A Different Kind of Beauty

A Different Kind of Beauty

This is a guest post by David Raymond from All Trails Lead to Ice Cream 

The first time I went to Arizona I was completely blown away.  Not  by the heat that greets you when you walk out of the airport...but by the surprising beauty of the desert.  Maybe I love the novelty of being somewhere that is seemingly the complete opposite of where I live.  Maybe it's the lack of humidity.  Maybe it's the different types of critters...although you will find rattle snakes both here and there.  Maybe it's the lack of "green" trees and the endless cacti and other super cool plants.  Possibly it's the extra cool view I get of Superstition Mountain from my brother's back yard.  When I'm there I feel like on a different planet.  I'm not totally convinced I'd want to live in Arizona all year long (I do love the beauty of the forests in Pennsylvania) but I do love visiting and spending time there.  

Morning sunrise over Superstition Mountain as seen from my brother's back yard -- June 6, 2016

 

I found myself in Arizona all last week.  Robin was already out there for business.. and I flew out to spend time with my two little nieces and my nephew.  It was super special to spend time with them...but I also found myself with a lot of free time each day while the kiddos were at their summer camp.  So, I packed a lot of water in my Camelbak, coated my self in sun screen, & headed out for a series of hikes.   Jake was also kind enough leave me his bike in case I wanted to get out for a ride...which, not surprising to anyone...I did.  Most people, I suspect, think of the desert as just a bunch of sand and empty space...but I found, in the desert, a different kind of beauty each day that I went out.

My desert bike ride on Jake's old Cannondale mountain bike.  You can see Superstition Mountain in the background -- June 7, 2016

LOST DUTCHMAN STATE PARK & SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN

Next to Michaux State Forest,  Lost Dutchman State Park & Superstition Mountain are probably my favorite places to be.  The park is named after a fabled lost gold mine...and no, I didn't look for, or find any, gold (heck...people die looking for that stuff).  The trails leading out of the park take you into the Superstition Wilderness and the surrounding Tonto National Forest...possibly one of the most beautiful places I've ever been too.  I took two separate hikes there last week.  On my first hike I took Treasure Loop Trail, Prospector's View Trail, and Jacob's Crosscut Trail to make a nice 3.1 mile loop.  (Map of Lost Dutchman State Park)    One of my favorite spots on the hike was near the Green Boulder.  At approximately 2,600 ft above sea level the views looking west towards Phoenix and south towards the endless mountains are amazing.  

The entrance sign for Lost Dutchman State Park.  In the background you can see Superstition Mountain.  You will pay a $7 dollar entry fee for the park...but it's worth it! -- June 6, 2016
Technically, the state park ends the moment you pass through the fence...at that point you are in Tonto National Forest -- June 6, 2016
Hiking Treasure Loop Trail near Superstition Mountain -- June 6, 2016
Treasure Loop Trail near Superstition Mountain -- June 6, 2016
At the intersection of Treasure Loop Trail and Prospector's View Trail you will find this comfy bench and take in the view of the surrounding area -- June 6, 2016



Looking south from the intersection of Treasure Loop Trail and Prospector's View Trail
Taking in the view from near the Green Boulder by Superstition Mountain -- June 6, 2016
I felt amazing after the first hike of my trip -- June 6, 2016

 

My second hike at Lost Dutchman was pretty ambitious.  I wanted to do the same hike as the first (but in the opposite direction)...and I wanted to add Siphon Draw Trail.  I hiked a bit of  this trail two years ago with Robin & Alex...but time and heat and lack of water forced us to turn back sooner than expected.  

David, Robin, & Alex Raymond on Siphon Draw Trail.  The flat peak on the top left of the  picture is the Flatiron -- January 23, 2014

 

With more water, almonds, and beef jerky with me than the previous hike I decided to trek up Siphon Draw Trail, past an area called the Basin, and see if I could reach the Flatiron.  As I passed the parts of the  trail that seemed familiar to me I began to realize that the Flatiron (with an altitude of 4,861 feet) would be beyond my reach....so I decided to hike as far past the Basin as I could, take a break, and make my way down.  Flatiron would have to wait for another day, but what I saw from my highest point above the Basin was beautiful.  

"Praying Hands" near Treasure Loop Trail -- June 8, 2016
Siphon Draw Trail -- June 8, 2016
Making my way up Siphon Draw Trail near the Basin -- June 8, 2016
Remnants of a storage room from when the area was an active gold mine.  Siphon Draw Trail -- June 8, 2016

I thought this dead cactus on Siphon Draw Trail was super cool -- June 8, 2016
My view from a few hundred feet above the Basin on Siphon Draw Trail -- June 8, 2016
A few hundred feet above the Basin on Siphon Draw Trail -- June 8, 2016

BOULDER CANYON TRAIL

There is water in the desert...and I found it.  About 15 miles past Lost Dutchman State Park on Arizona 88 you will find Canyon Lake.  Canyon Lake is one of four reservoirs that were formed by the damming of the Salt River.  The trail head for Boulder Canyon Trail is located directly across the marina.  Again...a different kind of beauty that I wasn't expected to find in the middle of the desert.  My hike there was short (I didn't have a map with me)...but extremely peaceful & fun.  

A view of Canyon Lake from Arizona 88 -- June 8, 2016

Trail marker for Boulder  Canyon Trail -- June 8, 2016

Hiking Boulder Canyon Trail -- June 8, 2016
One lane bridge on Arizona 88 near Canyon Lake seen from  Boulder Canyon Trail -- June 8, 2016
Canyon Lake seen from the Boulder Canyon Trail -- June 8, 2016



Taking a break from my hike to soak it all in -- June 8, 2016
Trail head for Boulder Canyon Trail -- June 8, 2016

SOUTH MOUNTAIN PARK/PRESERVE

Back in 2009, on  my first trip to visit my brother in Arizona, I hiked South Mountain Park.  I think it was here (although now I prefer Lost Dutchman State Park & Superstition Mountain) that I first realized the beauty of the desert.  Before South Mountain was designated a park in the early 1900s various minerals were mined from the area.  Now it boasts over 51 miles of scenic and rugged trail for people who hike, ride horses, mountain bike, or just want a spectacular view of the city of Phoenix, Arizona.  On this trip, I began my hike at the second highest peak of the mountain, Dobbin's Lookout (2,330 feet above sea level), and made my way down Holbert Trail and parts of National Trail...enjoying every step I took.  

Looking down on Holbert Trail on South Mountain -- June 10, 2016
Holbert Trail -- June 10, 2016

Holbert Trail -- June 10, 2016

Holbert Trail -- June 10, 2016
A great view of the city below from South Mountain Park -- June 10, 2016
National Trail on South Mountain Park.  You can see the radio towers on the hill in the distance -- June 10, 2016

National Trail -- June 10, 2016

Flowering cactus on South Mountain -- June 10, 2016

I thought this was a pretty cool pic -- June 10, 2016

Dobbin's Lookout...Elevation 2,330 Ft. -- June 10, 2016
Checking out the view from Dobbin's Lookout -- June 10, 2016

Taking a break at Dobbin's Lookout before heading back to my brother's house -- June 10, 2016
Four hikes and a bike ride on this trip to Arizona.  Pretty successful trip!  Now it's back to Pennsylvania.

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