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Map of the Vineyard Trail

map courtesy of americansouthwest.com

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Hiking Buddy E and I finally had the opportunity to take a real hike together a couple of weeks ago. We chose the Vineyard Trail which leaves from a parking area at Roosevelt Lake, an hour plus drive from Gold Canyon.

Now here’s the thing about the Vineyard Trail: it begins with some rather steep climbing. In fact, we had to gain some 1100 feet in the first mile and a quarter of the hike. Being ‘of a certain age,’ and having a kind of hinky hip these days, this took some amount of effort for me. E., however, is a gazelle. The footing was nothing to be happy about either – lots of loose stones and small rocks on the well-maintained trail. Not much of a problem going up, more of a problem coming down that steep part. We were lucky that we were on the trail only a week after about 5 inches of rain fell. The path would have been a lot more slippery had it been very dry, I think.

Now you know the only negative thing I can say about this hike. Otherwise it was Perfect with a capital P. On the way up we enjoyed stunning views of Roosevelt Lake and the gracefully arched bridge that spans a part of it.

Vinyard trail with Elly, bridge from aboveRoosevelt Lake was created when Roosevelt Dam was completed in 1911. Both named for and opened by President Theodore Roosevelt, the dam was part of the Reclamation Act of 1902 which funded irrigation projects in twenty western states. The lake the dam created is 22.4 miles long and has a shoreline of some 128 miles. It holds a lot of water (1.6 million acre feet) and has a maximum depth of 188 feet. Best of all, it’s just plain beautiful.

Most of my attention and effort was given over to just getting one foot in front of the other on the steep climb, but I did notice (after E pointed it out) the lovely frost-bedecked moss, and the true succulents, which I have not identified. (help?)

Vinyard trail with Elly, moss with frostIMG_7269I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: people who think the desert of the southwest isn’t green just haven’t seen it.

Vinyard trail with Elly, radio towerThis was identified on our hike description as a ‘radio tower.’ To us it looked more like a white board – something of a mystery, but a good landmark nonetheless.

This was a real ‘bear went over the mountain’ hike. That means that E would reach the crest of a hill and call back down to me, “Bear!” meaning that she saw not the wished for distant view but another hill to be scaled. (“The bear went over the mountain, The bear went over the mountain, The bear went over the mountain, to see what he could see. He saw another mountain, He saw another mountain, He saw another mountain,and that is what he saw” – children’s song set to sing-songy tune).

At last, though, we reached a high point with a lovely view off to the south. The trail leveled out for a while as we walked along a crest.

Vinyard trail with Elly, view south At a certain point there was bit more of a climb and a turn in the trail and then, Voila!

Vinyard trail with Elly, Elly with 4 peaksSnow-bedecked Four Peaks looking much closer than I had thought it was. What a sight. We don’t get snow here that frequently, but the aforementioned 5″ of rain was snow on the mountain tops, and it stayed for almost a week. Four Peaks is a highly visible landmark from many parts of the Phoenix Valley, but I had never seen it from this particular angle before.

We’d been walking long enough to feel a little peckish. And as if on cue, the perfect picnic site presented itself: a saguaro forest.

Vinyard trail with Elly Saguaro forest

Our path led along the base of this handsome, ancient and undisturbed stand of cactus. We found an excellent flat spot and had a splendid meal in the shadow of these giants.

Vinyard trail with Elly saguaro forest from pathShortly afterwards the trail led sharply downhill. Thinking back on how tough the up had been, we decided not to penalize ourselves with another difficult climb back by continuing down. So, feeling a little sad that we had not reached the end of the hike (or anywhere near it, as it turned out; it’s 6 miles one-way and I calculate we hiked in only about 3) we began to retrace our steps. The views were, obviously, completely different on the way back and were even more beautiful than before.

As we got back towards the dam we saw the Salt river snaking down its valley, with the picturesque Route 88 draped over its shoulder.
Vinyard trail with Elly, Canyon LakeSoon we were presented with a terrific aerial view of the dam itself with the bridge in the background. Far in the distance you can barely see what I think is part of the White Mountains Range (or perhaps even Mt. Baldy?) – or I may be completely confused.

Vinyard trail with Elly Roosevelt dam, bridge, lakeThis photo gives an idea how steep the climb back down was – in many ways harder than going up. With the climb up the problem was simply catching one’s breath, going down had some tricky footing – so I spent most of my time looking down. Which was nice, because I saw some rather interesting rocks. This one got me wondering if it had been shaped by weather or by human hands centuries ago.

Vinyard trail with Elly stone This one looks like what I see in the mirror every morning. Just kidding! I love the juxtaposition of sharp cracks and rounded shapes.Vinyard trail with Elly rockI wasn’t sure I’d be able to walk up our driveway hill when we got home, but I did! And then made my way immediately into a hot tub of very hot water. At the end of the hike I said to E, “I don’t think I could do that one again.” But you know what? I’m ready! Let’s go this weekend!!