Saturday, August 23, 2008

Go John Trail: Cave Creek Recreation Area, AZ

Distance: 5.8 miles
Elevation: 2,200-2,500 ft
Elevation Gain: 300 ft
Critters: Rattlesnakes

A view looking east along the Go John trail

A couple of years ago I was laid off from my job so I blew some of my severance money and flew down to Arizona to lounge at a spa. Nearby was the Cave Creek Recreation Area. I rented a car and drove the short 10 miles to the trailhead. This was March, and the Sonoran desert was in full bloom. Besides wildflowers, March is mild with warm days and cool nights. Given that Colorado is often still snowy at this time of year, a jaunt down to Phoenix for some early wildflower gawking is not a bad idea. Toss in the spa and you have a nifty stress-relieving getaway. I am not sure what Phoenix has more of, cacti, golf courses, or spas. Surely, you can find one that meets your needs.

The first hill

This trail is a loop that will take you around some large rock formations as well as out into the desert expanses. The trail starts in the picnic area and starts out on a wide path that quickly narrows. There is a sharp ascent towards a picturesque saddle. From its “lofty” heights you have views to the south. From here the trail descends sharply and begins to meander through rolling hills and gullies. It will eventually circle back to where you began. There are a couple of off shoots, so if a trail map is available, bring one along so you don’t go traipsing off into the desert never to return. Sunscreen, a broad brimmed hat, and plenty of water are required for any desert hike.

Saguaro Cactus and flowers

The dominant floral species are Teddy-bear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii) and Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantean). These hardy desert dwellers make a wonderful tableau of shapes and sizes. Combine this with radiant blue skies and the eye-popping colors of the seasonal flowers and you have a photographers dream. Only the intense sunlight ruins this combination. If possible, head out at sunrise. I never manage to get out of bed that early but all the great photographers do.

The trail just after cresting the first hill

No matter where you go on travel, there is likely a trail nearby to explore. Expanding one’s horizons to include non-alpine zones is well worth the effort. Next time you are in Phoenix give this trail a try.

California Poppies

1 comment:

Senad Rizvanovic said...

Sometimes i miss Arizona, nice story.