By far, I have found it best to be on these desert trails shortly after sunrise, or within the first hour thereafter….
…the light is more pleasant and provides for greater character in the subjects found along the way.
Two Sundays ago found me hiking south on the Black Canyon Trail from the Bumble Bee trailhead. I have hiked this stretch of the trail once before…on a sweetly cloudy day in July of last year.
I didn’t go as far with this present hike, as the day’s heat was growing more oppressive and casting something of an ugly hue on everything that caught my eye.
I didn’t get out hiking in the earlier part of Spring, and have therefore missed the rich greenness that all of these wild grasses and flowers must have added to the area.
I love the pearl-like clusters of the creosote or grease-wood bushes…especially when the morning light is behind them.
The desert, overall, wasn’t especially attractive on this particular morning, but when I stopped along the trail to look more closely, I found plenty to admire.
And in the photo below, a glance skyward brings a reminder of what can happen if one tarries too long…..
This second installment begins where the first one ended, right at the Fremont Saddle…the geographic/landscape feature that appeared to be a resting and turning-around point for many hikers. That was my impression, anyway, as there were a few people who walked out to the lone Pinon Pine in the distance, and many fewer people who actually went down the trail that eventually led to the base of Weaver’s Needle in the background…and swarms and tons of them at the saddle and back down on the first half of the trail as I made my return trek.
This second image is the view to the left of Weaver’s needle, made from the same location as the one above….
There is actually quite a gulf of rock-filled space between that lone pine and the southern edge of the base of Weaver’s Needle, even though some of the following images offer a view that appears somewhat contrary to what I just stated.
If you can return to the first image above, find the two people, and then travel in your mind in a sort of quarter or third of a circle off to your right, you will come to the location where I made the below image…it’s looking somewhat off to the southeast…over a further expanse of rocky and bouldered desert that contains dozens of other trails.
Crazy waves of mountain tops and yucca stalks….
Approaching Weaver’s Needle now, coming from the southeast where the above image was made…with a somewhat serpentine trail drawing us closer. You can see two people on the trail….
And below, facing somewhat northeast over the rocks and mountains of the Superstitions. I shared this image in a black and white rendering a few weeks ago….
It appears that we’re getting really close now….
Don’t forget to look down…and pay attention to what’s there….
Final yards up to the lone Pinon Pine…a feature that is discussed on-line as another favorite destination and turn-around spot. I encountered a man and woman (and their dog) who appeared to have spent the night under the pine…and were packing to leave as the other hikers and I arrived…rested, lingered, and then departed to continue our respective journeys.
This is the view from the ledge just down and to the left/west of the pine tree…there is quite a bit of space between the tree and the Needle…..
More to follow….
The Peralta Trail is just one of the almost 40 trails that one can find in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona. The mountains are part of the Superstition Wilderness that lies within the confines of the Tonto National Forest. I might have mentioned it in the earlier post, but my visit to this bit of desert a week or so ago was my first…. I have only driven “close” to the area a few times in my two-decades-plus of living in Arizona…and by “close,” I mean maybe within 20 miles…or more. The photo below was made about 17 minutes before “sunrise” proper, so it’s a little dark…even with some “fill light.”
I didn’t really know what to expect when I arrived at the canyon. I did know, however, that I would be following the trail, out and back, so I didn’t research the actual trail, other than to learn where to find the trailhead. I did not check-out Google’s images of the trail or the mountains. I wanted everything to be fresh…wanted the neuronal memories to be of things that I actually saw….
I spoke with one of the National Forest attendants who was milling around the parking lot and he said that all of the streams had stopped running by then, said they were going earlier in the week with the rains, but that I shouldn’t have any difficulties crossing the stream-beds during the hike. This one was still actually “running” when I encountered it on the way out, and back several hours later…but it was much nicer when this photo was taken, as I was the only witness of that particular moment of the day….
Above and below, two images of the same mountain from different perspectives, different times and elevations…further along the trail with the second. I suppose I could mention here that all of the photos are presented in time order…for this and the following two posts…all the way out and back.
It was all quite new to me, as I mentioned earlier…a richness of green in the middle of the desert…green at the present because of the Winter rains and cooler temperatures…a seasonal reprieve from what I understand to be hideous temperatures that ride there in the middle of the year months. The rock battlements in the lower photo were an accompaniment for the greater portion of the first part of the trail…they subsided somewhat…changed, rather, as the trail went further up the canyon.
Looking back-trail again in the below photo…amazed again/still at the greenery…
And then comes the company…at least it was a dog…with a human trailing behind…two of them, actually, but quite ones…a girl-pair with their purple hair…and lip piercings…and water bottles and backpacks…on the trail of a Sunday morning…
I guess the one above is a closer view of the one below…climbing higher again.
…and this one, too….
….anyway, it was damn beautiful out there and my sense of amazement only grew as the trail climbed in elevation….
Pretty and crazy rocks….
It was almost 85 miles from my drive-way in the far northwest valley to the trailhead in the extreme southeast valley, just across the county line, just beyond Apache Junction, just past Gold Canyon…and well worth the drive.
Seven hours on and off the trail, almost 300 photos later…an overcast day with the sun barely peeking out from behind the clouds for an hour, and then retreating back behind them….
While I was hiking in near solitude on the way out…it was like fighting an infestation of lice or mites on the second half of the return trip…walking people, talking people, loud people, colorful people, children people, slow people, dogs with people…and people people….
But before the people…the views…the cool morning air…the rocks and greening desert…and the slight murmuring and chuckling of a diminishing canyon stream….
This was my first trip into the Superstitions…and I will be back.
More to follow….
I’ve driven past this landmark on the way to and from Tucson innumerable times over the last two and a half decades…finally climbed to the top….kinda cool.
Tried to get there at sunrise to see the grand walls adorned with the fresh morning’s light….
Parked outside the gate to Picacho Peak State Park…in the below image. For anyone who enjoys the Wikipedia take on things, here’s another link…which addresses the redundancy of the name. “Picacho” means “peak” in Spanish….so this is Peak Peak State Park….
The trail is going to take us up to the uppermost point on the prominence to the left…the eastern summit.
Hunter Trail goes in a zig-zag switchback manner up the front of the slope in the above image, reaches the saddle at the notch on the right, and then drops down over 200 feet and then skirts along the south side heading east, and finally climbs up and up and up…..
The above photo shows the view looking north and south from the front of the slope in the image just above it….and the photo below shows the saddle…looking east. And yes, that is the “peak”….the destination…at the far left side of the image.
Hmmm….lovely defacing of the placard…the peak is believed to be about 22 million years old….
Looking north and west from the saddle in the below image….a crumpled-blanket-looking-desert….
And now heading down from the saddle (below) with the double steel cable hand-rails…going waaaaay down the steep slope.
Looking directly south from the above slope…out over the irrigated desert’s fields….
In the below image, we have made it safely down that severe slope and have headed east along the south side of the mount…climbed up a bit, and have arrived at something like an arena or amphitheater in the rock’s backside….
Saguaro cacti, Palo Verde trees/shrubs, and Creosote/Grease-wood bushes…. The below photo is what is inside of the shadows in the right side of the above photo…
A singular cross on Golgotha….?
Another incredibly steep climb upward with the double cable hand-rails….nearing the top….
My only company on the summit….
In the below image, we’re looking north and west from the top….fascinating green veins where the water runs in its season…
And looking north and east from the summit, in the below image, over the irrigated fields…over the freeway heading toward Tucson to the right…and over Rooster Cogburn’s Ostrich Ranch…in that white hangar-like structure…toward left of center…
Looking west from the east and highest summit…over the western summit….
And now looking further west from that western summit….
In the below image, the eastern summit proper…the Picacho Peak….viewed from the slope of the western summit.
Looking up at the “trail” we just descended…heading down on the Sunset Vista Trail…which loops back around the Picacho Peak massif, heading west….
The southern side of the mount just west of Picacho Peak massif, from the Sunset Vista Trail….
And the western end of the massif…looking east….with Picacho Peak proper being around and behind….to the far right.
So, now we’ve seen Picacho Peak up close and personal…which will change how we “see” it from this day forward.
I hope you enjoyed the hike…thank you for coming along with me….
A last reward after a long hike in northern Arizona…a view of the San Francisco Peaks from the shore of Marshall Lake (marsh) in the Coconino National Forest, just south and east of Flagstaff. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in that cabin in the distance….?
It’s been close to two months since I made the almost 190 mile trek north to flee the city and its trappings and find a bit of solitude and soul restoration in the wilderness of the Kaibab National Forest (Williams District) located just south and west of Flagstaff.
These lenticular clouds were an added treat as I found the silhouette of the San Francisco peaks in the distance…looking east. Humphrey’s Peak is at the far left of the ridge, the highest point in Arizona. You might remember my hike to the top in this post.
The weather forecast for the day said it was going to be partly cloudy up here…and those clouds in the first image were the only ones I saw for the entire six hours on the trail… No cloud cover, but excellent canopy cover in the forest….
The day’s hike is actually the Sycamore Canyon Rim Trail…an 11-12 mile loop that starts in the Ponderosa pine forest, crosses some meadows, meanders up into an oak and cedar forest that covers KA Hill…goes back down into the Ponderosa, and then skirts the Canyon.
The view above is entering that oak forest…and the view below is from atop KA Hill, looking east again at the San Francisco Peaks. That lighter area along the road is where I stopped to make the photo for my recent post “yellow…along the way…”
Coming out of the oak forest and making a fast descent from KA Hill through a mature Ponderosa forest quickly leads to this open area that looks like a lava field that is slowly being covered with wild grasses and less mature pines. I don’t know if this area has been burned in the last century, but the majority of the trees were much smaller than the surrounding forest. Maybe it’s because they’re growing in a lava field….
The drainage from the above field leads down into the natural pond/cistern in the below photo….
…and continues down into this stream bed that leads back into another forested area….
….and probably less than a mile later, leads to this surprise….
….a lava-wall-bordered pond with lily-pads…actual lily-pads…in a pond…in the high desert of Arizona….. Wow….!
Two of the three people I saw on the trail all day….and their two dogs….
Another of the “Pomeroy Tanks” that are important water sources for the wildlife in the area.
Heading back into the forest proper…crossing a dry stream-bed with more lava rocks….beautiful green….
The loop eventually comes to what are referred to as the Sycamore Falls…behind me and to the right in the below image…which was not flowing…and which is a favorite spot for rock-climbers to practice their skills.
You can easily see the two guys in the below photo…but how about the guy in the one above….?
I stopped to have a snack at the below location…on the eastern ridge of the canyon (looking west) with the falls to the right…where you can see a man in white above where the other two guys were climbing….
I think the stream-bed would be an excellent place to explore…for hours and hours…maybe even days or months…..
I made a wrong turn…or took the path less-traveled that took me to the cliff-edge of the canyon…and had to turn-around, retrace my steps…find the real trail…back to the loop, but it was a beautiful diversion…with lots of compelling green.
The trail eventually led up toward more of a plateau again…forest covered…with strong breezes and winds whipping and almost roaring through the tree-tops. With the lack of cloud-cover that I thought I would have for the day, the winds were welcome in keeping things from getting too warm when walking outside of the cover of the forest. Almost as surprising as finding the lily-pad pond shared above was the discovery of these Century Plants with their bright yellow bouquets…and attendant butterfly and humming bird.
Another view of the actual canyon rim…provoking thoughts of what the place must have looked like when it was forming in the aftermath of the San Francisco Peaks‘ volcanic eruptions in those 200-and-some millions of years ago….
Thank you for visiting….I hope you enjoyed going with me along the Sycamore Canyon Rim Trail…amid the green, forested north of Arizona….
PS….and for what it’s worth, this is my 1,000th post on WordPress….. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey, as well. I’ve met a bunch of wonderful people here and a solid couple of handfuls of very special friends over the past seven years. 🙂
Just over two years ago, I took my first “Arizona hike.” I had journeyed up to the Coconino National Forest just south of Flagstaff and ventured along part of the Arizona Trail to the convenient turn-around location of “Fisher Point.” In reflecting upon this particular landscape feature, I have referred to it as a stone tee-pee, as that’s how it appears….
I suppose the mass might appear to be large enough on its own, but I thought the miniature human bodies would help provide a bit more perspective. The “doorway” of the bottom of the rock is a bit of a cave that doesn’t go too far into the rock…maybe 20-30 feet. Fisher Point, by the way (unless I’m mistaken), is atop this particular stone tee-pee. There is a trail that takes curious hikers up through the draw to the left of this rock, winds up and along the hillside, and finally deposits them at a safe distance from the edge that still allows a greater view of the canyons and meadows that exist around the Point.