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mini location map2014-02-08
10 by photographer avatarblack_toes
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Maricopa PeakPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Feb 08 2014
Hiking10.07 Miles 2,029 AEG
Hiking10.07 Miles   6 Hrs   2 Mns   2.17 mph
2,029 ft AEG   1 Hour   23 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
Partners none no partners
A very long day. Much more than I wanted to bite off. And while I found the summit trail to Maricopa Pk pretty much as advertised -- relatively short with a modest elevation gain -- it will test your capacity for risk should you want to reach the highest point. It did mine. Add to that, the stress you might feel doing it solo, as I did, in probably the most lonesome part of the park.

It was almost 1400 when I got under way. The gate was closed to San Juan Rd, so I took the busy Bajada Tr 6/10 of a mile down to its TH, then swiftly up on the Alta to the ridgeline. Trouble was I got into my usual amble, stopping to shoot photos of the magnificent fields of yellow bladder-pod along the Bajada and up higher poppies, phacelia and fiddleneck. And then, reaching the ridge, I lolled about 15 minutes on a small rise, savoring the dramatic views. Got out the binos up there and looked for hikers atop Goat Hill to the S and then Maricopa to the W and, of course, saw no one. While resting, a young man and woman with a dog came up from below to take in the views and about the same time a shirtless man with tattoos walked by from the west. These were the last human beings I would see for the next five hours.

About a half-mile west on the ridgeline I ran into a large field of poppies. And despite knowing I was flirting with coming back down in darkness, I halted to take a few photos. I passed Post #7 at 1545, knowing I still had another mile of up and down, twisting trail ahead before striking Post #8 and the start of the Maricopa Pk Tr. I sat down at 1607 to reconnoiter. Got out the binos again and looked up at a high saddle and thought I saw a straight object among the brush that was probably the #8 post. I gauged it was about a half-mile off. About the same time a pack of coyotes began yipping in the valley to the NW. I thought about turning around right there but eventually pushed on. Noticed a lot of dark scat on the trail that I thought was coyote.

Finally came up to Post #8 at 1630, and soon started east on the faint trail to Maricopa Peak. The distance looked longer than it actually was. A little over a quarter of a mile and 158' el gain, according to my GPS. I crossed two or three rocky pinnacles on the way, choosing one route over others. Invariably I picked the one that went up, not to the side. Was glad to be wearing long pants for once. The trails were over-grown with lots of buckhorn and compass barrel. And sharp rocks protruded. The closer I came to the summit --which is really two peaks, north and south separated by a small saddle -- the steeper the drops were to each side. Hundreds of feet down. As I got closer I saw some weathered writings on a cliff face. It was hard to make out. "Jeff" was clear as was "2500 ft." There was a date on the right. I read it as "1-19-74."

At the small saddle, I thought of quitting. An eight-foot boulder barred me from going up to the high point, on the northern peak. I vetoed two other options. The one on the west was dirt and loose rock. It reminded me of a playground slippery-slide. Begin sliding backward on that stuff and you would soon be dumped out into space and a long way down. The east side was a little better, but still chancy. So I began climbing up the boulder. I found good hand-holds in the crevices. I tested each one before putting weight on it and eventually eased up on all fours to the summit. The southern peak was obviously less high. I walked out toward the high point and took in the fantastic views in all directions. Downtown Phoenix seemed a long way off from up there. The northern peak ran about 25 yards in length and maybe 5-10 yards across. Was it worth it? Would I do it again? I don't know. But it was a thrill to be up there alone, no sounds, nothing. Not even a bird.

The trip back to Post #8 was quicker than going out. It's always easier finding the right path as you descend. Decided for a reason that is unclear now to hike on west a mile and a half to the San Juan Outlook, then walk back in darkness four miles on the pavement to the car. It was parked at the "triangle" just off the road to Telegraph Pass and beyond. I'd forgotten that San Juan Road going east is uphill. It was a nice night, though, and I followed the line in the middle of the pavement, no need for a flashlight. Of course there were no vehicles on the road this weekend. Very happy to turn a bend and see the bright towers lights and knowing I was getting close. Reached the car at 1950 without incident after an hour and a half walk from the Outlook. One of my more memorable hikes, for sure.
Named place
Named place
Maricopa Peak
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Substantial
Yellow bladder-pod fields along the Bajada and up to the ridgeline on the Alta. A few large poppy patches on the north slopes of the Alta. Some phacelia and fiddleneck and tiny little wildflowers I couldn't identify.
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