Marie and I saw this Western Diamondback rattlesnake while hiking on Saturday…
On Sunday, Feb 20, Marilyn and I hiked the Sunflower Trail. Starting from the Cross F Trailhead, we hiked the connector to the Arizona Trail and then followed the Arizona Trail south for a little over four miles. We returned via the same trail, but took FR393 back to Old Beeline Hwy, where we had parked. We had views of Mt Ord along the way; that area had been badly burnt by the Bush Fire of 2020, but we saw no recent fire damage along the Sunflower Trail. However, we did not hike all of the Sunflower Trail; there was still perhaps 3/4 mile (near Beeline Hwy) that we did not see.
This is a view at the junction of the Cross F connector, Little Saddle Mountain Trail, and the Sunflower Trail:
Looking back along the Sunflower Trail; we are approaching FR393 here:
I’ve checked some maps, but could not find a name for this drainage:
It turns out that 344 is the Forest Services number given to the Sunflower Trail. At this point, we’re following the trail back to FR393. This section, as well as the section behind (south) of us is a double track. There was some evidence of motorized traffic, but not as much as I thought there might be. About 0.4 miles from this marker, the trail forks left from this road. I consulted a map to see where the road goes; it seems that it might be an older routing of the Sunflower Trail. The road appears to lead to the tank shown in an earlier photo.
This photo was taken near the junction of 344 (Sunflower Trail) and FR393.
Marilyn and I hiked the Pine Creek Loop and part of the Ballantine Trail on Feb 7, 2021. We’ve hiked these trails many times, but not since the Bush Fire ravaged the area during the summer of 2020. It was kind of depressing; fire burned at least 75% of the area, possibly more. We used to visit this area to see wildflowers, including flowering cacti. Much of this vegetation is now dead. It was sad, too, to see the many burned saguaros.
Marilyn and I hiked 9.5 miles on the Pemberton and Tonto Tank Trails. We saw more fire damage from the Pemberton – see my earlier post for those photos.
Haze on the horizon made the rising sun look more like a moon. It may actually have been redder than shown in this photo.
Looking toward Four Peaks on the Pemberton Trail:
We encountered a horse and rider on the Pemberton.
This rattlesnake was laying across the Tonto Tank Trail as I approached it. I pointed it out to some bike riders as they approached; they stopped in time. Despite yelling out, “Snake! Snake!” several times a rider approaching from behind did not hear me and came within inches of the snake. It started rattling like crazy after that.
I visited McDowell Mountain Regional park on Friday afternoon. Starting from the competitive track parking area, I hiked part of the technical loop, stopping at the top of T-Bone Ridge to see if I could spot the fire damage. Later, I hiked the Pemberton until I got a closer view. I returned via the South Wash where I saw even more fire damage.
Looking toward Red Mountain from the start of the Technical Loop; there is no fire damage in this photo, but you can see how dry it is.
This is the view from the top of T-Bone Ridge. Look for the blackened ridge below the McDowells.
A closer view after getting closer on the Pemberton:
Yet another view, overlooking the South Wash:
I think the reddish orange coloration on the high bank of the wash was from fire retardant.
Still in the South Wash…
Marilyn, Marie, and I went for an evening walk on Saturday, the 13th. Marilyn noticed a reddish glow in the distance; we walked up a nearby hill to see better. We saw an orange glow in the distance, behind some hills. When we concluded our walk, I brought my camera out to get this photo. It was much less bright than shown in my photo below; actually, at the time we were there, it was less bright than earlier in the evening.
On the ten O’clock news we learned that it’s called the Bush Fire, it’s in the Tonto National Forest, and that traffic has been blocked of on SR 87 (Beeline Hwy).
Update – 2020-06-14:
Marilyn and I went out for another walk, shortly after 8:00pm on Sunday, the 14th. We first walked up to the top of the hill where I had taken the earlier photo. We returned by walking down the street upon which we lived. At the top of the street (which is on a hill), we found quite a dramatic view…
Update – 2020-06-15:
On the evening of Monday, the 15th, I walked across McDowell Mountain Road, hiked up one of the hills to the north, and took some more photos. According to InciWeb, on Monday evening, the Bush Fire is 37,900 acres in size and is still 0% contained.
Remember, this is a long exposure; this scene did not appear this bright while I was there. I was able to see some lights on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, I certainly wasn’t able to see this community in the level of detail shown here – it was much too dark. Likewise, the smoke didn’t have much of the color or glow shown in this photo; that too is due to taking a long exposure.
Update – 2020-06-16:
According to InciWeb, the Bush Fire grew to 64,513 acres in size, still with 0% containment. However, when I went out on my balcony in the evening to look, I saw only a faint glow in several areas. That being the case, I decided against going somewhere to take a photo and instead just took a shot from my balcony. Although my eyes couldn’t see much activity in the distance, a three and half minute exposure picked up a lot of hot spots on Four Peaks in addition to the usual glow in the smoke. I think that the long exposure smoothed out the smoke in addition to making the trees appear out of focus – they’re not out of focus; it’s just motion blur.
I hiked a little over 10 miles on Thursday evening. I was surprised to see a mountain biker midway around the Long Loop at around sunset. It was a warm evening, but I like it that way.
At one time, this area was popular with motorcycles. The short, steep hills in this area are riddled with trails, often eroded. In some places, such as seen here, jumps have been built, most often with dirt, but sometimes with wood too.
Creosote, I think:
The grasses have become quite dry…
As I approached the wash that I’ve recently been exploring, I saw this hill with many saguaros.
I was surprised to see this really huge rock protruding from midway up the wash bank.
This might be a Monarch Butterfly:
New Mexico Thistle with bee:
This path is is an exit (or entrance) to the wash. The path eventually leads to an old jeep road.
The exposed dirt banks have dramatic colors near sunset.
I’ve been seeing a lot of this type of snake. I think it’s a Long Nosed Snake.
A view from the Long Loop somewhat after sunset. I finished the hike with my headlamp.