Old Baldy to Crest Trail to Foursprings Trail to Kent Spring Trail to Pipeline Route to Super Trail
I have been doing a lot of hiking to swimming holes and waterfalls. Fun, but I have a big Grand Canyon trip coming up in a little over a month. Time to start some serious training. So today I loaded up my big backpack with a bunch of stuff and two extra gallons of water and set out to do a big loop in the Santa Ritas. I decided to take Baldy up because I figured going uphill on a trail I already knew would be a little easier. I had not been on the Baldy Tr. since right at the start of the monsoon http://hikearizona.com/TL.php?ID=52865
and everything was so lush and green and there were tons of wildflowers, interesting fungi, and butterflies.
I saw my only hikers just before Josephine Saddle, a friendly group from Saddlebrooke that do a weekly Thursday hike for many years now. After a short break to chat and snack, I continued up the Baldy Trail toward Baldy Saddle. After reaching Bellows Spring, I tried to make the 32 switchbacks above the spring go by quickly by counting each one as I hiked it. I cursed the extra weight in my pack and avoided the temptation to empty the extra water containers to lighten my load. This is a training hike, after all. I reached Baldy Saddle, but the climbing wasn't done yet. I still had a climb up on the Crest Trail to attain the ridgeline. Finally it all paid off with the sweetness of views from high up on the Santa Rita Crest. I'd explored this trail a little on my trip in July, but now I got to hike the whole way to the Foursprings Trail turnoff.
My personal favorite spot for the day was Burnt Saddle. I have seen this spot from many locations and the views were incredible. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JNVmPC3f9U
I especially liked seeing Elephant Head jutting up from the western Santa Ritas. I took a long break at Burnt Saddle, and pondered bushwhacking downhill to Shovel Saddle, but I thought it might be better saved for a return trip. So I took the Foursprings Trail (it is not signed as such, just has a sign pointing to Armour Sp.) down to Armour Spring and along the way, almost stepped on a tiny Twin-Spotted Rattlesnake that was curled up right in the trail. It made me a little edgy because much of the trail was overgrown in this area. Well, when I got done with all the overgrown extra up and down just to arrive at Shovel Saddle and see that there was a very clear path up to Burnt Saddle, I regretted my decision. Next time, I will definitely do the bushwhack, because Armour Spring was less than inspiring. There were three Red-Tailed Hawks soaring around and diving at each other and I took a break to watch their aerial acrobatics.
The trail conditions improved greatly after Shovel Saddle and the trail quickly lost elevation on the side of the canyon. I connected with the Kent Spring Tr. and the singletrack changed to an old rocky roadbed that paralleled the creek. At the spot where an above-ground pipeline is visible crossing the creek, I took the Pipeline Route a short distance to the Super Trail and (finally!) was back at my car. It was a long day with a lot of elevation gain- I would have rather done this as a backpack and spent the night at the sweet site at Burnt Saddle. Especially since I was carrying a bunch of weight anyway