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Silas_Sancona

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Some of the lofty views from a fantastic autumn morning spent exploring the upper portion of Devil's Canyon up at Oak Flat.  Was hoping to get down into this section of the canyon itself via a suggested access point but it appears, at least for the moment, the Telegraph Fire last summer erased a clear path from the top of the canyon, to the bottom. Isn't exactly the easiest route down the hill to begin with.

Regardless, took my time exploring the same section of the rim of the canyon awaiting clouds slung over the mountains when i arrived at sunrise to break. Unlike hikes out here thru the summer, wasn't alone either.. Great weather atm brought out lots of other folks eager to enjoy the tranquility of this sacred space and the other stops along Queen Creek between Superior and Oak Flat. 

While Monsoon season has long since ended and that fall feel is in the air, lingering storm events over the last couple weeks managed to drop enough rainfall up here to keep things greener than anywhere in the Valley. Noticed seedlings of winter/ spring stuff already trying to pop up in shady spots beneath various other plants.

As for the post- fire landscape?  resulting destruction of brush and tree cover is very obvious now, as is the ongoing recovery.  As mentioned elsewhere, it seems there is a predominance of Dodonaea, Green Hopseed popping up everywhere..  Any bright green " shrub " on the flats above the canyon, and on the slopes of the canyon itself is Hopseed.. I've seen it out here, but in such numbers is a bit of a surprise since this area can see occasional snow every so often. Even out east of Florence, at a lower elevation, Hopseed grows ..but isn't extensive in coverage ...at least from what i've observed where i have explored there.

Noticed Manzanita seedlings popping up in good numbers as well which is comforting since, with the ongoing drought and longer duration heat / shorter cool winter break of recent years, it is likely Manzanita becomes less dominant out here and in other lower mid elevation areas across the state as it begins to retreat to cooler and higher areas.  Large, all-consuming fires like the Telegraph only cause this to occur at a much faster pace, especially if they occur over the same areas in quick succession.  Hopefully that doesn't happen.

Unlike the trip to the lower half of the canyon, hike to this section is much shorter, though a little less straight forward trail-wise.. Some forks along the way that can take someone unfamiliar with the area off course.  Good rule of thumb is to study the main trail, and head toward the High Tension Towers strung across the west rim of the canyon.


Opening scenes...  Great skies, but they played with the lighting / colors a little more in some pictures than i'd have liked.


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Continuing onward...

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Views into the southern/ southwestern length of Devil's Canyon and across to the eastern rim. Lower access area i visited roughly the same time last year is approx. 2 miles south of my point of view.

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Post- Fire regeneration of Platanus wrightii,  AZ Sycamore down in the canyon.

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Random Manzanita skeletons

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First views into the north / northeast end of the Canyon, looking toward Iron Canyon before the sun came out.

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More views looking into the north end..
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Might be hard to see but the " road " that peeks out from the rock towers on right side is the U.S. 60

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Here comes the Sun...

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Closer up..

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North end..

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Wonder if there are any Trout down there..
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Interesting " Hoodoos " across the canyon above the eastern rim.   Which way will the boulder fall? ( Pictures 2 & 3 ) Whose daring enough to climb it?

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South end...

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.........

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Interesting landscape! All those vertical rock faces with the weathered layers, fascinating.

 

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Kim Cyr

Between the beach and the bays, Point Loma, San Diego, California USA
and on a 300 year-old lava flow, Pahoa, Hawaii, 1/4 mile from the 2018 flow
All characters  in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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3 hours ago, Kim said:

Interesting landscape! All those vertical rock faces with the weathered layers, fascinating.

 

:greenthumb: Thanks Kim!.. Definitely one of the state's ( ..and region's) hidden gems.  Unfortunately, the entire area discussed in this, and related threads here is under threat from a Copper Mine.  If it goes through, everything seen in all 4 threads concerning the area will be destroyed, including indigenous spiritual sites, etc.  

What will be left behind is a 2 mile wide crater approx. 1,000ft deep.  Watersheds which start up here, move water down towards underground Aquifers below the suburbs / open desert east of  Phoenix to the west.

Fight to save this area is far from over.

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Parting shots.. For now anyway..


Wait-A-Minute Bush / Cat Claw Mimosa.. " Brown on top / green on the bottom " bushes in view ( picture #2 esp. ) aren't showing signs of being top killed by an early, freak freeze or fire-related damage.. That is the look of a somewhat annoying ..if you get tangled up in it while hiking.. and strangely fascinating " tropical " plant growing within Arizona's version of Chaparral.


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Short, Dense, and Thorny ..almost to the extreme. ( what isn't naturally armed to the teeth here and in other dry tropical areas of the world, lol ) At the same time, flowers, seeds, overall cover provided are extremely valuable to wildlife. Because M. aculeaticarpa  can regenerate from the roots after fires, it also acts as a pioneer in burnt out areas ( one reason coverage is so dense in picture #2 ) and helps put valuable nutrients back into the soil, and slowing erosion of bare soil, while also acting as a " nurse tree " micro-climate refuge for other plants to grow, until old enough to face the harsher conditions of full exposure. 

Over time, where present in woodland and chaparral-habitat areas, Cat Claw Mimosa will eventually be over topped or penned in by other shrubs / trees and fade into the background a bit, awaiting another large fire to clear the land again. In areas where the " good " soil profile is thinner/ shallow, it blends in with grasses, various Cacti / other " Savannah "- type vegetation.

In the landscape, this is a very effective and imposing security barrier-type plant option that can tolerate just about anything. While rugged enough, there are other Mimosa sp. from S. AZ, Mexico, and Texas with larger, and/or more attractive flowers / foliage, more upright growth making sometimes " Waiting a Minute " while one untangles one's self from these plants, while tending to them, a little more worth putting up with...

Other views..


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Previously unseen Check dam.. Can see how installing these helps curb erosion / build new areas of land.

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Old Well?

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Saturday Company.. 

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As mentioned in the past, Oak Flat is a " Come and enjoy anytime " kind of camping spot that requires no fees.  There really are no " designated " camping spots, so accessible areas are first come / first serve..  The Flat serves as a gateway to Devil's Canyon, Apache Leap ( which overlooks Superior ) and, for the truly adventurous, is a gateway to Pinal Peak to the east, across Devil's Canyon, and Five Pools, a spectacular, but tough to access group of Plunge Pools carved into a steep section of the creek in the lower portion of Devil's Canyon.

Getting there is an estimated 8 hour hike that at times will require scrambling over boulders / rock ledges,  climbing and repelling equipment, esp. once at the pools themselves ( Access to the largest pool requires repelling down a 50+ft ledge. Another is a 10-20ft drop ) Access to Hackberry Creek, which leads to Five Pools may or may not be restricted by exploratory mining operations occurring atm as well.

If the area is saved from mining development / some funding for site development became available, i'd anticipate some level of  improvements would be suggested to the main area of the campground in the future. Being a cultural site, i'd expect improvements such any paving the main road through the campground, installation of bathrooms / modern bathrooms to be respectful of the location.

While maybe not quite as spectacular -or busy- as Sedona or Oak Creek,  the nice thing about Oak Flat / general areas around Oak Flat is ease of access for anyone in Phoenix,  east valley suburbs esp. ...Which is far easier than fighting near constant traffic backups / delays trying to get to places like Sedona / Oak Creek on HWY 17 between PHX. and Flagstaff. You're also right next door to the Superstition Wilderness ( North of the 60 ) and White Canyon Wilderness ( south / southwest of Superior ) and even more remote areas east of Globe.

On top of all the other significant negative outcomes w/ allowing mining operations the go- ahead up there, to forever loose access such a great recreational opportunities would be a shame.

Additionally, same Mining company ( Rio Tinto ) involved w/ mining here was charged with destruction of priceless 46,000 year old indigenous cultural sites in Australia. Majority of any Copper Ore that would be extracted from Oak Flat during the mine's suggested lifespan, should it occur, would go over seas, rather than be used domestically here in the U.S.

Food for thought..



A few views headed back downhill through Queen Creek toward Superior.  Driving distance between the entrance to Oak Flat and Superior is about 3.5 miles.


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 Flashback view of Apache Leap / Superior, AZ ( below ) from the August trip to the Flat.

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View along the U.S. 60 near Florence Junction ( Where the U.S. 60 and HWY. 79 meet ) looking west toward the San Tan and Sacaton Mountains/ East Valley suburbs of Phoenix ( San Tan Valley, Queen Creek, Gilbert, Chandler ). Distant Sierra Estrella Mtns. / wilderness vaguely visible on the far northwestern horizon ( right hand side of the picture ).

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