johnr1 suggested I hurry and get this log posted before Joe's updates in the morning so here goes:
This is a most wonderful shuttle hike and I'm glad we started early as it did start to heat up during certain portions of the hike. We met Ambika at the TH with all of us arriving early. We left her vehicle at First Water and then headed to Canyon Lake Marina where we parked in the area set for hikers... that be us.
Up the hill we went at 7:05AM. You first have that little hill before heading up what I think is Frog's Peak. I liked the warm-up before some of that major climbing altho, it really wasn't bad at all. Then again, I know what coming out of La Barge Creek up the side of a very long mountain is like when it is in the high 80s and dressed in black
As always, the hike up from Canyon Lake is just beautiful. The sun would come in and out so you had to grab your photos while sunlight was on the canyon walls. Once at the top of the Peak, we headed east down and around the side of some more little mountains before going down a short distance along the west side of another mountain and headed west. Once thru the ravine and back at the top of another mountain (more like a saddle) we then headed south toward great views of Weavers Needle and the Battleship. I remembered the area with the rock formations and yelled ahead for Linda and Tracy to stop somewhere in there for a break.
Linda picked a prime spot for the break and Tracy picked the prime view atop a fairly comfortable rock. You could see EVERYTHING from Geronimo's Head to LaBarge Creek to Battleship to Weaver's Needle to Boulder Creek to the Superstition Range to the Flatiron and all the way back to Canyon Lake
. The only thing you couldn't see were the Four Peaks. It was just awesome; the highlight of the views on this hike in my opinion.
And then it was time for the long down hill hike to LaBarge Creek. All those memories of my struggle up this hill came back and I was more than happy to be going down it instead of up it. LaBarge was completely dry where we crossed. It would be from here to Garden Valley that would be all new territory for me. I was pleasantly surprised that the trail to the saddle was so obvious until Tracy stopped at the creek's side where the trail ended
I knew from my studies that the trail hugged the side of the mountain so we proceeded back to the big intersection with what may have been a broken cement post and near a campsite. We went thru the campsite and the trail was once again obvious as we made our way along the mountain side and up through a gap to the saddle. Before you knew it we were at the Paint Mine that I had seen so many pictures of. It's smaller than I thot but pretty cool nonetheless. Now there is a trail that stays up on this level and then there is another trail that goes below
. Tracy and I decided on the lower trail as it went toward Boulder Creek and that's where we were headed next.
As we continued on this lower trail, Tracy jumped and we heard a snake. She hardly yelped at all and before you knew it, the paparazzi was out
. Ohh and he was a hissing. We soon realized he was in the middle of lunch and after sleeping for so many months, I am sure he was starved and here we were, the four of us, snapping photos like he was a movie star (or Joe Bartels
). The snake tried to hold himself up, get louder and flash his tongue even more to try and scare us but we were determined to get our pics. Eventually he had to just sit in recoil and just hiss and flash the tongue as he couldn't hold himself and his lunch up in a most menacing manner.
Boulder Creek did have some pools of water in it and I was pleasantly surprised by some cottonwood trees in and by the creek. The girls got a bit ahead of me and then pretty soon, I see all of them stopped looking in the distance.... but not down. When I came upon Tracy and Linda, they said Ambika had gone ahead to shoot several cardinals near the saguaro. Eventually they flew to the other side of the trail but the female landed in a tree and provided some limited photo opportunities
Next we encountered Boulder Creek again and the signed intersection with Boulder Trail and Second Water. This is where the number of hikers we would see increased pretty dramatically. The hike on Second Water was pretty cool too
as you parallel the creek to your right for awhile. I was pleased to see so many possible camp sites that had started around LaBarge Creek. I just didn't realize there were so many. Once getting up this first little section of Second Water, it was now time to tackle the hill
in front of us.
I knew we would have to go up a good piece to get to Garden Valley but it was starting to get warm and we were all running a little low on fuel except Tracy and Ambika who seemed like they ran up the hill. So up Linda and I went taking our time. I would find myself looking back and admiring the Battleship with yearning. Fortunately, the Second Water hill didn't go on forever and before you knew it we were at the top. A few people who were sitting down back a ways on the trail were now coming up as they had missed their turn and fortunately decided to head back up Second Water. The views from here are just great too.
We decided to have lunch along the trail wherever we could find a nice place to sit once we checked for SNAKEs since another couple told us they had encountered a snake along the way. Before we arrived I noticed a couple carrying a hike description from HikeArizona.com. My beady eyes saw the title of the hike was the Garden Valley Loop so I preceded to tell them they had missed the turn and they could continue another 5 miles or so to Canyon Lake but would have to hitch a ride back or they should turn around. They went a little further and then as we were finishing lunch they passed by us as they headed back.
I never realized Second Water could be so busy but it was like we hit the freeway at rush hour
. Fortunately for the rest of our hike we didn't run into so many other people. From here we headed up the rock-filled trail but enjoyed the plushness of the landscape as well as the rocky hillside to our north with many of the saguaros. As we got closer to the stock tank berm, Ambika noticed the Arch that I've also seen in pictures but not in person. It looked delicate but we were quite a distance from it. We climbed up the berm to see what was on the other side and that's when we discovered it was a stock tank. It looks like the perfect place for one.
Alas we were in Garden Valley with the nice smooth trail. After walking just a little bit past the stock tank, we looked to our north and slightly off trail was this GIgantic cholla bush/tree. It was amazing so we had to go over and take a couple photos. We reached the intersection with Black Mesa Loop where soon some horseback riders rode by. From there, it was just a matter of footwork to get back to the TH. The skies were so beautiful though and I was also easily distracted by the tall chollas, the Superstitions and the creek beds. We made our time frame of 6 hours, 1PM (3:38 moving), loaded up in Ambika's car and headed to the Marina for our much deserved lunch though we had to wait a long time to get our drinks (ended up being free) but not so long for our lunch.
Yep, that 's a great hike!
Video 1 is from Canyon Lake to just before LaBarge Creek: http://www.youtube.com/embed/vqlnJV7jnaw
Video 2 is from LaBarge Creek onto Second Water and includes the Paint Mine and the snake: http://www.youtube.com/embed/EHXwB9Tw69I
Vdieo 3 is from Second Water to the First Water TH: http://www.youtube.com/embed/H-Ul3jF15RM