Elephant Mountain Trail (Cave Creek, Arizona) 21-Mar-2018

Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona

As we say in Oregon: When the going gets wet, the dry go to Arizona. And so it was that we found ourselves in Phoenix and Tucson for a week, visiting some old friends and doing six local hikes. The weather pretty much cooperated the whole time, with sunshine, mild air temperatures (mid 70ºFs to low 80ºFs), and only artistic clouds. There was a potent, cholla-hurling windstorm with clouds one afternoon but that was it for weather drama. We chose hikes that covered habitats fron saguaros to oaks to pines, at altitudes between 1,500 and 8,000 feet. Cacti spines were dodged, no snakes were startled (or startled us), and a good time was had by all. Now that there are direct flights between home and Phoenix, we may have to do some more hiking down there…

Our third hike was a loop past Elephant Mountain in Maricopa County’s Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, the newest addition to the county’s regional park system. After some cold packs, ibuprofen, and a night’s rest, it seemed like we’d convinced The LovedOne’s knee to allow for more hiking. We did a loop that started at the Spur Cross Trailhead, then followed the Spur Cross Trail to the Tortuga Trail to the Elephant Mountain Trail and around on that to return via the Spur Cross (6.9 miles round-trip with 1,600 feet of elevation gain). It was busy at the start but the masses faded the closer we got to the Elephant. The knee held (with ibuprofen support) but we had to offer first aid to a poor dog who’d run into a cholla patch. Having done that myself in earlier days, I know the immense pain of close contact with cholla needles. The dog’s owners had no leash (against park rules), no dog booties, and no idea how a cholla worked (they were on vacation from elsewhere). We pulled out as many needles as we could (and the dog would allow) but there was still much suffering ahead for the poor thing.

On an historical note, the Elephant Mountain Trail passes Point 3342, atop which is the Elephant Mountain Fortress Site. This is a culturally sensitive (hence closed) archaeology site containing a large rock wall thought to be built by the Hohokam approximately 800 years ago. Parts of the rock wall still stand about 6 feet high and 3 to 4 feet thick.

Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
Leaving the hiker parking area at Spur Cross Ranch
Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
Elephant Mountain
Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
Crossing Cave Creek
Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
Elephant Mountain from the Tortuga Trail
Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
Along the Elephant Mountain Trail
Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
Sugarloaf Mountain & Cloud
Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
Along the Elephant Mountain Trail
Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
Sugarloaf Mountain and Point 3342 (Elephant Mountain Fortress Site)
Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
Descending from below Point 3342
Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
Along the Elephant Mountain Trail
Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
Saguaros along the Elephant Mountain Trail
Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
Back on the Spur Cross Trail
Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
Back on the Spur Cross Trail
Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
A bloom in the desert
Spur Cross Ranch Maricopa County Arizona
Our track past Elephant Mountain

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