After leaving our car at the Peralta Trailhead, we were dropped off by a kind friend at the Rogers Trough Trailhead at about 7pm. It was very quiet, as we were the only ones there. We spent the night at the trailhead.
Early the next morning, we packed up and started up the Reavis Valley Trail. My thermometer said it was 45 degrees when we started. The forecast was for record head in Phoenix, so we tried to appreciate the cool air for as long as it lasted. There was plenty of water in pools until around the Roger's Canyon cutoff. This seemed like a good omen. (We are three women from Alaska, and are used to too much water in the form of rain, snow and breakup slush.) We were carrying two 32oz nalgene bottles each and two of us also carried 100 oz camelbacks (which was fortunate when we got lost the next day)
The trek up to the saddle seemed to go on forever. But when ever we took a water break and turned around, we were awed by the expansive scenery and the two men on horses who were slowly gaining on us. They caught up with us at a narrow spot, and we had our first cat claw encounter when we let them pass.
Had a nice break at the saddle. The temp had warmed up, but was still comfortable. From there the trail surprised us. There was frequently water in the creek beds, often flowing. And the forest offered a nice respite from the growing heat. The trail was mostly very easy to walk on, in fact, at times we were amazed at how deep the trail rut had become.
The Reavis Ranch area was fascinating. We'd seen pictures of the old ranch and lake. It must have been a magical place. Add an apple orchard to that, and, WOW. Our initial plan was to camp there, but after looking at the map, we decided to continue onto the Frog Tanks Trail. Reavis Ranch was the last place that we saw people for the next 2 1/2 days.
We stocked up with water at the ranch, not knowing what to expect after that. The trail continued through forested area, easy walking. Gentle inclines and declines. We got to the Frog Tanks Trail at about 4, and were excited to see more traditional deserty looking environment. Trip logs that I'd read about this trail had us a little concerned. Lots of Cat Claws, unmaintained sections, etc. We didn't see any of this on the way to the Plow Saddle Trail. The trail was easy to follow, great vistas and a very walkable grade. The sun was getting low, lighting up the green leaves of the sycamore trees at the Plow Saddle cutoff. This was a great sign in our hopes for finding water. When we got to the Plow Saddle, we unanimously decided that our day of hiking was over. And, happily we found a trickling water source. The trough had some water in it, but the creek just below it was flowing. It was a beautiful evening. Stars, chirping crickets, about 50 degrees. Perfect sleeping weather. This was the second night with no fly on the tent. In Alaska, we never risk leaving the fly off. In the Supes, we did it every night. What a treat.
Waking up, we read the trail guide, and one person's trip log warning of cat fights to come. Ominous. About an hour down the trail we thought we were walking down a garden path. The natural rock formation, the saguaro's and flowers everywhere were fantastic. If I were a landscaper for desert dwellers, I'd come here for inspiration. Next we came to the indian ruins. The rock wall is very impressive. What a lot of effort it must have taken to build. I didn't remember reading much about this site and its history. I'll have to search further.
Next, the den of cat claws. We put on long sleeved shirts and long pants for protection. It wasn't nearly as bad as we'd feared. Sure we got a few scratches. But most of the possible jabs and slices were protected by a thin cotton shirt and nylon zip on pants. The shade was nice.
One of my favorite parts of the whole hike was just after that, at the fish creek junction. There was plenty of water for dunking out bodies, and have a wonderful lunch break. The rest of the Frog Tank trail, to Angel Basin was inspiring. There was one particular campsite on a hill that overlooked a real swimming hole. Water filled most of the potholes, and flowed in many places. If I could do it over, I'd take a layover day in there and enjoy the solitude.
But we had a plane to catch in 2 days, and had to keep trekking. Initially, our plan had been to stop at Angel Basin. I would have loved that. Maybe it was because we were there on a Thursday, but we saw no one. The cliffs and rock formations on all sides of the basin are beyond description. I'm not big into spiritualism, but this place has an aura or a feeling or something that is BIG. So big that a camera doesn't do it justice. We had to pull out the iPhones to get short panoramic video clips. (Fortunately there was no service, so no distractions with the outside.)
We did not visit the cliff dwellings. Next time. Instead we headed up Roger's Canyon. Up and Up and Up. Unfortunately, the cairns did not lead us up high enough and we ended up bushwacking through cat claws and a multitude of other daggers. And this time we were not prepared with long pants and sleeves. It got a bit bloody. We named this the WTF trail. Finally, we came to a spot where the cairns stopped and we needed to engage in some serious map reading. I could tell that the JF was coming up a canyon, and could tell that we needed to get higher. More bushwacking. More cat fighting and puncture wounds. Wilting spirits.... until we came to the saddle, and re-met up with the Roger's Canyon trail. To borrow a phrase from my daughters: OMG. It felt like we could see a million miles- back to Angel Basin, and up the canyon with the JF Trail. There is a little plateau just above the trail and the saddle that made all of the bloody trudging along worth it. (Of course if we'd stayed on the trail we still would have ended up there. But sometimes, difficulties make rewards feel much bigger.)
It had been a long day, and we were in bed by 7:30. We all woke up in the middle of the night, ibuprofen time, and figured it was about 3am. The stars were spectacular. (I know the superlatives are getting redundant. Maybe it should be named the superlative hike.) After star gazing, we checked the clock. Only 9:45. The cool thing was, that meant we still had a whole nights sleep left.
Back on the trail, we hiked a little ways up, until we came to the JF Trail. I might be getting old, but I'll take a gentle uphill climb over a graveling downhill slide any day. The JF offered us a downhill trail, but it wasn't bad at all. I think the descent is about 800 feet. Enough to see a variety of mini-ecosystems, and watch spring open up right before our eyes. We also got to see a gila monster and rattler.
At the Randolph Canyon junction, we again found water. Which was good since we hadn't camped at a site with water. Good thing for the two camelback reserve water sources. This was a great place for a snack, more coffee, and a chance to see a funky looking white toad/frog. It had the ability to jump up a foot, landing on a vertical rock and just stick to it. We'd considered taking the Randolph Canyon down to Red Tanks trail to Coffee Flats, but were hesitant about boulder hopping with our packs. So instead, we kept going down the JF to the windmill at the Woodbury trail.
The junction of the Coffee Flats and Woodbury was hard to find until I pulled out the notes from other trip logs. It is through a gate at the far end of the corral. Without the notes, we would have staggered around for a while looking for it. I had expected to see people in this area. But, nope not a single person. Coffee Flats is a beautiful trail. It starts out rather flat and traditional desert-like. But after a while, it enters the Fraser Canyon with dramatic canyon walls at eye level. We did agitate a large rattler who was hiding out in the grasses under a tree. I'd never heard that sound before, but everyone says it is very distinctive. They are right. This big old guy kept at it for about 5 minutes. I do appreciate the warning sound. We tried to make it to Dripping Springs for lunch and a water break, but the heat was killer and we realized it was time to stop, about 1/2 mile from the springs. Fortunately there was water all along the way. We stopped in the wonderful shade of a cliff wall. Such a difference a little bit of shade makes. After living in Alaska for 20 years, I typically do not look for shade. On this day, I learned to love it. We heard later that they had a record high in Phoenix. My thermometer showed the temp in the sun at over 100. It was frickin' hot. Of note, there were quite a few bear tracks along the trail. They were only hand sized, so not much to worry about. And no little cub prints, which eased our concern.
After a break, we made it to dripping springs, dunked our shirts, heads and hats in the water, which was running nicely. Then onward to a shady spot at Reed's Water with the windmill. The trough was dry as could be, but the creek had running water. Lovely shade too. But here's is where we stopped loving the cairn markers. We followed a nicely marked trail to the South of Reed's Water. It was a great trail, but unfortunately, it lead us to the Whitlow Canyon Road. Luckily we had two maps. The topo trail map was useless here. The National Geographic Trail map shoed the road, with a corral at the end, and the Coffee Flat trail perpendicular to the end of the road. Well, we walked the road for probably at least 1/2 mile, and came to the end, where there was a water tank and trough. Ahead were a myriad of cow trails, and accompanying cows. After reading the map and looking at the topography, I had to believe that we were going the right way, so we kept going. And sure enough, after another half mile, we came to a corral. The Coffee Flats Trail was just past the corral. Hooray, because the otherwise the options weren't looking good, and the likelihood of catching our plane the next night was looking even worse.
Once on the trail, the evening light started turning gorgeous golden and red. I was leading for a while and noticed movement on the side of the trail. Another rattler. This one was spread out, sniffing away with his tongue. It kept casually coming down the trail towards us. That was all fine and good for a while, but we really needed to keep moving forward. We took a slight detour through the brush and continued on our way. As soon as we found a flat spot, we set up camp, ate tuna, ramen and a delicious raspberry crumble desert. Back to sleep by 7:30, but this time sleep lasted all night until 5:30, at the first sign of dawn.
We finally saw another person, just before we got to the Dutchman's trail. The first person in 2 1/2 days. The Dutchman's trail was like a sidewalk. A few gravelly spots. But very easy to follow and walk. Maybe because our packs were lighter by now. Walking beside Weaver's Needle was cool. Partly because of its shape, but also because at one point, when we were well passed it, we turned around and realized how far we had come. And before we knew it, we saw cars in the parking lot. This time, Saturday morning, it was full.
A fantastic adventure. Hard and easy, hot and cold, gorgeous and fascinating. I'll be back!
||Wildflowers Observation Substantial