Hiking Yavapai by Stan Bindell
Heat, heat and more heat during the last two months has meant either early morning or evening hikes, and limiting the amount of time on the trails.
Another option is hiking at higher altitudes, and that's what I have been doing, mainly in the area of Flagstaff and the San Francisco Peaks. The higher, the better! Even Mingus Mountain and the Mogollon Rim, some of my normal hikes during the summer, have been too hot at around 7,000 feet.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of having enough water in this heat. You only have to watch the news to see hikers who have died on the trail or needed rescue because they were not prepared.
For those hiking in the early morning or evening, the Peavine Trail is my regular workout. Hardcore hikers don't always like this trail, because it has hardly any change in altitude and it is heavily traveled by folks out for leisurely walks.
The lack of rains as of mid-August makes this trail less fun than it is when the water's flowing and more birds and animals are out. But there are four important reasons for nature-lovers to take this hike: Watson Lake, sunset at the Cove, the Granite Dells, and plenty of wildlife.
The Cove, one and a half to two miles in, depending which trailhead you choose, has wonderful boulders on both sides that perfectly frame the sunset when there are clouds.
Much of the Peavine follows the edges of Watson Lake, and its tributaries are side trails as well. This hiker has seen herons, ducks, a wide variety of birds, deer, javelina, frogs, turtles and rattlesnakes at the lake or on the trail. The lake creates a beautiful scene, with boaters and kayakers making their way around it among the marvelous boulders.
The Peavine cuts through part of the Granite Dells known for its rocky spires. It hooks into other trails as well, so hikers can do as much or as little as they like.
On a nice day, this trail can be filled with people of all ages walking and biking. You can discover less traveled trails off to the sides, including the dotted trail that follows most of the lake bank, although this may include some rock-hopping.
Hikers can travel five miles one way to Side Road for a nice ten-mile round trip. Those who want more can turn right at the 3.4-mile mark and pick up the Iron King Trail for another 4.5 miles to the trailhead at Glassford Hill Road in Prescott Valley.
Wending through the Watson Woods riparian preserve, the Peavine is a rail-trail, built on the old bed of the Santa Fe, Prescott & Phoenix line that gives the trail its name. It has small ups and downs, but only rises about 300 feet, hardly noticeable. Sycamores, willows and cottonwoods offer some shade on sunny days. The trail is open to hikers, bikers and pedestrians, but no motorized vehicles.
Near the beginning of the trail hikers pass by the city waste-transfer station, a burned-out building and yard that firefighters use for training, and a police shooting range. Then there's the sewage-treatment pond off to the east, which is just great when the wind blows from there.
All these 'features' were there before the rail bed became a public trail, of course, so the trail has helped bring some beauty back to what had been Prescott's neglected backyard. The farther you go along the trail, the more you'll leave these bits of civilization behind.
See you on the trail!
From downtown Prescott, drive east on Gurley Street and take Highway 89 north to Prescott Lakes Parkway. Turn right at the traffic signal, cross Granite Creek and turn left onto Sundog Ranch Road. Take the first left to enter the trailhead parking lot, just opposite the Yavapai Humane Society shelter.
Stan Bindell is always looking for good hikes. If you have one, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.