January 27, 2010

The Vulture Mountains Near Wickenburg

Yesterday, after two weeks at Usery Mountain in NE Mesa, we decided to have a change of venue. We have moved to a dispersed camping area in the Vulture Mountains a few miles south of Wickenburg. Wickenburg is along the Hassayampa River. This river flows underground from near Prescott all the way to the Gila River southwest of Phoenix. A sandy riverbed only has water on the surface after heavy rains. In fact, the day we arrived there was 1 inch of water flowing on the surface and the next morning it was gone.

Wickenburg is a city of about 8,000 people located about 60 miles northwest of Phoenix. Looking at it on the map, it seems like it is an isolated community. But, driving US-60 on the way out there, what we realized is that it may have once been isolated, but Phoenix is coming!

There is dense housing developments growing along the highway up through Sun City West and Surprise and then isolated developments all the way until about 10 miles from Wickenburg. Someday, this nice little town away from the valley will become just another suburb. So, goes "progress".

In our dispersed camping spot, we have miles of higher Sonoran Desert to explore. We'll hang out around here for the next week or so. So, I'll do posts about visiting the Nature Conservancy's Hassayampa River Preserve and hiking up Vulture Mountain later this week.

Yesterday afternoon I wandered off directly across the landscape, climbing over several sets of hills until I reached the highest one I could find.

At the summit , I was able to look across the 120+ miles to the snowy Four Peaks way off in the distance.

At this slightly higher elevation, there are fewer saguaros, but many more Spanish daggar yuccas.

Notice how the ground now has a carpet of green sprouts following the rains.

Here you can see the brittle brush completely leafing out now. They had no leaves when we first arrived. By March, these shrubs will color the entire hills bright yellow with their aster-like flowers.

This is Vulture Mountain, as taken from the hill above our campsite. It is the core of an ancient volcano. We plan to take the trail up there on Thursday, after the expected showers pass today.

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