Siphon Draw – Flat Iron in the Superstitions

Today we decided to take a drive out to the Superstition Mountains and hike to Flatiron via Siphon Draw. We left at 7:30 in the morning and amazingly traffic wasn’t too bad from Phoenix and we got out to Apache Junction in just under an hour. The trail head is in the Superstition State Park. There is a $7.00 entrance fee. The lady who took our money asked what we were going to do in the park. I said ‘hike siphon draw’ She didn’t miss a beat and asked if we knew what we were in for.’ Hmmm, did she think we couldn’t make it?

Then she gave us some directions. Follow the trail and then when that ends follow the white and blue dots. Great advise and we only went off the trail for one part, and that was because we saw some hikers ahead of us and decided to follow them. It was a dad and his 18 year old son, the son was leading and went off trail more than once.But, we only followed them once 🙂

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The forecast was for rain in the afternoon, so we needed to hike and be down before the storm hit. The trail is clearly marked for maybe 1.5 miles. Then you get into trail finding mode. Since it was a Monday morning there were not too many people out. And seems like everyone we talked to, this was their first time up. Oh, except the 85 year old! He was coming down as we were getting close to the top. He was amazing, looked great and was very friendly! I tell you he was hopping down the rocks!

This trail is about 6 miles round trip. It gains 2,970 feet of elevation. It is very difficult. The last mile gains 1,970 feet and it is climbing up over boulders. If you have climbed Camelback Mountain you know about climbing over boulders, but this is way longer and harder. This trail is very, very hard. Harder than Camelback and Piestewa…and longer…and higher.It took us about 4 hours and 45 minutes.

It was super windy at the top, but beautiful! Fantastic views! The climb up was really hard, and sometimes going down is even harder, but not really on this hike. I thought I’d have some trouble getting back down, but it was fine. And not as much trail finding. Seems like the trail is a lot easier to find on the way down.  Going down we saw a lot more people going up. I was wondering how they were going to be back down by the time it rained. I don’t think they probably made it unless they didn’t go all the way up.  It was raining on our way home.

This is a wonderful hike! Make sure that you have plenty of time and are in descent shape. This is a hard hike.

 

 

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Hiking Bull Pasture and Estes Canyon

Today is President’s Day and we dragged our high school kids out of bed and drove to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument where we hiked two beautiful trails.But, I’m getting ahead of myself. First we stopped at the Visitor Center to get the passport stamp. We got there fairly early…we were at the visitor’s center about 8:30am and there were only 2 other cars in the parking lot.

Organ Pipe is on the Arizona/Mexico border. The visitor center is 5 miles from the border. Organ Pipe was closed for 11 years due to safety concerns with drug running and illegal immigration. It had been dubbed the most dangerous park in the US. It reopened in 2014 with enhanced border security and more rangers. Signs, like the one above and park literature addresses these concerns and tells you to stay away from suspicious people and call 9-1-1 if you have cell service. As a side note, we didn’t see any suspicious people! We barely saw any people at all actually….

So, in order to get to the trail head you drive on a dirt road, it’s a 21 miles loop. Probably 14 miles to the trail head and 7 more to get back to the highway. It is a gorgeous drive and there are lots of places to pull over. There is one other hike off this loop – the arches trail where you hike to the arch below. Looked absolutely beautiful, but could not talk hubby or the kids to doing this hike.

 

Next stop the parking area for Bull Pasture. Again, only two cars in the lot when we got there. There are pit toilets available and some picnic tables.

We hike the Bull Pasture trail up to Bull Meadow. It was a moderate/difficult hike along the side of the ridge. It had rained the last two days so there was water on the trail and we could hear water running off of the Ajo Mountains. It was 1.5 miles up to Bull Pasture

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There were great views of the Ajo Mountain Range – and you could continue on an un-maintained trail to hike to the top of Ajo Mountain, it’s another 2 miles. No takers on that, but we came down from Bull Pasture and then took the Estes Canyon trail back to our car. That was about 2 miles. The Estes Canyon trail is easy and goes down on the canyon floor and you walk among the organ pipe cactus and all the other cactus. And they are huge! I hike in the desert all the time, but these plants are all as tall as me or taller. It’s easy to lose sight of the people you’re with. You can’t see over the these plants!

Both hikes were great, but enjoyed the Bull Pasture trail a little more. I’d love to come back to Organ Pipe and hike some more of the trails. It’s a beautiful place with beautiful hiking!

 

 

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Papago Park hiking!

Today we went and explored Papago Park in Phoenix.

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Trail to Hole in the Rock

Our first stop was Hole in the Rock. I can’t believe I’ve lived here a very long time and never been to this spot! It’s rated really high on Trip Advisor. It’s a short trail that isn’t too steep. You come up the behind the hole and then walk through it. It’s pretty cool and there is a great view of Papago Park, Phoenix skyline and Hunt’s Tomb.

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Then we drove to Hunt’s Tomb. Again, I can’t believe I hadn’t been up to it before. I’ve seen it tons of times from the zoo and from the road. You drive on back through the park by the fishing lakes and park in a little lot. It’s a short hike up to the Tomb where Arizona’s first governor is buried. He was also elected 7 times as governor. A record! And not all in a row.

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Next onto hike the Double Butte Loop in another section of Papago Park. This hike is rated easy and I wasn’t expecting much, but it was a beautiful day and really nice hike. The hike takes you around two of the buttes in the park and by a really cool amphitheater. It’s huge! I’m not sure if it’s ever used, but it’s neat. There are a number of places you can hike right up to the buttes and sit inside them. If you take some of the side trails that go up to the buttes it’s a much harder workout. If you stay on the trail, it stay on the perimeter of the buttes and is pretty flat. Make sure you go up and explore the buttes. Papago Park is a fun place to explore!

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Agua Fria National Monument – Badger Springs Trail

We are visiting every National Monument in Arizona – today we went to Agua Fria. Agua Fria is managed by the BLM  Bureau of Land Management, not the Park Service. That means that Agua Fria is ‘lesser’ monument and you can tell it because there is no official  passport stamp!

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We hiked Badger Springs Trail. It’s off I-17 at Badger Springs exit. It’s the only thing at the exit. You turn into the gravel area and take a picture of the sign 🙂 Then you drive down a dirt road that is one lane, not maintained and if you don’t have a high clearance vehicle you will not make it. So, my new rule of ‘if we have to drive on a dirt/gravel road we take the Suburban’  served us well.

You drive about a mile and park and you will see the signs for the trail. If you stop at the bathroom and park,  you won’t see the signs…continue down the road. Can you tell where we parked? Yes, at the bathrooms, so it took a bit to get to the right place, but we made it.

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The hike is down the Badger Spring Wash to the Agua Fria River. The wash is usually completely dry, but it rained a lot a week or so ago and we were very surprised to find the wash wet! So, we dodged water the entire way down, which made the hike beautiful and fun.

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Once you get to the river (and we heard it before we saw it). On the rocks are the petroglyphs from ages gone by. Very cool! Also, the river was running which was beautiful!

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The hike was about 2.25 miles. It was fairly easy, but beautiful! We weren’t sure what to expect on this hike and pleasantly surprised to find a wonderful hike here! It doesn’t seem like a lot of people have done it. And we were the only ones parked by the trail head. There is a sign in book for people hiking. We were the first ones to sign in for today, and there had only been a few over the past week. Great hike and I think we timed it right because hiking by water is always fun, especially in Arizona where things are so dry. I’d definitely recommend this trail!

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2017 National Trail Trek at South Mountain

Four friends and I completed the 2017 National Trail Trek  – 15.5 miles, hiking the complete National Trail in South Mountain. Hiking time was 6 hours and 18 minutes which included our lunch stop, but didn’t include any driving time.  We started on the east side of South Mountain Park at Pima Canyon in Ahwatukee and ended up on the west side of South Mountain Park at San Juan Lookout around 35th Avenue.
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We took part in an organized hike by the City of Phoenix! They did a great job and everyone was friendly and helpful! We started our morning early by driving down to the check in at South Mountain. We left about 6:30 and got to South Mountain at 7am. We got a wristband which is needed for the bus ride to the start, lunch, and van ride back to our cars. We got a t-shirt and drawstring bag. We then proceeded to get breakfast. They had all kinds of great food: bananas, oranges, zucchini bread, and bars.

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We got in the bus line and rode a school bus about a half hour to the Pima Canyon on the Ahwatukee side of South Mountain. It was a cold morning. The temperature was 37 degrees when we started, but the bus had heat and was nice and warm! We started hiking at 8:15am

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We started our 15.5 mile hike all bundled up! It was cold! We hiked on a dirt road to the trail. The total elevation gain was about 1,100 feet, but it wasn’t all at once! At 5 miles there were port-a-potty’s set up. Then about 7.5 miles was lunch! Yay! We got to lunch at about 11:30

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Then we continued up to see the ramada and the horses

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Once we passed this point on the trail we saw far less people then we had the first half of the hike. And at this point in the hike we couldn’t see the city, only the desert and mountains. It was easy to forget that we were in the middle of Phoenix!

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We passed all the cell phone towers on south mountain! If you want to hike and see them, this is the hike!! All down hill from here. It warmed up in the afternoon, plus we were in the sun. It was about 64 degrees when we finished.
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We finished the trail, checked in at the finisher table, and hit the food table again! See those legs behind us, that’s the food! We then got in a van and we were shuttled back to where we parked. A much shorter drive this time, about 10-15 minutes all through windy roads in South Mountain park. All of us agreed that we had a fun time! We had a beautiful day, great conversation and a wonderful hike!

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park

On our Texas road trip we took a day off from driving and visited Carlsbad Caverns! Months before we arrived I had signed us all up for a ranger led tour of the lower cave. It costs $20 per person and was totally worth it. I did sign up month in advance and the tour did sell out (only 12 people on this tour + the two park rangers). And even more impressive was that everyone who signed up showed up!

The tour starts with introductions – and not just name and where you live, these introductions included your favorite documentary and the all important question ‘are you here of your own volition’.

Then we got our equipment – hard hat, headlamp and gloves. We had to bring three AA batteries for the headlamp -and also impressive everyone remembered their batteries!

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Once everyone had their equipment we went down the elevator which takes you down 750 feet into the main cavern. It’s pretty developed, there are bathrooms and a snack bar down there with asphalt paths and stainless steel hand rails.

We quickly made our way to the ‘secret’ spot on the trail and made our way to the lower cavern. In order to do that you go down a rope (see lower right picture above) Then you go down a series of three ladders.

Once down there was tape on the path showing you were to step and where not to step. The tour took us over some ‘bridges’, crawling through tunnels, seeing the ‘wildlife’ a worm, cave crickets and bat fossils.

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Really liked the ‘adventure’ on this tour and that we saw cave pearls, animals and the ranger had pictures of famous people who had toured the cave and talked about the preservation of it. There were no stalactite or stalagmite mentions on this tour!

The tour took a little over 3 hours and was fantastic! After the tour we walked around the main cave. That comes off as commercial after being on the specialized tour, but the cave is absolutely huge and there is so much there. If you ever have the chance I highly recommend a stop here!

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Guadalupe Mountain National Park

On our road trip to Texas we stopped at Guadalupe Mountain National Park. Guadalupe Mountain is the highest point in Texas. It’s an 8 mile hike to the top and looks like a great one, but on this trip we didn’t have time for the hike, but did want to make a quick stop to this park to get our passport stamp.

This park is very close to Carlsbad Caverns National Park which is where we spend most of our time on this stop.

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