Monday, January 21, 2013

Barry Goldwater Peak

White Tank Mountains Highpoint
Waddell, Arizona
Mileage - 14.1
Time - 4:32
AEG - 2,977ft

Bob and I had the day off work on Monday because of MLK day so we planned a short day-trip to the White Tank Mountains.  He was excited for his first hike on the West side of town, though I had something else in mind.  Reaching the highest point in the range would get me another step closer to summiting all 100 prominent peaks in the state.  Barry Goldwater Peak is the 38th most prominent in Arizona and rises over 3,000 feet from the desert floor to a height of 4,083ft.  It's certainly not the most sought after destination in the White Tanks and there's no real quick way to get there either, so it wasn't a surprise to be the only ones out there.

At 8:30am on a perfect day in the valley, we began a steady climb up the Mesquite Canyon trail for 4.3 miles to reach the Goat Camp Trail.  From there we would travel for nearly two miles (including a short stretch up a narrow wash) to reach the road leading towards the top.  After nearly two and a half hours of hiking and 2,500 feet of elevation gain, the summit was ours!  I signed the register while Bob snapped a few pictures then down we went, this time along the old jeep trail back to Goat Camp saving us 0.3 miles.  The weather couldn't have been any better for January and the hike was really quite nice.  It was way more relaxing than racing these trails, which is usually the reason I find myself out there.
(Above: Bob hiking the Mesquite Canyon trail with Barry Goldwater Peak in the distance)


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Harcuvar Highpoints

Smith Peak - 5,254ft
Aguila, Arizona
Mileage - 8.17
Time - 2:43
AEG - 2,689ft

Harcuvar Peak - 4,618ft
Wenden, Arizona
Mileage - 6.75
Time - 2:39
AEG - 2,355ft

On one of the coldest days of the year (and a near record low), Matt arranged a small group of people to hike in the Harcuvar Mountains near the tiny town of Aguila, Arizona which is approximately two hours West of Phoenix.  On Sunday morning, only Matt and I showed up.  Group hikes are always a blast, except they tend to make things a little more logistically challenging at times.  Now that it was only the two of us, we realized a possiblity that existed; we could summit both Smith and Harcuvar Peaks given their close proximity and knowing our rate of travel. This would allow us to take advantage of the long drive and bag two prominent peaks (numbers 31 and 66 respectively) in a relatively remote part of the state.

The challenge was getting there.  Reaching the trailhead for Smith was fairly straight forward, it just took a while. Also, the distance for each hike turned out to be longer than anticipated because of where we parked due to rugged, washed out road conditions. Smith Peak wasn't anything to write home about, other than being the highest point in the range.  Granted the mountain is designated as a wilderness area, the road to the top and cell towers make this hike a little less interesting.

We completed this one by 1:00pm and made a bee-line for the Harcuvar Trailhead.  I tried to piece together three different sets of directions to find where to begin.  Matt and I spent two and a half hours in the car scouting the area, driving through farm fields, and finally crossing paths with a rancher that granted us access across his land to find the four-wheel drive road to Harcuvar (left). 

The clock was ticking and we were losing daylight as it was now 3:30pm.  Probably not the best time to start a very remote off-trail hike on the coldest day of the year I thought.  With all the lucky breaks we caught getting there, it felt like we had to go for it.  Often times I get a bad gut feeling about these types of situations, but today was long as we didn't make any route-finding mistakes. 

The adrenaline was pumping from the start as Matt and I hiked/ran the remaining part of the road and up a drainage to reach the saddle where the real scramble would begin across the ridgeline.  The sun continued to drop along with the temperature.  Estimated mileage roundtrip listed three miles.  Not for us.  The parking situation tacked on nearly two miles each way adding to the challenge.  Pressed for time and daylight, turning back sounded like a good idea many times. We pressed onward and upward. At 5:00pm Matt and I had successfully summited Harcuvar and the picture below shows genuine satisfaction for such a hard effort.  This trek was as mentally stimulating as it was physically exhausing, and I loved every minute of it!  This one is definitely for the books. 

Matt and Boone at the summit of Harcuvar Peak - 4,618ft

An unbelievable desert sunset in the Haruvar Mountains (Photo by Matt Kalina)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Keystone Peak

Keystone Peak Hike
Sierrita Mountains
Sahuarita, Arizona
Mileage - 9
Time - 2:15
AEG - 1,975ft

I went out this morning for a solo hike South of Tucson with the intention of reaching the top of Keystone Peak.  I did just that.  There really wasn't anything special about this mountain range, other than Keystone being one of Arizona's top 100 prominent peaks and I needed to check it off the list.  The route to the top was an old mining road turned into a utility road to access a set of towers at the summit.  That alone eliminated the wilderness experience.  The views on the other hand, were incredible, maybe the best in all of Southern Arizona.  I was also able to get a good look at Baboquivari, Kitt, Coyote, and Atacosa Peaks.  These are some of the last remaining mountains I have to tackle in this corner of the state, and I'm more than excited to do so.  Coyote and Baboquivari Peak look quite rugged and rather impressive.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Newman Peak - Arizona

Newman Peak Hike
Picacho Mountains
Eloy, Arizona
Mileage - 5.05
AEG - 2,279ft
Time - 3:09

I wanted to kick off the new year with something worthwhile, and Newman Peak sounded like the perfect way to do just that.  If you're heading South towards Tucson on Interstate 10, this mountain sits on the East side of the road and towers over it's more popular neighbor to the West (Picacho Peak).  After countless trips to Tucson and beyond, I've had my sights on hiking this peak for a very long time.  Easier said than done. 

First I would need an Arizona State Land Trust permit, which I acquired in November.  Second, a 4WD vehicle is necessary to reach the trailhead on a remote and rugged dirt road (this is where my good buddy Walter came into play).  Finally, no trail exists.  In order to reach the peak, we would have to create our own route with the help of a few scattered cairns. 

A relatively short drive from Chandler put us in sight of the mountain, though it wasn't until we navigated our way through 15 miles of dirt road where we finally reached the trailhead.  Based on a couple GPS tracks I've seen online, it appeared that the route was directly ahead of us going due North up the drainage between the two main peaks.  Our hiking pace was as slow as I anticipated and those 2.5 miles to the peak took us nearly two hours.  Even though the summit is barely 4,500 feet above sea level, it was clear why Newman is number 37 on the Arizona prominence list.  There has to be 50-60 miles of open desert between here and the next significant range, and on a clear day like today it was easy to see a few distant snow-covered peaks like Mount Lemmon, Pinal Peak, and even Mount Graham!   

A view of the distant Picacho Peak from Newman Peak Summit