Bob, Nick, Allen, Janet, and I hiked from the Spur Cross Trailhead to the top of Black Mesa. It was an arduous hike. We started at 8:00am and hiked all day with few rests, returning to our vehicle after dark. Total distance was 14 miles with over 3100 feet of total ascent. The trails in Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area were in good condition. We had difficulty following the trails once we entered Tonto National Forest. Tall grass has grown up over the rocks blocking our view of many of the cairns. If it were not for the track that I had loaded into my GPS, we probably would not have found our way. Hiking uphill through tall grass over unseen rocks was very tiring. Despite the difficulty, I had fun on the hike anyway.
Below are two views of the fortress. We passed the path up to the top on our way back (adding two miles to our hike), but we were running short on daylight, so we left it for another day.
We took a short break after passing through one of the fences.
A view of Black Mesa. At the start of the day, we thought that we’d be hiking up a different nearby formation.
Bob, after emerging from one section of tall grass.
Allen, Janet, and Nick on an easy section of the hike.
A view from part way up the final ascent of Black Mesa:
It turns out that there’s a very good trail, complete with switchbacks, up to the top of Black Mesa. We couldn’t find it on the way up, however. We did find it on the way down, but it became harder and harder to follow (due to the grass) as we descended.
Another view from part way up:
We were surprised to find a tire, painted yellow, in a tree at the top of the mesa.
A view from the top:
A view of Elephant Mountain at the right and the fortress, below it to the left:
A barrel cactus alongside the trail. The trail is quite good here.
Two more views of the fortress…
We went the wrong way and missed seeing this large saguaro on our way out.
Black Mesa is the formation to the left. We started the day thinking that we’d be hiking the mesa at the right. In the morning light, it looked more like a “black mesa” than the other one.
Another view of the Fortress with the sun getting lower in the sky.
Another view of Black Mesa (left) and Sugarloaf Mountain (right):
Another view of the Fortress:
A view from the pass between Elephant Mountain and the Fortress:
More views from the Elephant Mountain Trail:
I think these last three photos were taken from the Spur Cross Trail: