My time in Phoenix proved to be very social.
I spent some time staying with Karin and Andy at their winter residence in Phoenix and exploring the immediate area.
Andy and I did a classic hike in the Superstition Mountains outside of Phoenix. Up Siphon Draw to an unnamed peak around 5000′ (rather than the more popular and accessible Flatiron formation). A respectable six miles and 3000′ gain. But most of the gain is in the last mile or so and with hiking that borders on scrambling!
From the top of the summit, I could see where I was last March.
The following day I met up with someone I “knew” from the popular Backpacking Light forum. Matt is a Phoenix resident. And knows I enjoy good food. He introduced me to a place where the menu was completely in Spanish. And where we were the only two non-Latinos. The food was absolutely delicious! The real deal for sure.
The following day, I met up with another person I “knew” from online circles. Jamie and his girlfriend Haley were visiting Haley’s family in the Phoenix area. By coincidence, Haley’s friend Andrew was also on a road trip. And was also in Phoenix. Haley, a tour guide at the Grand Canyon, also acted as our tour guide in the popular South Mountain Park. A local favorite for hiking, it was a casual way to catch up, make new friends, and see the beauty of the Sonoran Desert at the edge of Phoenix.
We started a little later than initially planned. The late start worked out well as we were able to catch a sunset over the city.
We only met that day. But the four of us were joking and enjoying each other’s company more as old friends than as people who just met. Haley also introduced us to a favorite post-hike place for some pub grub. I enjoyed some Arizona Craft beer, and we even played some trivia. It was like being back home in Boulder!
But it was time to go to places a little more remote.
I made another quick history pitstop at the Casa Grande dwellings.
As with Chaco Canyon and Chimney Rock, the Casa Grande dwelling had placed synched up on an 18.6-year Lunar cycle. A theory is that an astronomer-priest resided in Casa Grande and made a note of the astronomical cycles. Necessary for an agrarian society. Sure enough, the buildings were on a north-south axis with a significant landmark too, per my compass! I also learned that the word Hohokam is now rather like the word Anasazi. Meaning, a word that the descendants of the ancient people find insulting. As I learned to use the term Ancestral Pueblos, Ancient Sonorans is now part of my phrasing going forward.
I was going to camp around Saguaro National Park. But I did not realize how closely the city of Tuscon’s limits has encroached on the park. I could see homes right up to the park boundary. Beautiful as the park appears, the park seems best appreciated taking day trips from the nearby city. Still, I did take a short stroll and enjoyed the driving tour as a chance to stretch my legs.
However, I was ready for something more remote feeling.
I decided to camp two nights at Chiricahua National Monument instead. Located south of I-10, there are no significant cities nearby. The monument is noted for its hoodoos, pinnacles, and other rock formations. Favorite hiding places of the Apache in the past as well. The entire monument is a Sky Island. Rising from the desert floor, nearby peaks climb to almost 10,000 feet. A diversity of ecosystems are found within its boundaries.
I set up my camp by headlamp, made dinner, and had a visitor in the form of a skunk as I was enjoying some evening wine!
Apparently, four species of skunks exist in North America. And they are all found in this monument. And the enjoy poking around in campsites at night. :O No photo as a flash photo of a creature that could spray me. 🙂 I gingerly packed up everything in my vehicle once the visitor left.
I did a ten-mile hike the following day that took in all the park highlights. The stone formations were impressive. Outside the immediate trailhead areas, I had the hikes to myself.
Well, I did see one other hiker of note. 🙂
The sound of the rain on my tent helped give me a very comfortable night’s sleep.
The following day I saw some local residents.
The Mexican Jays, like their Grey Jay cousins, are birds that tend to be aggressive around food. These birds are often called camp robbers for a reason!
And while strolling, I saw some coatimundi!
Somewhat rare in the southwest apparently. I was quite excited to see these animals on my last morning in the monument.
On the way out of the monument, I decided to take another history pitstop to Ft. Bowie. Ft. Bowie had the general history of many western forts: Set up to protect the emmigration routes, miners, mail paths, and to fight in the Indian Wars. Once the wars were over, and the railroad was a mature form of transportation, the fort was disbanded by the 1890s.
For the general public, Ft. Bowie is a walk in only National Park unit. One of two in the country apparently. Three miles round trip to the visitors center. (The site is ADA compliant; visitors that can’t make the hike can call ahead and the service road gate will be unlocked). The hike was akin to walking through an outdoor museum! An unexpected gem. Some intriguing scenery with lots of history to explore.
On the advice of a park volunteer, I am camped at a free BLM area near I-10. Similar to Agua Fria, the spot is popular with boondockers as I discovered. And though I can see I-10 in the distance, the area is far less busy. A quasi-town stop. Laundry and showering will be done in the morning at the local RV park; I am doing some writing from my campsite.
And tomorrow? I’ll be in New Mexico. One of my favorite places in the world.