I mapquested the distance and it said it was very close to a four hour drive. We left at 5AM. With bathroom and breakfast stops, it was closer to 5 hours before we were at the trailhead. We stopped at the visitors center and paid our 5$ entrance fees. We consulted with the ranger lady there. She suggested a slightly different hike than we had been planning. We were going to go out and back to the Heart of Rocks on the same trail. That would be a 7.3 mile hike. She suggested a loop instead that would take us through some additional scenic areas and would be 8.5 miles. Feeling like the Superwomen we are, we thought, no problem.
It was a beautiful day and a beautiful area. The air smelled so clean. Most of my photos are in open areas, where there are large vistas and views, but actually there was quite a lot of dense pine, oak and juniper woodlands that was quite shady and pleasant. The ranger lady told us we were going to get rained on. We felt very confident that we would be fine, especially after she didn't have any ponchos to sell us. Cindy says I have weather juju. We did get sprinkled on very lightly a few times, but nothing to bother us at all. After we were done, the heavens opened and the wind roared. We were very glad not to have been stuck on the trail in that. We would have quickly been miserable.
One of the cool things were the view that just went on forever. It was gorgeous.
The rock formations are from a millions of year old volcanic eruption. They were volcanic ash that formed into a mineral called rhyolite. They had cracks and layers in them at the time of their formation. Over the years, the forces of erosion have made them look a little like Bryce Canyon, only grey. One of the coolest things about them is the multi colored lichens all over them. Some of the lichens are neon green. None of my photos do them justice.
The formations are mostly in Rhyolite canyon in a couple of different areas. Here is one of our first views going in. Can you see how FAR the view goes? It's amazing.
At the balanced rock formation, you go off into a side 1.1 mile loop through what is called the Heart of Rocks. The trail had lots of ups and downs before, but this is even narrower, steeper and lots of rock steps. It is really cool though, to be down among these formations. They have given a lot them some fun names.
Lots of wildlife is in the area, but mostly we just saw lots and lots of these husky lizards. They are lots bulkier than what we see in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. And they have some cool collars on.
Cindy on one of the more wooded parts of the trail.
Beautiful vista across to the opposite side of Rhyolite Canyon. Which we were soon climbing, up, up and up. The whole trail had been up and down, but really wasn't bad. But somehow the last 3 miles of up, just about killed me off. I had to stop several times to catch my breath and let my pulse go back down a little. I was sore before we were even done. We ran into some people who were coming in the opposite direction on this hill. They said they had just passed a rattlesnake coiled on a rock a few turns ahead of us. Thank goodness we never actually came across that snake. I don't think I was capable of jumping out of it's way by that point.
But it was all so worth it. It was beautiful and I was so happy to have done it. I have always thought of myself as more of the slow and steady type when it came to hiking, but the last part was slow and dragging for me. Cindy was doing much better than I was.