January 2008 The Deem Hills has a trail fairy! If you are one of the regulars up in the Hills, you’ve likely noticed that many of the trails are now much easier to follow than they were a year ago. We can offer thanks for the efforts of a hardworking person (or group?) who has been busy moving rocks and placing cairns to navigate through tricky sections. Our trail fairy has also designated one of the main trails as the “Rusty Angel Trail,” which is clearly posted with a beautifully crafted copper trailhead sign.
Geocachers have also been busy in and around the Deem Hills. At least eight different caches are posted on the internationally accessible network for GPS treasure hunt enthusiasts. The most recently posted cache is named “W. Deem Hills Pkwy,” just established on November 12, 2007. Back in March 2003, another cache was stashed and named “Dem Deem’s Finally Have a Cache.” Two others are named after Sandra Day O’Connor High School. (To learn more, register and log in at www.geocaching.com.)
Summit baggers have also left their marks in the hills, with logs left at the tops of high points in small jars. On the lofty 2098 foot summit of Deem Hills Ridge, six hundred feet up from the valley floor, the current log was first established on December 5th 2001. The jar is easy to find among the rocks beneath a desert lavender shrub, but you may want to bring your own pen. Since then, over a dozen parties have signed in to mark their achievement and comment on the splendid view.
These historical markers, along with flags, boulder graffiti and graduating class paint jobs are notable because as the area’s human population grows, so does the use of open space and trails. While the City of Phoenix is actively developing recreational facilities on the west side of Deem Hills, there are currently no plans for further trail development in this Desert Preserve by the City. It is up to the citizens to educate others and care for our open space!
To find the Rusty Angel trailhead, you’ll need to make your way to the end of Pinnacle Vista Road on the north side of the Hills. From the small parking area there, walk up a steep hill on the paved road that leads to a fenced water storage tank. Look for the Arizona-shaped copper sign posted on the south (left) side of the road near the top. Another major trailhead begins at the north end of Hackberry Lane in the neighborhood of Stetson Hills, but has no public parking and no trailhead sign. From both of these trailheads, you can access over five miles of beautiful, rocky desert trails.
Since May 2005, I have written a natural history column for a neighborhood newsletter published by Jennifer Moore called "Our Big Backyard: Natural History of the Deem Hills," and since 2010, "A Suburban Naturalist."All of these columns are reproduced here. Deem Hills is a City of Phoenix Desert Preserve located just north of Happy Valley Road in north central Phoenix, and just west of I-17. The Preserve and adjacent hills comprise over 900 acres of open space with several miles of hiking trails. For more perspectives from the Deem Hills and suburban Phoenix, also check out my companion blog, Kat Tracks.
As a naturalist with a special interest in botany and plant ecology, some of my greatest passions are to explore, photograph and write about native plants. If I can spark an awareness or interest in natural history in others along the way, that is my greatest reward.