Our original plan was to hike the Deep Creek Trail in the Sierra Anchas, but the weather forecast made everyone skittish about that. Negotiating a muddy FR203A isn't on my to-do list. So I came up with an alternate plan to hike some of the Superstitions and see some water. And because Joe was going to cancel if we didn't. The change in plan also got Dave and Bruce interested.
We took the Bluff Spring Trail north to the Lost Dutchman Trail. The plan was once we got to the Red Tanks Trail, we would make the on-the-fly decision of whether to turn left and do the longer Bluff Spring Super loop, or turn right and do the shorter Charlebois II Loop (without seeing Charlebois Spring). The Bluff Loop promised better water features.
Since it had remained mostly sunny for the first portion of the day, once we got to the critical junction of decision, we decided to turn right and do the shorter hike. We had changed our plans to do this hike expecting, even hoping for rain. I don't think I have ever been so discouraged and angry to see blue skies. The more we looked to the south and saw the sun, the madder Alex and I got.
There was a lot of water in the streams, probably the snowmelt from the higher elevations and eastern portion of the wilderness from the previous rains. A lot of streams were actually running and not just standing water. Just south of the junction of the Bluff and Terrapin Trails, Joe showed us the rock with the word "PERALTA" carved in it.
Alex mentioned that he has been hiking these trails for a long time and could never find any of the supposed "springs" that are shown on the maps. So once we got to LaBarge Spring, we took him up there to show him they exist. Bruce took a tortoise from the stream bed up to the spring and left him there to die. Joe stood on a really rickety, slippery looking pallet to get a drink of water while the remaining 4 of us switched our cameras to video mode and collectively hoped for a moment we could send to AFV. Alas, Joe kept his dignity.
The clouds started to roll in while we were at the spring and by the time we got a quarter mile down the trail, the rain had started a little. At this point suggestions were thrown around about where and when to have lunch before the rain got worse. Dave wanted to eat before the rain was bad, then he wanted to go back to the spring. We all decided to sit down in a dry section of a wash and eat. After about 10 min., Dave asked if we were going to be there a while so he could make soup. We said yes and then left as soon he got all his alcohol stove gear out.
The rain was off and on for the rest of the day. Never really bad enough to soak thru my sweatshirt. Alex, however, was having a battle with the elements and his comfort level because he changed in and out of his rain gear about 5 times. By the end it got to where if we wanted the rain to stop, we asked Alex to put on his rain gear.
At the higher point by Miner's Needle the low clouds rolled in and we were engulfed. Bruce, Joe and Dave decided to make the Class 4 scramble up to the eye of the needle while Alex and I continued along the trail. Once we got down to Barkely Basin you could see the low ceiling of clouds hovering over the mountains. Joe, Bruce and Dave caught up to us during the last mile.
The distance for this hike is confusing. The Beartooth map says 12.6 miles. Everyone's odometer said at least 15. After looking at Bruce's posted track minus the scramble I didn't do, I'm going with 14.5, which feels like it this next morning. The plantar fasciitis in my right foot isn't so bad today as it was during the hike yesterday, but the blister on my other foot is acting up and my calves are pretty sore. It was very nice to have a much shorter drive home after a long hike like this.
We saw a 4Runner in the morning at the TH with a hikearizona.com sticker on it. Turns out it was jtaylor, who left a note on the Stillermobile to say 'Hey'.
Nice to hike with everyone again and have a much fun being goofs as we did hiking.