After completing Ted’s Cat Peaks Trail Figure-8 hike, the full group of 19
hikers returns to the Cat Peaks/Pass Mountain Trail junction at about 10:30.
The 13 long-haul hikers bid Ted’s group goodbye and a safe passage back
to Meridian Trailhead and then hang a hard left onto the main Pass Mountain Trail
and begin our journey to complete the full 7.5-mile Pass Mountain loop. At this point
we’re either the Fearless 13 or the Crazy 13, or perhaps even both.
Hopefully, though, we won’t become the Unlucky 13. Only time will tell for sure.
Getting ready for the group picture. [photo by John]
Trailblazers climbing out of Sand Canyon. [photo by John]
Taking a break at the lookout. [photo by Dave]
Good Shepherd on the ridge east of Peak 3127. [photo by John]
We all stayed together at the top of the Figure-8. [photo by John]
Ted recommends hiking the Pass Mountain loop clockwise, so that’s our game
plan for the day. From the junction, where we part with Ted’s group, the
Motley 13 (our handle for the time being) head west for about a mile and then
start hiking north for several miles along the western flanks of Pass Mountain to the
far north end of the loop. At roughly the mid-way point at the north end we’ll
stop for a lunch and rest break, before starting the return leg of the hike, heading
south along the eastern side of Pass Mountain.
As Ted mentions earlier, there’s a proposal underway to enlarge Usery
Mountain Park to include all of Pass Mountain and Lone Mountain completely within
park boundaries. Currently, only a quarter of the Pass Mountain Trail lies within
Usery Mountain Park, while almost 75% of the trail runs through Tonto National
Forest, which butts right up against the current park boundary. Although certainly
no expert on this topic, I would hazard to guess that if this proposal does go through
both Pass Mountain and Lone Mountain would receive better protection under the
jurisdiction of Usery Mountain Park than they currently do under Tonto National Forest.
But I could also be dead wrong about this. I’ve been wrong at least once
before in my life.
Trailblazers at the Northwest Lookout. [photo by John]
Four Peaks and the rugged western Goldfields. [photo by John]
Mt. Ord, Stewart Mountain, and the Bush Pediment. [photo by Dave]
We trooped the loop clockwise. [photo by John]
If you could use just one word to describe the Pass Mountain Trail, it would be rocky.
A good two-word description would be really rocky. Then again, that
description could also fit just about any hiking trail in the state of Arizona.
At one point on the hike Joe mentions his son, who had considerable hiking
experience while living in Arizona. After living and hiking in a couple of other states
for several years and then returning to Arizona for a short vacation, which included
some hiking, he suddenly remembered just how rocky Arizona trails are.
But in addition to being rocky, the Pass Mountain Trail also offers some of the best
overall desert scenery and breathtaking views to be found anywhere in southern
Arizona, especially along the northern and eastern stretches of the loop trail.
Outside of Saguaro National Park near Tucson, the west side of this loop trail offers
sweeping vistas of some the largest and densest stands of giant Saguaros in
Arizona’s vast Sonoran Desert. We also encounter sprawling staghorn cholla
forests as we move further up the trail. A forest of chollas? Absolutely.
As we steadily work our way north on the trail, along the western slope of Pass
Mountain, we begin to encounter numerous switchbacks which carry us higher and
higher on the trail. But we also encounter the increasingly louder reports of gunfire
from the busy rifle range far below us and to the west. Thankfully, that slowly fades
away as we continue moving northward.
It’s just past noon when we reach the far north end of the loop and break for
And it’s here where the finest views on the trail begin to come into play.
From here and then later as we slowly make our way south down the east side of
Pass Mountain, we take in sweeping views of the mighty Goldfields (Ted’s home
away from home), the imposing and mysterious Superstitions, the sprawling Mazatzal
Range, terminating at its southern end in the landmark Four Peaks, Stewart Mountain,
Mt. Ord, and even farther out to the east the Sierra Anchas, overlooking the Tonto
Basin. This stretch of the Pass Mountain Trail is truly an inspiring Arizona
“Long” hikers on the east side of Pass Mountain.[photo by Dave]
Head ’em off at the pass. [photo by John]
Good Shephard stands watch east of Peak 3127. [photo by Dave]
From the east end of the loop and the pass, it’s almost all downhill.
On the flip side, however, the trail becomes even more rocky and rugged as we
continue descending along the eastern flanks of Pass Mountain. Short stretches of
this trail are covered in loose gravel and we have to pick our way through very
carefully to avoid a disastrous wipe-out and a potential search & rescue, in
addition to a possibly embarrassing and unwelcome segment on the six-o’clock
evening news. At one point on the descent we all take a much-deserved break on a
long stretch of slickrock, nestled up against the base of soaring green and yellow
lichen-covered cliffs this spectacular mountain is famous for.
Here I confer with Michael, and we both agree that we have roughly two more miles
of trail to complete before we can officially call it a day. That last mile or two of trail
always seems to take the longest, and this is certainly going to be no exception.
So we bravely soldier on and continue to carefully navigate the final home stretch of
trail. At 2:00 PM the entire contingent of 13 Pass Mountain long-haulers is back safe
and sound at the Meridian Trailhead, where our vehicles patiently await us.
Chowing down at the Red White and Brew. [photo by Dave]
Chowing down at the Red White and Brew. [photo by Dave]
Most of the group heads for the closest Red, White, and Brew for eats and libations,
while a few hikers opt to head home. It’s been another great day for hiking
the always amazing trails of Arizona. Is this state a hiker’s paradise, or what?