Delightful Winter Weather

While many of you are now shivering in the Northland icebox, we here in the Southwest USA are enjoying a warmer than normal Winter. It may even be described as hot by some with temperatures having already pushed into the mid 80’s - and it’s only the middle of February. 

For me, knowing just how HOT it WILL get, I am going to say it is "just a bit warm”.

As I write today, I have opened the front and patio doors to let in the fresh warm air. It is so pleasant to hear the birds chirping as I’ve hung my laundry to dry outdoors, a warm breeze gently teasing the clothes as they wave and flutter in the sunshine. Bicyclists riding down the streets, people taking leisurely walks around the neighborhood, others up in the mountains around me hiking to their hearts content, all relishing the pleasantness of our Arizona winter. 

It is still a bit early for the Spring flowers, that, hopefully will soon be blossuming in profusion upon the hills and mountainsides. 

Over the past several weeks I’ve ventured out on a few hikes further away from my house, but still within easy driving distance. A New Year’s resolution of mine was to get out hiking more frequently while discovering new trails. And there are many, many trails within close proximity to my home requiring minimal driving to get there. 

South Mountain is one of those. It is quite visible from home (when not partially obsured by a brown cloud of pollution), and marks the Southern boundary of the city of Phoenix, covers 16,000 acres and has a mountain drive up to a fantastic summit overlook down to the city and the surrounding area. Though quite visible it still is nearly 20 miles away. On my recent visit there I found the summit road was closed for repairs, so i found a lower trail that ascended up to the higher peaks with equally wonderful views both to the North, toward the city and to the South overlooking the town of Ahwatukee and it’s neighboring Indian Reservation with fields of green and vistas far into the distance. To the Southwest are the Estrella Mountains, another small range with good trails. Camelback Mountain, Squaw Peak, North Mountain (closest to my home), Shaw Butte, Pagago Peaks, the McDowells Mountains to the East, and further in the distances the Bradshaw Mountains, Four Peaks and others stretch out before one’s gaze. 

Standing atop mountains, the explorer/wanderer in me is enticed to venture off to explore and discover whatever lies ahead. And once having set out on a trail, the urge to keep going is always strong, taking me further and further away from my starting point. This has, at times, led me far, far into the wilderness and even though a small voice in my head reminds me “Don, remember, as far as you hike IN you have that same distance to hike OUT”. That voice often nags me, but the desire to see what lies around the next bend in the trail, or over the next hilltop or up the next ridge, keeps my feet moving forward. Of course, whether it be the day fading into late afternoon, some feeling of fatigue, vague aching or other pains, I do stop, absorb the views ahead, wondering where this trail would finally take me if I were to continue forward. My return treks are typically just as pleasant as I see the territory anew from the reverse vantage point and in a different light of the day. 

Some of my best hikes are ones that are loop hikes, similar to ones I’ve done in the White Tank Mountains to the West of Phoenix. There, in the past several weeks, I undertook a 12 or 13 miles trek that was invigorating and filled with splendid views from both the lower elevations to the higher mountain tops. 

This past week, having driven 40 mies North, I ventured much further into the wilderness on the Black Canyon Trail. The first part of that trail leads up and over a small mountain and then down to the Aqua Fria River, which does have a steady flow of water, albeit not deep or rushing. Evidence of some more recent, very significant torrents, were there with large accumulations of trees and brush piled high upon a sharp curve in the river. In other places, large stones and small boulders were relocated from the time of my last visit there nearly 2 years ago. After having hiked across the river this time and further and further back on the trail, I encountered only 4 people early into this hike. Then all the rest of the afternoon I enjoyed my solitude upon the narrow, scenic trail. After 2:30 pm I knew I had to turn around and start to return, as 3 hours had passed since starting on the hike. 

Once back at the river, I lingered there, watching two cormorants (aquatic birds), sat awhile absorbing the sounds of nature including the babbling of the waters over the rounded, multi-colored river rocks - a very relaxing and pleasing respite before hitting the trail for the final leg of my day’s journey. 

Listen to the water music: click on the bar below.

(Windows users require Quicktime)

This browser cannot play the embedded video file.

On the return to my truck, I passed 3 mountain bikers and one runner. Otherwise my day had met my expectations with very few human encounters and none with wild critters or slithering snakes. An app on my iPhone records my steps and it revealed that I had again logged 12 miles on this trip. 

For those who know this area, the Black Canyon Trail is directly behind Rock Springs Cafe, a must stop if traveling along I-17 between Flagstaff and Phoenix. This famous cafe is best known for it’s home made pies, and is well worth the drive to enjoy a good meal, topped off with a slice of fresh pie. That is exactly what I did.


As I made my way back to Phoenix the fading day blazed in the Western sky, the setting sun brightened the horizon,  aflame in vibrant firey hues, painting a picture perfect ending for an Arizona adventure. © Donald E. Kline 2012                                         Disqus Comments