For my first hiking outing of 2012 I decided to take it kinda easy and do the Garden Valley Loop. I did this hike last year and found the Garden Valley area to be such a unique place within the Superstitions that I wanted to return and hopefully before the crowds. Well, that part of the plan didn't work, cause on the way in, I thought I was in a convoy heading to First Water Trailhead
Once parked, I got into my gear, cleared the GPS and figured I would put one over on the crowds by doing the hike in reverse, so I headed back down the road to the trail taking me to the old horse corral. I really lucked out cause I was the only one on the trail (for now). I bypassed the trail to Hackberry Spring and went straight for the canyon trail up to Garden Valley. On the way, I crossed First Water Creek and yes, there is a trickle of moving water in it.
As I approached the top of the trail, I could hear voices and soon I came upon 12-15 hikers in a group heading down the trail I was just on (lucked out again)
. Once on the Garden Valley Plateau, I diverted off trail heading East towards the Black Mesa Loop Trail. As I joined the new trail, I climbed a small sandy berm which seemed out of place on the otherwise flat ground. This sandy berm appears to be a dam, created by removing the sand to create a water retention area. Do any of our archaeology students/experts know if this was work done by the early inhabitants of this area?
I headed East on the trail with Black Mesa on my right and Hackberry Mesa on my left and quickly came to the conclusion that they were aptly named after the ancient black lava flows all around. After a short hike down this trail, my fascination switched to some incredible views of Four Peaks and Weavers Needle.
I swung North, and from this vantage point, Four Peaks was simply awesome with the sun behind me and so much green foliage in front of me. I just kept framing the mountain with anything available, Cholla skeletons, Saguaro and Palo Verde trees. There could be some incredible evening shots as the sun casts its last rays on the slopes.
To the South, my views of Weavers Needle were improving so I headed up towards the top of Hackberry Mesa to see how much better it gets. The seasonal angle of the sun and the particles in the air made for a bad day to be shooting in that direction, but it's still something that can't be passed up on. From near the top, around 2,600 feet, the Garden Valley opens up and shows itself off pretty good too.
After all this wandering around to get photo shots, I was now wondering how the heck I'm going to get back down from here and complete the Garden Valley Loop
. Only one way to go, and that's down. So I headed down into the loose volcanic rock slides being careful not to disturb those that seemed most ready to break free. It was a slow and tenuous trek to the bottom, and something I wouldn't want to do frequently, but I made it without twisting my ankles
Back at the sandy berm, I got back on the trail again and continued my trip back. The Garden Valley is in the early stages of turning green and if we get some more rain, It should be lush and fertile again this Spring. The Snowbirds (I really hate to be counted in that group)
are showing up in greater numbers now so I'm glad I did this trip in reverse
Back at the trailhead, I was stowing my gear and enjoying a cold brew while observing this guy get a large backpack ready to go. So I went over and talked with him and found out that he's heading out to Weavers Needle, climbing to the top and spending the night(alone). He told me that his hiking buddy cancelled out at the last minute and his plans were made, so he's going. I asked him if he was aware of HikeArizona.COM, and he replied that he wasn't so I told him he should investigate the site where he can most likely find a substitute hiker. He said he would check it out when he got back. I wished him luck, and watched him head down the trail.