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Elephant Mountain Day Hike
Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area
November 25, 2017
by Michelle Jelsma
Group Photo by Amy using Dave’s camera.
Dave, Tom, Kari, Mark J., Michelle, Li, Mark P., Ann, Debbie

Even with the late posting of the hike, we had 9 hikers show up for an adventure on a trail I had been wanting to do but hadn’t had the chance. Although, it appears the club has done this hike many times before, all those who showed up had never done the Elephant Mountain trail in the Spur Cross Conservation Area.

Oh what a beautiful morning! [photo by Dave]
Sunrise on the mountain. [photo by Dave]
Shadows in our path. [photo by Kari]
On a cool morning, we get started about 7:30, still in the shadows of the sunrise. The Spur Cross trail takes us down into the very dry Cottonwood Creek. We cross the creek and the trail quickly begins to climb. It is not long before the sun is peeking out and with the climb, it is time to layer down. After a quick break, we continue climbing up Tortuga Trail, which gets steep at times with a sandy trail underfoot.

Our first 3 to 4 miles we stuck together and had good conversation, sharing tasty recipes from our Thanksgiving dinners. As Mark P. put it, we combined a Julia Childs cooking class into our hike.

We finally reach the top of Tortuga trail and we can see Elephant Mountain in the distance. We find our way onto the Elephant Mountain Trail, where we begin a long descent down into a wash. The trail continues down the wash where cairns are cleverly placed for us to follow.

Spur Cross Conservation Area. [photo by Dave]
Heading down into the canyon. [photo by Tom]
Descending into the wash. [photo by Tom]

After a short hike in the wash we find the trail taking us up and out of the wash. We make our way around the base of the mountain and, again we begin to climb. This time we find ourselves on the back side of Elephant Mountain. The sun is just beginning to peek up over the mountain. We take a quick break to see the sun come up enough to snap a few pictures. We didn’t stick around too long, because we could see we had a climb ahead of us and wanted to take advantage of the shade of the mountain.

If you go down, you must come back up. [Tom]
Ann is taking it all in. [photo by Kari]
Sunrise over Elephant Mountain. [photo by Dave]
Elephant Mountain. [photo by Kari]

When we reach the saddle we take another quick break to catch our breath. At the saddle there is a trail that takes you up to some ruins. Unfortunately, the trail is marked with a “trail closed” sign. So we moved along, making our way down the west side of Elephant Mountain headed for the Spur Cross Trail, in full view of the sun.

Debbie Keepin’ On!! [photo by Li]
Which way to go? [photo by Li]
Teddy Bear cactus taking in the sun. [Kari]
Kari makes sure we know which way to go.

Once we get to the Spur Cross Trail we decide to go the 0.9 miles to the edge of the conservation area. Here we manage to find a little shade and stop for a snack.

Snack break. [photo by Dave]

After our snack break we start our trek back on the Spur Cross Trail, taking in the views of the mountains and Cave Creek in the distance. The heat was taking a toll on the leader, so when we reached the Dragonfly Trail, Mark J. made the decision to forego the longer trail down to the Jewel of the Preserve. Instead we continued on the Spur Cross Trail back to the parking lot.

Rock Formations. [photo by Dave]
Spectacular View. [photo by Tom]
Cactus in the sun. [photo by Dave]
The fast ones always have to wait! [photo by Tom]

After reaching the parking lot we all said our goodbyes and went our own way.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated December 11, 2017