Dexter started his day getting reacquainted with the resident Black Swans. The big male made his presence known in case Dexter had any designs on his lady!
Just before lunchtime I left Dexter snoozing in the camper to try a hike in Cave Creek Canyon. Steve Wolfe at the Cave Creek Visitor's Center recommended the Greenhouse Trail, saying it was one of his favorites, and although it was longer and more strenuous than I was used to I thought I'd give it a try. It's listed as 3.89 miles of difficult hiking in moderate conditions with an elevation range of 6565 ft-9220ft and an elevation gain of 2330 feet. Whew! It was a stretch for me but nothing ventured, nothing gained right? As long as the trail was well marked, I was confident and knew I could turn back if the going to too tough. I drove up through Portal again and this time stopped briefly at the little town whose main street consists of a 2 city block stretch of road with an adorable Post Office and Library side by side at the end of the main road. They were, of course, both closed since today is Sunday, but I stopped for a peek around and photo. I was able to enter the Post Office and was delighted by the "moose heads" hung on the wall! I'll try to visit the library next week when it's open.
Continuing down the road, I followed FR42 past the Visitor's Center and several primitive campgrounds. Along the road this little beauty thought she could hide from my lens behind the tree...but I found her!
I drove around the campgrounds to see if I might want to stay there but found that they are pretty tight and offer only dry camping. I saw a few small campers tucked into the sites and Wild Thing could probably squeeze into Sunny Flat Campground, but I'm happier here at Rusty's with some space around me. I don't mind the short drive up the road to the visit the Canyon.
I continued down the road, which had turned from paved to hard-packed dirt, and veered off on FR42A at the Southwestern Research Station, a local research facility for the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. This facility offers scientists and researchers from around the world an opportunity to study in one of the most biologically rich areas of the USA. I made a short stop to look around but since this is the offseason and Sunday, things were pretty quiet. I snapped a few photos of the grounds and saw another doe kicking around under the trees. She bounded off before I could get a close-up but see if you can spot her in this first photo!
Before long I found the turnoff for the Greenhouse Trail #248. I pulled off the road and loaded up my backpack with camera equipment, water, granola bars, phone, and keys. There was no cell service in the canyon but the phone provided GPS in case someone needed to locate me. I started up the trail which was wide and well marked but covered with loose rocks and sandy earth and was fairly steep. I took my time and poked along. I definitely felt the elevation and how out of shape I really am! The trail wasn't dangerous, just strenuous! I decided to just keep going until 3:30. That would give me 1.5 hours to hike in and 1.5 hours to hike out so I would be out well before it started to get dark. The hike was beautiful and I enjoyed the workout. I encountered a group of young men just coming off the hike as I was starting but had the trail to myself for the next 1.5 miles. It is so quiet in this area. There is a creek that runs along the trail but most of the way it was dry so there was no sound of water. The wind was absent, so there is no sound of trees or grass rustling in the breeze. There is a lack of insect noise as well. An occasional bee will buzz by but no crickets, or grasshoppers chirping or insects whirring. I would occasionally come upon a group of birds in the brush and they would kick up a fuss of warning but then they would settle or fly off and the silence would return. Every now and again I would hear the rat-a-tat of a woodpecker at work. No airplanes flew overhead. No car or train traffic could be heard. No radio or TV, cell phones, or people talking. It was blessedly silent in these beautiful slopes.
I met up with more deer along the trail. This pair walked alongside me for a few yards before they decided I was not to be trusted and flashed their tails in retreat.
I met another couple of hikers coming down the trail when I was about halfway to the waterfall. They had decided to turn back owing to the snow and ice that was beginning to appear on the trail. By the time I reached the Wilderness Sign (about 1.5 miles in) I was worn out by the strenuous climb and it was nearing 3:45 pm. I decided to head back down the mountain as well. It had been a very beautiful and satisfying hike and I didn't want to push my luck!
On my way down the mountain, I chanced upon this little red squirrel. He scurried up a tree and sat for a minute so I could get these two photos with my 140mm lens. While I was changing to my 300mm lens, he hurried off into the brush.
The sun was beginning to cast it's beautiful evening glow on the rocks as I made my way back to the truck. I stopped briefly at Cathedral Vista on the short (200 yard) Vista Point Trail near the entrance to the canyon for these shots.
I'm tired and sore tonight from my excursion but I can't wait to get back out and try another trail! Cave Creek Canyon is a surprising gift that I hope to unwrap slowly over the weeks to come.