Since winter is taking a hiatus in the desert, meaning sunny skies and temperatures in the seventies, a friend and I took a hike to the bat cave (A.K.A. the old turquoise mine).
This is located a couple miles from where we live. It is on the north side of White Tank Mountain. First we drove down some ungodly road you need at least an SUV to navigate. Then we came to the trail head.
We hiked in the desert for a short distance, then up the mountain we went. The trail is fairly steep and very rocky. Once you get elevation, the path is smoother and less rocky.
Now we had to be careful to stay away from the dreaded “Jumping Cholla Cactus”. These were also on the desert floor but we had plenty of leeway to avoid them. There were many of these near our narrower mountain path. If you brush up to one of these, you get severely punished. And you have to be very careful where you step because there are many pieces of this dreaded cactus on the ground like painful land mines waiting for you to misstep.
Here are a couple videos showing how these plants attach to you. One is from the BBC showing two of their staff hiking in the Arizona desert and one showing a man filming the jumping cactus with disastrous (and humorous) results.
Hiker version. Rated “R” for strong language, which seems appropriate.
Once we got to the cave, we walked in and after about fifty feet into the mine I noticed the ground was soft like a thick carpet. I was informed it was dry guano. I asked what kind of plant that was. I was informed that guano is bat shit. We were standing where the bats hang from the ceiling. Fortunately, the bats were not around. They show up in April and this is January, so the guano was old and dried out. Still pretty gross.
We hiked back down and all will be well after I sterilize my hiking boots (just kidding about the boots). The total time for the hike was about two hours.
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Homestead Trail 305 is 7 miles long and connects to many other trails in the Prescott area. We started at the trail head near the south shore of Lynx Lake and hiked for one hour in a southern direction, then we retraced our steps back to Lynx Lake.
Our starting elevation was 5500 feet and the highest point I measured was 8000 feet for a total rise of 2500 feet, or about the height of a 25 story building.
This is a nice hike. There is a lot of elevation changing, sometimes as much as 100 feet or more either up or down, but the inclines are not too steep. A bonus of this hike is you are hiking through parts of the Prescott National Forest so you are surrounded by Ponderosa Pine.
Some notes :
- The forest showed signs of an earlier forest fire (the bases of trees were blackened and the lowest branches were higher than normal).
- I found muddy spots and some standing water showing this forest has received needed water from the Monsoon rains.
We made this hike Saturday, July 12.
Hiked around Lynx Lake (elevation 5500 ft) the other day (July 9)
(click on any picture to make it larger)
Noticed the water level was about 15 feet low.
Decided to check out the creek feeding the lake.
No water here
No water here either.
The creek is dry.
Must go upstream to the little dam!
There is no water for the dam to hold back.
What to do now?
Oh yeah! Monsoon season is upon us.
In a few weeks the dam will be overflowing.
The creek will be filled beyond its banks.
The lake will be normal water level (or more).
I will hike this route again in August, but at higher levels.
To be continued next month.
I recently ran across this gem in the Prescott National Forest just SE of Prescott. It is just outside of Walker at an elevation of about 6500 feet.
The Walker Charcoal Kiln was built around 1880 to convert oak wood into charcoal. Charcoal generates twice the heat of unprocessed wood. There was a tremendous amount of gold and silver mining at that time.
Charcoal was used as a chemical reducing agent to extract silver from its ore. The 25 foot tall and 30 feet wide stone structure was constructed entirely without mortar.
Walker Charcoal Kiln is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Directions by car or hiking trail
Thumb Butte is about four miles west of downtown Prescott. It is one of the most popular destinations in the Prescott National Forest. There are many trails you can hike from the parking lot area, but I am going to describe the trail number 33 loop, which goes up Thumb Butte itself.
The east side, the one on the left, has a steady grade of 12-18%, 3% cross slope, 4-foot minimum width of asphalt and it has hand rails. In some places the grade is close to 45%. It is shorter than the west side but much steeper.
If taking the west side, the one on the right, you start off in a ponderosa pine forest. As you ascend, the forest adds oak and juniper trees. The trail is well groomed so there will be no problems there. The steepness of the trail in some places, especially at these altitudes, may be a little strenuous. There are benches along the trail, as well as interpretive signs that identify local plants and special features of Thumb Butte. Also, near the top is a spur trail, about 100 yards long, to a scenic overlook of Prescott. The view, signs and several benches make it a great spot for a break.
Whichever way you go, the elevation at the trail head is 5600 feet. The trail climbs 600 feet to an elevation of 6200 feet at the saddle. Certain times of the year, at the crest of the trail, you can take a narrow dirt path that ascends another 300 feet. This path is only recommended for experienced hikers.
It should take from 1 1/2 to 2 hours to do the loop. Since Thumb Butte is located in a National Forest, there is a small fee for parking. The exception is Wednesdays which is free.
Click here for more info.
Groom Creek Loop Trail 307 is in Prescott National Forest. This is a popular trail that climbs Spruce Mountain. To get there from Prescott, turn south off Gurley Road to Mount Vernon (which becomes Senator Highway). The trailhead is 6.7 miles on the left. There are restroom facilities but no drinking water at the trailhead. Allow six hours for this hike.
The trail is open to hikers, mountain bikes and horseback riders. No motorized vehicles are allowed. The loop is 9-1/2 miles with an elevation change of about 1350 feet. You can start from either direction but I prefer starting from the right and going counter clockwise. Going that way you have six miles of scenic trails going up. There are picnic tables and restrooms at the top. This will be a good time to have some snacks and soft drinks. There is no drinking water available.
Hikers may visit the Lookout Tower when manned. The Tower offers panoramic views of Prescott and Granite Mountain to the west, and Mingus Mountain and the San Francisco Peaks to the northeast. You can also see Goldwater, Lynx, Willow and Watson Lakes.
Going down you will have a 3-1/2 mile trail that is rather steep and has many switchbacks. Both sides of the loop are scenic. You can see some of the best Ponderosa pine stands in the Prescott National Forest. The forest also contains oak, juniper and fir trees.
Click HERE for more information on this scenic trail.
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