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White Tank Canyons Day Hike
White Tank Mountain Regional Park
January 21, 2006
by Chuck Parsons

On a beautiful and sunny Saturday morning in mid-January, five Arizona Trailblazers, along with three very eager four-legged companions, gather near the Mesquite Canyon Trailhead before starting on our hike through the heart of the White Tank Mountains, located at the far western edge of the valley. From left to right: hike leader Chuck Parsons with Buddy, Mike Andresen with Zeke, Beth Baumert, and Sharon Strong with Reggie.

Photographer Lyndon Tiu is hiding behind the camera lens.

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Chuck, Buddy, Mike, Zeke, Beth. Reggie, Sharon

We had originally planned on a 9.3 mile hike, but decide to shorten it a bit for the dogs, so opt for a 7.5 mile hike instead by driving to the second trailhead on the Mesquite Canyon Trail. We will follow the Mesquite Canyon Trail due west for several miles, before linking up with a 4.1 mile loop trail that will put us back onto the Mesquite Canyon Trail and then back to the trailhead.

The Mesquite Canyon Trail is a steady uphill grind from the base of the White Tanks along the south side of Mesquite Canyon to the junction with a 4.1 mile loop trail.

We decide on a clockwise hike around the loop trail, which continues through Mesquite Canyon on the south end, links up with the Ford Canyon Trail on the west end and then the Willow Canyon Trail on the north end. The White Tanks Regional Park map had warned of a hazardous section about half-way in on the south leg of the loop trail, describing it as “Not recommended for equestrians and mountain bikers. Hikers must use caution.”

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We made it to the ridge.

Since there are no horses or bikers among us, and we always exercise normal caution and prudence on the trail, we are not overly concerned.

The hazardous section actually turns out to be a fairly steep boulder field that runs uphill for several hundred yards, before topping out on the ridge shown in this picture.

It’s a tough scramble, but all two and four-legged hikers make it to the top okay. Fortunately, we will not have to hike back down through these boulders on the return trip.

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Now we’ve climbed all the way to the Ford Canyon Trail.

With the west end of the vast Phoenix Basin stretched out below us and the steep boulder field now behind us, we continue climbing steadily along the Mesquite Canyon Trail until we finally reach its junction with the Ford Canyon Trail.

Here, at the highest point of our hike today at 2,880 feet, we take off our packs and sit down to enjoy a lunch break and the surrounding scenery of the rugged White Tank Mountains.

We have just completed the toughest part of the hike, having climbed 1,200 feet in 3.2 miles. The rest of the trail is all downhill from here.

During the return hike after lunch we take a short spur trail somewhere along the Willow Canyon Trail and discover our first “tank,” which gives this small mountain range its name. Having gone for over three months without measurable rainfall and facing record drought conditions in the deserts of southern Arizona, this tank is probably one of the very few left in the White Tanks still holding water.

These so-called tanks are natural basins carved out of solid rock over thousands of years of time by the erosive powers of falling water. During periods of heavy rainfall great volumes of water gush out of the V-shaped opening in the upper rock wall, forming a temporary waterfall that fills and continues to carve the basin, or tank, below. here are many of these tanks sprinkled throughout the White Tanks, some as deep as ten feet or more.

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Mountains named for these tanks.

Although this tank is rather murky and uninviting, with debris and flotsam floating around on its surface, others are cleaner and become great swimming holes during the hot summer months. Our four-legged companions certainly think this tank makes a great swimming hole and are quite reluctant to leave.

Sharon and Reggie take a break on a large slab of gneiss overlooking the tank in the previous picture. These larger tanks are like a mini oasis in the desert, with a semi-permanent pool of water surrounded by trees and shrubs. They provide water, shade, and a cool and quite refuge for animals, as well as weary hikers, seeking relief from the searing summer heat.

We take a long break here at the oasis, and our canine companions love every minute of it.

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Sharon and Reggie

Though it is tempting to linger, we finally decide to move on and make our way back to the trailhead, since we still have a few miles of trail to cover. This has been an absolutely perfect day for hiking, and the rest stop at the tank has served as a major highlight of the day.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated September 13, 2015