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Superstition Wilderness, AZ – January 2014 (Backpacking Trip Report)

Superstition Wilderness 7 Day Hike Overview

All Photos From This Hike | HD Video

  • Location – Superstition Wilderness, AZ
  • Park Administarion  – Tonto National Forest
  • Fees & Permits – None
  • Trail Name – Custom route, various trails
  • Trail Type – Semi-loop
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 7 days, 6 nights
  • Miles Hiked – 92
  • Trail Difficulty – 8
  • Solitude – 7.5
  • Fires Allowed – Yes

For my annual winter hike, I thought I’d give the Superstition Wilderness in Arizona another try. My previous attempt here in March of 2013 was a failure due to sickness, and further hindered by weather and gear problems. This will be a solo hike as was my previous visit here.

Total distance: 88.31 mi
Max elevation: 5292 ft
Min elevation: 2064 ft
Total climbing: 28921 ft
Total descent: -29193 ft
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Superstition Wilderness, AZ – 7 Day Hike


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Map of trails and trailheads in the Superstition Wilderness

 

Getting There

My last attempt at this hike, I drove 30 hours each way from Michigan. In fact, I’ve driven to every place I’ve ever hiked.  Logistically, it just seems like the easiest option. It was more cost effective to drive in most cases (splitting expenses with another person), but the tradeoff is time. Like my last trip here, I was alone and had nobody to split costs with. Driving was actually more costly than flying, plus I didn’t have to spend 5-6 days in the car. I have a cousin in Phoenix that I ended up staying with, which saved more money on the hotel costs, and also agreed to transport me to and from the trailhead. I guess I didn’t realize how close she lived to the Superstitions when I was here last time.

I wasn’t sure if the weather was going to allow me to leave Michigan, and if so, on time. Only 12 hours before my plane left, I was outside shoveling snow. We got about 4 inches where I live, but many other areas nearby got 6 or more. It had just stopped snowing when I shoveled, and I was hopeful that the roads and runways would be clear by morning. There were delays at major airports to the east and west of Detroit, but none reported here.

I made it to the airport in the morning without much trouble. The plane was 20 minutes late taking off yet 5 minutes early landing in Phoenix. As with every flight, there was a crying baby nearby. Awesome. But the real fun started when I landed. My checked bag, which included my backpack, hiking gear and food, did not come out of the luggage carousel. So, I inquired about this matter at the counter for US Airways and they said my bag was a “no scan”, meaning it was never scanned and even put on the plane to Phoenix. I was told that there was another flight arriving in Phoenix from Detroit at 1:45pm and that it would be on that plane. Once it arrives at the airport, they will deliver it to me. That sucks, but if I get it today then I guess it’s not that big of a deal.

I still haven’t heard from US Airways by 5pm, so I called them to find out. Apparently, they have no idea where the bag is now and they said they will call me when it’s found. REALLY? So now it looks like I won’t be hiking tomorrow, or at all if the bag isn’t found soon. This really pissed me off, but there was nothing I could do. I called again at 8pm and they said the same thing.

I called the airline again in the morning (now missing my first day of hiking) and they still have no idea where it is. They told me most bags are found within 24 hours, and it was getting awfully close to that. Now I am really freaking out. My mindset at this point was worst case scenario… what if the bag is completely lost? I started researching the reimbursement process and discovered that they have to reimburse you for your loss up to $3300. However, they need to see receipts for items over $150. There was no customer service phone line for US Airways though. Let me repeat that. A major US airline, US Airways, does NOT have a phone number that you can call for customer service. That is absolutely insane. The number I called was only for baggage related topics. When it comes time to getting down and dirty with the “reimbursement”, you need to EMAIL them. This is completely unacceptable for a company of their stature, in my opinion. So, I did what I could and wrote a long and well worded email stating my situation and demands. Yes, demands. I was asking for a flight back home earlier than what my original itinerary called for and to be comped for my flight out here. After all, them losing my bag ruined the trip. I couldn’t just go to REI and replace everything I had. A lot of it was purchased online from companies that REI doesn’t carry, like Tarptent. The point is, without my gear that they lost, what am I doing here? I planned on hiking, and because of their actions, I cannot do so.

phoenix arizona mystery castle tour

With the whole day now at my disposal, my cousin and I were looking for something to do in Phoenix. She brought me to the Mystery Castle, a long standing tourist attraction. It was very unique and a cool thing to check out. As we left the Mystery Castle, and not more than 90 minutes after I sent my email to US Airways, they called me. My bag had been found and it was going to be delivered later in the day (5 hour window). Man, what a relief! I didn’t want to go through the nightmare of trying to get compensation for all my lost gear.

The good news is that my original plan for this hike included an “off day”, where I was going to relax and explore nearby camp. To make the hike work without the lost day, I could simply eliminate the off day and hike 7 straight days. Problem solved. Still, US Airways robbed me of a day… those bastards!

I got my bag later that night towards the end of that 5 hour window. Everything was inside just as I left it. Doesn’t seem right that I should have to pay the fee they charge to check my bag when they lose it though. It turns out the airlines are required to return this fee to you, but only when the bag is lost and never found. In my case, it’s simply “delayed”. Anyways, just glad to have it back and proceed with the hike.

 

Day 1 – January 4th, 2014

hiking near first water trailhead

Waking up in a real bed this morning instead of a hotel or tent was nice, which is normally the case the night before I start a hike. My cousin and her fiance drove me to first water trailhead as the run rose. They wanted to join me for the first few miles and then turn back when they were done. They had done several day hikes here before but shorter ones, and always from the Peralta trailhead. They also brought their dog Charlie along for the hike… he loves it out here! We were on the trail around 7:30, and there were a couple of cars in the lot already. The trail starts off pretty easy from here. There were some pools of water in some of the washes, which was a good sign for me. Almost immediately after leaving the trailhead behind, you can’t see anything man-made. No roads, homes, anything. Perfect.

view of weavers needle from first water trail

hiking in the desert

Before I knew it, we were looking up at the Weaver’s Needle from the Dutchman/Boulder Canyon/Black Mesa trail junction. This is where my temporary hiking partners go their separate way back, and I continue on alone for the next 7 days. Instead of hiking the same route back, I suggested that they take the Black Mesa trail to Garden Valley then head west back to the trailhead from there. They liked the idea and took a picture of my map just in case.

hiking the Dutchmans Trail

After saying goodbye, I headed south on Dutchman’s trail. The territory looked familiar from my last time here, but I was now seeing things from different angles as I hiked new trails. I liked this section of trail that passed between Black Top Mesa and Palomino Mountain.

superstition wilderness west side black top mesa

getting clsoe to weavers needle for the first time

Great views of the Weaver’s Needle from pretty much everywhere today since my route goes all around it. I took a break around 10:30, once I got on the Peralta trail, eating some food and changing socks. That’s going to be my thing this trip, I decided… change socks often to keep my feet as dry as possible, since the seem to sweat so damn much. Once I got back on the trail, I passed a guy who had just seen some Big Horn Sheep on the Terrapin trail. Cool, that’s where I’m headed! But I forgot to ask him where on the Terrapin, north or south of the Weaver’s Cut Off trail.

view of weavers cut off route as seen from the peralta trail

Here’s a good shot of the side of the Weaver’s Needle from the Peralta trail. The red line represents the correct route, and the black line represents the route I ended up taking.

just below weavers needle

 

From the Peralta, I didn’t see any obvious trail when it came to to look for the Weaver’s Cut Off. After crossing  the wash, I did see some cairns which I followed. Soon enough, the cairns disappeared and I realized I was a little too far north. At this point, 2 guys came down right above where I was headed and I thought “Well these guys came down from here, the trail must be where they are”. I couldn’t see any obvious trail or even the possibility of a trail being where it should be south of me, so I continued up and over the Weaver’s Needle in the direction the 2 guys came from. After a brief chat I tried to shoot for where they had come down from, but it was steep and there was definitely no trail. I knew which way I needed to head to intersect the trail, but there was no easy way to get there.

I did have my GPS, but for some reason the map disappeared for a few hours today, including my climb over Weaver’s Needle. When I say the map disappeared, I mean that the topo lines and waypoints were all gone. My track that I created at home and loaded onto the GPS to follow was still there, and I could see where I was in reference to that, but I had no information regarding the contour of the land around me. Then later, the maps were back and working fine. Weird, that’s never happened before.

view from the weavers needle cut off trail

view from weavers needle looking east

I though going up was the hard part, but going down proved to be harder. This was rugged terrain that required some climbing down large boulders and bushwhacking through dense, thorny shrubbery. The trail was very steep in spots, especially near the top and close to the Needle. Often times the plants hid large holes and crevasses that I would accidentally step into. I fell a few times on the way down, and bent one of my trekking poles. Luckily I was able to bend it back in place, but now I was thinking the pole would break by the end of the trip (it didn’t). Eventually I saw a cairn, but by this time I was almost down completely and on the Terrapin trail.

hoodoos near weavers needle

view of weavers needle to the west from terrapin trail

Going up and over the Weaver’s Needle was pretty cool though. There were all sorts of hoodoos and spires up here, some with boulders balancing impossibly on others.

south of weavers needle on the terrapin trail

view from southern end of terrapin trail

views from Terrapin south

The rest of my hike today to Bluff Springs was pretty easy. Great views and good weather. I stopped again to change socks, letting the other pair dry off in the outer pocket of my backpack as I hike. At this point I had seen about 15 or 20 people today, as a few trickled through this area. Once I reached Bluff Spring though, I had seen another 20 people easy as there was a large group of teens sitting on the side of the trail waiting for the rest of their group to catch up before jumping on the Dutchman South trail.

There were really only two campsites near Bluff Springs. One was taken, and the available one was pretty nicely tucked into a shady tree covered area and had a fire pit. Unfortunately it was very close (less than 50 ft) to another campsite but separated by trees and brush. This campsite was occupied by a mother and teenage son who argued constantly, so that was kind of annoying. The view from this area was not very impressive either.

here's what bluff spring looks like

Crystal Spring was not flowing, but a short (less than 5 minute) walk to Bluff Spring served up all the water I could drink. It was flowing at a rate of about a quart per minute. The water comes out of a pipe that was filled with all sorts of nasty stuff. One bump to the pipe and huge chunks of rusty crap would fall out. I tried to clean out the pipe with a stick by it around, dislodging as much of the crap as I could and then let the water run clear for a minute.  My UV filter doesn’t do anything for the taste, which was very rusty. I covered this up by adding some Propel drink mix to my water tonight, but the rest of it will just have to do for tomorrow.

here's what one of the campsites at buff springs looks like

I got my fire started tonight using my firesteel, that’s always a good feeling. Dinner was 2 italian sausages in flat bread with shredded cheddar cheese… one of my favorite backpacking meals! The stars were pretty bright tonight and soon it was cold. I sat by the fire for a while, soaking up the warmth, before turning in for the night.

 

Day 2 – January 5th, 2014

saguaros in the early morning of the superstition wilderness

I woke up at 6 this morning. The night was very still, and probably the warmest night of the trip, although still cold. I packed up camp quickly and was on the trail by 6:50. I didn’t even eat anything for breakfast, I figured I’d stop in a short while to eat something. I could just barely see now without my headlamp. I had to backtrack a few hundred yards on the Bluff Springs trail before intersecting Dutchman’s trail.

view of barkley basin and coffee flat from miners needle overlook

dutchman trail view early morning near miners needle and barkley basin

It was about a mile of easy hiking followed by a short climb up to the intersection of the Dutchman trail and Whiskey Spring trail, which is below Miner’s Summit. I really liked the view of Barkley Basin and Coffee Flat from here. This is a more suitable place to eat breakfast, I thought. The sun was just now peaking over the horizon as I made my was down Miners Canyon into the lowlands. I was feeling pretty good at this point and eager to see what the next 6 days have in store for me.

view from dutchmans trail in barkley basin

I saw my only 2 people of the day early this morning as I got down into Barkley Basin. They asked me where I had come from and told them about my plans. Their reaction was typical of others who asked me: “Wow, 7 days!”. After a little gear related chit chat I moved on.

superstition wilderness barkley basin

view from the coffee flat trail

makeshift gate on barbed wire fence

The Coffee Flat area was an easy hike, and pretty cool. There were a lot of saguaros down here. The trail is somewhat flat for a while and then begins a pretty gradual ascent. After a while, the trail runs into a barbed wire fence, the first of many I’d see on the trip. At first I thought I had to go over or under it, but then I noticed a makeshift gate fashioned out of sticks and barbed wire. Alrighty then.

water pumping windmill at reeds water

green grass along coffee flat trail near reeds water

Next I came across a water pumping windmill with some green grass all around. This must be Reed’s Water. Although water was not flowing out of the pipe, the well had water in it and a rusty can attached to a string to haul it up. However, my water already tasted pretty rusty from Bluff Spring and I decided to wait for something better.

golden color leaves on trees in randolph canyon

hiking through randolph canyon on the coffee flat trail

The Coffee Flat trail then enters Randolph Canyon. All of the sudden I felt like I was in a new ecosystem. There were pools of water and trees with golden colored leaves, reminiscent of fall in the midwest. However, near the entrance to the canyon there was a lot of cow shit on the ground and I also opted to skip this watering hole.

red rocks in randolph canyon

beautiful red rock in randolph canyon

I finally stopped for lunch and to purify some water at the Coffee Flat/Red Tanks trail junction. There was a decent flow of water coming from Fraser Canyon over a small ledge in the wash. I just set my bottle below the ledge and let it fill up… look ma, no hands! The sun was shining full force and it felt great. Plus, it helped dry out my socks after switching to my dry pair. The junction between these two canyons (Randolph and Fraser) was marked by some distinct red rock over which water flows and collects in the wash, which had had several pools of water at the moment.

hiking on the red tanks trail looking down into randolph canyon

Nice view from the short hike on Red Tanks before a tough hike through Randolph Canyon.

I headed north on the Red Tanks trail for a short ways before veering to the east in order to stay in Randolph Canyon. There were a few cairns at first, but they weren’t helpful. They would trick you into thinking there was some type of trail alongside the wash, but it always dead ended in some dense thorny brush that required bushwhacking to get back to the wash. After the cairns disappeared, there were still trails alongside the wash that could only be followed a short ways before I realized I was continuously falling for the same cruel trick. I probably got more cut up here than anywhere else on my hike. After a while, I stopped caring and just plowed through the thorn bushes, before finally abandoning all hope of following a trail. For the rest of my passage through Randolph Canyon, I stuck to the wash.

randolph canyon hike

hiking through randolph canyon wash

Typical rocky wash in Randolph Canyon between Red Tanks and JF

While following the wash is simple, it can be a pain to walk over all of the rocks, especially after several miles. Avoiding mud became essential as rock that is normally easy to traverse became slick. I slippedt a few times but avoided twisting an ankle or knee. I didn’t get to see much of Randolph Canyon because my head was down the whole time, watching my step on all those rocks. I wish I had taken the Coffee Flat trail through Fraser Canyon instead.

randolph canyon junction with jf trail

Looking west into Randolph Canyon from the JF trail

It took me about 3 hours to make it to the JF trail. Getting through Randolph Canyon was tougher than I anticipated. My GPS decided to lose my topo maps for much of the middle portion of the day, just as it did yesterday. Not that I needed them in the canyon, but now I’m really wondering what’s going on with the GPS unit. I purified a few liters of water at one of the pools before leaving the wash. Now on the JF trail, I was getting tired and doubting Id’ make it to Roger’s Spring today.

superstition wildereness cattle watering trough jf trail near woodsbury trail

Once on the Woodsbury trail, I passed by a cattle watering trough area. There were no cattle around but there was plenty of shit on the ground. Maybe they got turned into delicious steaks and burgers?

my campsite on the woodsbury trail

superstition wilderness sunset on the woodsbury trail

Not far past the cattle watering area, I found flat spot on a little hill where I made camp for the night. After getting my tent set up, I noticed a mine on another hill nearby. Since it was so close, I walked over to have a look. There was a fence around an open and deep shaft straight down. I was expecting a horizontal tunnel as I’d seen in most other mines. Not much to see here. On my way back to camp, I spotted a Sotol plant which appeared to have already dropped it’s seeds. I chopped it and took the stalk back to camp. I wanted to attempt making a hand and/or bow drill for starting fire and understand that Sotol is supposed to be a very good wood to use. With the last remaining rays of sunlight, I carved the drill and board, or at least got them to length and basic shape. I wasn’t going to have a fire tonight, but now I have this mostly ready for another night.

woodsburty trail campsite at dusk

I was wearing my Merrell Moab Ventilators (low cut) on this hike, and my feet didn’t feel as sore overall as they often do in my Zamberlain full grain leather boots. However, I did feel like I was getting a good size blister on the side portion of my left heel. It still hadn’t popped, probably because it was protected by the callus it was under. Surprisingly, my knees felt pretty good too.

I slept pretty good until around 11. Somewhere around this time, the wind started picking up.  I didn’t bring the optional length-wise stabilization pole for my Tarptent Moment tent in an effort to save some weight. Damn, didn’t I learn my lesson last time my tent blew over in the Supes? Apparently not, and I suffered the same consequence again tonight. It was around midnight when the winds overpowered the tent for the first time. Fortunately for me it was not raining tonight as it was the last time.

Since I was on a bit of a hill, I decided to pack up camp and move to lower ground. The trail in this area is an old road of sorts, which looks like it led to the mine I checked out earlier. This was the only flat-ish spot around, so I pitched my tent right on the trail itself. The winds were still whipping here, but not as bad as on top of the hill. I thought that I could get by here for the rest of the night, but once again, my tent blew over. The winds eventually grew stronger here than they were originally on the top of the hill. At 3am I found myself outside again, trying to set up the tent and re-enforce the stakes and corners with heavy rocks. What a long night.

 

Day 3 – January 6th, 2014

Last night was probably the second most miserable night I’ve ever spent in the backcountry. I couldn’t wait for the sun to rise, not getting much sleep. The sound of the wind hitting the tent was very loud, and it felt like a giant sail that was going to get caught in the right gust and float away. I packed up everything I could while inside the tent, then tried packing the tent. It was very difficult with the wind, and took me much longer than normal. I also noticed some damage to the tent. The tent fabric and netting was damaged in one small area, as well as a snapped string that pulls the tent body taught with the stake. Great, hope she holds up for the rest of the trip. I’ll have to do some repairs later.

I thought the winds might subside when the sun rose, but they didn’t. I skipped breakfast for the time being and hit the trail. I put a Metrix bar in my pocket to try and warm it up some before I eat it later. Once I got up to slightly higher ground, the winds were easily 50+ MPH. I would estimate the winds that took down my tent at 35 MPH, and the wind up higher was considerably stronger. At times it would catch me off guard and almost blow me off my feet. I don’t ever remember being in stronger wind at any point in my life!

on the woodsbury trail 4x4 road

Soon the trail turned into a 4×4 road that climbs 1,000ft up to the Rogers trailhead. Walking uphill in this relentless wind was hard work. At some point, a truck approached from behind and stopped to ask me if I need a lift. Couldn’t have been at a better time. It was probably less than a mile ride, but boy was it nice to get out of that wind. The folks who gave me a lift were on their way to Rogers trailhead to do some day hiking themselves. I asked one of the guys what he thought the wind speed was and he agreed, over 50 MPH for sure. To be honest, I was worried about the wind blowing that truck over the edge of the damn mountainside!

reavis ranch trail south end

Once at Rogers trailhead, the winds weren’t as strong as there is more protection up here. Fewer cacti and more trees. Definitely no more saguaros. The trail follows a canyon down in elevation for a ways before intersecting the Roger’s Cayon trail. From here, the Reavis Ranch trail climbs about 800ft before flattening out. I held a good pace all morning and covered some good ground. Time for a short food break and to swap my socks.

on the reavis ranch trail

large open grassy field near reavis ranch

reavis ranch grassy field

This area was completely different than anywhere in the west side of the Superstitions. Here, there lots of pine trees, a creek that was pretty much flowing everywhere, and large open grassy meadows. Totally unlike my first two days. I passed by a camp with 2 or 3 tents, but they were either still sleeping or out day hiking elsewhere as there were no people.

I spotted a few deer grazing in the fields alongside the trail today. They seem really alert and timid here compared to other parts of the country. I can remember many times where one can get very close to a deer before it lazily trots away. These guys are long gone the moment they notice you. I saw three along the Reavis Ranch trail today in total.

enormous juniper tree near reavis ranch in the superstition wilderness

Alongside the trail, maybe midway through the Reavis Ranch area, sits an enormous Juniper tree. Outside of the sequoias and redwoods in California, this is one of the widest trees I can ever remember seeing. It’s hard to tell though without someone in front of it for scale.

A lot of the water I saw today was frozen, albeit a very thin layer of ice. I don’t think I saw any frozen water the two previous days, so the nights are definitely a few degrees colder up here at this elevation (roughly 5,000ft).

hiking on the reavis ranch trail

By noon I had covered 11 miles and figured I make camp a little early today. I had already made up my mind to skip going to Reavis Falls. The Superstitions haven’t received any rain in 2-3 weeks and I doubt it would even be flowing. Therefore adding nearly 2,000ft of elevation gain to what was already going to be my longest day (tomorrow) just didn’t seem prudent. I could have made it there today no problem, but I thought I’d give myself a fighting chance of making it to Clover Spring tomorrow and skip it. Besides, I wanted to take a closer look at the damage done to my tent from last night’s wind, and just relax around camp and enjoy myself! I had also considered camping at Plow Saddle spring, but I didn’t know what to expect there in terms of coverage from the wind and if there was going to be water or now. It was still kinda windy, although not as much in the protected valley, and hopefully dying down as well.

finding a campsite near reavis ranch

I dropped my pack at a one of the northern most campsites in the Reavis Ranch area, then spent a while combing the area for other campsites that may be better. Ultimately, the one I stopped at was the best one for me. There were several campsites to choose from, some tucked away in the woods a little and others at the edge of the grassy field. Mine was the latter. There was flowing water in Reavis Creeks only feet away, a fire pit, and some decent tree coverage. Firewood looked plentiful in the area as well.

view from my campsite in the reavis ranch area

As is the case many times when I hike, I didn’t seem to have my normal appetite. I eat about 3500 calories a day at home, and was not even getting that here. I should be eating like 5000+ calories a day here but I can never seem to force my self to eat that much. Now that I had all day to sit around, I definitely ate more than the previous two days. I was also able to get fully hydrated again, something I was slacking on a bit. When I am moving, I don’t like to stop and drop my pack to filter water all the time. I’d rather carry more water at a time and prevent excessive stops. I filtered 8L of water this afternoon, keeping 6L for consumption tonight and tomorrow.

As I was on the hunt for firewood, I heard two people off in the direction of my camp. There were two day hikers looking for Reavis Falls, who had come from the Reavis trailhead to the north. I had to be the bearer of bad news and inform them that had hiked wayyy past it, showing them on my topo map where we were in relation to the falls. Even though the falls where on their way back, lack of sunlight would likely prevent them from reaching the falls and making it back to their car. They also asked me if I had seen any bears, which made me laugh a little inside. I know there are supposed to be bears in the area, but like most places I hike, wildlife has a way of being pretty darn elusive. “Nope, haven’t seen any bears.”

Another thing I had to do this afternoon was check out my tent and see what kind of damage had been caused by the wind last night. One side of the tent, where the nylon netting meets the outer fabric of the tent, a hole had been worn through. I had some rocks piled up there to support the pole and prevent the tent from flying away, and the wind had caused the tent fabric to rub against the rock which formed the hole. I bring a small roll of duct tape, and that was the only item I had that would help me here. The duct tape stuck to the netting well, but not the rip stop nylon that the tent made of. Well, it sort of stayed in place, but it certainly didn’t adhere to it as well as I’d like. Hopefully, it would be enough to prevent the hole from getting larger over the next few days. Another area that suffered some damage was the strings used to go around the stake and put tension on the ends of the tent. This was fairly easy to cut a section of string from my cordage and tie it up in the same fashion as the original.

relaxing by my campsite in reavis ranch

I really enjoyed myself this afternoon, even if I did mostly camp chores. I remembered that my phone had some music on it, and when turned to airplane mode, uses almost no battery. The sounds of heavy metal filled the valley this afternoon as I went about my day. Jammin’ out in the middle of nowhere!

I wanted to try out my Sotol hand drill tonight, so I continued whittling the wood to spec. I have never attempted any primitive fire starting methods before. Needless to say, I was not successful. I then attempted to use a bow to turn the drill, and used a small can from the fire as the socket. I was surprised at how little pressure you need to apply to the socket (top piece) in order for the drill to be able to spin freely. Using the bow worked better for me than by hand, but still no luck. I gave up and packed it away in case I want to try again another night. Time to start my fire the easy way… with a lighter!

tent pitched at reavis campsite

For dinner I cooked some summer sausage over the fire, and put it in a tortilla with some shredded cheddar cheese. Damn good! The weather was clear and pretty calm as I went to bed tonight. I should have plenty of cover from the wind where I am, and I was thankful for that as I shut my eyes for the day.

 

Day 4 – January 7th, 2014

I slept great last night! For sleeping in the backcountry anyway. Sleep 15 minutes at a time before one limb falls asleep and I need to turn over or flip around… the usual. Since I had an abundance of water on hand, I thought I’d have something new for breakfast that I haven’t had before. I read somewhere about a product called Nido, made by Nestle. I found that powdered milk is typically fat free, and I want the fat for the extra calories. Nido is basically powdered milk with the fat in it. I put 2 scoops of Nido and 2 packages of Carnation Instant Breakfast powder into a 1L bottle of water for a big calorie drink. I don’t really like the taste of the Nido, but it’s not as bad mixed with the Carnation Instant Breakfast.

northern end of the reavis ranch trail

Leaving reavis ranch area behind

I was on the trail at 7:25, and saw another deer soon after leaving camp. I was glad I had stopped to camp where I had yesterday, because there were no more obvious campsites north of my area for quite a while. The trail opens up and leaves the protection of the valley, but now gives more distant views. A good trade off, but now the weather looks overcast and there is the possibility of rain. After all, my luck won’t allow for a week-long trip in the desert to be without at least some rain. The last 2 days have been crystal clear, not a cloud in the sky.

View From The Frog Tanks Trail Near Plow Saddle

Frog tanks trail view of rogers canyon

prickley pear cactus growing on red rocks on frog tanks trail

Next I found myself at Plow Saddle and jumped on the Frog Tanks trail. I didn’t see any water at Plow Saddle spring, but I didn’t look too hard either. Good views as I descended into Fish Creek Canyon and then Rogers Canyon. I was also seeing more cacti now.

north side of rogers canyon on frog tanks trail

hiking the frog tanks trail through rogers canyon

view from rogers canyon

view of fish creek canyon from frog tanks trail in rogers canyon

Fish Creek Canyon entrance from Rogers Canyon

Once down in the canyon floor, there was a lot of green vegetation now, also a lot of sharp, stabby plants cutting me up. There was an occasional barbed wire fence running through what seemed like the middle of nowhere. The trail then follows a rocky wash, goes up and over a hill, which provided some excellent views of Rogers Canyon and Fish Creek Canyon. Then back down to the wash for a few miles. Very steep canyon walls force you down to the very bottom, weaving back and forth between both sides of the wash. Most of the time there were large pools of water.

hiking through the was in rogers canyon

big pile of gear sitting beside trail

There were a couple of campsites in the canyon. Didn’t look like they got used much though. I did see a pile of gear sitting alongside the trail. I always wonder the story behind things like this when I see them.

hiking the frog tanks trail through rogers canyon

view from the bottom of rogers canyon

angel basin in the superstition wilderness arizona

I took my lunch break on a log along the trail around noon. There were a lot of trees at the bottom of this canyon, basically a thin sliver of forest following both sides of the drainage. Lots of shade from the sun, which was shining brightly now. A far cry from what looked like rain earlier. Another 15 minutes down the trail, I hit Angel Basin. There are some cliff dwellings in the area that I wanted to check out, but I didn’t have the time. That’s the one thing I hate most about long, high mileage days… no time to do anything but hike.

rock arch along side the rogers canyon trail

climbing up to torilla pass from angel basin on the rogers canyon trail

Taking the Rogers Canyon trail, I headed up to Tortilla Pass. This next section was was of the most overgrown I’d encounter all week. The trail itself seemed to be well formed, but the shrubbery on the sides of the trail had actually grown together in spots. My arms took a beating going through here, and so did my foam sleeping pad. I was really surprised how well my backpack held up in this and all of the other overgrown areas. Some were really thorny, catching my pants and shirt easily, yet my backpack can barrel through without snagging. Gotta love that rip-stop nylon.

good view from totrilla pass

superstition wilderness view from tortilla pass

view from tortilla pass

I made great time going up to Tortilla Pass, especially considering the condition of the trail in spots. The angle of the trail was perfect for me… I was able to move a long time without resting despite the constant incline. I spotted some arch formations in the canyon earlier today, and now there was one alongside the trail. I was eager to get to the top and see what lies beyond this canyon. Also, the rest of the day looks like the trail follows a ridgeline all the way to Clover Spring.

some pools of water on tortilla pass

Water on Tortilla Pass

Once on top of the pass, I found some pools of water in a drainage. I wasn’t really expecting water up here, or anywhere until I got to Clover Spring, so I stopped and purified some. There was still ice on these pools, but a good thing in this case. Nothing better than drinking cold water, and it sure felt good to rinse off a bit.

jf trail near tortilla pass

jf trail panorama view

Now on the JF trail, there were some really great views all around. It was starting to get pretty cloudy again though. This area felt like it was pretty remote too. Just rugged terrain in all directions.

west of tortilla pass on the JF trail

panoramic photo of the jf trail

view from the jf trail in the superstition wilderness

It was getting late in the afternoon now and I was just trying to cover ground and get to Clover Spring. There were tons of cacti now, and the Prickley Pears got me a few times. I took a few in the foot since my Merrell Moab Ventilators are a mesh type shoe with little protection on the tops and sides.  I didn’t want to stop and drop my pack to mess with the thorns, so I just put up with them until I finally rolled into camp at 4:45. Ended up doing 17 miles, and I didn’t see a soul all day.

campsite at clover spring int he superstition wilderness

campsite at clover spring with sun going down

The Clover Springs campsite was a decent spot. It felt very hidden, in a bit of a depression and only visible to anyone within a 1/4 mile or so. There were several pools of water right next to camp. There was even some firewood left by the fire (thanks to friendofThundergod on the HAZ forums). Not a bad camp at all.

When I took my water bladder out of my backpack tonight, I noticed some cactus thorns piercing the reservoir. I pulled them out but no water seemed to be dripping from it. The bladder itself was a little wet and some of that water had gotten on my sleeping bag as well. The bladder was still mostly full, and since the thorns were in the bottom part below the water level, I though I’d hang it on a tree and see how the water level looks in the morning. I wasn’t going to filter water tonight, I figured I’d have a slow morning and do it then.

view of the sunset over clover spring from my campsite

If it wasn’t for the stack of wood already here, I don’t think I would have had a fire tonight. There wasn’t much wood around and I was running out of daylight. Not to mention being tired! The sunset was very colorful, with red, orange and purple staining the sky. Beautiful. I had a fire, dried out my sleeping bag some, and went to bed.

 

Day 5 – January 8th, 2014

Last night was actually a very still night, no wind and no rain. The skies were cloudy as I went to bed, but nice and clear this morning,. That’s what I want to see! I had some extra wood left from the night before, and figured I’d have a “morning fire”. Since I’d be hiking the Hoolie Bacon trail later today, I might as well cook some bacon! I wrapped my precooked bacon in aluminum foil and let it cook over the fire for a few minutes. Good stuff.

After breakfast, I still had to filter water. My bladder seemed to be completely dry on the outside this morning and the water level had not dropped at all. Now I thought that I may have gotten the bladder wet when I was filling it on top of Tortilla Pass yesterday, and that the cactus thorns had somehow not caused a leak. Whatever, it’s good now I guess. Just to be safe though, I put my sleeping bag inside a garbage bag to keep it dry within my backpack.

west of clover spring on the jf trail

I didn’t start hiking until around 8:45 this morning. At least I was pretty warm by the time I started moving. Almost immediately though, I could feel water on my lower back. That damn bladder must be leaking. I dropped my pack and removed the bladder. I wiped off all of the water and then put some consistent pressure on it to see if that was causing the leak. Sure enough, water could be seen seeping out… but not where I thought. Instead of there being a leak where the cactus thorns were, it was coming out of the seam where the handle connects to the reservoir. For now, I emptied the contents of the bladder into my 2L platypus collapsible water container. This seemed more vulnerable than the bladder, so I had to be careful not to damage this container now. When storing it in the backpack, I kept my jacket around it if I wasn’t wearing it.

The first part of the day, the trail was pretty faint in spots. Yesterday afternoon was like this too. There were several times where I had to backtrack and look around for a second to pick up on the trail again.

good view of basin below from jf trail

view from jf trail neear hoolie bacon trail

The JF trail comes to a nice overlook before it drops down off of the ridge and runs into the Hoolie Bacon trail. The trail does a 180 degree turn and starts heading back the way I came, but in the canyon below the ridge. There was a good amount of water down in the drainage. I saw 3 deer and a rabbit in this general area.

hiking the hoolie bacon trail

view from horse ridge  another view from the top of horse ridge

The trail follows Tortilla creek for a while, weaving in and out of it’s wash. It’s fairly flat through here for a little while, then makes it’s ascent up over Horse Ridge, which had some pretty good views.

Horse cmap basin along the hoolie bacon trail

Saguaros were beginning to be more plentiful now as I approached the Horse Camp Basin area and beyond. I saw two other backpackers in this section, which were the first people I’d seen in almost 2 days. Also, these people were the only ones I had seen the entire trip who were backpacking and not day hiking, other than my first day.

red tanks trail enters upper labarge box canyon

view from upper labarge box canyon

leaving upper labarge box canyon on red tanks trail

I was blown away once I entered LaBarge Canyon on the Red Tanks trail. Stunning views of the steep, narrow canyon were had from an elevated trail, a nice change from the typical route that follows the drainage at the bottom. I really liked this section, and it was my favorite part of the day. The pictures don’t do this area any justice though.

water in labarge canyon

After exiting Upper LaBarge Box Canyon, the landscape flattens out dramatically and offers easy access to the tranquil LaBarge Creek. I stopped here to filter some water and take a break. I soaked my feet in the cool water which really seems to help… with the swelling and the stench, haha.

easy flat trail through labarge canyon

hiking through labarge canyon

I still had a few more miles to cover, but I was able to cover some ground now since it was flat and more open. The trail remained refreshingly easy for the rest of the day.

I didn’t see any more people today, but I saw lots of things people left behind as I got closer to Charlebois. Here I saw some crap on the ground with toilet paper all around. Those dirty animals. Near the campsites, I saw a sleeping bag, lawn chair, and two coolers. It’s clear this area gets a lot of use. The campsites are set up in a “community” fashion, where there are several places to pitch a tent spread throughout a large area, but only one large firepit for everyone to share. Glad I was the only one here tonight.

my campsite at charlebois

Today’s mileage was 13. It was supposed to be 10.5 according to my estimates. Normally my mileage estimation is more accurate, which I do by drawing a track in Garmin Basecamp to highlight the route I will be hiking that day. My other days were all off about 2 miles as well. However, I’ve noticed that at the end of my hike when I look at my trip total mileage on my GPS, it always reports higher than when I get home and check mileage with Basecamp. I’m not really sure which figure to trust.

Firewood was scare in this heavily used area but I managed to gather enough to get by. I cooked the rest of my summer sausage tonight. This was the first time I had brought this with me and I think I will continue doing so. It’s been easy to keep and cook, and tastes great. It was another crisp, clear star filled night and the fire’s warmth was much appreciated. After dinner though, I was off to bed and sleeping by 8.

 

Day 6 – January 9th, 2014

sunrise near charlebois

I slept pretty well last night despite the cold temperatures. It was cloudy again this morning, and the Superstitions are actually due for some rain. Will today be the day? Also on my mind was how tonight and tomorrow were going to play out. My route has me going up the Superstition Ridgeline tomorrow, and I was a little apprehensive after looking more closely at the contour lines on my topo map over the last few days. I know this route is typically done as a day hike, and I hadn’t read any reports of people doing it as part of a longer hike. The weight of the pack is an inconvenience here, but mainly I was thinking about the bulk of the pack during climbing. Mostly during down climbing, the pack can be cumbersome. I was unsure of any campsites or water sources in the area I wanted to be tonight as well. And what if it finally decides to rain tomorrow? I don’t think I want to be on the ridgeline then. For now, I just concentrated on breaking camp.

north of charlebois on the dutchmans trail

rei backpack sitting alongside trail

I did the Nido & Carnation Instant Breakfast shake again this morning and hit the trail at 7:20. The trail remained pretty flat for the first mile or so which was nice. Then, I passed a fully loaded REI backpack sitting beside the trail. It looked like it had just been set down there, and like I said, it was packed. Even had laminated topo maps poking out of the top pouch. And yet, nobody around. Now, I’ve dropped my pack by the trail many times while I went and explored something nearby, but I didn’t see anything obvious in the area worth exploring, and I certainly didn’t see any signs of people. Maybe the guy had to take a dump and he’s squatting behind a bush somewhere? Either way, I left it alone and moved on. Hope the person was alright.

on dutchman trail north of the weavers needle

north of weavers needle on terrapin trail

goign up terrapin pass

Soon I could see Weaver’s Needle again. The Dutchman’s trail eventually hits the Terrapin trail which runs south through Needle Canyon. I remembered the guy on my first day who had seen some bighorn sheep somewhere on the Terrapin, so I tried to keep my eyes open. There was a pretty nice campsite along the Terrapin as it gains some elevation.

terrapin pass view of weaver's needle

on terrapin pass looking north

looking terrapin pass from the south

Good views from the top of Terrapin Pass. The climb up wasn’t too bad at all. From here on it was ups and downs the rest of the way on the Terrapin.

on terrapin trail looking west to weavers needle

hiking the cut off trail

below weavers needle on cut off trail

The area near Weaver’s Needle is interesting, with strange rock formations scattered about. However, I was dreading this section because of the trouble I had on my first day going over the Weaver’s Cut Off trail. My hope this time is that the cairns will be easier to follow coming from this direction and that will help me stay on course.

steep trail down weavers cut off to peralta

Looking back up at the “trail” I climbed down

Coming from Terrapin, going up on the Cut Off trail was easy this time. The cairns were well marked and easy to follow. Going down to Peralta was very steep in spots though and requires some down climbing. The pack’s bulk made going down difficult as it caught on rocks and things. I had to put my poles away and use my hands for a little while. The steepest section was short though and soon enough I was back on the Peralta. Only 50 minutes this time!

There was some water down in the bottom of the canyon, but I passed. I decided to take a chance and look for water very near where I plan on camping tonight, since water has been so plentiful the entire trip. I took a few pictures of Wevaer’s Needle as I headed south on the Peralta trail, but the best view will be at the top of Fremont Saddle. I could hear voices of people faintly in the distance, and assumed they were coming this way on the trail. Once I got close enough, I could see people standing on Fremont Saddle. Those voices carry a long way.

on freemont saddle looking north to weavers needle

panorama photo of weavers needle from fremont saddle

posing in front of weavers needle

Once on the saddle myself, I saw 4 people. I talked to 2 middle aged day hikers and got the scoop on the weather for the next two days… cloudy today, sunny tomorrow. Nice! I asked them if they had ever hiked the Superstition Ridgeline, but they hadn’t. At least I know the weather will be good tomorrow. There was a young couple overlooking Weaver’s Needle and I asked if they wanted a picture taken of them in trade for one of me, which they gladly accepted.

robbers roost trail hikine dacite mesa

robbers roost trail south of fremont saddle

dacite mesa view to the south

From here, the Robber’s Roost trail veers up and over the ridge alongside Fremont Saddle. Really good views of Weaver’s Needle and the Superstitions to the east, and eventually the south as well. This area was filled with hoodoos, spires, and all sorts of odd shaped rock formations. The ground here was almost all rock, with plants growing where they can through cracks in the rock and small soil deposits. This was a cool area with a lot of potential for exploring. I did have cell phone service up here but I didn’t need to use my phone. Also, I’ve noticed a helicopter flying over the Superstitions every day since I’ve been here. Today, it was flying to the south of Dacite Mesa, and below eye level for once.

deacite mesa looking for robbers roost

at robbers roost on the dacite mesa

Inside Robbers Roost!

water drainage in robbers roost

I stopped for lunch and a sock change once I found a nice spot with a good view. The clouds were all gone now and that deep blue sky was back. It was early afternoon and I didn’t have much longer to go before stopping for camp tonight, that is if I can find a place to camp here. Therefore I felt justified in searching for the Robber’s Roost, since I was already up here. I found it to be well marked with several cairns. My GPS actually lost signal in here which I don’t think has ever happened. Makes sense with all of the rock surrounding me, but still, first time it happened. There was a pool of water on a ledge below the roost, but it was a 20+ foot drop with no way up. Someone had left a strap with a steel carabiner wedged between a rock, presumably to rappel down to that ledge for those with the proper equipment. Not going to happen for me.

panorama photo of dacite mesa

on robbers roost trail

on robbers roost trail going west

After leaving the Robber’s Roost, I was on the lookout for campsites and water. Since it was mostly rock and not much soil, the trail was tough to follow in spots and I relied on the cairns mostly. They eventually disappeared and I strayed of course a bit. After backtracking a little I realized the trail was going to follow a wash for a while. I wasn’t always sure I was actually on the trail, but I was headed in the right direction. The brush was thick in this area and made for some slow going at times.

carney west boulder canyon superstition ridgeline robbers roost junction

End of the Robbers Roost trail, beginning of the Superstition Rideline trail. The West Boulder Canyon trail that starts at the Carney trailhead 1.8 miles below also intersects this spot.

sign for carney trailhead

Once I made it to the intersection of the Robbers Roost trail and the Carney Springs trail, I knew I probably couldn’t go much farther before the trail starts to climb up to the Superstition Ridgeline. Being this close to it was a good thing for tomorrow, but the bad news is that I haven’t seen anywhere suitable for camping, let alone having water nearby.

my campsite on night 6

canyon campsite

Down in the canyon to the north, which I believe was the beginnings of West Boulder Canyon, I noticed a spot alongside the wash the looked like it was sort of cleared and possibly flat enough. Also, it did look like there were pools of water down there. Since it was my only option at the moment, I headed down into the canyon to check it out. Lo and behold, there was water and the spot was just large enough to fit a tent. It took a bit of prep work to prepare the area for a tent, but I was very happy to have found this spot! No fire tonight, but I’m ok with that. I covered 12 miles today, much more than my estimate of 9.3.

I purified enough water tonight to last me all day tomorrow. My water bladder is now being used a temporary storage container during times at camp, since it leaks when full and packed away in the backpack. 3 liters for the ridgeline ought to be enough. I always try to chug a liter in the morning before leaving camp as well. The were some cairns alongside the wash that lead into West Boulder Canyon, but I doubt this are gets much use. I certainly felt secluded where I was. I spent much of the remaining daylight writing in my journal after all camp chores were done.

Once the sun went down around 6, I wasn’t quite ready for bed. I just can’t sleep 12 hours, so I tried to keep myself occupied for a while to kill some time. I turned on the music player on my phone for a while, and looked through some of the pictures on my camera. By 7, I was pretty bored and ready for bed. The moon was “waxing” and very bright now, illuminating the entire landscape well enough to travel by night if necessary. Glad I don’t have to do that, but I could certainly see how it is possible in these conditions.

 

Day 7 – January 10th, 2014

I woke up at 6:15 this morning. In the hours before sunrise, I heard owls hooting. At this time in the morning the moon light is gone, and it’s very dark. It was a very cold night, the coldest all week. At 35° inside my tent, the condensation was turning to frost. Outside of the tent, I found the water inside my bladder frozen for the first time this week as well.

view of west boulder canyon as i climb up to superstition ridgeline

climbing up the superstition ridgeline

morning on the superstitiotn ridgeline trail

After packing up my wet tent and eating some breakfast, I hit the trail at 7:30. Last day, final push. Hope the bulk of the pack doesn’t get in the way. First I had to climb out of the canyon and back onto the trail above. The Superstition Ridgeline trail starts right at the top of the canyon where I had left off yesterday. The trail remained pretty easy for the first 20-30 minutes or so before beginning to climb up to the top of the ridgeline. I made great time going up and was on the top within an hour of leaving camp.

Still early morning, a thick haze engulfed the Superstition Wilderness and the Valley of the Sun to the other side. It would be awesome to see a sunrise or sunset form up here, but that would require a bit of effort to make that happen. This was pretty pleasing though, I really enjoyed the views up here. I was looking forward to more excellent views along the ridgeline and hopefully a safe return to Lost Dutchman State Park at the end of the day. More than anything though, I was looking forward to a hot shower and eating a real meal tonight, wherever it may be!

looking at the southern end of the superstition ridgeline

superstition wilderness full of morning haze

The first section of the Superstition Ridgeline trail was pretty easy and manageable. Looking back the way I came, into the sun and haze, was almost magical. It was an awesome feeling to be standing high on the ridgeline, overlooking everywhere I’d been over the past week.

superstition wilderness peak 5057

Looking up towards Peak 5057

superstition ridgeline spires

view of spires above the superstiion wilderness

The next section of the trail includes the tallest peak on the ridgeline, Peak 5057. Very original name. Can you guess how tall it is? Anyways, I dropped my pack and headed up to check it out. The peak is a prominent group of spires which didn’t look all that challenging from below. The approach was simple class 3 all the way up to the top, with some steep rocky sections that would have been tougher if the rock was slick. Fortunately, almost all rock in the Superstitions is very “grippy” which provides a lot of confidence and reassurance. However, about 20ft shy of the summit, a more difficult class 4 maneuver is required to progress further. Sheer drops with lots of exposure. It was an awkward move to make, tough to describe, but for the sake of safety I passed on it. So, I didn’t reach the summit, but close enough for me.

superstition wilderness as seen from superstition mountains

looking north on the superstition ridgeline

overlooking the superstition wilderness from the ridgeline

Back down from Peak 5057, I hit the trail again. The next few hours were the most difficult portions of the trail. Some sections of the trail were cut out of the mountainside on some serious slopes… not sheer drop offs, but the angle of the slope was so steep enough where if you slipped you would likely not be able to slow yourself down, and not without grabbing a cactus. Or getting impaled by one. Other sections of trail were steep rocky slopes with loose rock scattered on top. Really have to watch your footing here. Large sections of the trail have you traversing across a steep slope where you just can’t afford to make a mistake. The later half of my morning was mentally taxing as I had to concentrate on every step.

superstition ridgeline steep climb

A section of trail on the Superstition Ridgeline requiring some climbing

one of many rugged canyons intersection the ridgeline

looking south on the superstition ridgeline

There were also sections of the trail that required climbing of 10-25ft up or down a series of boulders or a rock face. Luckily there was no exposure here. Although it would have been easier without the pack on, it was more manageable than I anticipated.

panorama from the superstition ridgeline

valley of the sun below

ridgeline wide shot photo

Great views all along the trail today. For most of the day you could see Weaver’s Needle. I think I’ve seen it from just about every possible angle now, and I have to say that the view from Fremont Saddle is my favorite..

Superstition Ridgeline Panaorama Shot

one of the flatter sections of the superstition ridgeline trail

view of the superstition wilderness from the superstition mountains

Around halfway through the ridgeline, I passed two guys coming from Lost Dutchman. These were the only two people I saw up here, other than near the Flatiron and the hike down Siphon Draw. The trail had flattened out a little now. More rolling hills and just easier to traverse in general. Finally, I can cover some ground and relax a little bit! This next section was probably my favorite for that reason. I stopped for lunch and called my cousin to discuss a pick up time from Lost Dutchman. Having cell service was nice, really helped with the logistics of getting a ride back and ensuring that neither party was waiting long for the other.

When I first climbed up to the Superstition Ridgeline this morning, civilization could be seen below, but it certainly wasn’t a huge metropolis. The northwestern end of the Superstition Mountains provided a much better view of the Phoenix area, but it was still pretty hazy. I’m sure you could see a long ways on a clear day.

canyon filled with haze

looking back at the superstition mountain range from the northern end

superstition ridgeline northwest end

Lots of jagged cliffs and huge canyons on the northwestern end of the trail. It wasn’t much of a ridgeline now at this point, more of a path through the mountains. I was getting close to the end of the mountain range and soon I would be heading down.

view of the flatiron

steep descent into siphon draw

The steep decent down the Siphon Draw trail to Lost Dutchman State Park

Once I got to the Flatiron, I saw more people. My GPS indicated that the trail down was right in front of me, yet all I saw was a sheer cliff. Surely it’s not there. Wait, yes it is! I peered over the edge and saw a few people climbing up. Those sections earlier today that required some climbing were nothing compared to this. The trail was essentially a series of boulders stacked on each other that formed a very steep “staircase” that led down as far as the eye could see. Some sections required climbing, but I was able to descend most of it by hoping down to the next boulder below. Slow and tedious, but the only way down. Still near the top, 2 guys with large backpacks on were working their way up. I was interested because I thought I was the only one dumb enough to tackle this route as part of backpacking trip, and not just as a day hike. It turns out they were day hiking too, just using this as training for a hike in the Grand Canyon.

Looking Down The Siphon Draw Trail

looking back up the trail

Looking back up the Siphon Draw trail

Looking back up the Siphon Draw trail

The first bit of trail was all climbing down the boulders. After that, the trail dumps you out into a completely new environment. Here, the canyon widens out and appears to act as a big funnel for water. In fact, the was a large waterfall of about 50ft that would be flowing if it had rained recently. You could see where water typically travels, and how it likely carved this canyon. Very cool, I’ve never seen anything like this before. But damn, there were a lot of people! I’m surprised at how many people make the journey up to the top, as steep as it was.

emerging from the canyon

leaving tonto national forest

Eventually the trail becomes a little less steep and I emerged from the canyon. It was all slightly downhill or flat from here, and I was moving as fast as I could now. The end is near, just a little longer! I could see homes and buildings in the distance, and the Lost Dutchman State Park was in plain view now. My knees felt great the entire trip, but were a little sore from that hellacious descent. Still nothing compared to actual knee pain I’ve experienced on previous trips. I can deal with soreness.

view of the superstition mountains from lost dutchman state park

What an amazing feeling it was to finally stroll into Lost Dutchman State Park. As I turned around and looked back at the Superstition Mountains, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment for finally completing this hike. Mostly though, I was glad to be back in civilization and looking forward to many of the comforts one forgoes on such a trip. I took one last picture of the mountains, as I had seen many others take from this very spot. So beautiful, so rugged and most certainly a trip I will never forget.

 

 Final Thoughts

When I returned from the hike, I found out that while I was enjoying sunny days and temps in mid 60’s, everyone back home was hunkering down for the worst winter storm in 20 years. 15-24 inches of snow and temperatures as low as -47 with the wind chill. Apparently a phenomenon known as a polar vortex was the cause of the nasty weather. Regardless, I could not have picked a better week to be gone! I was also very lucky to have my flight even make it out of the airport… another 48 hours and I would have been stuck in Michigan.

Thanking back, I only saw a handful of people during this hike who were actually backpacking. Nearly all where day hikers. I can only remember 4 people who were backpacking for sure. There were also a few tents along Reavis, so maybe another 3 or 4 people. The people I saw were dispersed almost exactly as I had envisioned: nearly all near Peralta, a few near Reavis, and almost nobody in between.

Hiking gear and clothing must not last very long in the Superstitions. Many of the trails are overgrown and the thorny plants easily catch on anything you carry or your skin itself. I didn’t want to bring an inflatable air mattress here since mine popped during my last visit, so I brought a foam pad. This got pretty cut and torn since it was hanging on the back of my pack. Also got cactus thorns in my water bladder, holes in my pants, and my tent damaged form the winds.

It’s weird, but sometimes I just don’t feel like eating much when I hike. You’d think I’d be starved at the end up the day, but something about all that constant movement and exercise suppresses my hunger. I had a lot of food leftover, probably 3 pounds or so. I had about 15 pounds when I started. Needless to say, I lost 7 pounds in 7 days.

This hike was my longest hike in terms of both days and mileage. Setting a new “personal best” is always a good feeling. I am drawn to the idea of thru-hiking, and have been trying to prepare myself for that by gradually staying out longer, hiking more miles, and acquiring the overall skillset needed for long hikes. Now that I feel confident in my ability to stay out for a week, a trip long enough to warrant a resupply is the next step for me. However, that’s a whole other subject. Just glad to feel one step closer to my goal.

Physically, I felt pretty good at the end of the week too. I had a blister forming on the inside of my heel callus, but it never popped. My knees felt good the entire trip, which I was a little worried about. I’ve been dealing with knee pain on and off for the past year. But no knee problems this time! I felt like I could keep hiking the next few days if I had to.

Looking back on this hike from the comfort of my home is a lot different then how I felt in the moment. I think we have a tendency to forget how difficult some things were that we’ve experienced and how hard we push ourselves. Yet no matter what I’ve gone through in the wild, as soon as I get home, I just want to get right back out there again.

2 Responses

  1. Lee Chandler

    Wow nice trek, you hiked more of Supes than most do in a life time, bummer we could not have linked up out there. That gear along Frog Tanks was from a horseman who had an accident, its been there for about two years now. I have experienced similar wind, coming up that same section from Woodbury. For your next trip, you should consider some off-trail routes, there are some real gems out there.

    January 24, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    • MetalBackpacker
      MetalBackpacker

      Thanks, it was great to be able to see some much of the area. I was reading through some of your trips on HAZ, seems like you’ve been almost everywhere in the supes yourself. Any trails you haven’t hiked yet? Yeah too bad we weren’t able to meet up, I could have used the company. Next time I hike out there I’ll have to get in touch with you and get off trail.

      Enjoy the rest of the prime hiking weather out there. It’s been an unusually cold and snowy winter in Michigan, I won’t get to hike again for a few months.

      January 27, 2014 at 3:31 am

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