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Union Peak Trail - Sonoran Preserve
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mini location map2014-01-16
12 by photographer avatarblack_toes
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Union Peak Trail - Sonoran PreservePhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 16 2014
black_toes
Hiking6.18 Miles 1,258 AEG
Hiking6.18 Miles   4 Hrs   8 Mns   2.35 mph
1,258 ft AEG   1 Hour   30 Mns Break
 
Left Desert Vista TH just before 2 and reached the end of the summit trail (UP)about two hours later, ambling along, shooting photos, enjoying the views, particularly those views to the NE toward Cave Creek and Black Mountain. Very little haze. My GPS measured the distance at 3 miles on the nose.

To get there, I crossed over into a "lush" high desert meadow on the Desert Tortoise Tr (DT), which starts out as ugly and sere -- up and down thru ravines and near residences of the subdivision, Fireside at Desert Ridge. But the eastern part is flat and full of palo verde, Teddy Bear, buckhorn, brittle bush, bursage, scattered saguaro, compass barrel, et al. Just beautiful. Should be a magnet at wildflower time.

The DT deadends at the Valle Verde Tr (V). The V has been described as "Valle Vista," but I think that is wrong. Anyway, I knew it was the V even though it wasn't marked on the trail post. Union Peak looms to the SE. This trail remained flat until I hit the Great Horned Owl Tr (GO) at the NW corner of Union, 2.06 mi out. Started gaining elevation quickly on the GO and in a half-mile I reached the summit trail (UP). Sign says it is .44 mi to trail's end with an elevation gain of 190 feet. The trail to the top is pretty much a breeze with some long, looping switchbacks.

On top of Union Peak, the undulating ridgeline runs north and south with four high points. The third is the highest, 8 feet above the fourth nub, according to my GPS, where a post marks the end of the UP trail at 2,184 feet el. Extrapolating the 8 feet from my GPS, the mountain's highest point should be 2,192'.

I found a summit register about 10 yards north of the final post, pushed down in a rock crevice. The register is rolled inside a large peanut butter jar with a red top. Fairly obvious. A group of five had signed on a page earlier in the day, though I saw no trace of them on the trails. "We [heart drawing) Jesus," someone wrote at the end.

If the group symbolized Christianity, the young man who came up to the summit a short time after me likely symbolized something else. He was about 30 years old, bare-chested in bluejeans with a muscled and well-defined upper body. He wore a tattoo above his heart: A human skull with flames fanning out of the top. Said he was a professional boxer and lived in the development below and just to the SE of where we stood. He was an OK guy, but I was concerned about "King," the white, one-year-old pit bull he kept at his side on a heavy link-chain. The dog appeared to be friendly, but kept inching toward me until it was about two feet away. Maybe sensing my discomfort, the guy reined the dog back in. We chatted for about 10 minutes before he and "King" left, ending one of the most interesting encounters I've had on a mountain top.

I headed back at 4:30 after retreating once to sign the register. I made better time on the return, 1:20, and reached the TH at sunset, the end of a great hike on a beautiful afternoon.

As for company, I had little. I met up with 11 hikers, 8 bikers and a jogger in four hours. And all but four of them came after 5 o'clock once I struck the Desert Tortoise Tr again.

I'm glad I'm doing this park now before it is "discovered" by the masses. The trails are beautifully designed and well-maintained. It is a gem of a place.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated
A few small patches of yellow on UP trail.
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242 Photosets

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