Showing posts with label Walking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Walking. Show all posts

Sunday, June 12, 2016


The first time I went to Arizona I was completely blown away.  Not  by the heat that greets you when you walk out of the airport...but by the surprising beauty of the desert.  Maybe I love the novelty of being somewhere that is seemingly the complete opposite of where I live.  Maybe it's the lack of humidity.  Maybe it's the different types of critters...although you will find rattle snakes both here and there.  Maybe it's the lack of "green" trees and the endless cacti and other super cool plants.  Possibly it's the extra cool view I get of Superstition Mountain from my brother's back yard.  When I'm there I feel like on a different planet.  I'm not totally convinced I'd want to live in Arizona all year long (I do love the beauty of the forests in Pennsylvania) but I do love visiting and spending time there.  

Morning sunrise over Superstition Mountain as seen from my brother's back yard -- June 6, 2016

I found myself in Arizona all last week.  Robin was already out there for business.. and I flew out to spend time with my two little nieces and my nephew.  It was super special to spend time with them...but I also found myself with a lot of free time each day while the kiddos were at their summer camp.  So, I packed a lot of water in my Camelbak, coated my self in sun screen, & headed out for a series of hikes.   Jake was also kind enough leave me his bike in case I wanted to get out for a ride...which, not surprising to anyone...I did.  Most people, I suspect, think of the desert as just a bunch of sand and empty space...but I found, in the desert, a different kind of beauty each day that I went out.

My desert bike ride on Jake's old Cannondale mountain bike.  You can see Superstition Mountain in the background -- June 7, 2016


Next to Michaux State Forest,  Lost Dutchman State Park & Superstition Mountain are probably my favorite places to be.  The park is named after a fabled lost gold mine...and no, I didn't look for, or find any, gold (heck...people die looking for that stuff).  The trails leading out of the park take you into the Superstition Wilderness and the surrounding Tonto National Forest...possibly one of the most beautiful places I've ever been too.  I took two separate hikes there last week.  On my first hike I took Treasure Loop Trail, Prospector's View Trail, and Jacob's Crosscut Trail to make a nice 3.1 mile loop.  (Map of Lost Dutchman State Park)    One of my favorite spots on the hike was near the Green Boulder.  At approximately 2,600 ft above sea level the views looking west towards Phoenix and south towards the endless mountains are amazing.  

The entrance sign for Lost Dutchman State Park.  In the background you can see Superstition Mountain.  You will pay a $7 dollar entry fee for the park...but it's worth it! -- June 6, 2016

Technically, the state park ends the moment you pass through the that point you are in Tonto National Forest -- June 6, 2016

Hiking Treasure Loop Trail near Superstition Mountain -- June 6, 2016

Treasure Loop Trail near Superstition Mountain -- June 6, 2016

At the intersection of Treasure Loop Trail and Prospector's View Trail you will find this comfy bench and take in the view of the surrounding area -- June 6, 2016

Looking south from the intersection of Treasure Loop Trail and Prospector's View Trail

Taking in the view from near the Green Boulder by Superstition Mountain -- June 6, 2016

I felt amazing after the first hike of my trip -- June 6, 2016

My second hike at Lost Dutchman was pretty ambitious.  I wanted to do the same hike as the first (but in the opposite direction)...and I wanted to add Siphon Draw Trail.  I hiked a bit of  this trail two years ago with Robin & Alex...but time and heat and lack of water forced us to turn back sooner than expected.  

David, Robin, & Alex Raymond on Siphon Draw Trail.  The flat peak on the top left of the  picture is the Flatiron -- January 23, 2014
With more water, almonds, and beef jerky with me than the previous hike I decided to trek up Siphon Draw Trail, past an area called the Basin, and see if I could reach the Flatiron.  As I passed the parts of the  trail that seemed familiar to me I began to realize that the Flatiron (with an altitude of 4,861 feet) would be beyond my I decided to hike as far past the Basin as I could, take a break, and make my way down.  Flatiron would have to wait for another day, but what I saw from my highest point above the Basin was beautiful.  

"Praying Hands" near Treasure Loop Trail -- June 8, 2016

Siphon Draw Trail -- June 8, 2016

Making my way up Siphon Draw Trail near the Basin -- June 8, 2016

Remnants of a storage room from when the area was an active gold mine.  Siphon Draw Trail -- June 8, 2016

I thought this dead cactus on Siphon Draw Trail was super cool -- June 8, 2016

My view from a few hundred feet above the Basin on Siphon Draw Trail -- June 8, 2016

A few hundred feet above the Basin on Siphon Draw Trail -- June 8, 2016


There is water in the desert...and I found it.  About 15 miles past Lost Dutchman State Park on Arizona 88 you will find Canyon Lake.  Canyon Lake is one of four reservoirs that were formed by the damming of the Salt River.  The trail head for Boulder Canyon Trail is located directly across the marina.  Again...a different kind of beauty that I wasn't expected to find in the middle of the desert.  My hike there was short (I didn't have a map with me)...but extremely peaceful & fun.  

A view of Canyon Lake from Arizona 88 -- June 8, 2016

Trail marker for Boulder  Canyon Trail -- June 8, 2016

Hiking Boulder Canyon Trail -- June 8, 2016

One lane bridge on Arizona 88 near Canyon Lake seen from  Boulder Canyon Trail -- June 8, 2016

Canyon Lake seen from the Boulder Canyon Trail -- June 8, 2016

Taking a break from my hike to soak it all in -- June 8, 2016

Trail head for Boulder Canyon Trail -- June 8, 2016


Back in 2009, on  my first trip to visit my brother in Arizona, I hiked South Mountain Park.  I think it was here (although now I prefer Lost Dutchman State Park & Superstition Mountain) that I first realized the beauty of the desert.  Before South Mountain was designated a park in the early 1900s various minerals were mined from the area.  Now it boasts over 51 miles of scenic and rugged trail for people who hike, ride horses, mountain bike, or just want a spectacular view of the city of Phoenix, Arizona.  On this trip, I began my hike at the second highest peak of the mountain, Dobbin's Lookout (2,330 feet above sea level), and made my way down Holbert Trail and parts of National Trail...enjoying every step I took.  

Looking down on Holbert Trail on South Mountain -- June 10, 2016

Holbert Trail -- June 10, 2016

Holbert Trail -- June 10, 2016

Holbert Trail -- June 10, 2016

A great view of the city below from South Mountain Park -- June 10, 2016

National Trail on South Mountain Park.  You can see the radio towers on the hill in the distance -- June 10, 2016

National Trail -- June 10, 2016

Flowering cactus on South Mountain -- June 10, 2016

I thought this was a pretty cool pic -- June 10, 2016

Dobbin's Lookout...Elevation 2,330 Ft. -- June 10, 2016

Checking out the view from Dobbin's Lookout -- June 10, 2016

Taking a break at Dobbin's Lookout before heading back to my brother's house -- June 10, 2016

Four hikes and a bike ride on this trip to Arizona.  Pretty successful trip!  Now it's back to Pennsylvania.  My next adventure starts on Tuesday -- June 10, 2016

Life is a journey, not a destination.

David A. Raymond -- June 12, 2016
Be sure to check out HIGHPEAKSHIKING.COM
Capping off an amazing week in the desert with my nephew, Isaac, and a little ice cream -- June 10, 2016

Here are the GARMIN stats and maps from a few of the hikes featured in this post...

Monday, May 30, 2016


In the early 1980s my mom and dad began taking my brother, Jake, and I camping at Rocky Gap State Park near Cumberland, Maryland.  During the summer months we seemingly went every weekend.  I loved it there.   Rocky Gap was just a short drive from our home in Bedford, Pennsylvania.  We spent our days playing on the beach and fishing in the lake.  My mother made incredible meals for us at the campground and each evening my dad would make a campfire.  The campfire was my favorite part.  My dad made mountain pies, my mom would make popcorn over the fire, and my brother and I would roast marshmallows and hot dogs.  Our camping trips ended in the late 80s when both my brother and I reached high school.   Our schedules were just too hectic.  That was the last I would see of Rocky Gap for 25 years.  

Rocky Gap State Park and campgrounds sits at the base of Evitts Mountain in western Maryland -- May 30, 2016
When I began dating my wife in 2010 I was surprised to learn that she like to camp.  I never would have guessed it.  Since we've been together, Robin and I have set aside Memorial Day weekend as time for us to spend alone.  On our first Memorial Day weekend together (2011) we took a weekend trip to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and Antietam Battlefield in Maryland.  In 2011, at the last minute, we decided to try to find a camp site somewhere.  We ended up camping in Caledonia State Park just west of Gettysburg, PA.  We had a nice weekend at Caledonia...and we did a lot of fun things...but it made me miss the camping trips that my mom and dad took me on as a child.  As soon as I arrived home I got on line and booked a campsite for Robin and I at Rocky Gap for the following year.  Since then, with the exception of last year, Robin and I have made a return to Rocky Gap a yearly thing.  

My campsite for Memorial Day weekend 2016 (and 2017!)  Site 54 in the Chestnut loop at Rocky Gap State Park, MD -- May 28, 2016
The campgrounds are just like I remember them...with one notable change:  cabins.  There are a total of ten of them in the camping loops (I already booked mine for next year!)  We've always tent camped...and I have really nice tents...but tent camping in the rain is zero fun. The cabin eliminates the "zero fun" factor and makes our trip so much more relaxing.  As a matter of fact, it rained a little last night.  I built a fire, put the chairs up on the porch, cooked dinner for Robin & I, and watched all the people in the tent sites around me scurry to cover their belongings.  I've never flown in first class...but I imagine this is what it feels like!

Trail Map of Rocky Gap State Park
Our hike from our campsite up Evitts Mountain and across the Mason Dixon Line into Bedford County, Pennsylvania -- May 29, 2016
One of the things that Robin and I love to do together is hike...especially when we go camping. The trails out of the campgrounds lead to one of the toughest hikes that Robin and I have done...Evitts Homesite Trail.  Evitts Mountain, which sits aside of the campgrounds is named after Mr. Evart who was, according to local history, the first white settler living in Allegheny County.  He apparently came to the area in the early 1700s to escape civilization and live as a hermit.  Hiking out of our camping loop, Robin and I began our day by navigating the 1.5 miles of rocky terrain aptly named Rocky Trail.  The trail is clearly marked with yellow blazes.  Just beware of the random puddles of stagnant water and downed trees.  My favorite part of the trail is the mountain laurel that is close to full bloom this time of year. 

Robin & David Raymond on Rocky Trail -- May 29, 2016

Mountain Lauren near full bloom on Rocky Trail -- May 29, 2016

Rocky Trail is marked with yellow's impossible to lose your way -- May 29, 2016

More mountain laurel lining both sides of Rocky Trail -- May 29, 2016

No hike would be complete without a few obstacles to navigate -- May 29, 2016

Rocky Trail will eventually intersect with Evitts Homesite Trail which is marked with white blazes.  Now the fun really begins.  According to my Garmin, Evitts' Homesite Trail will climb approximately 1,400 feet from this point to the Mason Dixon Line at the top of the mountain!  The trail is wide but changes from rock to mud to gravel to sand to ankle high grass throughout your trek to the top.  As you make your way up the trail. Mr. Evart's homesite is clearly marked.  Remnants of the homesite (stone walls, a well, and his orchard) are still visible and accessible...if you're not squeamish about ticks!  

A sign marking the entrance to Evart's Homesite -- May 29, 2016

Mr. Evart's well.  Don't fall in....seriously -- May 24, 2014

Remnants of stone walls near Evart's homesite -- May 29, 2016

Leaving Evart's homesite, Robin and I have another mile to go before getting to the Mason Dixon Line at the top of the mountain -- May 29, 2016
The next mile of the hike doesn't flatten out much...but the trip is worth it.  At the top of the mountain you will find a really cool fire tower (which I will climb someday) and an old Mason Dixon Line marker.  If you continue just a couple yards further you will reach a cut line in the mountain where a gas line runs.  The view from the top is absolutely breath taking! 

An extra cool fire tower on Evitts Homesite Trail just prior to the Mason Dixon Line -- May 29, 2016

On the left side of the trail you will see this entrance to the old Mason Dixon marker -- May 29, 2016

Hanging out on my home side (Pennsylvania) -- May 29, 2016

A not so old, but just as cool, Mason Dixon line marker on Evitts Homesite Trail -- May 29, 2016

The westward view from the gas line on top of Evitts Mountain -- May 29, 2016

Robin and I conquering Evitts Homesite Trail -- May 24, 2014

In all seriousness, two years ago,  Robin and I witnessed an incredible feat of human strength and courage.  A friend of ours, Lynn, who having just finished chemo and who just won her battle with cancer visited us while we were camping at Rocky Gap.  Lynn came with us that day (May 24, 2014) to hike Evitts Homesite Trail.  Lynn totally kicked that mountain's ass.  
Truly amazing.

Lynn Nichols -- May 24, 2014

This picture puts Lynn's accomplishment into perspective.  This is the road leading into the camp grounds at Rocky Gap.  Circled in red is the gas line cut out that is at the top of Evitt's Homesite Trail.  Amazing!  -- May 30, 2016

Lynn isn't the only person to visit us at Rocky Gap.  It's also been a tradition the past few years for my dad and Mary Jane to come for dinner around the campfire.  I think this is my favorite part the entire trip.  My father worked so hard for our family when I was young and somehow he found the time and energy to create great memories for my brother and I.  A lot of those memories were forged  here at this campground.  I'm so happy that, even though my mother is no longer with us, he and Mary Jane can come and share in the joy of this special place with us.  The only difference is now I am the one building the fire and making dinner.  Dad gets to sit and watch.   Thank you, get a well deserved rest.

Mary Jane, Dave, Robin, & David Raymond -- May 29, 2016

This year my step daughter, Mia (and her dog, Vader) came for dinner too!  -- May 29, 2016

Robin and Mary Jane Raymond -- May 29, 2016

Thank you for the memories dad, I love you!  David and Dave Raymond -- May 29, 2016

Life is a journey, not a destination.

David A. Raymond  -- May 30, 2016
Be sure to check out HIGHPEAKSHIKING.COM

Robin and David Raymond -- May 26, 2013