Archive for the ‘Phoenix wilderness’ Category

Mystery Castle   Leave a comment

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 I went, on a whim (and in my car), to the south end of 7th Street. Some day I need to do an end to end trip on 7th Street and show all the significant things that are located on that one vital thoroughfare in Phoenix, but not today. Today I found something else, and since I had my camera with me, I took pictures, and mainly for those of you who might actually enjoy vicariously strolling through the Arizona desert with me, I have this record of the day’s adventure. With the right attitude, every day is an adventure–do you agree?

 

2014-03-31 23.35.46

South Mountain Park is, I believe, the largest city park in the world. It contains an entire mountain range and is about 20 miles long and  ten miles wide. There are numerous ways into the park, only one goes by the park ranger station. In a lifetime in Phoenix, this is the first time I have ever seen this entrance.  There is a nice trail, and I want to walk a mile or more every day, so I decided to enter. The time is near 11 a.m.

2014-03-31 23.37.28

There is an unnatural depression/valley/crater near the entrance. It might just be the end of a gully that has widened out a lot, but perhaps it is the remains of an open pit mine that is so old that the desert has reclaimed it. You can’t tell from the photo, but the bottom of this depression is a good 50 feet below where I am standing, and is quite flat.

2014-03-31 23.37.32

Do you see the far walls on the other side of the pit. These are typical of gravel pits and other big open mines in Arizona. The houses over there are very nice, upper middle class dwellings, and all this flatness is not typical of the bottom of a mountain range. Everything should be sloping downward toward Phoenix in the north. It’s a mystery, and I don’t suppose I’ll ever know how this place came to exist, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t natural.

2014-03-31 23.37.49

Once I got past the dirt trail I started on I found a paved road. That seemed kind of strange because there is no way for a vehicle to reach that road.  The entrance I used is a foot trail barely wide enough for a car at the beginning and too narrow for one a little further on, and it is blocked off by thousand pound boulders placed across the entrance. Perhaps there is a way in through the fenced-off water tanks at the ends of the trail, but I don’t know how the city made this nicely-maintained stretch of asphalt.

2014-03-31 23.39.02

Broken rock landslide area. Desert scenery. I just like to look at and discover such places.

2014-03-31 23.39.07

Looking back the way I came in. The huge tank is probably storing water for South Phoenix. It’s not like any explanation is posted for it.

2014-03-31 23.41.35

Another view of the depression. Some time I may return and climb down into it.

2014-03-31 23.41.41

Mountain slopes and mesquite trees.

2014-03-31 23.42.58

A view across the pit. The eroded slope in the foreground is more typical of an Arizona gully.

2014-03-31 23.43.13

This is the southern end of the pit. The mountain slopes become very steep here, and a true gully appears.

2014-03-31 23.44.51

My walk has taken me to the end of the big pit where a real desert wash empties into it. The tumbled rocks and the undercut caves on the far side are typical of such watercourses. The caves provide shelter for all manner of desert wildlife.

2014-03-31 23.44.54

This area is well explored (by others). Here is a trail leading across the wash.

2014-03-31 23.45.05

Back on the road. Such scenes always make me think of Tolkien’s song: The Road Goes Ever On. I want to see where this one will take me. And also it’s easier than climbing through gullies. 🙂

2014-03-31 23.46.26

The road climbs to this other big tank nestled between two hills and fenced off from the world.

2014-03-31 23.46.34

Looking uphill. This desert is not real good country for saguaro cactus, but there are a few, and here is one that has found a home.

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A trail on the ground.

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A trail in the sky.

2014-03-31 23.49.58

Looking back down the road. I had to climb a bit to get here. I think the climbing should be worth extra credit in the big scorebook in the sky. (I’m so obsessive. I have to count and score everything I do these days.)

2014-03-31 23.50.23

That desert trail I’ve been talking about apparently has a name. I will wind up on this trail that leads to the summit some 2.5 miles away, but I’m not prepared to climb any mountains today.

2014-03-31 23.57.52

As I was looking at the signpost, this woman came down the trail. I said good morning, and asked her where the trail led. This developed into a short conversation. I told her my name (Ken), found out her name is Barb.  She hikes in the desert two or three times a week and goes many different places including the Superstition Mountains and Prescott. I offered to walk her back to her car, just to continue the conversation. We stayed on the lowest reaches of the Holbert trail for another quarter mile, just chatting about the desert, and hiking and such. I probably should have asked her to get a picture of me, but, oh well, didn’t think of it.

2014-04-01 00.01.42

I have seen petroglyphs at South Mountain before, but wasn’t really expecting any. This is clearly a lizard.

2014-04-01 00.01.53

This is more likely to be a man, or perhaps a horse or coyote.  If that is a tail, then it’s an animal.

2014-04-01 00.02.41

Barb had taken a guided walk with a ranger on this trail before. She told me that the ranger said these petroglyphs are relatively modern, and not made by the Amerindians who lived in this part of the country.

2014-04-01 00.03.09

But these petroglyphs are authentic. You can see a solar symbol, a desert tortoise, and a snake. The rangers have erected a small fence to keep people away from these glyphs.

2014-04-01 00.09.59

Near the end of the trail I noticed these glyphs. I think they look like camels because of the humpy back and curving necks. The U.S. Army did import some camels into the Arizona desert after the Civil War, although the experiment was not a great success. Or they might be horses, though I like my camel hypothesis better.  A wonderful thing about such scratches on the rock–they make one think, wonder, and dream, but there is really no way for me to ever know the truth.

2014-04-01 00.11.42

Back at the parking lot, I take one last look back up the hill. I wonder what caused that big scar up on the mountainside. I think I’m about done here, but my adventure isn’t quite over yet.

2014-04-01 00.25.03

Barb gave me a lift in her van back to my car some 7 blocks to the east. Looking around I see some signs I hadn’t noticed before. I have found the location of Mystery Castle. There is quite a story about this place. I visited it once as a teenager 50 years ago. I tell Barb what I remember about it, though I haven’t given the place a thought in decades.  It looks kind of sealed off and forgotten, doesn’t it?

2014-04-01 00.25.35-1

Raising my sight, I see the castle itself. Someone is living here.

2014-04-01 00.25.35-2

This sign is so worn out. I wonder if they still give tours of the place.

2014-04-01 00.26.03

By walking off the road I find a better angle to photograph the house.

2014-04-01 00.26.33

This is how I know someone is living here. They have a guard dog. He barked at me once, even though I didn’t approach the fence or make any effort to get inside. Just being friendly, I guess. He didn’t get up and come over to the fence to see me.

And that is my last photo from Tuesday morning. Although I did not find a striped stone, it turned out to be a morning well spent. I got a good walk of a couple of miles, made a friend, rediscovered a fabulous place that I had visited once 50 years ago.

If you’ve ever hiked around the desert, admired petroglyphs, or visited strange architecture, why not leave a comment?

–end

Urban Wilderness Revisited   4 comments

We’ve been here before.  Rio Salado Park is an effort by the City of Phoenix to turn a dry riverbed into a park.  The city pumps in water between 7th Street and 15th Avenue which turns the area into a wetland.  It is quite a good habitat for small wildlife, and I like to go there just to see what animals I can spot.  There are four different quadrants, and I have now explored them all.  Yesterday’s walk covered the northwest side of the river between 7th Avenue and 19th Avenue.

I parked my car in the area provided on the northeast side of 7th Ave. and made my  way down toward the river.

First view of the river--a green and pleasant place, but you can't walk there because it's all water below the surface.

First view of the river–a green and pleasant place, but you can’t walk there because it’s all water below the surface.

Looking southeast toward the 7th Ave. bridge.

Looking southwest toward the 7th Ave. bridge.

My hike begins. My goal is the bridge at 19th Ave. The sign lies. It might be 1.2 miles as the crow flies,but it is farther and harder walking on the cobbles down beside the river.

My hike begins. My goal is the bridge at 19th Ave. The sign lies. It might be 1.2 miles as the crow flies,but it is farther and harder walking on the cobbles down beside the river.

What can I say? I'm a troll at heart, and I just like to be under bridges. Wilderness and civilization side by side.

What can I say? I’m a troll at heart, and I just like to be under bridges. Wilderness and civilization side by side.

Looking southwest at the greenest part of the river.

Looking southwest at the greenest part of the river.

It looks easy, but this is rough terrain. Every little rock wants to stab your foot or turn and spill you on the ground.

It looks easy, but this is rough terrain. Every little rock wants to stab your foot or turn and spill you on the ground.

What a jungle!

What a jungle!

Almost everything growing here is green, but this tree is purple.

Almost everything growing here is green, but this tree is purple.

About 1/3 of the way to my goal, I reached a gully entering the river.  This iron bridge crosses it, but, of course, I'm down by the river, and can't reach the bridge without going a long way back which I don't want to do.

About 1/3 of the way to my goal, I reached a gully entering the river. This iron bridge crosses it, but, of course, I’m down by the river, and can’t reach the bridge without going a long way back which I don’t want to do.

Trying to cross the ravine. The picture doesn't really show it, but this is vertical distance I must cross.

Trying to cross the ravine. The picture doesn’t really show it, but this is vertical distance I must cross.

As I walked I was surrounded by the flutter of wings and the sound of bird calls, some of them very strange calls, but it was hard to take pictures of them. This bird held still long enough for me to capture him after I climbed up out of the gully I had just crossed.

As I walked I was surrounded by the flutter of wings and the sound of bird calls, some of them very strange calls, but it was hard to take pictures of them. This bird held still long enough for me to capture him after I climbed up out of the gully I had just crossed.

You know how there is this stereotype of wandering through the desert and finding a sun-bleached skull.  Well, I found one.  I'm guessing this is a dog or cat skull, but it could be a fox or coyote.  Your guess is as good as mine. It is bizarre to find a skull. I didn't touch it--left it for the viewing pleasure of anyone else daring to walk this rough terrain.

You know how there is this stereotype of wandering through the desert and finding a sun-bleached skull. Well, I found one. I’m guessing this is a dog or cat skull, but it could be a fox or coyote. Your guess is as good as mine. It is bizarre to find a skull. I didn’t touch it–left it for the viewing pleasure of anyone else daring to walk this rough terrain.

2013-05-18 20.55.24

Tunnels.  I'd like to explore these tunnels below the city and the desert, but there is no access for someone like me.

Tunnels. I’d like to explore these tunnels below the city and the desert, but there is no access for someone like me.

I have passed most of the greenery now, and am looking toward my goal.

I have passed most of the greenery now, and am looking toward my goal.

The 19th Ave. bridge is in sight.  This kind of rocky streambed is rough walking--you have to be very careful where you put your feet.

The 19th Ave. bridge is in sight. This kind of rocky streambed is rough walking–you have to be very careful where you put your feet.

I am close to my goal.  I have walked a mile and a half, and it is about 9 a.m. with a temperature in the 90s.

I am close to my goal. I have walked a mile and a half, and it is about 9 a.m. with a temperature in the 90s.

2013-05-18 21.26.10

Ah, shade! Now I am below the 19th Ave. bridge.  It has been a rough walk.  My feet are starting to hurt, even though I'm wearing my best new hiking shoes. I am going to see if I can't climb out of the river, and find an easier way back to my car.

Ah, shade! Now I am below the 19th Ave. bridge. It has been a rough walk. My feet are starting to hurt, even though I’m wearing my best new hiking shoes. I am going to see if I can’t climb out of the river, and find an easier way back to my car.

The last pool in this part of the river.

The last pool in this part of the river.

Wild oleander flowers.

Wild oleander flowers.

I climbed out of the riverbed below the bridge.  From the amount of trash on the ground, this is obviously the place where other people had climbed down into it.

I climbed out of the riverbed below the bridge. From the amount of trash on the ground, this is obviously the place where other people had climbed down into it.

Resting under the bridge . . . this is a kind of tunnel, not high enough for me to stand up in.  Will I have to crawl through it to head back?

Resting under the bridge . . . this is a kind of tunnel, not high enough for me to stand up in. Will I have to crawl through it to head back?

No. I found a better spot where I could walk through.  My plan is to follow the road back atop the reinforced riverbank.

No. I found a better spot where I could walk through. My plan is to follow the road back atop the reinforced riverbank.

I got a good shot of the skyline of central Phoenix.  The city core is only about 2 to 3 miles away.

I got a good shot of the skyline of central Phoenix. The city core is only about 2 to 3 miles away.

This is an access path through a sand and gravel company's private property.  There is no one around to ask me what I'm doing here on Sunday morning.

This is an access path through a sand and gravel company’s private property. There is no one around to ask me what I’m doing here on Sunday morning.

Walking eastward now, I am cut off from the river by this chainlink fence.  It looks flat, but that is a 60 degree slope down to the riverbed, and not much room to walk on the other side of the fence.  No cliff-walking for me on this trip.

Walking eastward now, I am cut off from the river by this chainlink fence. It looks flat, but that is a 60 degree slope down to the riverbed, and not much room to walk on the other side of the fence. No cliff-walking for me on this trip.

A glance back at the 19th Ave. bridge.  I was down there just a little while ago.

A glance back at the 19th Ave. bridge. I was down there just a little while ago.

There is a long hot dry road in front of me, but it's better than trying to walk along the stony riverbottom.

There is a long hot dry road in front of me, but it’s better than trying to walk along the stony riverbottom.

I made this walk hoping to see some wildlife, and not in a zoo. All I saw were birds, bunnies, and bugs--a couple of rabbits at the very beginning of my walk, but hundreds of these birds along the trail.

I made this walk hoping to see some wildlife, and not in a zoo. All I saw were birds, bunnies, and bugs–a couple of rabbits at the very beginning of my walk, but hundreds of these birds along the trail.

Birds on a fence.  Mostly the birds flew away before I could photograph them, but this fraction of the flock let me get close enough to catch them on film.

Birds on a fence. Mostly the birds flew away before I could photograph them, but this fraction of the flock let me get close enough to catch them on film.

More birds. I believe these are desert doves, related to pigeons, but not as annoying.

More birds. I believe these are desert doves, related to pigeons, but not as annoying.

I can see the greenery again.  This is an island, and on that island lives some really large white bird.  I saw it fly on the trip out, but couldn't tell wht it was--perhaps a swan or an egret.  I think that little white spot on the right middle edge of the photo is the bird.

I can see the greenery again. This is an island, and on that island lives some really large white bird. I saw it fly on the trip out, but couldn’t tell wht it was–perhaps a swan or an egret. I think that little white spot on the right middle edge of the photo is the bird.

.

No reason to take this picture. I just love looking at green.

I found another sign.  I still have a mile to walk.  It's 10 a.m. and 100  degrees on the ground, and the bottom of my feet are really sore and tender.

I found another sign. I still have a mile to walk. It’s 10 a.m. and 100 degrees on the ground, and the bottom of my feet are really sore and tender.

This shot of downtown Phoenix makes it look like it's built on a slag heap.  There was this amazing hole in the ground full of rocks.

This shot of downtown Phoenix makes it look like it’s built on a slag heap. There was this amazing hole in the ground full of rocks.

The end is in sight.  The 7th Ave. bridge is about 1/4 of a mile away.

The end is in sight. The 7th Ave. bridge is about 1/4 of a mile away.

I am finally going to see that iron bridge up close.

I am finally going to see that iron bridge up close.

This is the gully the bridge crosses--a kind of a hidden wound leading back toward the city.

This is the gully the bridge crosses–a kind of a hidden wound leading back toward the city.

You get to see the top of a bridge for once.  I guess bridges are the fourth B of this trip. Bunnies, Birds, Bugs, and Bridges.

You get to see the top of a bridge for once. I guess bridges are the fourth B of this trip. Bunnies, Birds, Bugs, and Bridges.

The black car is mine. By this time it is the most welcome sight of the entire trip.

The black car is mine. By this time it is the most welcome sight of the entire trip.

That completed my latest walk through this urban wilderness.  I covered about 3 miles in mid morning on May 19.  I took water along with me, and ate a grapefruit at the beginning of my hike.  I wore the Trollgod’s hat to keep the sun off my head, and kept myself hydrated.  I saw 2 rabbits, hundreds of birds, hundreds of bugs, many of them a kind of black desert dragonfly that live in the swampy part of the river.  There was no one with me to take my picture on this trip.

I wish you had been there to hike with me, since it’s always great to have some companionship when trudging through the wilderness, but even if you can’t be with me, I’m still going to go out and walk about from time to time.

If you know anything about the birds I photographed, leave a comment.  🙂

–end

The Other Side of the River   1 comment

On Sunday, September 21, 2012, I decided to get out of my apartment for another early morning hike.  I really wanted to see some kind of wildlife, so I went to the one place where I’ve seen a lot of animal life before, the bed of the Salt River that has been turned into a park stretching from 24th Street to 19th Avenue.  The City of Phoenix has been adding water back into the riverbed–don’t know if it is waste water or irrigation water or where it comes from, but the City is making about 5 miles of river in the center of the valley.  It was a beautiful day for hiking, too bad I was by myself.  I brought along my camera, and what follows is my record of my walk.  I especially tried to get pictures of animals, so look closely and see if you can spot the beasties my human eye spotted and tried to get on camera.  I probably need a better camera for this sort of picture taking.  I’m sure Brian’s latest toy would have done a much better job, but I work with what I have.

Although this looks like a view of the parking area where I left my car, and started the walk, it is really included to show the skyline of Phoenix to the north. Maybe I should have climbed up on the wall to get a better angle on it.

Telescopic view of the 7th Avenue bridge with the city beyond it. I have learned to use the telephoto ability of my camera, and sometimes I even remember to do so.

View from beneath the 7th Avenue Bridge.

Daffy Duck? From the south side of the river, one can get much closer to the water.

One of seven pools along this stretch of “river”. It looks natural, but the City’s Parks Department built it. This water is way up above the natural bottom of the river. Pumps must be involved.

For a desert rat like me, this is kind of a strange sight. Peaceful. Kind of makes me wish I could be that duck for a short while.

Access road on the south side of the river. Easy walking.

Side trail leading down to the river.

The heart of the forest. Early in the walk I reached the greenest part of the park.

Looking back toward the 7th Ave. bridge. You can see my trademark shadow in the picture thus proving it was really me taking these pictures.

a hidden pool.

No fishing! It would take a very determined fisherman to get down to the water around here. I wonder what kind of fish, the city has put into the river.

Tangled. I think I was trying to photograph a dragonfly here, but I don’t see it.

Two-headed duck.

First glimpse of Bugs. There’s a rabbit in this picture. Can you find it?

One step closer with the telephoto on.

The road twists and turns. This feels about right for me–the proper mixture between nature and civilization.

This looks like a birch tree to me. You don’t see many birch trees in the Phoenix area. It is too hot and dry for them.

I saw another rabbit, but it blends into the scenery very well. This seems to be the main area for rabbits along this trail. There are probably hundreds of them.

Big scummy pool–i wonder what lurks below the surface.

The ground here is full of holes. Snakes and small rodents live in these, and there is a maze of small tunnels beneath all this vegetation.

There’s a bird in here somewhere.

I met some park rangers. They told me about the seven pools on the river, and about some of the wildlife I didn’t see. They saw a coyote that morning, and there are rumors of beavers living on the river. Back before Arizona was a state, there were plenty of beavers living on Arizona rivers, but they were trapped and hunted to extinction by the mountain men before 1850. I enjoyed my chat with these guys.

Waterfall. I have walked almost all the way to Central Avenue. Water is entering the river here from the south.

West side of the Central Avenue bridge. Central Avenue splits the Phoenix area into eastern and western halves.

The eastern side of the Central Avenue bridge. Note the massive buttresses supporting the bridge. In the past during floods, the bridges supported only by pillars like those at 7th Avenue would often be undermined and crumble, but the Central Avenue bridge never failed.

Anthill. When I was a boy in Phoenix, there were anthills everywhere, and a favorite game was collecting ants in a large bottle and having one’s own ant colony. Now, I go years without seeing anthills sometimes, and if you do find them, they are the tiny black ants. These are red ants, but not the big red fire ants i remember playing with as a child.

These white flowers look almost like lillies, and were growing along the river wherever the ground was open enough.

Riverbed showing finely sorted pebbles, all about the same size and composition. I saw some kind of desert squirrel here, but it didn’t hold still long enough for me to catch a picture of it.

There were a fair number of butterflies in the air, and there is a yellow butterfly in the center of this picture on the bush. With wings folded it was almost invisible, and you could see right through the filmy yellow wings.

I have reached the 7th Street bridge, about 14 blocks east of where I started. You can tell I am a troll–I have a fondness for being beneath bridges.

View of the river east of 7th Street. There are parking areas here too, and I may come and start my walk from this part of the river some time in the future.

I found this plastic Chevy hubcap at my easternmost part of the walk, off the main road. I’m sorry to say there was plenty of litter in the park. I picked up the hubcap and brought it home with me as a symbol of my walk, and a bit of clean up.

At this point I turned back, and walked as quickly as I could back to my car.  I meant to take a few other pictures, but the batteries were low, and the camera refused to work.  I had one more encounter, came across a big gray rabbit with a white tail, on my way back.  At one point it passed beside me no more than six feet from me, but he was really moving.  I saw it clearly, but there was no chance to photo it.

So, there you have it.  My animal encounters started with a black duck and ended with a gray rabbit with a white tail.  If they aren’t Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny, two of my cartoon heroes sent to brighten up my day by a benevolent universe, then there is no greater power that caters to the whims of men.  Ducks and rabbits are common animals, but being superstitious, I consider their appearance to be a kind of gift.  Thank you, World!

The hubcap and the Trollgod’s hat are home now. The hubcap is really too dirty to bring into the house, but it has a position of honor on the concrete wall just outside my front door. The circle is complete, and once again I have returned to the place from which I started.

I hope you have enjoyed my little walk along the Salt River bed.  The pictures are nothing special–just a record of a couple of hours in one morning of my life.  In this age of computers and high tech, this kind of interaction with the world gets less and less common.  Who knows what will be of value, and to whom?  I leave this record in hopes that someone, somewhere, somewhen will get something of value from it.

If you know anything about Arizona’s urban wilderness, or even if you don’t, please feel free to leave a comment.

–end

Return to Dreamy Draw   7 comments

Take a walk in the Arizona desert with me.  Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, I left my apartment at 6:30 in the morning and went out to take a hike in the desert by myself–did not connect with my brother this time.  I brought my camera and took pictures along the way.  This walk happened in the Dreamy Draw Park in northern Phoenix.

Lots of people come out to enjoy this park. This is the entry from the parking lot.

Dawn in the desert. It rained the night before. A cloudy sky promised some coolness for a change.

The trail begins easily enough.

The trail divides. I went right this time because I went left last time.

Is this the Dreamy Draw? No, it’s just a gully.

Looking westward toward the city of Phoenix.

My plan is to climb as far into the hills as the trails will easily take me. Climbing is good for the heart.

I am lured by the arroyos. They are the wilder places in the desert.

I kept trying to go off on the narrower, less obvious paths.

One of the wilder, more verdant spots. Do desert elves hide in such places?

You can almost always see mountains in Arizona. I love these long vistas.

It rains in the summer in the desert here, and that is why it is so green.

The trail leads ever upwards. I’m interested in a good climb.

This park is used a lot by mountain bikers. This young lady hit a sharp rock and got a flat tire.

She had a couple of friends with her to help in case of emergency. They fixed the flat, and I saw them again when I was walking out, still rolling and having a good time.

All trails lead back to the main trail. I’ve stepped over this ridge of stones before on my last trip up here. It almost looks like someone built a little wall here to give bikers a hard time. Maybe it’s a desert speed bump.

Once again I’ve gotten off the main trail, taking a narrower, steeper one uphill.

From the shoulder of the mountain I can look northeast to the weirdly named Mazatzls Mountains.  There is a strong cool breeze up here.

Onward!

I had been walking for over an hour. I was happy to find this place to rest.

Entrance to a Dwarven Kingdom, or a Troll’s Cave? The door appears to be closed, and I didn’t climb up and knock on it.

There’s a big quartz outcropping in the center of this picture.  These hills are full of quartz–an igneous rock rising up from below.  I sometimes think that quartz is like the bones of the mountain, and what a weird skeleton it must have.  Although quartz is the commonest stone on earth, it happens to be my favorite rock.  There are pieces of quartz inside my apartment, just because I like the rock.

Looking up at the next high ridge.

This cholla cactus has both leaves and thorns. I call them Cthulhu bushes because they have tentacles.

Looking up a sheer cliff face.

Looking down and out. I have gotten quite high on the mountainside.

The hidden side of the mountains. Usually I walk into this area from the south.

A path fit for mountain goats and guarded by Saguaro cacti.

This was my turnaround point. We are looking south now, and the distant mountains are the South Mountains on the far side of the city.

Starting the trip back to the car. It will be mostly downhill from here. Downhill in the desert can be more dangerous and difficult than uphill, especially if one is tired.

Is that civilization in the distance? No, it’s just northeast Phoenix.

I want to get down to that relatively easy path at the bottom, but I have a long way to go.

I had seen very little wildlife on my walk–a few insects was all. Finally this lizard came out to look at me.

I decided I needed proof that I was really up here. Here’s a picture of my hat, posing on a boulder. Battered as it is, the hat likes to have its picture taken.

Dang! I’ve walked a long way. Heading down, and still a long way to go.

Me and my shadow. More proof I was really up here. I wonder if I could use this shadow as a profile photo.

Mountain bikers go everywhere. Even the narrowest trails show wheel tracks.

I spot a second lizard. Looks like the same species, but not the same one, as I’m half a mile past where I took the first picture.

What a handsome fellow! And he posed very nicely, even when I put my camera down close to get a better picture of him. I would see one more lizard before I finished my walk, but that one was running, and there was no chance to photograph it. Still, I guess Sunday was a three lizard day.

This path is very steep and very slippery. I was taking teeny tiny careful steps to get down it. But, it would be very easy to walk up it.

Back on the main trail at last. From here on I made good speed for a tired old man.

This is the real Dreamy Draw. See how wide and deep it has gotten. These little desert rivers are dry most of the time, and they start out as tiny erosion channels high on the mountainside, but they get wide and deep fast as they reach the bottom of the hill.

Almost down now. I step aside to let some bikers zoom by me.

Here’s a map of the park. If I were a planner, I would have looked at this and planned my route instead of wandering wherever my fancy took me.

The end is in sight.

Climbing into my car and saying goodbye to Dreamy Draw. It was a good walk, about 3.5 miles according to my pedometer, though it felt like more. Even the hat has had enough and wants to head home. Hot shower, here I come!  Left my apartment about 6:30 and got home again at 9:45.  So I spent about 3 hours in the desert.

If you enjoyed my little desert hike, go ahead and leave a comment.  If you think I should get back to reviewing books, comics, and movies, you could say that too.  🙂

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Wilderness in the City   8 comments

On Sunday, March 25, 2012 I decided to go for a morning hike.  My destination was South Mounain, but as I headed in that direction (south, of course, I have to go south to reach South Mountain) on 7th Avenue, I noticed a small city park located in the riverbed of the Salt River.  Phoenix, like many large cities is built on a river, but this river has been dammed some 40 miles northeast of town, not once, but several times, creating a series of lakes in the Superstition Mountains, and leaving the river itself dry and empty by the time it reaches Phoenix.  I have been wishing for some time that I could walk in the dry riverbed, but it is fenced off at most crossings.  Well, I had unexpectedly discovered a place where the riverbed was accessible, and I abandoned the trip to South Mountain to take a hike here.  I had brought my camera along to record the trip, and so, on Sunday morning I walked about 5 miles in a difficult, but beautiful, hidden part of the city that most people never see.  Here are some of the pictures to show what I found.  I took 43–yikes!–but that’s too much to foist upon you, dear reader, in this blog.  Your journey will not be quite as long as mine was.

My starting point--looking back at the 7th Avenure bridge over the Salt River. Whenever you see a line of green plants like this, continuous, in the desert, it means there is water there.

A 1-lane road leads down into the riverbed. It doesn't stay paved for very long. I found a city park ranger and a work crew at the bottom and found I had permission to explore this part of the river as much as I wanted.

I headed west. The road quickly ended and left me with this kind of terrain to walk on. Note the incredible variety of rocks present. They have washed and tumbled down to their current locations over millions of years and represent rock from every part of east central Arizona. The line of trees is the actual edge of the flowing river.

I wondered if I could actually get down and walk by the water. All the interesting stuff would be down there. By this time I could hear a lot of strange bird calls. There were occasional quacking noises, and various hoots and tweets, but something sounded like a cow in labor. For all I know there might have been A cow in labor down there, but my guess was for swans or geese. I headed that way. I thought that once I broke through the barrier of dead cattails, I'd be at the riverside.

I reached the edge of the reeds and started to break through them. They were all dry and dead, and broke very easily. Luckily, I looked down, chooosing my footing carefully, before stepping into them. This photo is looking straight down, and the dark stuff you see is river water. One more step and I would have fallen right into the swamp, and that wouldn't have been any fun at all. Oh, yeah, cattails and other reeds actually grow right in the water. You don't break through them to reach the river, not unless you have hip waders and a machete.

I found a place where I could climb out of the riverbed. Off to the side was a huge open pit gravel mine. This pit isn't natural. Men dug it. I guess they dug all the way down to the water level, because the deepest part of the pit is a large pond. Those are the South Mountains in the background.

This isn't river. It's a big open pit full of water.

I reached the greenest part of the river. The trees were largest and thickest here. Bird calls were most numerous. This is whete I actually saw some wildlife. Two large white birds, not ducks or geese, lifted out of the vegetation and flew around, circled, and then headed off upriver. I could not photograph them--they moved too quickly for my little camera. I'm not sure what they were, but they had a kink in their necks and wingspans of six to eight feet--I'm guessing herons or egrets--not birds one expects to see in Arizona. I also saw a large black hawk, skimming near the ground, gliding in the way that raptors do. It passed within 20 feet of me, bigger than a crow, with very dark feathers, and definitely a hooked beak.

My path was blocked by fences. To continue, I would either have to retrace my steps and climb back down into the river bottom, or take this narrow cliff trail. I have fantasized about narrow cliff trails all my life, and here I finally found one in the heart of Phoenix.

I took the cliff trail, of course. Explorer Ken isn't going to let a little thing like a narrow trail keep him from completing his journey. It got narrower as I went along. The cliff is about a 60 to 70 degree slope, all caliche. Falling down it would be painful or fatal. But why would anyone fall?

Secret tunnels leading into the river. Halfway along the cliff trail, I found a road leading back into the riverbed, and a jog in the fence. City of Phoenix owns the fenced-in land. I got back down into the rough terrain. It would have been nice if there were a real road down there, but it was all rocks--only a high-bottomed 4-wheel drive vehicle would want to drive on such terrain.

I set that distant bridge, the one that carries 19th Avenue over the river, as my goal.

Along the way I found this stunted palm tree growing wild in the riverbed.

Walking very carefully over treacherous footing, I reached my goal. Did you ever wonder what the bottom of a bridge looks like? Having gotten this far, I wondered if I could actually cross the river and go back on the other side. I headed across.

On the other side, in a shady grassy area, I found a sleeping bag, and a good deal of trash. Is some homeless person living down here? Could be. I did not take his sleeping bag.

Where does the water in the riverbed come from? There hasn't been enough rain to account for it. It doesn't flow down continuously from upstream. The answer is that the City of Phoenix or the Salt River Project is dumping water into the river. Here is a huge drainage tunnel with lots of water pouring out of it every second.

Then came the hard part--getting back to my car 12 blocks to the east. I thought perhaps I could climb out of the river and walk back on the banks 30 feet above. I tried it here, but about 30 feet up the slope crumbled beneath me so badly that I couldn't go on, slipping and sliding back down to the base.

I found another possible spot to climb out a block or so to the east. It was a hard scramble, but the slope was rockier there, and with difficulty I made it to the top. Here you see me dangling my feet over the edge and looking down at the cliff I had just climbed. Not bad for a 64 year old man.

The cliff trail going this way was even narrower than it had been in the other direction. There were spots where I had to actually hang onto the fence in order to keep from falling off the trail, which crumbled underfoot in places.

Once the cliff trail was behind me, it was an easy walk back the rest of the way. I stayed on top. I was tired of twisting my ankles on the stones below.

It is Spring in Arizona. Desert wildflowers, mostly yellow, are in bloom.

Going out where I first came in. Goodbye to Rio Salado. I look forward to hiking a different part of the river some time in the future.

I showed you 17 of the 43 pictures I took on Sunday.  This is a part of the city that not one person in a thousand ever sees, or even thinks about.  If you’ve ever found the wilderness still lurking in the heart of  your own city or town, or if you’d go hike the river with me some day, why not leave a comment?

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