Monday, January 25, 2010
I drove out of Phoenix's northeast corner and headed north-northeast along route 87. After about and hour and fifteen minutes I arrived at the trailhead for the Pine Creek Loop Trail which leads to the Ballantine Trail. I had headed that way knowing exactly where I wanted to hike but certainly could not remember the name of the place. You see, about 6 or 7 years ago, I was out here on another work assignment and I spent quite a few mornings, afternoons and evenings hiking along the same trails. It was exactly as I remembered it when I arrived at the trailhead about 49 miles from my apartment. The temperature was fairly cool at about 50 degrees F, the sun was shining and there was a very slight breeze - perfect weather for a hike. I started out from the trailhead at about 2,240 feet and headed up the south portion of the loop. This is a steep climb, especially for an overweight middle aged guy like me who is out of shape and who was carrying about a 25 pound backpack. I have read accounts that this trail is easy, maybe if you start out on the much less steep north portion and return on the south portion. I started the other way around, and at least one other hiker who has written an online description of this trail agrees with me that taking the south portion of the loop going in is on the tougher side because it is a pretty steep climb. See the uppermost pic to see what it looked like looking down from about 3/4 of the way to the summit of the Pine Creek Trail, click on it to enlarge to see the truck on the highway below.
Regardless, I took the steeper trail going in. I got about 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile in and had to take a break for about 10 minutes, it was pretty steep and I am out of shape. Too bad I did not realize that the north loop was there and easier, I just did not remember it until I was well under way with the hike. As I hiked I remembered that the trail had another side to it and was a loop but it was too late I was committed to this side first. I got to the Ballantine Trailhead in about 42 minutes of actual hiking. I averaged about 2.14 mph over the 1.5 miles of that portion of the hike. Not bad for a fat old man going up such a steep hill with a 25 pound pack but I figure that if I actually stay here for another two months I will better that by about .75 mph. I was walking at a 2.85 to 3.0 mph rate on my hikes at Madera Canyon back in the spring (that is if memory serves me right). All it will take is that I continue with the hiking. After that I figure I hiked about .35 to .5 miles up to an elevation of 2,800 feet. I figured this using the same pace I made up the steepest portion of the Pine Creek Loop Trail but truth is I was walking faster now as it was easier going, so maybe it was .5 miles but I will be conservative and figure it at the same slower speed. I used a GPS to figure the elvation, not a real hiking GPS but one from my car. Then I took a nice long break and enjoyed the a quick lunch of a hard boiled egg, several macadamia nuts and a bottle of water. Along with lunch, I also enjoyed the scenery including deep dark blue skies, red rock formations, the cacti and ohe flora, snow covered mountain peaks and so on. While sitting there I thought I saw some movement among the rocks and sure enough, despite the pretty low temperatures, there was a lizard on one of the boulders soaking up some rays. I thought I had seen a lizard or two while hiking up the trail but only caught a quick movement out of the corner of my eye each time. Now I was sure I had seen those others, just not clearly. See the accompanying pic.
After about an hour or so at the spot where I decided to stop, I headed back down toward my car. I figured that a 3.5 mile hike or so would be good enough for me and that is what I figured I would complete once back to the car. My calculations later revealed it was closer to 3.7 miles, maybe even 4 that I had actually hiked. The trail down was much easier as almost all of it was downhill. This time I walked the north end of the Pine Creek Loop Trail and I have to point out it would have been much easier on me had I also chosen that way in and used the southern portion of the loop on the way out. Of course you can use just one to come and go on if you choose. If you chose the south trail both coming and going, it provides steeper climbing because some of it going out is also uphill. This is because on the inbound trip you climb to a small peak then drop down to Ballantine Trailhead. So you have to go up that short portion when going out on the south trail.
Hopefully I will keep up the hiking at least once or twice a week as I did when I was in Tucson. The exercise combined with my no junk food snacks diet really peeled the pounds off, too bad I did not stick with it once I was back in NY. This time I will try harder. Even if the pounds do not come off as much (since I only started hiking now after being here almost a month and I started right away in Tucson and had 4 months to lose weight when there as opposed the the two I have remaining here) it will be worth the effort for cardio and for getting out to see the lay of the land. It was truly a beautiful hike, and is only about 48 miles from the center of downtown Phoenix. As for the trail, it was pretty eroded in places and some of it passed over granite that was crumbling and wet so it can be slippery. It was also pretty muddy in places as the area had record rainfall last week. This left the two creeks, that you see on this hike, cascading down the mountain sides into the valley below, it also left parts of the trail pretty muddy and slippery but not too bad to walk on if you were careful. I think more rain has been promised for later in the week, so I expect trail conditions will be much the same if I get a chance to go there again on my next days off which are Sunday and Monday next week.
If you live in or are visiting the area and have never hiked this trail, I highly recommend it. I also recommend taking the Ballantine Trail much further than did I. It is a beautiful hike as remember from my trip out here several years ago when I hiked most of it several times and all of it at least once.
All the best,
The reason I am so doubtful that ammo prices will soon be falling is because ammo prices seem to be stagnant for some types of ammo, going up higher than ever for some other types of ammunition and because other types are just not available. The particular thing that brought this to my attention was that I have been finding it next to impossible to find .35 Remington 200 gr. soft-points at a reasonable price. The SportsmansGuide.com actually has this round from one manufacturer - Remington. They are going for $29.37 a box of 20 rounds, - plus shipping. This is up from the $22 - $24.00 per box that the same company was charging only a few months ago as I recall. It is also well above a 100 percent increase in price for the same type of ammo when I bought it just under 2 years ago for $13.97 per box, see here. That ammo was by Winchester, but was the same grain weight and usually sells within a buck or two either way of the Remington ammo. Folks let me repeat, that was less than 2 years ago! That is an amazing price increase, almost a 114% increase!
Now add that price increase to the fact that a place like SportsmansGuide.com also usually offers about 5 or 6 choices of ammo in that same caliber differing either by brand and or by grain weight (150 and 200 grains are typically available). If you go to the link for the available .35 Remington they have as of this writing, you will see they have only two types including the highly overpriced one, in my opinion, that I mentioned above. I went to some other sites to such as CheaperThanDirt.com, Natchez Shooters Supply. Cheaper Than Dirt offers 5 types of .35 Remington broken down to offerings from 4 manufacturers in 200 gr. and one offering from one of those same manufacturers in 150 gr. Only the 150 gr. (the less popular one as far as I am aware) is available from them. Natchez Shooter Supply also offers 4 brands in 200 gr. and one of those brands in 150 gr. They have the Hornady LeverEvolution at 22.24 per box, all the others are sold out. A few other websites had similar offerings or none at all in stock when it came to .35 Remington.
A quick check of several other websites who offer ammo for sale revealed that other even more popular ammo is also out of stock for the most part. Lots of them advertise 7.62x39 but are out of stock on most of the types they offer. AIM Surplus offers three types of 7.62x39 ammo on their current site (at the time I wrote this). They show two offerings of 500 round half cases and both of them are out of stock. Individual boxes of 20 rounds per box are available in Wolf at $4.59 per box or $4.39 per box if you buy 50 or more (50 boxes would make for a case of 1,000 rounds). That would be $219.50 plus shipping for a thousand rounds; actually a good price by today's pricing. While that is a good price, I have to wonder though, do they actually have 1,000 rounds in stock and how much it would come to with shipping. Usually places like AM offer a few types of Wolf in that same caliber. The one currently offered is in FMJ only.
Ammoman.com also offers Wolf 7.62x39 ammo here. They also offer it at a decent price as far as current pricing goes. They offer it in FMJ at $239.00 and in JHP at $259.00, shipping included for both. They do not offer soft points nor in other grain weights which used to be readily available. As a matter of fact, I did not see the grain weight of the bullets mentioned anywhere for this particular ammo. hey also offer some Egyptian made ammo in this caliber but it uses corrosive primers as I understand it. They have 10 other types of 7.62x39 ammo listed on their site, but it is all out of stock as I write.
Classic Arms offers the Wolf 7.62x39 at $289.00 per case in both the FMJ and Soft-Point. I do not know if it includes shipping. Regardless, it is not a good price in my opinion. They also have some other ammo in this caliber, but it too is listed as corrosive. Corrosive ammo is not for me but if you like it, it looks to be a decent deal at $249.95 for a case of 1,260 rounds of brass cased ammunition. Again though, note the primers are corrosive.
There are other examples of high priced ammo that I have seen lately. For instance I visited Big 5 Sporting Goods here in Phoenix. They had .32 ACP FMJ in 50 round boxes going for just over $32.00 per box! Maybe it was the wrong price, the clerk said it was not, but that is an insanely high price as I see it. I checked Internet pricing for the same ammo, it was offered by SportsmansGuide.com at $33.97 per box of 50 rounds. Granted that SportsmansGuide.com also had several other types and brands of .32 Auto available and some of the prices, at less than half of the above, were much more reasonable for what amounts to basically the same ammo. I don't get it though because no regular .32 Auto is, in my estimation, worth anywhere near $34.00 per box, including Remington green boxed ammo which is the one going for nearly that amount. Even Magtech 65 gr. FMJ in .32 auto was high priced at $12.87 per box, although I will admit this is much closer to what the price for such ammo should be to be considered decently priced in my mind. Just about 2 years ago I was getting it for about $8.00 to $9.00 per box.
Sticking with .32 Auto, I took a look to CheaperThanDirt.com. They offer ten types of .32 auto but only show one available as I write. The one they offer is a specialty ammo so maybe I should not even bother mentioning that it costs $13.39 for only 8 rounds! By the way, I went back and checked availability on SportsmansGuide.com because I forgot to do so. Of the 24 types of .32 Auto (also called .32 ACP) on the page for SportsmansGuide.com, they only had 4 types listed as in stock!
Other ammo is also very high priced as compared to a couple of years ago. back then I could pick up a brick of .22LR ammunition form less than $10 and there were a variety of brands available at that price. Yesterday, at the Cross Roads of the West Gun Show in Phoenix, AZ, I saw a brick of CCI Blazer in .22LR selling for $22.00 and a brick of American Eagle going for $19.99. Those prices are ridiculous, well at least in my estimation. I don't know the cause of the price increases. Fist they said it was due to the cost of gasoline, then they said it was due to the cost of everything going up because the cost of gasoline went up. Gas prices have fallen quite a bit but not most ammo prices. Then they said it was due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the shortages of materials to make ammo because of military contracts. Yet 7.62x39 is again available, if not as much as before it is out there, and it would be one of the most used by foreign military groups. Then they laid blame on the anticipated buying frenzy that most of us predicted would take place if Barack Obama was elected president. The buying rage took place for sure. maybe it is a combination of all three things, maybe other things added in too. The thing is that the industry has had more than enough time to rebound from all of the above and probably should be able to keep it coming but for some reason it is not doing so. I wonder if the ammo shortages and high pricing is also due in part to our the fact that our productive capabilities are dwindling as we become closer and closer to becoming a 3rd world nation. maybe and maybe not, but whatever the reasons, it is of grave concern to me because it seems to be indicative of something not being right with the way things are going. Oh, one other thing - I don't think it is due to the recession - and yes we are still in a recession even if the current administration denies it. Just look to last months housing sales if you doubt we are in a recession. Despite a slow to poor economy and being in a recession, the fact is that when ammunition is available, sales of it remain brisk even at inflated prices. So it is not like they are not selling enough of it, heck maybe they are selling to much but somehow - what with our technology and capabilities I tend to doubt it - or just do not want to believe that our manufacturers cannot, for whatever reason, keep up with demand..
Please note, I am no trying to indicate in any way anything degrading about any of the above companies, be they ammunition retailers or manufacturers. I have used just about all of them for purchases before and will probably continue to do so. All I am saying is that prices are high compared to just 2 years ago, way higher, and even when some pricing seems good now the truth is that ammo is not as readily available as it was a year or two ago. I guess I am also saying that some if it still seems to be going up in price too such as the .35 Remington. I have to wonder when the increases in price are going to stop, when ammo prices will fall if ever) and when the availability of ammo will increase to what it was just a short time ago.
All the best,