The mission was to check a couple of springs along the south face of Black Mesa, in the Agua Fria National Monument.
A rainy Sunday was foretold, but with weekend time now at a premium, I was not about to let a little bit of rain ruin my plans. I arrived at Black Mesa at dawn, fully expecting a muddy slog fest, but fortune was to be with me, for not a drop fell the entire day.
After hiking 30 minutes to the east, I walked into a big herd of javalina at the top of Black Mesa. The pigs ran in all directions, blinded by the early morning sun on the horizon. A baby pig walked right in front of me, daring me to catch him. The youngsters are so tiny that a human can run them down, especially in flat terrain like Black Mesa. I caught up to him after about 30 yards, though I refrained from giving him a kick, lest he squeal for help, and bring tusked trouble my way.
The sides of Black Mesa are vertical drops for much of its length, forcing me to take a mile detour to the south to get into the Agua Fria River Canyon. There is a nice trail along the south face that the ranchers use to move cattle to and from the mesa. I took that down to the Agua Fria and then went up Larry Creek, one of my destinations for the day.
Larry Creek is dry for the most part, except for a couple of springs, the best of which supports quarter mile green belt with a high flow rate. There is an old stone cabin along the west bank nestled in amongst the huge trees. Some yahoo dug a hole in the floor looking for artifacts, but apparently gave up after finding the effort too much work, leaving his Walmart brand water bottles and trash behind. Trash is always a good indicator of the proximity of roads. Easy access = trash and destruction.
I humped over the mesa and dropped into Lousy Creek, about one mile to the north. Lousy Creek has a fabulous spring complex that flows year-round at a good clip. There are fish, turtles, and all sorts of other critters living down there. I saw a herd of pigs near the first water, but they ran off before I could get a picture of them. Same holds true for the mud turtle: he dove into the deeps and tested every bit of my patience, forcing me to wait an eternity before he came back up for air, only to dive down once again, uncooperative to the end. There were dozens of leopard frogs along the banks, evidently, there has not been a hard frost up there yet, as the reptiles and amphibians are still about.
There are three waterfalls that I had to portage around, but other than that, the walking is fairly easy the first quarter mile. Despite that fact, I managed to slip into a deep pool, providing cold, wet feet for the remainder of the trip. The upper quarter mile is really neat: lots of ferns, flowers, critters, and huge trees. The lower three-quarters, however, is a solid mat of bamboo that is no fun whatsoever. It is possible to avoid the worst of it if you are willing to swim the channel. It being rather cold out, I opted to walk the bank, cutting through the bamboo at a snail's pace.
It took forever to get out of there, and I ended up walking back under a bright November moon, arriving at the truck at 8:00 PM.
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