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Sardina Dam, AZ
mini location map2016-07-10
26 by photographer avatarAZHiker456
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Sardina Dam, AZ 
Sardina Dam, AZ
Hiking avatar Jul 10 2016
Hiking7.32 Miles 881 AEG
Hiking7.32 Miles   2 Hrs   52 Mns   2.97 mph
881 ft AEG      24 Mns Break
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I drove to one of my favorite places in all of AZ: a dirt road system just minutes from my front door off FR 684, [or what locals refer to as “Hunter’s Access”]. With a preference for desert / desert grassland over forest, the Santa Ritas can’t hold a candle to the magnificence of the Hunter’s Access area as far as I’m concerned. With peaks, rock crags, canyons, drainages, and just about every type of cactus abound, the display of colors and varied landscape is an absolute marvel. While dirt road “hiking” will always have a component of monotony compared to off-trail, the incredible beauty of the Hunter’s Access area is about as good as it gets for making it feel like you’re off the beaten path.

I parked along FR 684, just over 7 miles in, at a convenient pullout located immediately to the right after going over a cattle guard at the crest of a hill. It seems kind of vague but the spot it unmistakable if you set your odometer at the start of FR 684: there are many ups/downs along the way but mile 6 is relatively flat until you get to the Upper Puerto Tank on your right, at which point the road climbs uphill for about 1/3 of a mile. Just as you near the top, you’ll cross over a cattle guard before the road starts to go back down; this is where I parked. This spot has some pretty killer views in all directions, especially of the Santa Ritas.

Before continuing down FR 684 on foot, I noticed an extremely well beaten path toward the South. It was a little rocky, but my equilibrium had recovered enough to allow me to go down a short ways to investigate. I was surprised at just how ‘bushwhackable’ the surrounding area appeared, [especially at this time of year], and the temptation of Sardina Peak [ photo ] was almost unbearable. Promising myself that I will someday move back to Southern AZ to finish off any/all business [peak bagging] helped ease some of my frustration.

As I turned back toward FR 684, I caught sight of the hands down strangest “flower” I’ve ever seen in AZ and went over to investigate. Upon closer examination, the oddity was explained by the fact that the flower was not real and serving as part of a memorial [ photo ] .

After returning to FR 684, I headed West and then after about 1/3 of a mile hung a right on FR 4136. I was planning a 14-16 miler [out to Arivaca Road and back], but felt a little fatigued. The ‘fake’ kind of BS fatigue always wears off for me within an hour, so if ever I still feel beat after the 1-hour mark, [which was the case this time], I’ll typically go easy on myself and call it quits sooner.

As I was preparing to turn back, I looked at the topo to see if there was anything interesting nearby and noticed the Sardina Dam was not too far off. It would require a little off trail to get there, but to my pleasant surprise, the off-trail terrain of the gentle hillsides that surrounded me was almost as forgiving as the pine-covered hillsides of Northern AZ. The one challenge was a short, 10-15 foot scramble down a slightly steep section with a touch of loose footing to get down into a drainage area. Luckily, [like the previous day on the final ascent to Kitt], I felt challenged but not like I was putting my safety as risk.

Once in the drainage, the footing was soft sand vs. boulders so the going was easy / without issue; and in the area of the Sardina Dam, it was more like giant slabs of rock that you could just walk across vs actually having to boulder hop. The Sardina Dam was really neat and made for the perfect turnaround point, and the 7+ miles I logged for the day in triple digit temps, [on top of the previous day’s 12+ miler / 3,000’ AEG to Kitt Peak] made for a decent weekend.
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