Posts tagged “Maricopa County Parks

Hiking through the White Tank Mountains – Part II

You might remember from the last post that we left-off with an image of two markers, a cairn, and a trail heading upward and out of the creek-bed that was the trail and waterway of Ford Canyon in the White Tank Mountains.  If you want to revisit that last post before proceeding onward, you can click here to be taken to Part I.

I can’t say exactly how far it was now, but after climbing up from the creek-bed and hiking along a couple of hillsides, the trail eventually led to this granite-bedded wash, or drainage that I understood to flow into Willow Canyon.

White Granite of Willow Creek waterway in White Tank Mountains

After another mile or so, I found myself at what would essentially be the halfway point of my day, given that I was going to make the full loop of the Ford Canyon Trail and the Goat Camp Trail.  When I reached the end of this last trail, there would still be another mile and a half walk along the roadway to get back to my truck.

Trail junction in White Tank Mountains

From what I’ve read of the trails on the park’s website, the Mesquite and Willow Canyon trails are the next longest trails in the area and make nice, but shorter, loop-hikes that will compel me to return to the White Tanks on at least another two occasions.

Trailside treasure of arrow through Saguaro in White Tank Mountains

Not far off-trail, heading west on the Goat Camp Trail, I found the curious instance of an arrow shot into a Saguaro cactus.  I can’t imagine that it was an accident….

Antennas and trails in White Tank Mountains

In the image above, you can see two stretches of the Goat Camp Trail…the first being on the lower ridge and heading off to the right, and the second located very faintly just above the “2015” toward the bottom left.

Desert mountainside trail with panoramic view

The photos above and below are of the same area, but from slightly different perspectives…and while it is still apparent in the above image, one gets a greater sense of the openness in the one below.

Mountainside panorama in White Tank Mountains

At any rate, there is a particular sweeping grandness to this desert landscape that I find to be different than the almost enveloping sense of scale that I noticed and felt bodily when hiking in the Wasatch.

Waterway with outcropping off the Goat Camp Trail in White Tank Mountains

Other views of a waterway with a rocky outcropping…and the “winter-bare wildflowers” with the Prickly Pear cacti in the background….

Dried wildflowers and Prickly Pear cactus silhouette

You might notice the trail, again, in the below photo, this time just below the shadowed area in the upper right corner….

Desert waterway and hillside

A quick glimpse at the trail, still heading west into the range…still new to me at this point….

Desert green along Goat Camp Trail in White Tank Mountains

A bit of diversity in the landscape now, more rocks and different foliage….

Opposite hillside of Goat Camp Trail in White Tank Mountains

Do you see the runner in the below photo…that spot of barely discernible pink…on the trail, just above and to the right of the image’s center…?

Approaching runner on Goat Camp Trail

I don’t know the name of the lichen or the rocks in this next image…but I like them, anyway…find them fascinating….

Circle lichen with rock pile

Looking north and west…and way down at the trail that I had already hiked….

Hedgehog cactus and White Tank Mountain panorama from Goat Camp Trail

Wild grass and cactus, slabs of rock-facing on the hillside…

Rocky hillside along Goat Camp Trail in White Tank Mountains

…and a far horizon with an approaching trail on folds of the earth…

Long view of Goat Camp Trail in White Tank Mountains

Hedgehog cacti growing out of a chunk of rock.

Stone-grown Hedgehog cactus

…and two young singers with their arms spread…reminded me of “The hills are alive, with the sound of music….”  This section of the Goat Camp Trail was probably more difficult in its descent than the Ford Canyon Trail was in its ascent…and I was very, very happy that I was going downhill at this point….

"The hills are alive with the sound..." Rock concert hiking date in White Tank Mountains

Looking upstream just to the left of the above singers….

Stream-bed crossing of Goat Camp Trail in White Tank Mountains

I thought about doing an entire post on the Saguaro’s cactus spines, but thought it might be considered grossly redundant.  I think this images captures just about everything….

Saguaro spines close-up along Goat Camp Trail

Back on level ground and approaching the end of the trail, wondering if the goat camp that gave this trail its name might be around somewhere….

Nearing the end of Goat Camp Trail in White Tank Mountains

One last glimpse at the white granite boulders that highlight many of the waterways in the White Tank Mountains….

White granite stream-bed at Goat Camp Trail crossing in White Tank Mountains

And what’s a desert hike without a zombie Saguaro…?

Another Saguaro zombie at White Tank Mountains

And finally, back at the starting point…a late afternoon look at the windmill that helped frame the sunrise in the first image of the previous post…now several hours later…with a mostly overcast sky.

Back to the beginning - windmill at White Tank Mountains

While conducting a little bit of research on the name origin for the White Tank Mountains, while trying to find something historically solid to share with you, I came across this WordPress blog, History of Waddell, Arizona, that provides some general information.  It doesn’t list any sources, but it’s “nice” information that hints at a starting place for future investigation.

Thank you, again, for your endurance in making it to the end of another uncharacteristically long post.  I hope you enjoyed the second half of my hike from December 6th of this past year, climbing and walking the Ford Canyon and Goat Camp Trails of the White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Maricopa County, Arizona.

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Hiking through the White Tank Mountains – Part 1

In the twenty-plus years that I lived in the Phoenix area before moving north for a few years, I had only “hiked” at these mountains once…and had driven to the “White Tank Mountain Regional Park” only once or twice more.  I used to look at the mountains from afar and considered that they were just part of the landscape, and to be honest, I considered them to be a rather bleak and unappealing part of the landscape…the far western boundary of the Valley of the Sun that was my desert home…grayish brown lumps of rock…out there.

(I made the below photo while in the parking lot of the Ford Canyon Trail-head…about four minutes before sunrise proper.)

Dawn with windmill at White Tank Mountains

After moving to Utah and experiencing the Wasatch Mountains as my “back yard,” I began to reflect even less favorably on the White Tank “Mountains,” because they were so much less than the new and real mountains in my life.  My hiking sons who lived with me in Utah for those few years had actually frequented the White Tanks more than I had…and after hiking to our favorite waterfall in the Wasatch, we all had something like a growing, playful contempt for what could be found at the end of the “Waterfall Trail” in the White Tanks.

(I made the next photo about six minutes later, walking northwest on the trail that would take me to Ford Canyon where I would have a wonderful climb.)

Glow of sunrise on Saguaro Cacti at White Tank Mountains

As the twists and turns of Life would have it, my family and I moved back to this metropolitan desert…and I still have the yearning to be out hiking mountains…and it just so happens that the White Tank Mountains are probably the closest “mountains” to where I presently live.

(And still another six minutes later, I had rounded a bend in the trail and had a clear view of the antennas that one can see for miles across the desert.)

Ridge-lines and shadows at White Tank Mountains

So after being here again for just over a year, I figured that I was probably overdue in heading west and learning more about these mountains.  I will admit that from afar, from the dozens of miles away that I usually view them, they still don’t look like much, still don’t appear inviting in the least…and still aren’t very compelling as far as “mountains” are concerned.  But now, after having spent the better part of a winter’s day climbing, hiking, and walking among them, I do have a greater appreciation for the White Tanks…I can consider them to be “mountains” in my hiking experience…because I did have to actually “hike” and “climb” up them to get where I wanted to go on that particular Sunday.

(The next photo is what it looks like facing northeast from the trail, with the White Tanks behind us, before actually getting into the canyon.)

Looking northeast from the White Tank Mountains

And as I have mentioned in a previous post, it was in looking closer at my surroundings that I found the beauty of this particular spot of desert.

Ford Canyon Trail in the morning at White Tank Mountains

The above and below images were made probably within a few yards of each other…approaching three miles into the hike…heading mostly west, but north, as well, hiking what would be the right side of a slightly oblong loop that comprised my route for the day.  The vegetation above consists of the large Saguaro cactus, some variety of Cholla cactus immediately to the right of the Saguaro and in the closer right-hand foreground of the image…some brighter green Creosote to the bottom left, and Ironwood and Palo Verde on the far right side and moving inward.  There are also some grayish-green shrubs that are a variety of Sage and some Brittlebush.

In the below image you’ll notice the skeleton of a fallen Saguaro…what’s left of it anyway.

Saguaro skeleton along Ford Canyon Trail in White Tank Mountains

The trail is climbing up into the canyon now…slowly gaining elevation…moving up into the rockier aspects of the mountainside.

Hillside boulders in Ford Canyon of White Tank Mountains

Hmm…cause for concern?  I’ve never seen a sign like this on any previous hike…not here, or in Utah.

Hikers-Beware sign at entrance of Ford Canyon in White Tank Mountains

And that’s where we’re going…that bit of trail that you can discern at the foot of the closest Saguaro on the left…

Hazardous trail in Ford Canyon of White Tank Mountains

Looking back down the draw…down the dry waterway that must be something fierce and wonderful after a summer monsoon….  The trail will be toward the right and out of frame.  At 8:55 in the morning, the sun was still a ways behind the ridge and lighting only a portion of the canyon…and making it difficult to make a good image.

Lower water-course of Ford Canyon in White Tank Mountains

To the right of the bottom right corner/protuberance of that large rock in the center of the image, you can see a first glimpse of a “white tank” with the water streaks below it.

A first white tank in Ford Canyon of White Tank Mountains

I was familiar with white granite from the mountains and boulders of Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah…the rock that locals had termed “Temple Granite,” as it was used to build the Mormon’s temple in Salt Lake City…so it was something of a surprise to find it so out of context here in the middle of the desert…

Another white tank in Ford Canyon of White Tank Mountains

…but there it is, worn smooth by thousands of thousands of summer floods crashing down the mountains….

Saguaro reflection in pooled water in White Tank Mountains

The trail has disappeared into an understood sense of direction, a knowing of where one ought to go simply because the land suggests it.  A marker has been stuck into the ground at a wider spot among the boulders…its information tells us that we are on the Ford Canyon Trail and have traveled four miles and that we should go in the direction of the arrow, more or less….

Trail finding 1 in White Tank Mountains

Sometimes the physical trail is nothing more than footprints left by those who wandered here before us…we have to look down and around…to imagine the moving water that lives and travels here and not become lost in the enormity of our surroundings, but to focus and understand…and even hope….

Trail finding 2 in White Tank Mountains

…and look for the unnatural, odd stacking of stones whose alignment means more than just direction…affirmation…relief…. (Do you see the cairn just right of the center of the photo?)

Trail finding 3 in White Tank Mountains

The only trail, really, was the waterway, the drainage, the silt and sand and gravel, rocks, and boulders, green trees and grasses that lead ever uphill from our location…to worn slabs of granite steps to climb and go further…that lead to a damn wall…

White steps in White Tank Mountains

…rather a dam wall, a contrivance reminiscent of alpine reservoirs maintained in former times to catch winter waters for summer times.  I don’t know the history of this place, don’t know if it was used for livestock…or whatever, but the former pool has been filled with sand and dirt and other whatnot.  I’m not sure if it occurred naturally with the rains, or if it was filled intentionally by the builder or someone who came afterward.

Dam wall in Ford Canyon of White Tank Mountains

There were several clumps of this beautifully tufted “fountain grass,” in the waterway.

Fountain grass in Ford Canyon of White Tank Mountains

It’s hard for me to imagine a river of flood waters coursing over this area, but I know it has, and at numerous times over the eons, in order for these slabs to have so many of their rough edges smoothed away to the rounded surfaces that now exist on these exposed masses of rock.

Saguaro crested waterway in White Tank Mountains

This is the point where the path became a literal trail again and climbed out of the waterway of Ford Canyon….this is also a natural ending place for this first post, as the next one will share images of vast open hillsides that dominated the second half of the hike.

Coming out of Ford Canyon in White Tank Mountains

Thank you for visiting with me and enduring to the end of this unusually long post.  I hope you’ve enjoyed these several glimpses at the Ford Canyon Trail in the White Tank Mountains.


deciduous desert….

I had walked across the Sonoran plain on a man-made trail that led into and onto the edges of raw canyon walls.  After reaching the pass at the top, I found only cairns and footsteps that led into the natural trail of a watercourse that had been carved through the land and literal rock by eons of desert rains and their accompanying floods.  The crispness of the morning air was gone with the rising and warming sun, but the unexpected bright orange of Fall’s changing colors quickly reminded me that the nights were indeed cold up here…in the White Tank Mountains.

Fall colors in the desert

Abstract like thoughts and imaginings…the eternal desert changes and renews itself with the close passing of time….

Deciduous desert close-up