AZT #22 – Day 1of2 – Saddle Mountain in the Mazatzal Mountains (11.08.14 – 11.09.14)

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The AZT (Arizona Trail – 800 miles) spanning from Mexico to Utah across the great state of Arizona was added to my list of wish hikes as soon as I found out about it. Unfortunately I don’t have the vacation or off time to be able to through hike it straight for 60 days, so instead I have been section hiking it when I can. I had the opportunity to knock out the 22nd section this weekend and I jumped at the chance!

I dumped my truck right off of Bee line highway 87 Saturday morning and set out on the trail. After navigating a wash that goes under the highway I popped out in rolling hills and wide open views. There are a few cattle gates to navigate, just be sure to leave them as you found them, be it opened or closed. The trek starts flat to begin with on a few 4X4 roads, the pushes you into some canyon washes that are hardly ever traveled. A small creek was running through the wash to my surprise. I pushed through the canyon around a few switchers where I was once again greeted with huge wide open views. There are some power lines here, what seems to be the last sign of civilization looking forward, turning back there are a few small farm houses in sight.

Pushing further on, the trail gets back to single track hopping up on creek banks and back into washes until once again your greeted with huge wide open views and a trail that meanders along through it all. I found myself skirting the lower portion of Saddle Mountain when I came across Kim and Norm, 2 hikers from Phoenix who were turned around and looking for Squaw flats. I was happy to have the company and invited them to join me until we passed their junction. We pushed on as a trio talking about experience in the “hiking business” and how long they have both been at it.

Wide open spaces
Wide open spaces – Saddle Mountain – Click to Enlarge

As the trail skirted further we came across Ranger Mark Suban and his trail maintenance crew of about 8 old and young. I had never seen a crew out working before and was delighted to stop for a second and chat with them and thank them for their service to the AZT. Those guys keep the trail going and it’s always on a volunteer basis!

Incredible views!
Incredible views! click to enlarge

Leaving the maintenance crew behind we trekked on until we found the switch back drop off into a patch of pines where the 3 amigos would split ways. We stopped for a quick lunch and chatted about our jobs and hikes we wish we could do. Soon I packed up and pushed the last 4 miles out to Peeley trail head where I would camp for the night. Those 4 miles were definitely not as forgiving as an easy trail skirt around the base of Saddle Mountain! Drop offs, washes, a section I affectionately call the ‘tunnel of love’ with manzanita and holly bushes surrounding a water channel. Big grind elevation gains with astonishing views and quite a bit of bushwhacking and trail finding through tricky washes finally brought me to the intersection of AZT#22 and #23.

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The Peeley trailhead was just a 0.5 mile push ahead. It was only 4pm by the time I reached it and I was ready to just set up camp, make a Beef Stew Mountain house, and kick back for a bit finally cracking a book I purchased a month ago. What a good first day, as temps began to drop I crawled into my tent and read by headlamp for a few hours until I finally crashed. The next day would mean my return journey back to the truck with another section of the AZT in my pocket. (Post Continued on Day 2/2)

  • Tunnel that goes under highway 87 - this is a portion of the AZT!

Hike information: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=2436

HIKE STATS:

  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low in the upper 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 8.5 liters
  • Food: 2 Nature Valley Peanut butter granola bar, 2 Clif Bars, 1 Clif Builder bar, 1 Meal replacement protein bar, 2 Nature Valley Protien bars, 1 bag of beef jerky (3oz), 1/2 sandwich ziplock of trail mix, 1 avocado, 1 via Starbucks instant coffee, 1 Quaker Real Medleys, 1 Mountain House Beef Stew meal
  • Time: 8 hours day 1, 7 hours day 2
  • Distance:16.5 Miles one way

GEAR:

  • 58 liter Exos Osprey backpack
  • Big Anges UL2 tent
  • Flash REI sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • No water filter – I carried all my water in (8.5 liters – I should have brought 10) to train for a hike coming up where I would be carrying a lot of excess weight. Advise: Bring a filter! There are creeks and opportunities to use it.

Camelback Mountain – Echo Canyon Trail – 11.06.14

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Echo Canyon trail is one of the most frequented hikes here in Phoenix AZ. People are looking for a challenge, and they will find it here coming it at 1300 feet of gain in 1.1 miles! During the  late Fall/Winter/early Spring weekends this mountain looks like a gang of ants at a picnic, people crawling everywhere! Everyone’s  on the mountain for their own reasons, and I have no problem moving over for those trying to enjoy some outdoor goodness!

I started out this hike just trying to go a slow jam, figured I had been getting a good fill of trails during the week and I could take a chill day to peak out. For some reason as soon as I get on an incline I subconsciously switch over to grind mode and get after it, today was no different! I love pushing hard for the summit, then going slow on the downs enjoying the views and saving the knees.

The trail isn’t too hard to follow (well signed as seen in the slider below) and if you go at a popular time of year you can always just follow the other people on the trail. There will be many times you look up and think “oh the top must be right over that hump”, then you finally top that hump only to find another formidable uphill staring you right in the face! If your heart isn’t pounding out of your chest at the end of this uphill then you must be something other than human! Great views all along the way, and I was lucky to arrive early enough in the afternoon where it wasn’t too crowded. Bring some water and your guts; you’ll need it for this city mountain park trek!

Hike Information: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=21

  • Echo Trailhead View
  • Weather: Mid 70s, Sunny
  • Water: 0.5 liters
  • Food: 1 Nature Valley Peanut butter granola bar
  • Time: 1- 1.5 hours round trip (didn’t time it)
  • Distance: 2.3 Miles round trip

Squaw Peak (Piestewa Peak) – Phoenix Mountain Preserve – Summit Trail 300 – 11.05.14

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Another beautiful day for a good hike up a mountain!! Piestewa Peak is another one of my favorite weekday training hikes in the Phoenix area. I say training, but this peak is nothing to take lightly! It has 1200 feet of gain in 1.2 miles, a grind hikers paradise with 1000 feet of elevation gain per mile stats.

I set out right after work, hit the house, changed, and jetted for the mountain. Temps were in mid to high 70s another perfect day! My usual motivation is to push very hard for the peak and then take it slow on the down, saving the knees and taking in the scenery. The mountains are my way of staying in shape so I love to find a tough peak to bag and really getting after it. Today was no different

Once I peaked out I had a nice chat with a couple who were trail runners just taking in the views for the day. A Chuckwalla (seen in slider below) poked out just below the peak to get some sun and do a few masculine push-ups claiming his territory and showing off for the ladies! After some pictures and a quick breather I headed back down taking plenty of pics and pausing to watch the sun begin to set over the city at the many lookout points along the trail.

this mountain reminds me of Superman’s homeland (Krypton) with the way the rocks protrude from the mountain, very cool geology.  This hike is pretty much a stair-master on the side of a mountain! Get out and check this peak out if you haven’t yet!

  • Trailhead
Summit 360
Summit 360

Click for Enlarge View

Hike info: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=122

South Mountain – Big Box Loop 11.04.14

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South Mountain is one of those hidden gems that so many people seem to overlook and underrate for one reason or another (those of you who frequent this park know what I am talking about). I have news for you, this 16,000 acre Park is a powerhouse! So many opportunities to rack up huge miles, and really pick up some good gain if you know which trails to go after. Most people think of it as a Mountain bike haven, granted it is, but so much more!

This afternoon I let out from work with a distance training loop in mind to beat down before the sun set on me. I planned on starting on Holbert trail, then tying into National trail for a few miles before bombing down Kiwanis and finishing the loop with Los Lomitas trail and Box Canyon Loop to get back to the truck.

Temps were once again as they have been this week, just like baby bears porridge: just right (low 70s)!! I started out knowing I didn’t have much time to crank out this loop so I was on a mission to get my butt moving. Holbert trail is a great trail for anyone, and deff a recommendation of mine for people just breaking into the hiking scene. The elevation gain doesn’t kill to much and the milage is decent, especially if you take the offshoot to dobbins point for some great views of the city.

At any rate, I kept trekking on and was just totally humbled by the views of the sunset on the trail. I couldn’t put my camera down!! Every time I turned a corner there was another incredible Kodak moment to be captured, I couldn’t help myself but snap a few.

Finally the sun was setting as I descended the last stretch of Kiwanis trail and I was forced to break out the headlamp. I jumped onto Los Lomitas and followed it to Box Canyon Loop (I got off track a few times in the dark). Finally after a small road side trek I found Box Canyon Loop once again and finished out the loop. The following pictures show show some a progression of the trail and the incredible sunset I was honored to witness!

  • First view of holbert from the canyon - White water tank on left

Aerial topo shot of the GPX trail I completed.

7.0 Miles, 2 hours 23 minutes, Temps: 70s, 0.75 liters of water, 1 protien bar, 1 nature valley granola bar

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Cholla Trail – Camelback Mountain 11.03.14

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Hiking is definitely back in full fashion in Phoenix seen my the number of people drawn to the trails like moths to the flame. The temperatures were strangely cool on this afternoons climb (cool for Phoenix haha – low 70s).

Camelback is one of my mid week training hike destinations. You can get some good elevation gain in short miles and its close to the city. Cholla walks a ridge to the peak from the East side of the mountain heading North West towards the peak and is broken up into 2 sections: a lower steady incline that can really get your cardio going, and an upper section which becomes a little more climbey (my fav part).

Cholla is stretched  over 1.3 miles from the road side parking to the peak with about 1300 feet of gain. 1000 feet of elevation gain per mile is my kinda trail!!! Cholla’s big brother (Echo Canyon trail – Other summit trail on Camelback Mountain) boasts the same elevation gain in only 1.1 miles. Both trails are their own animal and are great opportunities to condition the body for big weekend endeavors.

Even though ive been up this trail a many of times I still enjoy finding ways to make it interesting and chatting other trail trekkers. Fun fact: There is an old timer that hikes cholla every afternoon (he rocks a white fisherman’s hat) that has completed over 2100 summits, just insane!!!  No matter the reason, its always a good excuse to go climb a mountain!

This time of year the sun is setting around 5:45pm which makes for some gorgeous golden hour sunsets. Get out, check it out, you wont be disappointed!

Link for trail info: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=28

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South Mountain – Two Ridge Tango 11.02.14

View of the Northern Ridge of SoMo from the Southern Ridge up on National Trail (click to enlarge)

The Two Ridge Tango – a sweet loop on SoMo (South Mountain) consisting of 14 miles of some official and some not-so-official trails.

Was an awesome day in Phoenix with killer temps and even better views. Just needed to get out and grind down some miles to recenter myself. Nothing like some good quality time on a trail to get your head right!

I was surprised to see the amount of people out, but with such perfect weather (60s and overcast) how could you not take advantage. The hike starts with a grind up Warrior (non-official) trail. [Get to the trailhead by going south on 19th Ave until dead ending into SoMo] The gain is killer quick to start with 900 ft of elevation gain in 0.84 miles. I scared up about 5 coyote’s on the push up the ridge. After seeing these guys I hiked for a while with rocks in my hands like ready catapults just in case, but it was really cool seeing such a wild animal so close.

Hit the ridge and went to work on the loop. I came across 2 small groups of people on Alta trail coming from the neighborhoods in South Phoenix, another couple riding horses (sipping on cervezas), and later a big boy-scout troop putting down a 10 miler up on National trail.

I made sure to touch Maricopa peak (highest point near Alta trail) and Goat Hill (high point just east of where Ranger trail ties into National). Took a few picks, enjoyed the views and kept trekkin.

Finally dropped down Ranger and worked my way across the desert and found an old use trail that went up the Ridge, spoke with a cool family of 4 just hanging out and enjoying the views on the North Ridge of SoMo for a moment before pushing on, finishing my loop and getting back to the truck.

2.5 liters of water, 5 hours 0 mins Time, 1 clif bar, 1 avocado, 1 natur valley peanut butter bar, 1 protien bar, 1 plum

Nothing can be said for just getting out and putting a grind down on some trail and really just putting everything behind you and enjoying being outside!

Below is the aerial topo GPX for the loop

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