Taking The High Ground
Sunday, 27 January 2008 - Two years ago when we were in this area, I made a fairly long and tiring hike through the desert (mostly up and down ridges and along washes) to get a clear view of Weaver's Needle in the Superstition Wilderness and while I did get a better view than seen from the viewpoint, I never did get a really good one. But, since it's such an interesting peak (that distant pinnacle in the photo here), I thought I'd give it another try this year.
So, sunrise Friday found me back where I was two years ago, at the Needle Vista Viewpoint off the Apache Trail in the Tonto National Forest. Unfortunately, you get a better view of the 'Needle' from the parking lot than you do from the designated 'Photo Point', but high tension power lines ruin the view from the parking lot and terrain obstructs most of the view from the 'Photo Point', leaving only the top of the pinnacle visible, which is why I did the hike previously.
However this time as I got to the 'Photo Point', I noticed a hill off to the right and since from my recent and ongoing experiences here in the park on the Merkle Hills which have put in the front of my mind the marvels of getting above obstructions by taking the high ground, rather than repeating the long and tiring hike of two years ago, this time I simply climbed the handy close-at-hand hill and got the view shown in the photo above left. Not to say that climbing the hill was a stroll in the park either, but certainly a more rewarding effort than the previous hike.
Clearly, the best time of day for that shot is late afternoon, not sunrise, but this one still has some merit and like with the Merkle Hills, taking the high ground also affords some spectacular panoramic views, in this case though the views are of the Superstition Wilderness and the Goldfield Mountains (as seen in the photo on the right and also here).
There is another trail that advertises the best view of Weaver's Needle and that's the Peralta Trail. It approaches the needle from the opposite side of the Superstition Wilderness. I've never taken that trail because its trailhead is much more difficult to get to (rough dirt road that the stiff suspension of the truck is not well suited for). I tried that road once two years ago, but gave up as it was too bone jarring, but might give it another look if I feel really motivated one day. However, the Peralta Trail is fairly long, 2.5 miles to the primary viewpoint and that's longer than I like, but the views are supposed to be worth it, so we'll see.
I do plan to return to the Apache Trail viewpoint one afternoon soon, but it will have to wait at least for a day because rain (along with flash flood warnings) and overcast have moved in again, heralding an end to the period of nice weather we've enjoyed lately and bringing in much cooler temperatures, some even downright cold, a couple nights forecasted to drop below freezing in a week or so. Swell. It's almost certain we'll be trying for southern Florida next winter.
Anyway, yesterday morning I was back out on the road before sunrise, this time going the other way and descending Usery Pass to the north. The campground is near the top of the pass which separates the Usery Mountains from the Goldfield Mountains, but the pass also enters the Tonto National Forest (it's quite a large thing) in the Salt River valley and gives one some awesome panoramas as one descends the pass and ends up at the Bush Highway near the Salt River.
From the road down the pass, I took some photos of distant Four Peaks, the dominant mountain in the region, and the Bulldog Cliffs, closer but still distant, however my favorite shot of the day was of the little Verdin shown in the photo on the right. It's a bird I'd never heard of before, let alone seen or photographed, but this one came along out of nowhere and landed on the Palo Verde branch holding the hummingbird feeder. It cocked its head a few times, eyeing the feeder as if trying to decide if it could get anything out of it or not, apparently decided it couldn't and quickly left, but not before I got some photos of it.
Today, because of the clouds and rain, there were no sunrise photos to be had, so I stayed in.
For Sandra's account of the last few days, click here.
From Site 13 to Site 74
Thursday, 24 January 2008 - As mentioned earlier, today was the day we had to leave Site 13 here in the Usery Mountain Regional Park campground. The last time we had to move, two weeks ago, the campground was half empty so getting a new site was not an issue, just a question of whether we could get the site we wanted.
This time, however, the campground was not only full, but there was also one RV waiting in the overflow area, so this complicates things immensely when one wants to get a new site. Last time, because they already had plenty of empty sites available, including the one we wanted to move to, I got the new site when the booth at the park entrance opened at 6am. This time though, with no sites available, we had to wait until 9am, which is the deadline for notifying them if you are able to extend your stay and want to do so. After that time, sites that are scheduled to be vacated are fair game and offered on a first come, first served basis, with anyone in the overflow getting first choice.
Last evening, Sandra and I drove around the campground and counted 15 sites that were due to be vacated today and of those, noted the ones we preferred. Of those 15, some probably weren't signed up for the full two week limit and would be able to extend their stay if they liked, but chances were good that quite a few would become available.
We then stopped by the booth at the park entrance and asked if we could again get a site if I came by at 6am and were told, of course, that they couldn't issue sites until 9am and to come back then. Well, as I've experienced all too often in life, people don't always do what they're supposed to and I was pretty certain that if we did wait until 9am that someone would have found a way to beat us out of the last available site.
So armed with my past experience and despite what the evening staff member had told us, I was at the booth at 6am this morning just to see how things stood and to see what story the morning staff had to tell. I needed to go out for fuel anyway, in case we ended up having to leave the park, so being there at 6am wasn't an added effort.
Turns out, it was a very good thing I was there early because even though they couldn't start issuing new sites until 9am, the kind staff member who waited on me put us on the waiting list just after the RV in the overflow area, which was still the only one there this morning, so we would have second choice. It's interesting the staff member on the evening shift hadn't told me that getting there early would at least have gotten us put at the top of the waiting list. Jerk.
Life's experiences come in handy now and then.
So, we were back at the booth at 8:55am, found a short line of people already ahead of us, waiting to be issued new sites, but we were moved to the head of the line because the overflow RV had already checked in and we were next on the waiting list. Nice when a plan comes together.
One of our preferred sites (74, which is another pull through) was available, so we took it, signing up for two more weeks, went back and packed up, emptied the tanks at the dump station, and were on our new site and completely setup by noon. And to further illustrate how things went our way today, it's overcast with scattered showers, but the rain stopped long enough for us to relocate and then started again, plus I nailed pointing the internet satellite with purely guesswork and that doesn't happen often, maybe once a year, and the TV satellite even cooperated, more or less. Now to catch our breath and relax for a while.
Photo above was taken last evening as some holes opened up in the cloud cover just before sunset and produced a few very nice sunbeams, which I photographed from one of my vantage points on the Merkle Hills.
Sandra Does The Wash
Wednesday, 23 January 2008 - Yesterday Sandra did the wash and in more ways than one, being the diversified person that she is.
The first way was by doing the laundry and the second way was by walking in a wash, as in the dry bed of an intermittent stream (photo on the left, showing her in the Crismon Wash, which is also used as a trail here in the park).
There are washes all over the west like this one. Due to the nature of the terrain (mountainous and with no solid ground cover), water only runs in these washes during or after a heavy rain and when the water does run it's usually in the form of a flash flood, which hits quickly and ends just as quickly, so 99% of the time these washes are dry and can make for easy hiking, but you sure wouldn't want to be caught in one when the water starts running. Not much chance of that the last few days though since it's been sunny and cloudless in the region, so the washes have been a safe hike.
Otherwise, besides doing chores, shooting photos around the area, and hiking partway along a few of the longer trails here in the park, we haven't done much except plan for where we go from here when our two week stay expires tomorrow. For the vast majority of our month here, the campground has not been full. That changed this weekend when it did fill up and latecomers had to be put into the overflow area, which has no hookups and where they have to wait for a site to open up or try a different park.
We didn't realize until yesterday that it had been the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, which might have accounted for it being so busy here, as well as having decent weather sunny days in the mid 60sF (18°C or so) and chilly but manageable nights in the mid to low 40sF (6°C or so) but it also might have been because the Super Bowl is getting close and it's being played in Phoenix this year, although I doubt if that's the reason. The game is still a week and a half away, so it seems unlikely it would be effecting the availability of campsites yet, but I expect when it does come that every available sleeping space in the entire region will be filled.
Anyway, since Sandra has a dental appointment just down the road in a week, we are hoping to find another site here in the park tomorrow when our current stay ends.
For Older News
To read details of our previous stops and camps, visit the News Archives.
Updated Saturday, August 16, 2008
Copyright © 2008 by Gordon L Wolford .
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