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2:51 AM Wed, Sept. 19th

Johnson: Canyon hiking at Lynx Creek

Column: Hiking Arizona

Lynx Creek. (Ted Johnson/Courtesy)

Lynx Creek. (Ted Johnson/Courtesy)

Riparian environments are distinct from adjacent uplands. Water is the obvious, but not sole distinguishing element. Sometimes that water is not on the surface, yet remains just as important.

Riparian trees (e.g. sycamore, cottonwood, willow) serve as reminders that there is more to the landscape than meets the eye. While, stream courses constitute only a very thin fraction of the landscape in Arizona, their influence, biological diversity and scenic appeal far outweigh the extent of their geographic scope.

They are my favorite places to hike. They are often the most challenging. Successfully hiking through these slots, gorges and arroyos requires a shift in thinking and Lynx Creek west of Fain Lake in Prescott Valley serves as a convenient introduction to hiking streamside.

TRANQUILITY

As I hiked along the trickling stream with the gentle sound of water, refreshing breeze and song birds, a gradual sense of calm overtook me. With each step, tensions seemed to simply fall off my shoulders and a feeling of tranquility grew. The stress of steep inclines was absent since the slope along this stretch of the creek is as gentle as the sounds floating through the air. No sweat. No worries. Only the rhythm of deep breathing with each step along the primitive path. Relax.

COLOR OF SPRING

Since we are hiking streamside, plants which characterize arid environments are the last thing we would expect. Yet, in Arizona, it doesn’t take much to bring cacti and running water side by side. All that is needed is a crack in a rock face, which allows the necessary accumulation of soil, seeds and water to give plants like Red Claret Cup Cactus a favorable foothold. Indian Paintbrush was also in bloom. Rather than in a crevice, it set down roots in the silty soil near the stream. It is one of the most widespread wildflowers in the West, so it is a good one to know, especially since it might also be edible.

TIMING

The driest months of the year in Arizona are May and June, so that’s the best time to hike in places that are prone to flooding. Therefore, this month I am offering a hike along Lynx Creek in cooperation with New Horizons Disability Empowerment Center in Prescott Valley. The hike is free, but space is limited. If interested, contact Mary Hesselschwerdt to register at mhesselschwerdt@nhdec.org or 928-772-1266. We will meet at the Prescott Valley Library for a prehike orientation at 9 a.m. on Saturday 12 May. We will carpool to the trailhead at Fain Lake by 9:30 a.m. and hike for about an hour. You can also contact me at the email address here if you have questions.

LINEAR ROUTES

I sometimes hear hikers say they prefer hikes that involve a loop. They prefer not to hike back and forth along a single trail since the landscape is the same. Canyon hiking is generally linear hiking. This does not minimize the terrain you see, however. It actually increases it. Any trail you hike presents a different view in each direction. Simply stop and turn around to observe this fact. Hiking upstream along Lynx Creek I saw the cactus in bloom, but not on the way out. I saw the Paintbrush coming out, but not going in. You’ll definitely enjoy the views on this hike, as they will be new each step along the way inbound as well as outbound.

Next: Hiking Aravaipa Creek

Ted Johnson is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at sportsdesk@prescottaz.com.