Ambika and I wanted to get in a "not too long" hike for the weekend. Ambika had not hiked up in my neck of the desert and since I'd been down her way for the last couple months, she joined me up at Spur Cross. As we walked over to the Jewel TH, we spotted a few rabbits so had to stop and take some photos.
It was a bit chilly in the morning as we made our way down to Cave Creek on the Jewel of the Creek Trail. The creek was running, such a sweet sound. They have once again re-routed part of this trail and the DragonFly trail by using rocks on each side where they want you to walk. As we made our way up and out of the wash toward the top of the ravine, we saw this HUGE hawk fly out from some cottonwoods further up in the wash. He was incredible
while flying low looking for breakfast. But he was too fast for any kind of a photo
Not too far from where we saw the hawk and not too far from the top, Ambika spotted a big glyph on a rock. I had never seen that before. So of course we had to stop and get some pics of it. I was surprised I had never seen it as the glyph is quite large. Before long we were winding our way around the base of Elephant Mountain. We would encounter a few hikers along the way. We stopped while going up a ravine to look back at the glowing cholla above the wash. It was very pretty. Next up we started encountering a large amount of saguaros on the southeast flank of Elephant Mountain. I always enjoy this section too because there are so many saguaros.
We stopped and had a break on some big rocks along the trail just before the intersection with Elephant Mtn so that we could refuel. While sitting there I saw a squirrel sunning on a rock and then thot back to that hawk we saw earlier thinking, that squirrel better not stay exposed too long. Soon we were heading up the Elephant Mountain Trail to the saddle. Just before the saddle you pass through a teddy bear cholla forest
on both sides of you.
While we were standing there admiring the glistening cholla, I saw the ranger led group winding up to the fortress where the Hohokam Ruins are located. They must have been moving pretty fast as they started at 9 and had come up the other way, albeit shorter, it's a pretty good climb. (The reason our group tour in 2009 took longer is because it was the height of the wildflower season so we stopped a lot more.)
Next you go up and down about 3 ravines before that last push to the saddle of Elephant Mtn. While standing there to the north of the saddle I looked up and saw the "elephant"
. I yelled to Ambika, "I think I finally see why they named it Elephant Mtn". Granted it was a rock formation and not the mountain itself that looks like an elephant but I was still excited at the revelation. Now back to the task at hand....
I had taken the ranger tour back in 2009 and Kevin said technically hikers shouldn't go up where it says "Do Not Enter" unless there is a ranger. So I told Ambika, as she was hesitant to go up, that there is a ranger involved. I felt very comfortable that Ranger Smith would have no problem with us being up there so off we went. The ranger-led group was already at the top having their snacks when we ambled up to join them. We went over and asked Ranger Smith if it would be okay for us to be up there and as I suspected, "not a problem at all". I asked the Ranger about the gila monster he had flushed out on the lower part of the trail during our tour in '09 and he said he hadn't seen the gila monster since then.
We didn't stay long at the top but did enjoy the views. We went down before the rest of the group as they followed behind. It was interesting to watch this group of 32 snake down the trail from the top. They went south and we went north. It's a long haul down this side of the mountain. A hiker we had met along the way told us about the paintbrush on this side and she was right. The paintbrush were all over this one section
. And I would say it was healthy and bushy paintbrush too, not stunted like the few poppies we saw.
We finally got to the wash, made our way through it and then up and out of the wash relatively easily thanks to the steps the Boy Scouts put in a few years back. Otherwise it would be quite slippery and it's a pretty steep climb out after you reach the first terrace. We made our way to and on the Tortuga Trail passing by the ranch house ruins and over Cave Creek.
We were running short on time as we dawdled more than we thought, so we didn't do the Metate Trail loop. Plus we were getting hungry as it was definitely lunch time. As it was, we would have to wait 35 minutes to be seated at El Encanto. It was fun watching the ducks and geese while we enjoyed our lunch.
Good hike in my backyard. Thx for joining me Ambika.
I am trying to change my video style whereby I take less video while walking and more video when stopped. This has two advantages; I can keep up better and you won't get seasick while watching the video. I could have broken this video into two parts but I didn't so it's around 15 minutes but includes the whole hike: http://youtu.be/J0nndxIZvM0