Usually around this time I have a full list of hikes to tackle for the year, an ambitious list of mountain peaks and waterfalls and other remote areas. A list focused on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, that is. It has been hard to get as excited for Arizona hikes. I've mentioned several times that I miss UP exploring, that the hot desert was a poor replacement for wild roams through thick woods, and it seems to have trickled through to my normal planning process. To some extent - I still have a few ideas rattling around for 2015.
One chunk of land that has begun to distract me is the Supersition Wilderness. The wilderness is huge (160,000 acres, almost 10x the size of the McCormick Tract) and includes mountains, mesas, and deep canyons. And it is not a crowded place, at least not compared to Camelback or other Phoenix hikes.
I'm still trying to fully comprehend all that land. I've hiked a few sections on the far west end, the end uncomfortably close to Phoenix, and am just starting to look further east. The highpoints around Boulder Canyon look interesting (Weavers Needle, Malapais and Battleship Mountain) as well as the ridiculously steep Fish Canyon. There's a lot of land there, with miles of trails and a lot more destinations in between trails, and I'm sure I'll be setting my sights to the lands around Haunted Canyon soon enough.
Slightly closer to my house in Gilbert is the western mountains of Sierra Estrella. This range huddles from Phoenix and Scottsdale behind South Mountain and probably escapes most people's attention. It isn't terribly remote, ten miles from Phoenix and only five from US-10, but there are few trails on it. Few trails mean few hikers.
There is a problem with the Sierra Estrella range. It is rather large, some thirty miles from end to end, and there is a wilderness area that holds about a fourth of it. The rest is in the Gila River Indian Reservation. Very few spots on the range are considered to be legal visits. Which is one of the reasons it caught my eye as a potential spot to explore.
North of Phoenix
And then there is always the woods and mountains north and east of the Valley of the Sun. Around Phoenix it is all desert, even on the few high spots I've been so far up around 5000'. Yet I've heard that there are legitimate forests within a few hours drive. One day I'd like to reach out of the desert and find some of these more traditional hiking spots, if only to get a break from the cacti and desert sands that seem to surround me on all sides.
This is where things get more ambitious. Chris and I have been bouncing around the feasibility of doing a rim-to-rim-to-rim hike this fall. We wouldn't try to do it in a single day (not yet, anyways), probably go for a three day weekend and camp next to the Colorado River. Both of us have a lot of training to do to get our bodies up to the task of descending and climbing the 7000' or so canyon with full packs.
Yes, back to Michigan. If things are going well this summer/fall and Katie can handle things back here with two kids I'm hoping to return to Michigan for a week on Isle Royale. A long week. Just looking at maps I would like to do a loose loop of the island, head one way on Minong and the other on Greenstone, and depending on time I may play around on the Feldtmann Ridge a bit.
Exploring the island would be a big step for me. I'd need to be prepared, both with gear and physically, to spend a good eight days away from civilization. I'll need to be able to haul all my gear around everywhere I go. And if the bugs get too bad or I start getting blisters or it rains nonstop… I'll just have to deal with it. Right now it's easy to brush all that aside for the chance to return to the wilds of Michigan.
There are some other destinations that Chris and I have chatted about on our hikes. We'd like to explore more of Four Peaks, head west to White Tank Mountains, descend the canyons of Lake Havasu, and even climb the highpoint of Arizona: Humphreys Peak. It's just hard to settle on specific destinations with two kids and busy jobs. One way or another, though, I'm going to keep on hiking, even if it's in the desert.