I was introduced to Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area in late 2012. I have seen the former dude ranch become a part of the Maricopa County Parks System as the 2154 acres of Sonoran Desert joined the other parks in the Regional Parks System. The park has an interesting history, the dude ranch site was eventually all but stripped of the buildings and the park is returning to the natural desert from which it came. The view above is from the Spur Cross Trail and is a shot of appropriately named Elephant Mountain.
Our hiking club was introduced to Ranger Kevin in previous hikes. Our last hike with Kevin can be found here. Much can be learned by a Ranger-led hike. I recommend checking a location’s website to see if there are hikes where rangers accompany the hikers and describe points of interest along the way. Don’t expect these hikes to be fitness hikes. The goal is education, not calorie burn. In the photo above, Ranger Kevin points out that the unique indents on the rock are actually very early Native American petroglyphs. Funny, I’d have just guessed it was some kid playing with a hammer and a rock. Shows you what I know, and what I learned.
The photo above is of a more typical (and more recent in historical time) example of a petroglyph. Native Americans left these signs of their presence throughout the Valley of the Sun. Many of the parks feature areas with these rock drawings.
The conservation area features some beautiful scenery so while we listened to Ranger Kevin, it was easy to capture some images of the nearby mountains.
Probably the best advantage of a ranger-led hike, however, is the ability to bypass signs like the one above. This trail is off-limits to hikers unless accompanied by a ranger as it leads to some archeological sites. There are several Native American residential clusters in the area, some have been surveyed quite thoroughly for artifacts while others still remain relatively untouched. We visited both types of sites on our hike.
They may look like they are just piles of rocks, but stand back a bit and you can see they are the remnants of rock walls that surrounded living areas. The area in the above photo has been surveyed for artifacts, where the relatively untouched area has pieces of broken pottery and other artifacts just “laying around.” Unfortunately for historians, in the days when this property was a dude ranch, the owners told guests about the Indian souvenirs that could be found in the hills. I’m sure many items of historical import went home or were damaged or destroyed by those souvenir hunters.
One of my favorite images from this hike is this view of a saguaro cactus that appears to want to give everyone a hug as they walk underneath its outstretched arm. The gallery of images below features more of the views discovered on our archeology hike. In most browsers, you can click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.