A touch of spring
Overview: This is a relatively new conservation area purchased by the state of Arizona in January of 2001 thus saving it from developers. Located just north of Cave Creek, it borders the Tonto National Forest with 2,154 acres of pristine high Sonoran desert terrain and has several trails of varying difficulty, some which connect with the Cave Creek Trail System.
Hike: Mario, Sheri & I originally planned to take Mario's 4x4 2.5 miles in to the connecting Cave Creek Trail and hike from there but our plans were altered a bit when we got to Spur Cross Ranch and the gate was locked. After speaking briefly with a sheriff who was parked at the gate, we found out that motorized vehicles are no longer allowed access to this area and we wound up going a short distance back to the parking area to figure out what we were going to do. The decision was unanimous and we decided to do a 5.5 loop hike using an old Jeep road to Trail #252 and come back on Spur Cross Trail. We got to the kiosk and headed off to start the loop clockwise. The first 1.4 miles was on an old Jeep road that was wide, easy to follow and had some decent elevation gain and basically followed the terrain in and out of several washes. The views of Elephant Mountain were outstanding as we headed northwest on the Jeep road and eventually came upon the trail junction for this. All along this area of the trail, we kept seeing little sprigs of color... little purple, yellow and white wildflowers. As tempting as it was we continued northwesterly and eventually came upon the Tonto National Forest boundary, marked by a barbed wire gate. Once through the gate, we continued another 0.5 miles to trail #252 that is marked by a rock with petroglyphs (Rondo Spring/Spur Trail marker) and a sad looking little trail off to the west. We took a right so we were heading east and it was here that the terrain took on variated colors at every turn. We had views of Sugarloaf Mountain to our north but as we ascended and descended onto various washes, the colors of the rock along the trail continually amazed us as it turned from red to white to brown to black volcanic rock. It was amazing! We came down on part of the trail where it was glaring white rock and I saw a clump of red wildflowers. The saguaro were impressive along this stretch of the trai... huge amounts of 40-50 footers. We continued on and after 0.5 miles came upon Page Spring... a small spring with lush green grass. Continued on another mile and came upon Limestone Spring. There were minnows or some other little fish in the water as well as lots of bees. When we descended from this area, the view just took your breath away. After another short trek from here we descended into a wash and heard WATER! CAVE CREEK! Stopped here and had lunch along the creek while watching a huge black Lab thoroughly enjoying the water. He was having entirely too much fun but it was a perfect lunch break. Hiked back out past the corral, crossed the creek a few more times and then followed it back to the parking lot... about 1.8 miles from the corral.
This was one of the more beautiful hikes I've seen in recent months due to the wildflowers and the one red cardinal I saw as well as the diversity of the terrain. Due to this being a conservation area, many of the areas are closed to "off-trail" hiking but there are ranger-led activities to the petrolgyphs and Indian ruins that are scattered throughout the area. When we were hiking out we stopped and spoke to Judy, one of the hiking sponsers who gave us some history of the area. It seems this area has a plethora of Indian settlement ruins which date back to early Hohokam, circa 1100. They offer guided tours of these areas monthly.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.