Go John Trail – Cave Creek Regional Park

Go John Trail – Cave Creek Regional Park – Phoenix, AZ

Go John Trail

Go John Trail

The Go John Trail was my favorite trail in Cave Creek Regional Park. This trail is 6 miles long, giving you a decent bit of exercise (unlike the flatter Clay Mine and Slate/Quartz trails). My favorite part about this trail is the wildlife, though. This trail receives less traffic than the others in the park, so you’re more likely to see a rattlesnake or two. During my quick hike through Go John Trail, I was able to see deer as well, having otherwise eluded me over the previous three days. This hike starts at the north trailhead because the grade is easier; if you’re looking for a more strenuous workout, try hiking this trail in reverse.

One of the Many Saguaro Cacti Along Go John Trail

One of the Many Saguaro Cacti Along Go John Trail

Once you leave the north trailhead at the parking lot, it’s easy to stay on the Go John Trail. Starting up the trail, bear right to follow the inside curve of the trail. It’s practically impossible to get lost since every intersection is well marked. Loop hikes tend to give me a little bit of anxiety since you can add 10+ miles to your hike if you miss a turn. This happened to me on The Beartooth Recreational Trail ended up being an extra ten miles when I missed a turn south of Sawtooth Lake. Thankfully, Go John Trail won’t get you lost.  You should still hike this trail at a slower pace than normal. Not only is the scenery worth slowing down to appreciate, the wildlife isn’t as shy when you slow down.

Rattlesnake on Go John Trail

Rattlesnake on Go John Trail

Keeping conversations and trail noise to a minimum will pay off on this trail. I hiked this trail solo after noisier groups, and the wildlife noticeably hides at the warning of these hikers. Frankly, I think that everyone should hike a trail in this manner, but to each their own. The profile of this trail is straightforward if hiked clockwise– there is a small hill in the beginning and middle, with a larger hill at the end. Many guides have categorized this trail as a “moderate” trail, but I cannot agree with them. Although one hill turns into a set of stairs, all of the hills on this trail are less than 300 feet high. Compared to the other hikes I have written, Go John is definitely an easy trail and changes less elevation than most. Bring plenty of water on this hike (I hiked this in February and ran through a liter of water), and take your time. The best part of this trail is the chance to see wildlife. Speak softly, step lightly, and maybe you’ll see a critter or two.

Deer on Go John Trail

Deer on Go John Trail

Directions to the Go John Trailhead

Enter Cave Creek Regional Park (37019 N Lava Ln, Cave Creek, AZ 85331), pay your $8 entrance fee and drive to the end of a loop.  You can’t miss the Go John Trailhead.

Map to the Go John Trailhead

 

 

 

20 May 2020

Clay Mine Trail – Cave Creek Regional Park

Clay Mine Trail – Cave Creek Regional Park – Phoenix, AZ

Clay Mine Trail

Clay Mine Trail

The Clay Mine Trail is a short and easy hike that is part of the larger Cave Creek Regional Park. It is the easiest hike in the park, but you shouldn’t pass up the trail because of this. At the end of the trail lies the Clay Mine, an interesting way to end the hike, and an opportunity to catch a much needed cool breeze from the cave. Leaving the nature center parking lot, head north following the sign for Overton Trail.

Clay Mine Trail Intersection with Overton Trail

Clay Mine Trail Intersection with Overton Trail

Approximately 100 feet down the trail, another turn appears. Turn left (east) here, following the Overton Trail until it meets the Go John Trailhead. You could have just started at the Go John Trailhead, but most hikers start this quick trail from the nature center. Keep walking east, and you will see the sign for the Go John Trail. The trail leads uphill at this point, but it’s an easy grade. Follow this trail for a short quarter of a mile where you will see another intersection, Cave Creek Trail.

Clay Mine

Clay Mine

Follow this trail the short 1 ½ miles through one more intersection. Approximately 100 yards from the end of the trail is an interesting abandoned mine. This mine was owned and operated by Leila Irish, and whereas the mine contained no gold, it did contain something else– clay. Seeing a business opportunity, Irish bottled and sold the clay as a “cure-all”. Although the clay was useless for most ailments, it did supposedly work well for dysentery. If only this elixir were available on The Oregon Trail game, less of my characters would have died from dysentery.

Cacti on Clay Mine Trail

Cacti on Clay Mine Trail

Once you’ve reached the end of the trail and have exited to the campground, you can turn back around and retrace your steps or just walk down to the main road and walk to the nature center. You can’t park anywhere at the campground, and a shuttle for a trip this short would be weird, so take your time and walk back to your vehicle. If you have just a short couple of hours to spend in the Cave Creek Regional Park, this is an excellent and easy hike that anyone can hike on. Make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and if you have some extra time in your day, check out some of the other trails in this park. Otherwise, spending $7 to access the park is too expensive for such a quick hike.

Directions to the Overton Trailhead

Enter Cave Creek Regional Park (37019 N Lava Ln, Cave Creek, AZ 85331), pay your $8 entrance fee and drive past the horse stables to the well-signed Overton Trailhead.  Alternatively, you can also begin this hike at the next trailhead down, Go John Trailhead.

Map to the Overton Trailhead

 

 

 

12 May 2020

Fat Man’s Pass – South Mountains

Fat Man’s Pass – South Mountains Phoenix, AZ

South Mountains - Phoenix, AZ

View From Mormon Trail

Fat Man’s Pass is one of the most popular hikes near Phoenix, AZ. Two large boulders force you to squeeze through them to the other side of the trail; a fat man cannot squeeze through this gap (to be honest, it’s a tight squeeze), but I would argue that a fat man can’t get to the pass to begin with. This is one of those trails that leads uphill from the start, and while I’ve listed this trail as an easy trail, it was with much deliberation. From the parking lot at the Mormon Trailhead, the trail immediately leads uphill. You will begin to appreciate why some hikers consider this a moderate or difficult trail.

Mormon Trail Intersection

Mormon Trail Intersection

This is one of those hikes you want to do in the early morning. Moving your way to the top of the first hill only rewards you with another couple of hills to hike up. These “false summits” are a little annoying. That being said, this is a trail that most people can hike on without too much difficulty. Take your time, take a few breaks, and you’ll be fine. After 1 ½ mile, the trail slows its steady incline as you reach the first intersection.

This hike, as described, is a straight shot to Fat Man’s Pass, and a straight shot back. You can alternatively make this a loop as a part of the Mormon Trail Loop, or you can add a loop at the Hidden Valley trail, following Fat Man’s Pass through and continuing on the trail to add another half mile to the trail. My dog was tired (and overheated in early March), so pace yourself on this trail. The trail is hot and miserable even when the temperature is only seventy degrees.

Fat Mans Pass Trail

Turn Left Here

The directions for this hike are simple: stay on the main Mormon Trail (which later turns into the Hidden Valley Trail) until a half mile past the first intersection at the top of the hill. Stay on the main trail, and you will eventually (2 ¼ miles from the trailhead) reach the turn for Fat Man’s Pass. Turn left and head a hundred yards downhill to compare your gut against the two boulders. Remember to take short breaths, to drop your pack or hold it over your head, and to take your time squeezing through the two boulders. It would be embarrassing to call for help because you were stuck at Fat Man’s Pass.

Squeezing Through Fat Mans Pass

Squeezing Through Fat Mans Pass

Once you’ve made it through Fat Man’s pass (hopefully with pictures as proof), you can turn around and trace your steps back to the trailhead. If you’re willing to hike another half-mile, you can see the natural tunnel on Hidden Valley Trail. These are busy trails on weekdays and insanely busy trails on the weekends, be sure not to leave any litter behind, and to stay on the designated path. There are a few signs of overuse and even graffiti along this trail, try to set an example to others by reversing some of that damage.

Directions to the Mormon Trailhead

Located south of Phoenix, AZ in a well-signed neighborhood, drive to 8610 S 24th St, Phoenix, AZ 85042.  Any GPS, map, or phone app will be able to get you to the right place.  Phoenix is so big it’s hard to give general directions that are accurate.  This is a busy trailhead, and all the locals know where it is.  Stopping at a gas station if you lose your way will allow you to get better directions.

Map to the Mormon Trailhead

 

 

 

07 May 2020

Langohr Creekside Trail: Gallatin Range

Langohr Creekside Trail: Gallatin Range

Langohr Creekside Trail

At the northern end of the Langohr Campground lies one of the easiest trails in Hyalite Canyon. If you thought that Palisade Falls was a quick stroll into the forest, the .3 miles of Langohr Creekside Trail offer just enough trail to settle your stomach after a campfire meal and is also a good choice for the elderly or toddlers. Most of the people that hike this trail are campers at Langohr Campground, giving you a unique opportunity to greet some of your neighbors, and exchange pleasantries. For a leisurely walk next to Hyalite Creek, pull into the spacious parking area and head down the trail.

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25 Feb 2020

South Cottonwood Creek Trail: Gallatin Range

South Cottonwood Creek Trail: Gallatin Range

South Cottonwood Creek Trail

South Cottonwood Creek Trail runs through the heart of a network of trails just outside of Bozeman.  Although there are numerous side trips and options that you have on South Cottonwood Creek Trail, the most popular option is a quick and scenic day hike through the forest, crossing over three bridges that lead over South Cottonwood Creek.  This quick hike is popular, while being relatively short– it is only 2 ½ miles to the third bridge.  That being said, most day hikers prefer to spend less time on this trail and only hike along it for one or two miles.  Regardless of which option you choose, the trail begins at the end of Cottonwood Creek Road.

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18 Feb 2020

Whits Lakes: Gallatin Range

Whits Lakes: Gallatin Range

North Whits Lake

Whits Lakes, or Whits Lake, is a pair of small lakes located north of Hebgen Lake and just outside of Yellowstone National Park. Since the descriptions of these two bodies of water is somewhat confusing (some maps refer to them as Whits Lake, whereas others refer to the lakes as north or south Whits Lake) in this guide I’ll refer to them as separately as north or south Whits Lake. Now that we have that bit of confusion cleared up, let’s dive into the hike itself. Although the trail is only 2 miles round-trip, it allows you to escape the crowds of Yellowstone and explore the Gallatin National Forest. For big game hunters, Whits Lake is especially popular in the fall, which is also when I prefer to hike this trail.

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04 Feb 2020

Moser Creek to Buckskin Creek Loop

Moser Creek to Buckskin Creek Loop

Buckskin Creek Meadow

This is a difficult hike to name, since the hike runs along both Moser and Buckskin Creeks in Hyalite Canyon. Some guides refer to this hike as the Moser Creek Loop, while others stick to the more accurate name of Moser Creek to Buckskin Creek Loop. This trail has many side options to change the length of the trail, but the hike as described in this guide is an easy 5 mile loop. Along this trail you will have plenty of opportunities to view wildlife or search for garnets and fossils. The Moser Creek to Buckskin Creek Loop is less popular than some of its neighbors in Hyalite Canyon such as Heather Lake or Palisade Falls , making it one of the few day hikes that may allow you to spend most of the hike by yourself.

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27 Jan 2020

The Beartooth Recreational Trail: Beartooth Mountains

The Beartooth Recreational Trail: Beartooth Mountains

The Beartooth Recreational Trail leads through some of the most scenic country in the Beartooth Mountains. Three different trailheads form an approximately 9 ¼ mile long loop, running by beautiful lakes and scenic alpine vistas– all of which are within a day hike of the Beartooth Highway. The Beartooth Recreational Trail gives a hiker many options; the three different trailheads allow you to choose your own adventure. You can make this trail a classic lollipop loop, a shuttle, or a true loop. Your options are numerous, which also makes this trail a good trail to get lost on.

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17 Aug 2019

Heather Lake and Emerald Lake: Gallatin Range

Heather Lake and Emerald Lake: Gallatin Range

Heather Lake

Heather Lake and Emerald Lake are two beautiful subalpine lakes that lie between Mount Chisolm and Overlook Mountain. These lakes are popular attractions in Hyalite Canyon, making the trail busy most of the year. Mountain bikers, hikers, horseback riders, and even dirt bike riders enjoy the East Fork Hyalite Creek Trail during its peak season (July 15th-September 4th). The crowd on the trail shouldn’t distract you too much along this scenic trail, the waterfalls and towering geological wonders will pull your attention to the trail and force you to take a break. Starting at the trailhead, you are soon rewarded by one of these marvels.

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28 Jul 2018

History Rock Trail: Gallatin Range

History Rock Trail: Gallatin Range

History Rock, located in Hyalite Canyon

History Rock Trail is one of the few places where someone leaving a trace behind is acceptable. Settlers, old timers, and even a scout for George Custer all left their marks on this large outcropping, and it stands as a historical “guest book” of sorts, storing the names and dates of those who have passed along this trail. Located in Bozeman’s busy Hyalite Canyon, History Rock is a short 2.5-mile hike that is a perfect way to stretch your legs. Make sure to bring a camera along this hike– not only is the scenery beautiful, but the soft sandstone on History Rock won’t be along forever. This last reason alone should tell you that you should stop and hike along the quick trail to History Rock.

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23 Jul 2018

Communication While Backpacking

Communication in the wilderness is possible, and there are several good options.

Communicating while backpacking might seem like the last thing that you would want to do. After all, we leave technology behind to embrace the wilderness and to focus on nature. Technology can interfere with this– there’s no better feeling than being completely “off the grid” for a week, completely disconnected from the outside world. However, there are exceptions to this- you may be backpacking alone, have health problems, or have family that needs checking on. In these circumstances, communication while camping in a remote location is not only a good idea, but a need. Thankfully, there is more than just one option when it comes to backcountry communication, and the price tag on one of the options will work with almost any budget. Continue reading “Communication While Backpacking” »

17 Feb 2018

Gardner Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Gardner Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Gardner Lake

If you’re traveling along Highway 212 (The Beartooth Highway), and need a quick stop to stretch your legs, stop by Gardner Lake. This trailhead is one of the highest in the Beartooths, at 10,550 ft above sea level, so be prepared to be winded on this short trail. In addition to the altitude taking your breath away, the view certainly will as well. Gardner Lake sits at the bottom of a bowl, and the hike down to the lake allows you to see Tibbs Butte and Littlerock Creek. The scenery is beautiful any time of the year, but it’s wise to hike to Gardner Lake in the late summer, due to the rampant mosquitoes. Leaving the trailhead, and hiking straight down, your quick hike to Gardner Lake begins.

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12 Feb 2018

Fan Creek- Yellowstone National Park

Fan Creek- Yellowstone National Park

Fawn Pass Trailhead

Fan Creek is possibly the most popular hike along the Yellowstone National Park boundary. With the trailhead located just off of Highway 191, Fan Creek is a quick drive from West Yellowstone and Bozeman. It’s also an easy hike, gaining only 50 feet in the 1.2 miles to the junction with Fan Creek Trail. The fishing along Fan Creek is great any time of the year. The scenery certainly won’t disappoint, either. Since Fan Creek is this accessible and beautiful, it’s easy to see why Fan Creek is popular in the summer and winter.

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09 Feb 2018

Hiking with Ham Radio

In this remote alpine setting, ham radio communication is still possible.

One of the biggest challenges with amateur radio, or ham radio, is communicating over mountainous terrain in remote regions. Natural obstacles, lack of other nearby repeaters, and logistical limitations make backpacking or hiking while operating a ham radio difficult. For someone who is new to ham radio these technical challenges can be daunting. There is plenty of information on radio specifications, repeater frequencies, and ways to overcome natural barriers on the Internet. However, the majority of resources are spread out, requiring a new ham radio operator to spend dozens of hours on research before deciding if they should bring a ham radio on a backpacking trip. This article will discuss the different ways you can overcome the many challenges that hiking with a ham radio brings. First, I’m going to cover the most important step to operating a ham radio- licensing.

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07 Feb 2018

Using Cross Band Repeat While Backpacking

Narrow canyon walls can make operating a ham radio difficult.

Cross band repeat is a nice feature that many ham radios have– it gives the ability to transmit on one band to a more powerful radio and then, in turn, send that transmission from the more powerful radio on another band. Cross band repeat is typically used for a handheld radio to communicate with a more powerful radio, and to expand the communication range of that handheld radio. This is important when backpacking- if you can transmit using 5-8 watts to your vehicle at the trailhead, the radio in your vehicle can easily re-transmit the same message at 50-75 watts. You’ll need to do your homework with this solution, but it will easily enable you to communicate while backpacking.

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04 Feb 2018

Backpacking with APRS

APRS Position and Course Data

Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) was developed in 1992 with the purpose of giving ham radio operators a way to transmit their location, allowing them to view the locations of other ham users, and send messages to each other. APRS is a mature technology, which is widely implemented in the ham community. Odds are good that there is a digipeater within range of your home. For backpackers, APRS presents an easy way to keep in touch with loved ones, while camping and hiking in the wilderness. Although APRS might sound like a hard system to operate, modern enhancements have made communicating via APRS an easy solution.

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04 Feb 2018

Mobile Digipeating: Increasing APRS Reception While Backpacking (2 of 2)

<– If you haven’t read part 1, click here to read Mobile Digipeating: Increasing APRS Reception While Backpacking (1 of 2)

My Raspberry Pi

A computer with a sound card interfaces to your radio via two 3.5 mm audio cables. An interface cable will be required for this, which you can either make yourself or order one from Clifford Wareham (https://www.ebay.com/usr/cliffordwareham?_trksid=p2047675.l2559). Once you have your interface, you will need to determine what hardware (computer) and what software (the APRS digipeating software) you will use. For my setup, I went with a Raspberry Pi 3– a well documented and reliable miniature computer that runs Linux. The Raspberry Pi 3 does need a USB sound card in order to work as a digipeater, since the Pi only natively supports audio out. The Pi 3 and a USB sound card should cost no more than $50.

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29 Jan 2018

Mobile Digipeating: Increasing APRS Reception While Backpacking (1 of 2)

My handheld radio, running APRS thanks to the Mobilinkd Bluetooth adapter.

At times, you may find yourself unable to reliably use APRS while backpacking. Broken terrain and natural barriers can degrade your APRS transmission just enough to result in the total loss of packet information. Since APRS does not have a way to detect or recover dropped packets, some hikers get frustrated when they cannot use APRS on a backpacking trip. One way around this limitation is to setup a dedicated APRS digipeater that is located at the trailhead. This way, your weaker handheld radio can transmit an APRS message to a more powerful radio in your vehicle, which then transmits your original message at approximately ten times the power of your handheld. If you’re willing to invest a little money and time, this is not only an effective solution, but it’s also fairly easy to setup.

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29 Jan 2018

Red Lodge Creek Trail- Beartooth Mountains

Red Lodge Creek Trail- Beartooth Mountains

Red Lodge Creek Trail #14

Red Lodge Creek Trail #14 is a quick day hike through a mature forest. This hike is mostly traveled by local residents, so the traffic is usually lighter than other day hikes near Red Lodge. The trail traffic is exceptionally light in the late fall (where about half of the upper trail is inaccessible), which makes Red Lodge Creek Trail a nice late season or early season day hiking trail. If you’re looking for the possibility of an uninterrupted day in the mountains, Red Lodge Creek Trail might have what you’re looking for.

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10 Nov 2017

Keyser Brown Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Keyser Brown Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Keyser Brown Lake

Keyser Brown Lake is a beautiful mountain lake that is easily accessible from Lake Fork Trail #1, in the Beartooth Mountains. This forested lake is at 8,700 feet, making it one of the easiest to access lakes along the Lake Fork Trail. The trail to Keyser Brown Lake only climbs 1,600 feet along the seven mile trail, which is what makes this lake so easy to reach. Keyser Brown Lake also excels as a base camp, supports a good brook trout fishery, and will help you escape the busy crowds on their way to Lost Lake. Leaving the paved parking lot, and crossing a sturdy bridge over the Lake Fork of Rock Creek, your trip to Keyser Brown Lake begins.

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27 Jul 2017