Yesterday while hiking the perimeter trail around Pass Mountain, I ran into a welcome sight. I was coming up to the saddle on the mountain’s west flank and there they were. Patches of golden California poppies, one after another for the next mile or so, hugging the trail like crazy.
I say “a welcome sight” because I’d sped along ground I’d covered before on the mountain’s southern side, not much interested. Just trying to complete the Pass Mountain Trail before dark.
By the time I hit the saddle and poppy heaven, the hike had taken me 3-4 miles from where I put in at the Tonto National Forest trailhead far to the east, at Meridian and McDowell. If I been looking only for wildflowers and had known where they were, I’d have struck out from the Wind Cave Trailhead in Usery Mountain Regional Park, coughing up the steep $6 a car fee. Or better yet, I would’ve tried to find the short trail off of Usery Pass Road.
Sometimes the unexpected has its own rewards. When you’re expecting something and have an idea what you want to see, the sensation is less, often much less. Sometimes you’re disappointed.
In addition to the poppies and a few other kinds of wildflowers, the saddle and the “hidden” north side of Pass Mountain offered grand views to the city of Fountain Hills and beyond to the majestic Four Peaks in the Mazatzals. And if you dare walk farther, as I did, to complete the loop, a view of the dramatic cliffs of the Superstitions appear at the east end, the cliffs a truly memorable view at sunset.
But those panoramic scenes will always be there. Today the poppies stole the show.