I’ve had it in mind for quite some time to do a double summit of Shaw Butte and North Mountain.
North Mountain, as most people do it up the paved antenna farm access road, is no big deal. Basically, you go up, then you go down. Shaw Butte seems steeper, regardless of whether you do it clockwise or counterclockwise. Counterclockwise, up the semi-paved antenna farm access road, Shaw has four short, steep, ups, followed by a relatively mild down on dirt. Clockwise on Shaw, the dirt up is not a big deal, but the steepest up either direction is the final couple hundred yards. Then it is down on the semi-paved section.
There’s parking all around the Shaw Butte-North Mountain basin:
- 30 spaces, usually full, on Central Ave., just south of Thunderbird Rd., in Moon Valley.
- Space for ~50 cars in unmarked spaces on 7th Ave. in Sunnyslope.
- 200 spaces at the North Mountain Visitor Center (NMVC), across from the Sheriff’s Posse on 7th St., just south of Thunderbird. This lot has room for horse trailers. It has bathroom facilities and water fountains.
- A tiny lot at the foot of the North Mountain access road, which has 12 always packed spaces. In fact, I’ve seen people lined up on 7th St. at 0530 waiting for a space to open up, rather than parking a quarter mile north or south. Morons.
- 200 spaces a quarter mile south on 7th St., adjacent to the National Guard Armory. Parking here, does not add any distance or AEG to the normal route up North Mountain, though the first quarter mile is on dirt. It has bathroom facilities and water fountains.
Any of the lots would work for doing the Shaw Butte-North Mountain Double Summit. Avoid parking at Mountain View Park on 7th Ave. and Cheryl Dr. as there are a lot of homeless people there.
In addition to doing the double summit, I planned to do North Mountain via the much steeper dirt trail up its back side — a route which, by the way, I had to bail on, due to steepness (40°), four years ago when I was not such a studly hiker. (And then I had not hiked Shaw Butte first.) But I needed at least seven miles to hit my 50 for the month, and did not want to drive three hours each way to do something more interesting, as I needed the time to work on my Appalachian Trail: Crampton Gap to Harper’s Ferry hike from last Friday.
I got started 90 minutes late. At 0945 it was 59°. (Which is less than the Weather Channel claimed for Crampton Gap last week. ) No clouds, and air as clear as it gets in Phoenix. It’s not too exciting a hike, so I went into the “zone” as I headed out from the NMVC. I noticed a white truck in one of the saddles on Shaw Butte. Though, obviously, vehicles must use the road to access Shaw Butte’s antenna farm, I had never seen one up there before. So, I was hoping I’d get to see it when I got up there. But, like meeting a sports “hero”, the reality is usually dream crushing. (Portland Trailblazers? Fuck you.)
I steadily climbed up Shaw Butte’s access road. Just as I turned the last switchback, I saw the white pickup coming toward me. I politely stepped to the side, as there was no room for the truck to pass. I’m just that kind of guy: On the trails, I make way for everybody, be they on foot, MTB, horse or, I guess, motor vehicle. I got out my mobile and snapped a picture, then turned as the truck passed me and snapped another. I had just turned to resume my hike, when I heard the truck slow. I thought it was going 4low to deal with the steep slope. Instead, I heard an angry yell: “Excuse me!”
By way of background: I served 21 years in the U.S. Army, including tours in Grenada, the first Gulf War and, if you want to count it, Bosnia. I still wear my hair short. My shave was a day old. I was wearing hiking pants, a blue & gold “Cerveceros” (Milwaukee Brewers) shirt, and a ball cap. I was not wearing a burka. I did not have a long beard. I was not waving a RPG or shouting “Allahu Akbar!” (Once, let alone ululating it.) In other words, Jihadi Factor 0.
It was an APS truck. They are our electric company in Phoenix. Ostensibly, “APS” stands for “Arizona Public Service”. The driver was quite irate, yelling in a hostile and suspicious manner, “Why are you taking a picture of our truck!?” I was momentarily confused as the driver looked just like my brother-in-law. Then I realized, who the fuck died and made you Jesus Christ fucking CIA motherfucker? I curtly responded “Because I wanted to,” turned around and resumed hiking. I’m not going to get in a confrontation with some stupid Nazi motherfucker.
I got to the antenna farm at the top of Shaw Butte a few minutes later, and I see there is another truck up there. I wasn’t going to, but you know what? I took another picture of that truck, as well as the guys climbing on one of the antennas. APS? Fuck you.
So, from now on, APS stands for “Assholes & Paranoid Shitbags”.
After the summit of Shaw Butte, I stopped by the old Cloud 9 Restaurant ruins, to see if there was any fresh graffiti, but no such luck. There was some good stuff up there two years ago, but nothing new since last December. (Even the two new tags I found then have since been covered.)
I made good time down the dirt trail, passed by the 7th Ave. trailhead, crossed the flood control, and got on Trail #60, which curls around the southwest and south slope of North Mountain. I checked out an adit I remembered, but it only went in maybe 20 ft. It’s the only adit I’ve ever spotted in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, though there are test digs and prospects everywhere. (Probably a dozen alone on the small hill behind my house.)
Then the moment of truth: I faced the steep, slippery, trail up North Mountain’s backside. The one I had previously bailed on. Up I went. Slowly. Steadily.
I was maybe a third of the way up, when I saw a couple approaching from off trail. They had started down the way I was going up and wandered off trail into an even steeper drainage. That could have ended poorly. After I told them where they had been, and where they needed to go, we continued together up to the summit, discussing Cactus League baseball … between heaving breaths. Seriously though, my breathing was okay, despite the 40° angle, and I took a few 60 second breaks along the way. We went our separate ways near the summit.
After I tagged the antenna farm gate — traditional for North Mountain — I sat down for a longer rest, and to tweet my accomplishment. (Jillions of people hike North Mountain, and jillions more hike Shaw Butte, but doing both is uncommon.) While resting, some huge dude summited. He looked right at me, so I called out a friendly howdy. Asshole totally faced me.
I love Phoenix.
GPS File: Shaw_Butte_North_Mountain_Double_Summit
Distance: 7.67 mi.
AEG: 1,791 ft.
Time: 2h 50m