With John training every Saturday in preparation for the
Valentine's Money Meet (at Skydive Arizona), we decided to put backpacking on
hold until March - by then, the weather will be warmer anyway - and do day
hikes on Sundays. There were a lot of desert day-hikes that we wanted to do
anyway, before the weather got too hot to do them. One hike that John had been
dying to do is Picket Post Mountain, near Superior: a challenging three-mile
climb up the mountain, a total elevation gain of about 2,000 feet (which would
be like climbing Camelback Mountain, but without all of the crowds!). He also
wanted to do Reavis Canyon, because he had read that it was a pretty hike. To
get to each of these trailheads, we would have to take the van, because we
would need a high clearance vehicle to get there.
Having a car seat in the van presented us with a problem, though: there was
only room for one more person - so if we wanted to go hiking with other
people, we would have to take the Oldsmobile. And on Sunday, January 21,
John's parents wanted to go hiking with us. Instead of explaining to them that
we wouldn't be able to fit both of them in the van, we just decided to save
Reavis Canyon or Picket Post Mountain for another day, when it would be just
the three of us. We would take them on a different hike, one that was
accessible in the Oldsmobile.
For the hike of the day, we chose the
Lost Dog Wash Trail, in the McDowell
Mountain Preserve. It had once been rated one of the top ten hikes in Phoenix
by The Rep in the Arizona Republic - Erika had given us a xerox-copy of the
article, which we have kept in our Trail Bible. (John and I are also planning
to do this hike with a pair of visitors from Germany, Manuela and Detlef, with
whom I have been corresponding since July.) It is a 2.5-mile long trail
(one-way) that goes to Lost Dog Wash. It sounded interesting and easy, and we
would be able to get there in the Oldsmobile.
We didn't decide on the hike of the day until that morning, as we were
crawling out of bed at 6:30 a.m. Since we had been planning to pick up John's
parents around 8:00 a.m., we didn't have much time to get ready, and as a
result we ended up taking the trail map that we had gotten in The Rep, instead
of printing up a topo. We figured, though, that since this trail was in the
mountain preserve, it would be well marked and easy to follow, so we really
didn't need a map or the GPS. We also didn't pack a lunch for the same reason
- we figured that the trail would be easy enough that we would be done well
before noon. (Needless to say, though, I packed Mary's lunch, just in case!)
We left the house just after 8:00 a.m., and after our usual stop at Einstein's
for breakfast, we picked up John's parents at their house. Then, we started
for the trailhead.
The Lost Dog Wash Trailhead, though lacking in signage, was very easy to find,
thanks to the directions we had gotten in The Rep. To get there, we took Shea
Boulevard east to 124th Street, then turned left. At Via Linda, we turned
right, then left again at 128th Street. The trailhead is located just north of
Cactus, where the pavement ends.
We arrived there just before 9:00 a.m. and began hiking around 9:10, after
Mary was situated in the backpack carrier that we had borrowed from Janice and
Danny. This time, John was going to carry her, as he had not yet had the
chance to do so. As we started hiking from the trailhead, we reminisced about
the days when we could drive up to a trailhead and begin hiking as soon as we
got there, without taking twenty minutes to get ready.
The Lost Dog Trail began along a wide and rocky path that appeared to be an
old jeep road. It went uphill for about a quarter of a mile, at a very gentle
grade that wasn't enough to slow us down, but it did get us warmed up for what
lay ahead. (John, with Mary, and Bill)
After a quarter of a mile, the trail began to descend towards a small wash,
then it quickly climbed back out again as it continued along the jeep road.
Soon thereafter, we came upon a sign that read "Trail" and an arrow pointing
left; here, we left the jeep road and started hiking along a narrow footpath
that climbed uphill. We were soon on top of a ridge, with a beautiful view of
the city in front of us, and the mountain preserve all around us.
And it was here that we discovered that Mary was sound asleep in the backpack.
"Silly girl," John remarked. "She's going to miss all the fun."
After catching our breath, we decided to continue on, but first we had to find
the trail. Although there were cairns, we weren't exactly sure where the trail
was, because there were many footpaths on the ridge. We did find the correct
one - the one that had signs - and followed that one. It took us back downhill
again, on the other side of the ridge, towards Lost Dog Wash.
But once we reached the bottom, we didn't have a clue which way to go. As we
neared the wash, we hit a fork in the trail, where we could have gone either
right or left - and both paths were marked with trail signs. We saw a group of
people going right, but according to the "map" we had gotten from The Rep, we
were supposed to go left! So which way should we go?
We decided to go left, and after following a narrow footpath for about a
quarter of a mile, we ended up back on an old jeep road. We hiked along for a
while before realizing that we were no longer on the Lost Dog Wash Trail. As
we stopped and turned around, we found Taliesin Ridge - where the trail ends -
and Erika indicated that she could see the trail and people on it. "Well, I
guess we should have gone where they were going," John said.
I supposed we could have turned back and finished the hike as we intended, but
since we were already lost, we decided to continue hiking along the jeep road
until we reached the park boundaries. Unfortunately, we almost ended up in
someone's backyard, so we were forced to backtrack. We ended up on another old
road - this one had very faint tire tracks - going the opposite direction.
Eventually, we gave up on that road, too, and made the decision to go
Okay, it wasn't our brightest idea. After all, hikers are supposed to stick to
the trail in the preserve because of the sensitive habitat; there were also a
lot of chollas, ready to latch onto our clothing and boots. Both John and Bill
ended up with a few cholla branches attached to them. However, our
cross-country trek was probably the best part of the journey. We didn't see
any other hikers, but we did see a few rabbits. We also found what looked like
an old mine that had been filled in with concrete. There are a lot of
fascinating things to be found in the desert, if you are willing to leave the
beaten path every once in a while.
Our cross-country trek eventually led us back to the Lost Dog Wash Trail,
about a hundred yards from the trailhead. At 10:10 a.m., we arrived back at
the car and decided to call it quits for the day. Although we had gotten lost,
we still had a fun morning of hiking.
But next time, I think we'll take a better map.