February 17, 2012

Urban Lakes: Red Mountain & Tempe Town Lakes

Great Blue Heron catching dinner at Tempe Town Lake
I miss being around water. Although many of the hikes that I've been posting about follow streams, lakes, and rivers, I still feel very landlocked here in the Arizona desert. I now realize how very much I took for granted growing up near the Pacific Ocean. Every birthday party, graduation party . . . even senior ditch day, took place at the beach. Exercise was . . . walking on the beach. Cooling off was . . . going to the beach. A nice meal out was . . . down by the beach. So I thought I'd post today about two places here that I like to go to find some expanse of water. Neither of these walks are particularly "hikes," but both make a really nice stroll; especially if you aren't into the rugged thing, but you just want some easy exercise.

Red Mountain Park Lake
Red Mountain Park Lake is just west of the 202 Red Mountain freeway along Brown Road in Mesa. The large and paved perimeter pathway around the lake is about 0.85 miles and very pleasant. My normal routine is to walk around the lake three times, and I can usually do this in about an hour making a 2.5 mile total walk. Along the way, there are people riding bikes, rollerblading, and fishing along the shore. I have also spotted many varieties of birds, especially different waterfowl, and rodents. Parking is super easy on either side of the park, and leashed dogs are allowed.
Tempe Town Lake is a man-made lake created by the damming of this section of the Salt River with inflatable dams. The way I like to do this lake is to park at Tempe Center for the Arts and begin the walk about 1.5 to 2 hours before sunset. If you begin at Tempe Center for the Arts, you will see a modern pedestrian footbridge going across the lake, but don't go over it yet! Instead, go due east towards Tempe Beach Park, and the old Mill Avenue Railroad Bridge will be the first bridge that you go underneath:

After going underneath the four Mill Avenue bridges, and past Tempe Beach Park with the rowers setting out for their before-sunset rows, you will continue along the path to the Rural Road (also called Scottsdale Road) combined pedestrian/vehicle bridge and turn left (north) over the bridge. Once on the other side of the bridge, turn left again (west) to begin forming a loop around the lake. Along the path coming down from the bridge, you might spot some people/trolls living underneath the bridge near some pygmy palm trees. Usually they are just sleeping. If you continue along the path, now due west, you will come to the marina:

Across the lake from the marina, you have good views of ASU and "A" Mountain with the lake in front. There is also public art along the path, and signage about the history of the lake and water usage. From the marina, under the four Mill Avenue Complex bridges, and then to the Tempe Center for the Arts footbridge is my favorite section if you are hitting this stretch just as the sun is setting. The whole loop is about 3.15 miles and well worth the walk if you are looking for water in the desert!

February 3, 2012

Beverly Canyon Loop

I have renamed this hike the "Fry's Electronics Hike" because the only real reason I decided to try it is because I needed to trek out to Fry's, and the trailhead is only a few blocks away. I make no secret of my preference for the desolation and lush vegetation of the Superstitions, but South Mountain has certain conveniences. Really, the Fry's Electronics theme is carried on right up to the trailhead parking lot which is next to an industrial park. I made sure to grab a parking space adjacent to the security kiosk for the warehouse figuring that the security guard might notice if my car was getting broken into . . . which would further the Fry's Electronics theme to, "Here's the place where I lost my purchases."

I have found, though, that some of my best hikes have been those that I have had the lowest expectations, and this hike is no exception. We have been blessed with some beautiful weather this winter, here in the desert, creating a somewhat early spring. We started the hike on the west side of the trailhead parking lot with the Javelina Trail, and not more than 200 feet up the trail did I find my first wildflower:

Mexican Gold Poppy

The flowers are just starting to bloom along the northern flanks of South Mountain along this portion of the Javelina Trail. A little further up the trail, we also saw some lupines and brittlebush just starting to bloom. Javelina Canyon is really lovely with birds singing on top of the saguaros, and on a Friday afternoon, we passed just a few other hikers. Every so often we would turn around and look north towards the Phoenix skyline and catch an airplane taking off or the bustle along the highways. We sat to break along the trail and noticed our dogs getting excited about something. We figured it was just a rodent or a lizard, but then we looked on the hillside above where we were sitting, and we caught three coyotes trotting along on their way down the canyon. I quickly grabbed my camera to catch the last one in the group:

At the top pf Javelina Canyon, you will turn left (east) along the Ridgeline Trail. There are some really great views from up here. The further you go, the more Phoenix landmarks become apparent, and soon you will be making out Camelback Mountain, the Papago Buttes, Usery Mountain, Four Peaks, and the Superstitions. The views are great! However, it is pretty steep in sections with loose-packed rocks, great for sliding while being pulled by two dogs. Next time, I will bring my mountain goat instead. I also noticed a lot more hikers along the Ridgeline section, and it seemed like they hiked this trail everyday, and I was just an obstacle in their path. I definitely got an "urban hiking" feel from this hike, and I can't imagine what it would be like on a Saturday. Here's a sample of a part of the Ridgeline section:

After coming down the last hill of the Ridgeline Trail, you will turn left (north) onto Beverly Canyon Trail which feels like a paved superhighway after what you just finished. There is also a LOT of traffic along the Beverly Canyon Trail, both hikers and mountain bikers, but you can move pretty quickly along here by just following the overhead power lines back to the trailhead. It was a nice shaded end to the hike, if you complete the hike in the afternoon.

Length: 3.9 miles
Elevation gain: 500 feet
Time it took us: 2.5 hours
Fees: none
Directions: From Baseline Road, go south on 46th Street to the end of the road.