|Walking the access road up the mountain 33C and heat coming off the pavement|
LET me make one thing clear, I didn't disappear off the face of the earth, nor did I walk the entire coast of Oz. When I say, walkabout, I really mean... I walked about 8. something miles, wearing sandals over my bare feet, in 30 degree weather up and then down a mountain. Originally all I had in mind was to spend a bit of time at this amazing library in the foothills, visit the interpretive center to see if there was anything new since my first visit about 5 years ago, and in general take some photos before heading home again.
|Giant Saguaro cacti|
Once there of course, plans changed and I'd decided to try some of the foot paths in the park, ultimately my goal was to see what it would be like to spend a couple of days in a tent while walking some of the many designated trails.
Even here in the White Tank mountains you can't just wander about.
There are trails laid out that guide you around to various picnic areas, camping or hikes. Many of the trails are multi use meaning you could encounter other hikers, mountain bikers or horse traffic.
I wanted to walk the Waterfalls trail and I knew it would be uphill most of the way.
To get to the trail-head though I did not ride my bike, instead chose to walk from the library. By the time I got to the Black Rock loops I'd been on the road, literally, for an hour, and all of it was uphill! There was little in the way of shade and I was rationing my lemonade. I knew from experience I could maintain a fairly brisk pace at home but here in the heat and with no cover, well that might be a different story. As I often do when riding my bike in places where the terrain is difficult, I always vow to choose discretion over valor.
|Curious Ground squirrel atop the boulder, would hide whenever I got any closer.|
In the Rocky mountains, the Sierra Giganta of Baja or the Arizona desert, failure to heed the signs could lead to premature and painful death. There is nothing gallant about breaking your body or your bike (or both) out in the middle of nowhere with no cell signals and no traffic.
|Hohokem rock art|
I remember well the two deputies that came across me north of Phx a few years ago telling me the county makes about 100 emergency rescues from the Crown King Trail each year. I was just taking a breather while they thought I had a breakdown.
As I had thought once off the main road hikers were very sparse, in in the entire day I don't think I met 50 people!
I headed inland bypassing the short then the long loop of Black Rock. Looking at the well laid out paper map I had in my hand, I knew the connecting Waterfall trail was perhaps 3-400 yards ahead.
|Just up that staircase and around the next bend, and you're there!|
I was still feeling really good using the maps in my hand to shade my eyes from a bright sun. For the better part of an hour now, since the last car past me on the access road, it was dead silent, not even a cricket chirped a friendly hello!
|Them's the Falls!!! About 500 feet.|
|10x10 pool at the base.|
|A few people about but not many.|
Imagine my shock when two low flying F 15's come over the nearest mountain on their return to Luke AFB. Of course looking into the sky I see nothing because the two jets are traveling, and have outdistanced their exhaust by several miles. In the next two hours I would see several more, mostly in groups of two or three, some so high as to be mere dots, and others passing by close enough to see their dappled gray colors... the roar of these low flyers deafening.
|More rock art.|
THE Waterfall trail is not wheelchair accessible, huge boulders lounge on the trail at different points and there are many switchbacks as I climb. I meet few people coming down and pass no one going up. Eventually I get into shade created by the sheer cliffs rising above me in the canyon, several hundred feet into the sky. Once at the waterfalls I clamber through a narrow cleft to a tiny pocket of water, cold to the touch and barely large enough to cover a hundred square feet. I look up, waaaay up as the Friendly Giant used to say, and try to imagine what it would have been like a week ago when we had 24 hours of rain. You wouldn't want to be standing here I guessed. It would be the most forceful pummeling shower you've ever experienced. There is no way to approach the falls during rainy periods. The last few hundred feet to get there are on actual stream run-off bed, the boulders now bleached but in a torrent it would be madness. You'd be crushed by the weight of water (about 8 lbs/gallon) among the rocks and boulders.
Photos do this place absolutely no justice, there is no perspective while looking up into the sky from the pool I am standing in front of. You just have to see it for yourself.
On the walk down the mountain I decide to hit the parking lot and while there, fill my now empty lemonade bottle with clean water, luxuriate in the immaculate and modern loo and check my map once again.
I say to myself, "self, it's all downhill from here" as it turned out, far from the truth!
I pick up the Mule Deer trail at parking lot #4 and begin climbing and climbing and well, you get the picture. The trail climbs right over a mountain and from here I have an amazing view of the valley, somewhere over there, in the afternoon heat haze, are my digs.
The Mule Deer is classed as moderate, there are no other humans, I am starkly, alone! Once again I say to myself, here I am, in this incredibly beautiful place, pristine wilderness, with this million dollar view, and I am alone. Dam, this can get annoying at times. I don't know how many times I have thought, Brenda would love this, she'd get off on this walkabout, but she's not here. She's at home in PEI, doing touch-ups to unit 1 for the new tenants, and of course, keeping an eye on Anna, who this year especially has given us some cause for concern.
BY the time I hoof it back to the library parking lit, it's 4 30 in the afternoon, the lot is nearly empty, I replace my pant legs, use the facilities, marvel once again at the panoramic view of the surrounding White Tank mountains from the library windows and realize that I'm hungry enough to tackle a mountain goat! Probably good thing I didn't see one!
|Scene right out of the Lone Ranger...|
Leaving the park entrance gate behind, I laugh hard in my helmet. Not because I recalled anything funny Ron or Tom had told me, but just from sure pleasure.
|Soon enough back home!|
We live on a magnificent planet... whether out in my Spring Valley during the winter months on the Polaris, or riding my XT over the Senator Highway at 7000 feet, or having just walked in bare foot covered sandals over 8 miles of trails in the regional park.
I am so lucky to be alive to admire this experience. On the way home I realize I'm famished, and gee whiz... right before my eyes appears a Burger King... just like in the old days!
I order up a meal with fries and an ice cold Coke, the first one I've had since arriving here, she sure goes down good.
|Amazing library and Interpretive center, Maricopa county White Tank Mountains.|
Like Clive Cussler used to say at the end of each Sea Hunters program...
|That's greater Phx in the distance.|
"get off the couch, and get out there and do something..."
or words to that effect.
That's what I've been doing...