When it’s cold in Prescott, one nice alternative is the trail at Lake Pleasant, because you can get there in less than 90 minutes for trails ranging from a half-mile to more than 300 miles. My hike group recently choose something in between, as most hikers do.
This hiker was one of four Arizona Trailblazers who experienced a glorious exploratory hike on the Beardsley Maricopa Trail in December, where the weather was cloudy but without a drop of rain, and we considered the temperature perfect.
Lisa, Sue and David joined me in finding a beautiful riparian area shortly into the hike on Beardsley Trail. The Beardsley and part of the Maricopa Trail start before Lake Pleasant Park, so they are closer to the freeway.
The three best known trails inside the park are the half-mile Discovery Center Trail, the 1.5-mile Roadrunner Trail, and the four-mile Pipeline Canyon Trail.
As we negotiated a short descent there were already a few puddles of water in the trail, just a glimpse of what was around the bend.
The Agua Fria River and Morgan City Wash merge at this point, and the stream forks off in two directions, one pointing to Beardsley Trail.
Two small foot bridges among the cottonwood, mesquite and salt-cedar trees made this a perfect spot for photos. We had to carefully cross along a small, muddy and slick part of stream bank. Sure enough, on the way out I slipped and fell in the mud, but realized after a few seconds that the only thing I hurt was my pride.
After a few turns the trail moves away from the stream into desert brush. After three-quarters of a mile we could no longer detect the trail, so we decided to switch to the Maricopa Trail, which parallels the Central Arizona Project canals in a scrub-desert setting.
This section of the trail was a continuous series of up- and downhills, changing only 500 feet in elevation over 8.2 miles. It’s part of the Lake Pleasant hiking-trail system, so there was a $7 parking fee.
The Maricopa Trail is more than 300 miles and circles the county. We consistently had great views of the surrounding terrain, including the Bradshaw and Cave Creek mountains. All was pretty quiet except for the odd gunshot from nearby shooting ranges.
Losing the trail means we’ll just have to go back another day to find where the Beardsley Trail continues.
Directions: Go south on I-17 to Exit 223 and turn right (west) on Carefree Highway (State Route 74), then 8.8 miles to the marked Beardsley CSR access road. Turn right and it’s a short distance to the parking area. For directions and more information about the park, telephone 602-506-2930.
Living in the county just outside Chino Valley it’s not unusual to see pronghorn, but a week ago I had the most amazing experience.
I was walking up Road Three South by Reed Road when I noticed four pronghorns at the entrance to a driveway; then I looked into the field across the street to see 26 more. The four joined the 26 and then they all decided they wanted to cross Reed Road to get to the State Trust Land, where they usually live. The vehicles on Reed Road all stopped to let them cross. Three times they came to the edge of their side of the road ready to cross, only to decide against it and run a circle around the open field just to stop at the edge of the street again. Finally, on the fourth stop, with the vehicles still stopped, they decided to cross the road. The pronghorns ran across the road as quickly as possible. Then, one by one, they went under the fence to return home. There were already 20 on the other side, making about 50 in the herd. Quite impressive! The only disappointment was that I didn’t have my camera with me.
Photos by Stan.
Stan Bindell is always looking for a good hike. If you have one, contact him at thebluesmagician@gmail. com