The Friends of Ironwood Forest invite the public to participate in a free Hike the Monument event Saturday, Nov. 4 at Ironwood Forest National Monument, near Marana. Participants may see endangered plants, desert tortoise, desert bighorn sheep, petroglyphs and more on educational hikes led by volunteers such as University of Arizona geologists and naturalists, a Saguaro cacti specialist, an Arizona Native Plant Societybotanist, archaeologists and experienced hikers.
“The Friends of the Ironwood Forest organize the annual Hike the Monument event to encourage Southern Arizonans to enjoy the Ironwood Forest National Monument which is a microcosm of the Sonoran Desert with rare flora and fauna and a dramatic landscape,” said Tom Hannagan, president of the Friends of Ironwood Forest Board of Directors.
The Ironwood Forest National Monument is recognized for its rugged scenery, biological diversity and cultural legacy. The Monument, located about 25 miles northwest of Tucson and spanning about 129,000 acres, contains several desert mountain ranges, cultural and historic sites covering a 13,000 year period, and many threatened and endangered species including Nichols Turk’s head cactus, lesser long-nosed bat and desert tortoise. The Ironwood Forest National Monument is part of a system of National Conservation Lands that includes some of America’s most important natural, cultural and historic treasures.
“Hike the Monument is a fun day to learn more about the importance of this Monument, enjoy the cooler weather and meet other people interested in the outdoors,” said Jim Avramis, a member of the Friends of Ironwood Forest Board of Directors.
This event is conducted in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management (which manages America’s conservation lands), Arizona Native Plant Society in Tucson, University of Arizona faculty and Old Pueblo Archaeology Center in Tucson.
WHO: Open to the public
WHAT: Hike the Monument at Ironwood Forest National Monument
WHEN: 8:00 a.m. meet at the Marana Regional Airport. Return to the Marana Airport by 3 p.m.
WHERE: Meet at the Marana Regional Airport, 11700 W. Avra Valley Road.Located 5 miles West of I-10 and Avra Valley Road, exit 242.
SIGN UP: Ironwoodforest.org
WHAT TO WEAR: Dress in layers, appropriate for the weather; wear sturdy shoes, hat, sunscreen; and bring water, snacks, lunch, and a camera. There are no restrooms or other facilities available on the hikes. Restrooms are available at the Marana Airport.
ABOUT THE HIKES:
1. Cocoraque Butte Archaeological District Hike – moderate terrain but challenging hikes to see most of the petroglyphs up close
Join Allen Dart, Old Pueblo Archaeology Center, accompanied by Gordon and Lin Hanson, Saguaro National Park West Environmental Educational Ranger and Archaeology Preservation Volunteer, in co-leading this educational hike. This area is one of the abundant rock art and other archaeological objects of scientific interest sites within the Monument. Humans have inhabited the area for more than 13,000 years. At least 150 sites from the prehistoric Hohokam period (ca. A.D. 650-1450) have been recorded in the area. Expect unusual petroglyphs that you may not have seen before and bring your camera. Expect moderate rocky terrain on this hike. The trek from the parking area to the petroglyph sites is a relatively flat and easy hike. Getting up to the petroglyphs area will be challenging for some hikers because one needs to scramble up and around boulders and bedrock on a 120-foot-high butte to see many of the petroglyphs.
2. Nature Hike – easy terrain/family oriented
An easy paced 3 mile (or so) hike. Learn the natural wonders of the Sonoran Desert and about the geologic and topographic variability that contributes to the area’s high biological diversity. The Waterman’s are a rare limestone uplift in the Sonoran Desert. Walk along with naturalist and botanist Ries Lindley, Arizona Native Plant Society, and co-leaders Rachel Feuerbach, U of A geologist, Bill Peachey, geologist and Saguaro specialist, and Bill Thornton, the cacti recognize him. This is a family oriented nature hike, children are welcome, in the vicinity of the Waterman Restoration Site off of Avra Valley Road. The Nature Hike generally ends well before 2pm.
3. Waterman Mountain Elephant Trees Botanical Hike – moderate/steep
This adventurous and fun, moderate to slightly difficult, hike covers about 3.5 miles round trip, walking on loose rocks in steep terrain. Accumulated elevation gain is about 650 ft. Drew Milsom, University of Arizona, is leading this hike. We follow an old steep road in the Waterman Mountains to find the Elephant Trees and endangered Nichols Turks Head Cactus. The Waterman’s are a rare limestone uplift in the Sonoran Desert. There are lots of great plants to discuss along the way, as well as opportunities to view the unique geology of the mountains.
4. Ragged Top Peak Adventure Hike – difficult/steep/loose footing/rock scrambling – for experienced and capable hikers
Jim Avramis, Friends of Ironwood Forest, will lead this hike. We will start our ascent from a trail head at the east base of Ragged Top. From the parking area we hike up to the saddle between Ragged Top and Wolcott Peak (south and east of Ragged Top), then around and up to a high second saddle on the south side of Ragged Top. The climb to the second saddle is steep with generous amounts of scree and vegetation. From here we go up a steep chute/slot, thick with vegetation, which takes us up to the base of Ragged Top’s peak. The final ascent to the peak is very steep, climbing up a very narrow ridge with severe drop-offs on both sides. This final ascent is described as a class 2 – 3 rock scrambling effort. At the top we will have hiked about 1.7 miles with an elevation gain of over 1600ft. The views at the top are incredible and the area at the top is larger than it appears when looking up at it. Now, we have the descent and return to the trail head before us. The descent is steep. At times, throughout the hike, vegetation is thick, difficult to avoid and rarely without thorns. This is a rugged adventure hike just to get up to the second Saddle.