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mini location map2014-01-10
15 by photographer avatarblack_toes
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Union Hills LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 10 2014
Hiking6.00 Miles 1,565 AEG
Hiking6.00 Miles   4 Hrs   10 Mns   2.34 mph
1,565 ft AEG   1 Hour   36 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
A first visit for me, I traveled the Dixie Mountain Loop counter-clockwise and went up both spurs to the summits. It is one of the those infrequent trails I've found that provide beauty, exercise and solitude all in one package. The only trouble this day was the extreme smog. Where Four Peaks should've been, for instance, there was only dark brown. And I could barely make out the towers of the much-closer Thompson Peak in a deep, gray haze.

The Preserve has changed a lot since MEWhiteman wrote the description almost 3 1/2 years ago. Many more trails. But the Dixie Mountain Loop remains the centerpiece.

The hikes up to the two summits are short but steep and got my heart pumping. Whiteman said he found two Geological Survey discs atop Dixie, but I found only one, on the slightly-lower blackened rock at the west end. Wish I'd read his description closer and I would've looked harder for the other one.

At the start of the Dixie Mountain Summit Trail I ran into a shirtless man in shorts with a friendly black dog, unleashed. I saw only one other human, a biker on the loop's north end, in the next hour. In fact in my 4-hour amble, I came across only nine people -- 3 hikers, 3 bikers and 3 joggers, most of them at the end of the hike near sundown.

The most interesting part came on the summit of Western Vista where a cairn of mid-size rocks have been erected as a memorial to various people. One rock had the name of Pat Tillman, the army Ranger killed in Afghanistan. The most prominent memorial was a rock to the "Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew," who lost 19 members last June in the Yarnell Hill Fire. It was etched in a rock and the lettering painted in bright red. The flag Whiteman mentioned in a triplog in February of last year was no longer there. It is not an inspirational summit, however. The view directly below to the west is mundane if not ugly with a large sand and gravel pit excavation and the housing development (Fireside at Desert Ridge).

This is a land heavily covered with Teddy Bear cholla, and has some of the largest and healthiest buckhorn cactus I've seen, particularly on the north. Green grass covered the trail sides, and everything looked fairly lush except for the palo verde, which is still decked in winter brown leaves. The scattered saguaro are mostly young and unimpressive.

On the last leg, I stopped to take a photo of the "rusted out car full of bullet holes," as kingsnake described it. Must be an interesting story behind it, since the car was likely resting there on a ravine for decades before the Preserve opened in 2010. Looks to be a 1970s vintage suburban.

Got back to the parking lot at 6 o'clock, in semi-darkness. My car was the only one in the lot, although I'd just seen a biker and two joggers heading out on the trail, probably residents of nearby Fireside. Great place to view sun setting over the Deem Hills and beyond. Just need to pick a clearer day.
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Black Mountain
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