“Drinking Snake” segment of the Black Canyon Trail

I’ve shared several posts with images that I’ve made while hiking the Black Canyon Trail, here in the Arizona Sonora Desert, just north of Phoenix.  If you’d like more information on the trail system itself, you can click on the highlighted name to be taken to the home-page.  There are something like thirteen sections that cover approximately 78 miles of scenic desert trail leading from the Carefree Highway, just down the road from my house, all the way up to highway 69, just north of Mayer.

This post pertains to the area that I covered during my ninth hike on the Black Canyon Trail (BCT), the Drinking Snake segment, which, if you care to look at a map of roughly central Arizona, you will find six miles north and west of Interstate 17 and Bloody Basin Road (exit 259)…and for those further interested, or even mildly curious, I did not encounter either a drinking snake or a bloody basin….

The glow of sunrise before arriving at trailhead

I was still about three miles from the trailhead when I was compelled by the beautiful sky to stop and make some photographs.  The above image is from 7:28 am., about 12 minutes before the one below, taken from the trailhead parking lot.

The moment of sunrise in trail-head parking lot

I can’t think of a reason to share a photo of my truck here on the blog, so just forget that it’s there.  I always take a photo of the truck at the start and end of my hikes to mark the time…that’s all…and given where the sun is located in this particular image, I figured (when I made it) that the sun would wash-out the image, but it would still show the truck and mark the time.  When I returned home and found that it was actually a rather nice image of the sun just peeking over the horizon, I had to do more with it than just leave it in the folder.  Anyway….I was happy that my point-and-shoot captured an uncharacteristically clear and aesthetically pleasing image of the moment of sunrise at 7:40 am.

Cairn along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

As you will notice as you scroll further into the post, and possibly remember or reflect on the desert images from earlier postings, the landscape I encountered on this hike was markedly different from what I found on other outings.  The first example of that difference was in the juniper trees that appeared in clumps and in singular instances along the trail and out on the rolling hills and plains.  The cairn above appeared to be a tabletop for some creature that thrives on the juniper berries.  I found a handful of other locations along this first part of the trail that appeared to be similar feeding stations.

Close-up of juniper berries atop cairn

A reliable website that I frequent when researching various hikes, Arizona Hiking, indicates that the elevation of the Drinking Snake segment ranges between about 3,900 and 4,300 feet, which is a significant enough increase in elevation to effect the types and kinds of cactus and other desert/high-desert vegetation that can live there.

Morning shadows on hillside along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

The weather report for the area said that it was going to be a partly to mostly cloudy day…but it was a bit different during the time I was out on the trail.  There were beautiful clouds for sunrise and the next hour or two, but the earlier winds seemed to have removed them for mid-day and early afternoon.

Sun-glow of Prickly Pear cactus along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

I love to hike in the mornings…aside from there being many fewer people out hiking or riding their trail bikes, the rising sun plays wonderfully on the cactus spines and grasses that I normally find along the way.

Dried desert buckwheat flowers along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

The below photo is a bit darker than I would prefer, but it still gives you an idea of the grassland and the different type of shrubs…the singular yucca with its multi-podded antennae, the juniper off to the right, and, of course, the few groupings of the ubiquitous Prickly Pear cactus….and the fence….

Fenceline with scrub, cacti, and morning clouds along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

And here are another five photos that show the morning light captured in the cactus spines and seed-heads…

Glowing seedheads and Prickly Pear cacti along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

…a different variety of the Prickly Pear cactus…and seed-heads…

Golden-spined Prickly Pear cactus with wild grasses along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

…a nearly heart-shaped lobe of cactus…

Prickly Pear cactus along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

…wild grasses and cactus spines…

Dried grasses and cacti along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

…and some kind of wildflower left-overs among the cacti….

Dried wildflowers and Prickly Pear cactus along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

Looking toward the southwest, but mostly west, we can begin to see more of the Bradshaw Mountains…beyond the rising, grassy plain…

Rolling hills, mountains, and clouds along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

…and looking behind us, the direction from which we came, we can see the flatter grassland and those fading clouds….

Grasslands and clouds along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

A few minutes later, the trail turned a bit toward the east, still going south, though, so the mountains out in the beyond are not the Bradshaws…but possibly the New River Mountains…I’m not sure.

Richly-desert foreground with mountains and clouds along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

The online resources indicate that this watering hole and windmill are at 2.8 miles into the hike…but they didn’t say anything about the clatter and racket from the blades, or the sound of the wind in the air and among the grasses….

Cloudy sky with windmill along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

Those are the Bradshaw Mountains off in the distance…and I believe this little draw area in the foreground might be the drainage of Antelope Creek….  The section of the trail just south of this Drinking Snake segment is named after Antelope Creek…and this bit of landscape is in the right spot to be such a named thing….

Bradshaw Mountain panorama viewed from Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

And this next image is looking east again, with a bit of south in it, as well…with a couple of horses and mountain silhouettes, cacti…and the ever grasses….

Distant horses on grassy plain along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

…a bit closer….

Horses and hillsides along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

…and a bit farther away, too, from a slightly higher elevation and further down the trail where you can see a greater spread of the land.

Wide open spaces along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

We’ve already seen a different presentation of this next image…it’s the same bit of ground as the one where the horses first appeared…but we’re closer now.

View of sloping plain and mountains along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

The Drinking Snake segment of the Black Canyon Trail actually ends right there at that lone tree in the upper image.  Just beyond that spot is a graded road…Forest Road 259, or Antelope Creek Road….the northern starting place for that next section of the trail that I mentioned above.  I’m not sure how long that stretch of the trail is, but it will join up with the segment that we visited a while earlier when we went north from Bumble Bee Road…back in July.

I made this last image toward the very end, actually the very middle, of my hike…my turning-around point.  It’s about 0.8 miles into the next section of the trail that is south of the Drinking Snake segment.  I hadn’t explored this bit of ground on the map before heading out…and hadn’t indicated (on the note I left taped to the fridge at home) that I was going further, so it was a good spot to sit and have a snack before heading back to the truck.

Desert foliage and mountains along Drinking Snake segment of Black Canyon Trail

So…that was another almost six miles of the Black Canyon Trail…shown in chronological order from the starting sunrise to the point of return.  Thank you for joining me on the hike.  I hoped you enjoyed this latest glimpse of the Arizona Sonora Desert….

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20 responses

  1. I was lucky enough to see some wild horses while I was out there. Always beautiful. Love the sun on the cactus spines.

    January 13, 2016 at 6:46 am

    • I would love to see some wild horses…don’t think there are any in my neck of the woods, but there are some a bit east of here.

      January 18, 2016 at 1:10 pm

  2. Great photo series; I love hiking so I’m anxious to go out and cover this same ground.

    January 13, 2016 at 8:08 am

    • Thank you, Charlie. All of the BCT trail-heads are only a short drive from the main freeway here, so they won’t be difficult to find when you get down here.

      January 18, 2016 at 1:12 pm

  3. I looked really hard . . . wanted to see a snake drinking. Still, nice landscape and photos.

    January 13, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    • Thank you, Emilio….and yeah, I was looking rather closely myself, but still nada…no drinking snakes to be seen.

      January 18, 2016 at 1:13 pm

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed the photos! I really loved that section of the desert too. Bloody Basin, by the way, was named for the red clay that is found there. After a Jeep trip down through Bloody Basin, you, the Jeep and everything you possess will be a red color from the dust (if you make the trip in the summer). Otherwise, it’s a red colored, greasy clay and I’ve found that that causes you to drive sideways a lot of the time.

    January 13, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    • I’m glad you enjoyed them, Terry…your old stompin-grounds again. I’ve not heard that about the name for Bloody Basin, but it makes sense…..and what fun, driving sideways on the clay!

      January 18, 2016 at 1:15 pm

  5. I’d love to hike that trail. It’s so different from anything I see here.

    January 14, 2016 at 2:56 am

    • It’s been more enjoyable than I thought it would be, Allen…and you get to see a great variety of plant life, too, the further north you make it. Fascinating stuff, actually.

      January 18, 2016 at 1:16 pm

  6. Beautiful images of what to me is quite an alien landscape. Thanks, as ever, Scott for taking me along and introducing me to your part of the world!

    January 14, 2016 at 8:56 am

    • I’m glad you would come along, Adrian…and you’re most welcome. 🙂

      January 24, 2016 at 5:09 pm

  7. I’m impressed that you get out so early – I KNOW it’s best but can hardly ever manage it! You’re right, what a great time to see what the sun does with cactus spines and grasses. I love the juniper berries on the cairn – that is very cool. And I like your truck in the photo actually, and the fact that you always take that first photo to mark the time. Love the horse, of course, and the photo above the windmill one gives a beautiful sense of the land and space.

    January 16, 2016 at 11:58 am

    • I like to get out there before everyone else does, Lynn, to experience the place in solitude…have my own thoughts, and hear only my own footsteps on the trail. The last photo you mentioned, the one above the windmill in the series, is my favorite landscape shot of the bunch.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Lynn…thank you for the detailed comment. 🙂

      January 24, 2016 at 5:17 pm

  8. Thanks for taking me there. I saw the light on the cactus and enjoyed your photos. It feels a very lonely place Scott, or perhaps that’s the mood I’m in today. Even though I live in a relatively unpopulated part of the U.K., it’s rare to see a completely deserted landscape. I think that I would feel very alone in your landscape my friend!

    January 18, 2016 at 5:15 am

    • I’m glad you could join me, John…and yes, there is certainly a sense of alone-ness out there that could be felt as lonely…but it’s a comfort to me, somehow…allows me to be “present” in another place where the cares and concerns of daily life aren’t as pressing…where the immensity of the environment encourages a different mindset.

      January 24, 2016 at 5:24 pm

      • I fully relate to your description of your emotional needs, Scott, and how the wide open serves that need to dwell in your parallel universe therapy for a few hours. Thank goodness such time and space is available, we all need a break from routine.

        January 26, 2016 at 1:08 pm

        • That’s a good place for therapy, John…and I’m glad to know you can relate. Have a nice weekend….

          January 30, 2016 at 12:20 pm

  9. This is slick, I’m thinking of putting a trip together out there, this piece is certainly a motivating factor.

    January 28, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    • Thanks, Darcy…there are abundant opportunities and locations for hiking out here.

      January 30, 2016 at 12:21 pm

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