Thursday, October 24, 2013

Shaw Butte

North Mountain Park
 Endeavoring to explore more of the local hiking trails in Phoenix, I visited North Mountain Park yesterday and hiked the 5 mile trail #306 around Shaw Butte. This area features typical lower Sonoran desert ecology with plenty of creosote, cacti, and palo verde. Like the rest of the Phoenix Mountains, the terrain is extremely rocky and rugged, and right off the bat I spotted a large outcrop of greenstone which contrasted nicely with the predominantly brown landscape. The geologic processes that formed the Phoenix Mountains must have been pretty spectacular because the rock is so diverse in size, shape, and color.  I find the rocks to be one of the more interesting aspects of these mountains. 

Outcrop of greenstone
 Another point of interest on this trail is the remains of a 1960's era restaurant called Cloud 9. You can find the ruins on the south side of Shaw Butte near the top. Built right into the side of the mountain, the restaurant would have provided its patrons with a spectacular view of downtown Phoenix and the central valley before it burned to the ground in 1964. The restaurant was also home to its eccentric owner and builder Richard Barker and featured a swimming pool, a Cold-War era bomb shelter, and apparently held illegal poker games for its high profile guests. You can read more about Cloud 9 here.

Ruins of Cloud 9 overlooking Phoenix

Just passed the ruins of Cloud 9 is a series of switchbacks that lead to the top of Shaw Butte. I decided to skip the summit because it's covered in antennas and radio towers, and I wasn't really feeling an overriding urge to see them up close. Plus, even though the temps were only in the 90's, the sun was mercilessly beating on me, and it was affecting me more than usual, probably because I haven't hiked in about a week.

Cactus Wren (Arizona state bird)
 Overall it was an okay hike. I didn't see a lot of wildlife, and it was so close to the city that I couldn't escape the noise of traffic anywhere on the trail, which I found distracting. To me, North Mountain Park is the least pretty area in the Phoenix Mountains that I've visited. Not that It isn't worth a visit, or that I'm not grateful that it's preserved and available to hike. I just think that it doesn't compare with the main body of The Phoenix Mountain Preserve near Piestewa Peak, which is bigger, and offers more solitude, higher peaks, more dramatic rock formations and desert plants, and has more animal life. Well, thanks for reading. Until next time.

What passes for a high point in the desert