Friday Hike – Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area

Bob, Venie, Linda, Nancy, and I did an eight mile hike at the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area.  Our hike took us out into the Tonto National Forest briefly. Halfway through, we hiked up to the top of the fortress peak where we looked at the walls built by an ancient people, presumably for defense.

Our hike started on the Spur Cross Trail, where we encountered Cave Creek.



Fortunately, there is narrow bridge of sorts, so we didn’t have to get our feet wet crossing the creek.

20140321-_DSC8945-Edit-medium Linda looking at some of the large Saguaros beside the trail:

20140321-_DSC8954-Edit-medium An early morning view from the Spur Cross Trail:

20140321-_DSC8960-Edit-medium A view of Elephant Mountain on the left with the fortress peak lower down to the right.  The steep walls around most of the fortress peak make it fairly inaccessible via any route except for a steep, but relatively easy trail accessible from the saddle between these two formations.

20140321-_DSC8987-Edit-mediumWe saw at least two signs along the way about the trail being a “primitive route” that is “not maintained”.  These trails are significantly better than some of the trails we’ve hike elsewhere.

20140321-_DSC8996-medium Another early morning view:

20140321-_DSC8999-Edit-mediumPart of the trail followed an old road full of rocks.

20140321-_DSC9002-Edit-medium Yet another early morning view:

20140321-_DSC9017-Edit-medium Another view of Elephant Mountain and the Fortress Peak.  Note that Elephant Mountain is still to the left of the Fortress Peak in this photo.

20140321-_DSC9026-Edit-medium By the time that I took this photo, we had worked our way far enough around these formations for the positions to have reversed.

20140321-_DSC9029-Edit-medium We saw this very elaborate cairn at the junction with Trail 252.  We took the fork leading westward.

20140321-_DSC9044-Edit-medium Trail 252 lead us even further around Elephant Mountain and the Fortress Peak.

20140321-_DSC9050-Edit-medium We saw this yellow flower along the way.

20140321-_DSC9071-Edit-medium We encountered a fork on Trail 252 and took the left fork.  This lead us back to a fork of the Elephant Mountain Trail that we had bypassed earlier in the hike.  I think this view, below, is a view of Elephant Mountain  from that trail.

20140321-_DSC9086-Edit-mediumA view from the wash that the trail dumped us into.

20140321-_DSC9104-Edit-medium Linda says that this is “fountain grass”.  She says that it’s a non-native grass.  Some of her work with the McDowell Sonoran preserve involves eliminating some of this grass from the preserve.  It’s pretty in this photo, but it prevents native plants from growing. When dry, it is very combustible and presents more of a fire danger than do native plants.

20140321-_DSC9113-Edit-medium A view of some high walls of the wash as we made our way over to another wash, through which the Elephant Mountain Trail passes.

20140321-_DSC9119-Edit-medium We’re so far below Elephant Mountain now that we can only see the Fortress Peak.

20140321-_DSC9137-Edit-medium At this point, we had been going uphill for quite a while on our way up to the pass between Elephant Mountain and the Fortress Peak.

20140321-_DSC9143-Edit-medium A view from the northwest side of the Fortress Peak.  Elephant Mountain is not visible in this photo, but is to the camera’s right.

20140321-_DSC9149-Edit-mediumWe saw many flowers on the way.

20140321-_DSC9152-Edit-medium This is a view of Elephant Mountain from part way up the ascent to the top of the Fortress Peak.

20140321-_DSC9161-Edit-medium A view from below of one of several stone walls on the Fortress Peak.

20140321-_DSC9164-Edit-medium Several more views of some of the stone Walls near the top of the fortress peak.

20140321-_DSC9167-Edit-medium 20140321-_DSC9170-Edit-medium 20140321-_DSC9182-Edit-medium 20140321-_DSC9185-Edit-mediumEven though it’s quite rocky, the fortress peak has a variety of vegetation.

20140321-_DSC9200-Edit-medium A view from the near the top of the fortress peak.

20140321-_DSC9206-Edit-medium I took this photo from some boulders that form the high point of the Fortress Peak.  As seen below, there’s quite a lot of space atop this peak.

20140321-_DSC9224-Edit-medium A view of Elephant Mountain from the fortress peak.

20140321-_DSC9233-Edit-medium Yet another view from the Fortress Peak.

20140321-_DSC9236-Edit-medium We continued hiking the Elephant Mountain Trail after leaving the Fortress Peak.  The trail crossed a large wash along the way.  Below is a close up view looking down the wash.

20140321-_DSC9269-Edit-medium Here is a wider angle view:

20140321-_DSC9272-Edit-medium Looking back up at the prominent wall on Elephant Mountain.

20140321-_DSC9275-Edit-medium Linda told us that this is a Mammillaria, a small type of cactus that often grows between rocks.20140321-_DSC9284-Edit-medium A look up another steep wash / canyon.

20140321-_DSC9299-Edit-medium And a look at where it continues downwards:

20140321-_DSC9302-Edit-medium The ocotillo are in bloom and the desert is still green.

20140321-_DSC9317-Edit-medium 20140321-_DSC9329-Edit-medium Hedgehog cactus blossoms:

20140321-_DSC9344-Edit-medium Ocotillo blossom:

20140321-_DSC9365-Edit-medium Another blooming ocotillo that’s growing around a smallish saguaro.

20140321-_DSC9395-Edit-medium We encountered this woman riding her horse near the end of the trail.  We also saw another large group of riders in the distance, but they’re route did not cross ours.

20140321-_DSC9482-Edit-medium Linda peers out of a window from the remains (?) of a stone structure near the parking area.