Eric, daughter Shanice, Doug, Dan, David, Beth, Rudy, Rob & Sophie,
Michael, Debbie, and
Eileen, with photog and hike leader Chuck Parsons hiding
behind the camera lens as usual.
On a sunny and delightfully cool Saturday morning in late February we are
about to embark on a scenic 7.5 mile loop hike through the very heart of
the White Tanks.
Before starting we pose by the Mesquite Canyon Trailhead sign
in White Tank Mountain Regional Park, located at the far western edge of
the valley. Sophie is anxious to hit the trail running on all four legs.
You gotta be kidding!
We have to hike all the way up there?
About two-thirds of the way through the Mesquite Canyon Trail we struggle up
a steep, rocky section, prominently marked on the trail map as “not
suitable for equine use”.
OK for us hikers, but apparently a bit too treacherous for horses, thank you.
The orange fencing material about half-way up the trail on both sides marks
a new trail being cut through this section and is clearly marked with large
“Warning – Keep Out” signs.
We observe several new trails on today’s hike in various stages of
construction, opening up brand new areas to explore on future hikes in the
You can do it Michael! [photo by Chuck]
Nearing the top of the ridge, Debbie beckons the rest of us onward and
upward with an encouraging wave.
At the ridgeline we take a short breather, before continuing on for another
quarter-mile to the Ford Canyon Trail junction, where we will break for lunch
and a long rest.
The junction of the Mesquite Canyon and Ford Canyon trails marks the highest
elevation (2,620 feet) on this loop hike.
Having hiked a total of 3.2 miles from the trailhead, we have gained 1,230
feet of elevation.
That may explain why we are all getting a bit tired and hungry.
Time to pull up a big rock and chow down, boys and girls!
Somewhere along the Willow Canyon Trail, Michael and Rudy examine the rusted
remains of what we assume to be an old mining site, complete with twisted
coils of rusty barbed wire and an old iron bed frame, half-buried in the rubble.
After a lot of speculation, Michael finally concludes this was either a trap
for the mysterious and elusive White Tanks Jackalope, purported to be the size
of a large javelina, or some sort of contraption for hauling barrels or drums
of water and other supplies.
A beer barrel hauler, perhaps?
Only the nearby giant saguaros and surrounding hills know for certain, and
they are not speaking today.
What do you suppose this was, Rudy?
C’mon, Michael, I can’t hang on much longer!
As we continue making our way east along the Willow Canyon Trail,
Debbie spots this huge boulder and decides it would make a great vantage
point to search for the elusive white tanks.
She slowly scans the area in vain, looking for any sign of the tanks,
before Michael comes along to assist her.
A serene reflection pool lies deep in the heart of the White Tanks.
“Where the heck are these white tanks anyway, Chuck?
I still can’t see a darn thing, even from up here.
Maybe they should re-paint them, so they are easier to spot.”
At last, we find the real thing: one of the signature pools of water or
“tanks” that these mountains are named after.
Created over countless eons of time by the powers of weathering, erosion, and
monstrous flash floods, raging torrents of debris-laden water roar over high
cliffs, smash into the rocks below, and slowly scour and carve out solid rock
at their bases.
The larger tanks can be up to ten feet deep and may hold water for most of
the year, creating a lush mini-oasis such as this one, surrounded by hot,
We take a short break and photo opportunity at this cool oasis, before
continuing on the last leg of our journey back to the trailhead.
The urban sprawl of the far western edge of the valley lies below the return
trail, slowly inching westward like an advancing sheet of ice that stretches
all the way to the mountain ranges on the far eastern horizon, some still
capped with a fresh mantle of late winter snow.
Civilization creeps closer and closer to the base of the White Tanks.
What was raw virgin desert only a few years ago has since been bulldozed into
oblivion and manicured into neat, tidy rows of streets, sidewalks, houses,
apartments, offices, and shopping centers.
This vast, seemingly endless desert of our grandparents that contained small
pockets of development has gradually and tragically become a vast, seemingly
endless urban sprawl that contains small pockets of natural desert.
Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, one of the premier deserts of the world, is
currently vanishing under a sea of concrete and asphalt at the rate of over
10,000 acres per year.
Pictures, videos, and a few scattered parks and preserves will be the only
reminders for future generations of the rich natural environment that once
dominated southern Arizona.