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Mesquite Willow Loop - White Tanks
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mini location map2012-05-13
14 by photographer avatarHippy
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Mesquite Willow Loop - White TanksPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar May 13 2012
Hiking8.45 Miles 1,650 AEG
Hiking8.45 Miles   2 Hrs   30 Mns   3.38 mph
1,650 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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Last night's trip started off like any other trip...a long boring car ride through suburbia :sweat:

Once we got to the White Tank Mountains Regional Park entrance the hard part was over!
We drove to the Mesquite trailhead and almost immediately set off along the trail.

We had started this exact loop once before, about 7 months ago, maybe 2 miles along Mesquite Trail we had to turn back 1) it was like 730pm and the sun was long gone and 2) I'm deathly afraid of the dark and my body was wimping out on me because my adrenaline was peaked!

So here we were, starting again and I went about the first 3 miles without stopping to rest, which again, if you don't know me, a great accomplishment, given my "smoker's lungs" (I've never smoked a day in my life btw!) ((Some are attributing it to "sports asthma"))

Anywho, 3 miles in we were slowing down for a rest after we topped out on a little incline when a very happy chipmunk lookin guy crossed the path and practically begged us to I followed and when the critter finally darted off trail we were met with another surprise!

Big fat black and orange lizard, no, not a Gila Monster, a miniature Chuckwalla, an agama maybe? I haven't had a chance to look it up yet.

So we snapped a photo of his butt under the rock and continued on, moments later we ran head on into a tiny "troop" ? of mule deer, 4 or 5 of them just...hanging out! Either they're REALLY use to seeing people or they were innocent to our presence, they were close,maybe 50 feet away?!
Snapped some photos and moved on, got closer to Ford Canyon Trail and a gorgeous Turkey Vulture banked a mere 15 feet above our heads...

absolutely wonderful to hear no humans, no city, nothing! To nearly feel the wind from the vulture's wings against our faces as he banked by!

We continued on and came upon a rather strange little white bug...I thought it was a creosote blossom rolling by but it turns out it was a fuzzy white bee type creature?! Never seen one of those before...

So on we go down into Ford Canyon, gorgeous area! It must be teaming with life in early spring and during monsoon season! We plan on finding out this summer...
Tons of cottontails, lots of leaping lizards darting between our feet, more fuzzy white bee creatures.
We curve around onto Willow Canyon Trail, lo and behold....what a sight! If you haven't been out there...please do take the time to do so! I won't spoil the surprise but read the trip description and you won't be disappointed when you get out there.

Almost back to Mesquite Trail where Willow Canyon Trail curves back into it we stop dead in our tracks and stare at 2 more mule deer, probably 2 of the group we saw earlier it was in roughly the same area, but who knows. They didn't run or turn and hide, they just stood on the trail about 30 feet ahead of us and stared. My camera sucks at night but Vince got some decent shots, I'll post some up, beautiful, magnificent creatures!

On we walk, the sun is almost entirely down, just enough left to dimly light the hills to our right along Mesquite Trail heading back...when we stop again and look at eachother, I half suspected I heard a fart or a belch...he shook his head and we both looked into the hills wide eyed with wonder. We waited...nothing moved but the wind against our chests, we glanced at eachother and shrugged, took one step forward and there it was again!

A sound like nothing we'd ever heard before, we've heard it all! From "squeaking" geckos to mountain lions to javelina and coyote first we thought it was a child on the hill calling to us.
We turned against the wind and strained to hear it again, and it obliged.
A honk like a goose?? No, not quite...a bark? Absolutely not. Perhaps a gurgling yelp? We have NO idea how to describe it but I called out a few times in case it was an injured human but a human would have called out had it heard me, this creature was silent for about 4 minutes then cried again.
I wish I could better describe it baffled me, I thought maybe Coati (one of the few AZ desert creatures i've never encountered or heard)? But I don't think they'd be living in the White Tanks?! Would they?!
I plan on scouring the internet's sound files to find it and when I do you can be sure I'll make a big deal about it :D

The sun snuck off to whereever the sun sneaks off to every night and we were enveloped in darkness, we walked shoulder to shoulder taking in the silence and starsand the whispering wind.
It always amazes me how calm and quiet and area can be even when so close to the city.

Heading down the last mile we stopped for a few night photos with Vince's camera, very pretty!
And as we reached the end of the switchbacks before the parking lot Vince called out to me, I stopped dead in my tracks and my eyes followed his light. Inches from my foot where I have just stepped was a cute adorable little scorpion, innocently blocking the trail. He was pretty small maybe an inch? So possibly a bark?

We photographed him before he got tired of us and went on his way.

5 minutes later in exactly the same manner we stopped again to photograph a daddy long legs!

Yet again another few moments we encountered another tiny scorpion quickly followed by a short squat wolf spider!

Goodness gracious this was our night for wildlife! We kept joking as we walked up to my Subaru on how all we needed was a mountain lion or snake and a tarantula to seal off the night! :D

So we loaded up i nthe car and...hey, did you all know White Tank Park locks it's gates on sundays at 8pm? :sl: We didn't! *ahem*

830pm we headed out to find a hos tto let us out, on our way to the front gate I was coming around a corner and saw a flash of eyes to the right of the road Vince shouted "Watch out!" And I hit the brakes and curled to the left a bit...there on the side of the road staring at us with dull curiousity was a gorgeous fat and sleek kit fox!

What in the world is going on out here?! I swear I've never seen so many animals in one short hiking trip! I lowered my lights and we just stared at the beautiful fox, he stared back then trotted to my driver's side of the car, stared some more and seemed to shrug us off as no threat and continued on his way.

We just stared after him in awe at all the wildlife that makes itself so easily seen in the early evenings out there...and on we went toward the front gate to be let out.

What's that up ahead in the road Vince asked? I slowed down and thought it was a gopher or some sort of rack standing on it's hind legs...

no, it was a screech owl, just hanging out in the middle of the road. Our jaws drop as the owl took wing and banked away from us.

We laughed and made it to the gate moments later without further sightings...but let me tell you this!

All my years (26!) growing up here I'd never thought of the White Tanks as being a place to go camping...after this short hiking trip, yeah, I'm taking my daughter there this summer for sure!
There's wildlife, beautiful trails. kind people, there IS water to be seen you just have to be willing to go to it. I will never forget that little hike, 9 miles or not that wsa a beautiful display of what the AZ Desert has to offer! And also it proves why areas like White Tank Park need to be protected and treated with respect!

Maybe next time we'll see our mountain lion!

Reasons to visit White Tanks later in the day:
1. Chipmunk things
2. small chuckwalla or agama lizard
3. 4-5 Mule Deer
4. Turkey Vulture
5. fuzzy white bee thing
6. Cottontails
7. Tons of lizards
8. 2 more mule deer
9. Strange creature in the hills crying to us, sounds like a goose mixed with a child mixed with a dog of some sort...possibly a young javelina?! But just didn't sound right for that...
10. 2 tiny Bark(?) Scorpions
11. Daddylong legs
12. Wolf Spider
13. Kit Fox
14. Screech Owl
Mule Deer
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