Hiking (if you can call it that) in the Agua Fria National Monument

Today was not a good day for a hike.

I went to bed last night to clear skies, the kitchen countertops spread with prepartions for an early start for our outing.  Even a simple day hike requires a lot of work beforehand when I’m packing for myself and four kids.  Food, of course, plenty of water, a change of clothes, a beach towel for everyone, maps, guidebooks, binoculars, first aid supplies — it was all ready.  I’d even made muffins so that our breakfast would be hearty but quick. 

I woke up to low, grey clouds which blotted out the sun. Still, I had hope that all my preparations the night before were not in vain. Anyone who has lived in Phoenix for long realizes that 80% chance of rain means that reality will be in that dry 20%.  I kept expecting the morning sun to warm and for those clouds to blow away, leaving a clear, beautiful day for our trip.  It never happened.

But, I’m hardheaded.

We headed north of Phoenix on I-17 to exit 256, Badger Springs Road, which is just north of Sunset Point.  Semi-recently, I had seen a kiosk erected, along with a dirt parking lot.  I thought, “Must have been a new trail put in.” Well, it turns out that it, “Must have been a new National Monument put in.” The Agua Fria National Monument, in fact.  71,000 acres of scenic semi-desert grassland, riparian area, mesas and canyons, and over 400 archaeological sites.

In my trusty hiking guide, the very valuable 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles — Phoenix, the Badger Springs Wash Trail looked perfect for my crew.  Relatively flat, relatively short, running alongside a creek, with a big scenic payoff as the creek empties into the Agua Fria River.  Another plus for a mom with four kids is the well-maintained pit toilet near the trailhead.  The book also said that trail usage was “light,” and I favor hikes where we don’t encounter other people.  (It turns out that we saw four other parked vehicles, observed three other moving vehicles, and encountered one other hiking couple on the trail.  All of that on a rainy, winter weekday.  Doesn’t sound like much, but to me, that’s crowded.)

After about a 45 minute trip in the truck, we pulled into the National Monument.  We had to travel about a mile down dirt road to the trailhead.  It was a spooky mile.  There had been a fire in the area about 2.5 years ago, and the desert is slow to recover.  Dead, dying and blackened flora was interspersed with the normal winter hibernation of most of the other plants.  It didn’t bode well. 

The good news was that, in the end, we all agreed that this would be a perfect hike when the weather was warm.  Trouble is, the weather was not warm. 

For about the first 1/10 of a mile, all of us were eager to hit the trail, even though the wind was blowing, and rain was intermittent.  We oohed and ahhed over the unusual conglomerate boulders (and possibly petrified wood boulders) and the crossbedding in the stone along the trail, all the colors made deeper and brighter with the sheen of rain.  The boys scrambled up rocky outcroppings and collected sturdy sticks for swords.  Even 22-month-old Audrey, who would normally be content if I carried her for the entire length of a hike, was eager to walk by herself.



But then… the light rain started to seep through our jackets and doubled-up shirts.  Even our hats were pretty well soaked through.  Added to that, a stiff breeze and a few missteps in the rain-swollen creek led to some really unhappy hikers.  Exept Grant.  Eight-year-old Grant is my most willing, energetic, happy hiker, all the time.  He always has to be called back from forging too far ahead on the trail, and never complains of tired feet or scratchy bushes.  Contrast that with six-year-old Wesley, who was a sorry sight with his runny nose and frequent whimpers, lagging behind. 

About 6/10 of a mile into the first leg of the hike (which only totalled 7/10 of a mile), I made a decision that we had to turn around.  Bummer.  We were literally just around the corner from the confluence I was so eager to see (Grant had scouted it out and saw it), but my heart went out to Wesley, who was completely miserable.  Audrey was OK, Ethan was OK, though I could tell that he wasn’t totally happy, as he started getting snippy with our dog, whom he had on a leash.

So, we got back to the truck, extracted ourselves from our wet clothing, wriggled into the dry stuff, sat in the truck and ate an early lunch as the rain picked up.  As much as I hate to leave things unfinished — I hate the feeling of “so close, and yet, so far” — I admitted to the kids that it was a good thing we turned around.

We drove back, the kids happier than I, but all of us pleased to be watching the rain from the inside of our vehicle.


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on February 22, 2008, in Arizona, Homeschooling, Life in the Desert, Loving Nature!, The Kids, Weather. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. You have so much great info on Arizona here. I love it! I will have to go there sometime.

  2. P.S. – Have you seen that APS commercial with the weatherman? It’s so funny! “It’s hot, hot, hot. Isn’t this yesterday’s forcast?” He asks. It’s great.

  3. Hey, it looks just like the Wild West out there! Wait, it IS the Wild West!

    Hopefully you’ll get to go back sometime when the weather is nicer.

    Out of curiosity, do you have to be on the lookout for snakes and other scary creepy crawlies on hikes in places like that, or do they hear you coming and run, or slither, out of the way?

  4. Ah, well… summer’s not that far away. Maybe it will go better next time. Kudos to you for giving it a go though!

  5. Debbie/RWM ~ I have seen that commercial! It’s very apropos for where we live, eh?

    Mrs. N ~ Yes, we are in the Wild West! Sort of. It’s not hard to find, anyways. We do plan to go back out in a couple of weeks with my Stepdad to go for a hike and see some of the wildflowers. This is the first winter/spring in three years that there’s been enough rain for the desert flowers to sprout in abundance. I can’t wait!! We do have to be on the lookout for snakes and things. But, honestly, I’ve seen a snake ONCE in about, oh, 30 hikes. Though, I’m not as good at spotting as my husband is. The way I figure, every climate/location has its share of dangers. Ours seem more scary, I think, because they’re more uncommon… the things of those Wild West stories, like rattlesnakes and scorpions. 🙂

    Michelle/Childlife ~ Your comment made me LOL. You can’t hike here in the summer!!!! Well, not in the desert. Summertime is filled with news reports of visitors crazy/ignorant/formerly-sun-loving tourists from the Netherlands who hike a desert mountain in midday with no water then have to be air evac’ed due to them passing out from heatstroke. Normally, winter is the best time for desert hikes, because of days such as today — sunny and in the low 70s.

  6. I came across your blog searching for this hike. Your account of the day made me giggle because I have been there before, more than once.

    Most recently freezing our tushies off out at the White Tanks the day after Christmas. LOL We got through the waterfall hike which got our blood flowing enough to warm us up but the picnic was abandoned due to gale force winds. We hurriedly loaded up in our cars and headed to the warmth of a family members home.

    I’m an AZ native. Currently living in Anthem. A friend of mine lives in Dewey. We just started looking for hikes between us so we can meet weekly while the weather is nice.

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