Since Saturday outdoor plans were thwarted due to weather, Sunday would be the day to get in a nice hike. John wanted to come check out my neck of the woods so I put together a loop that would give John some mileage, elevation, ruins, and creek crossings. I call this the "Elephant's Spur". Driving on the paved part of Spur Cross Road, we witnessed a coyote picking up some road kill (nature's way of recycling). When we got to the Spur Cross TH parking, we looked at the mountains around us and saw snow
on the southside of Black Mesa Mountain, up and down (south to north) New River Mesa and east to west along Skull Mesa. It's April for gosh sake.... in the desert.
We started out around 8AM at the Jewel of the Crown TH and didn't encounter a sole until approaching the ridge before Elephant Mountain's Fortress. It was quite green along this part of the trail. As we came up out of the wash on the Dragonfly Trail to the flat area we hit the heavy soil and our boots soon became clogged with mud. It was so weird as sometimes it felt like my boots had heels. We would encounter this mud off and on until we got to Trail #252.
We made pretty good time as the trail takes you the long way around before you make a u-turn and start heading up the side of a mountain to a ridge that puts you about eye level with The Fortress. Then it's up and down, up and down about 2-3 times before you make that last climb to the saddle between Elephant Mtn and The Fortress. Along the way, my eye caught a glimpse of a saguaro with the longest extended arm I had ever seen. You'll have to check out the photo http://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=188574
At the saddle, I gave John the option of checking out the ruins or not and if you know John
you know what we did. I hadn't been up there since April 2008 so it was nice to refresh my memory. It is a straight up hike but short. We probably spent 15 minutes or so up there checking out the layout of the rooms as well as the rock walls. And of course, there was great views toward the McDowells and Supes as well as toward the Bradshaws. You could still see the snow too.
And then it was down the slippery slope to the saddle and to the wash. You walk in the wash for a little ways before heading up and out. John was duly impressed by the steps put in by the Boy Scouts
in certain areas. It makes that steep climb so much more tolerable. It was now noon and we were at the intersection with the Spur Cross Trail. We had traveled 5.82 miles.
At this point we headed west on the Spur Cross Trail until we got to the intersection with the Rondo Springs turn-off. We continued north and east on Trail #252. It was along this section to just past Page Springs that I got my clippers out to do some trimming
. It was important to make sure the sticky debris was tossed to the side so that if the horses swished their tails at just the wrong time, they wouldn't get stuck by catclaw or other sharp shrubbery
. This slowed us down quite a bit but it was something I had planned to do since I did the trail back in late Oct 2009. It does look like others had also done some trimming out here.
We had our lunch at the sandstone ravine just past Page Spring as it's pretty windy when you hit this saddle area in front (east) of Sugarloaf Mountain. From here it was down hill most of the way as you make your way north and then east toward Limestone Spring. This area where the spring was coming from was quite lush, just like by Page Spring. The next landmark is the corral where we encountered lots of Phainopepla and these smaller dive-bombing B&W birds. There was also a lizard a top a tall rock cairn.
Here we also ran into a guided group on horses. I asked the guide about Trail #4 and some additional trail info
because now I think I can get deeper into the Spur Cross area to check out other areas. We would end up crossing the creek two more times and a surprise crossing at the big red rock area where the creek normally curves around to the east before the trail goes up the hill. Must have been some serious water pressure as the creek jumped the natural berm to create a couple cascades of water
and a new pool to cross.
We continued up the hill above the creek to another big crossing before heading back to the TH via the Metate Trail. They've done some major work on this trail through the lower area as it is just a lovely path and the grass is all cut back. We ran into quite a few more people on this part of our hike but it's nice to see families out in nature; and what a beautiful day. We made our last creek crossing of the day when I saw this huge plant up a little ways. I walked up to it and couldn't believe what I saw. It was the largest Chia I had ever seen. It almost came up to my knees and had huge flowers... and for a Chia, that's saying something
We finished off our day at the Encanto Cantina in Cave Creek. After a hike it's always so nice to sit outside and eat, drink and be merry and reflect on your day. I'm so glad I can do these 10 milers now. Hopefully John enjoyed his journey to my 'hood despite the fact that a couple times the trail would lead you the long way and in the opposite direction of where you were trying to get to, ha! I hope some of you check out the Elephant's Spur.
Video 1 from Jewel of the Crown to Elephant Mountain Saddle & Ruins to Limestone Spring: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bxi15v7KPGI
Video 2 from east of Limestone Spring to along the Metate Trail: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_TiwLO0H6w