering numerous bushes with thorns.   Eventually I connected with the trail and made my way safely back to my car.  However, I missed seeing the historic stone corral and the antiquities sign that marked the end of the designated hike.  I did spot the skeleton and hide of a cow on this outing, and I gained an appreciation for those early pioneers who settled this rugged region.

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