This was our longest mileage to date, though there couldn't be a better trail to hike longer miles. We started our hike at 8:30 after signing in and noticing a familiar name in the log book, "ALMAL". I think he's on HAZ, I thought. I told Wendi that we might get see a fellow HAZ'r on the trail today, was that ever an understatement.
We made it to Parkers Pass, tried not to get too evil-eyed at the hill from our "First Water Loop" hike we did a while ago. That's a long story, an oldie but a goody. We laughed about it now.
About two miles in I began to feel a pinch in my left knee, an injury carried over from last weeks "Dripping Springs" hike in which I slipped at one of the creek crossings. But it was just a pinch and kept going.
Along the way we saw a Cardinal, a Scrub Jay, and one Indian Paintbrush. The plan was to save Bull Pass for the return trip, while following the Dutchman all the way the south side of Black Top Mesa. Wendi wanted to see Aylors Arch. The area between Black Top and the Palomino has some nice camping spots. The Mesquite(?) trees have beautifully pruned over the years at few of the sites, making for an idyllic desert setting. There small trickle of water down in Boulder Canyon which cut 15' below the camp sites. Really nice area. We got our pictures of the arch but probably took more of Weavers which looms spectacularly from here, and then continued on. We saw only a lone jogger on this section. The Foliage gets pretty tight as the trail crosses the creek, after a 1/8 mile it file opens up as the trail rises through a set of switchbacks to the south side of Black Top. I noticed some spots where a yellow stripe has been spray painted on rocks to mark the trail.
By the time we dropped into Needle Canyon we were pretty warm and were glad to finally get the small bit of shade that the dense foliage provide. Though passed Terrapin things really started to choke up again, not unnavigable though. Needle Canyon wasn't over the top beautiful but there were some choice camping spots here. One it looked some one had abandoned their sleeping bags and the desert life had perhaps just begun to lay a claim to the stuffing. There was one spot here that is somewhat hidden behind some huge boulders that I really liked, so I will keep that a secret.
We saw one group two coming up Needle, I recognized them from HAZ but couldn't remember their names. "Hey! I know you...but I don't" seemed awkward so I didn't really make an introduction. 10 minutes later it hit me that Denny(Tortoise Hiker?) was one and ALMAL(Duh!) was the other... Hi guys! We had hiked so far that I had completely forgotten about the trail-log. I could tell that my brain function was beginning to fade. By the time we got to the Bull Pass Junction(East) Wendi was beginning to fade too. We needed to eat but the Sun seemed unfriendly here so I left Wendi to sit and headed West up Bull Pass hoping for some shade, and giving strong consideration that we might call it quits after lunch and be headed this way any way. But no shaded to be had, even off-trailed to a spot that looked promising but that only resulted in my right foot kicking a crusty ball of chollas deep into my left calf. Mother-Pumpkin! After pulling the thing out with a pair of Leatherman pliers I reported back to Wendi who was still sitting at the junction. I left her again to look east up the Dutchman which after 50' or so drops down into LaBarge. Now this looked promising! I turned around to find Wendi already coming up behind me. It was too windy right here so continued down into LaBarge. A large group was coming up the trail so finding an uncomfortable rock on a tight hill side trail and having lunch as 20 people filed past seemed inappropriate so we just continued on towards the bottom as our small group of two yielded to their large group.
Once in LaBarge our spririts picked up. We could feel things were a little cooler here and thoughts of quitting began to fade but we still needed to eat! There was another group lunching in a nice spot just before the junction with Calvary. It took me a second to realize that one of them was Grasshopper! And another was Ambika! I didn't recognize the other two but one of them had Kokopeli T'shirt on. I thought about crashing the party but it sounded like Grasshopper was giving Ambika a pretty serious lesson on a piece of equipment, she seemed frustrated with it so I didn't interrupt.
Still contemplating cutting the trip short, we paused with an option to Marsh Valley but decided to continue on the Dutchman where we finally found some shade and a spot lunch. Our spirits picked up after lunch and were so close to Charlebois that we opted to make a last ditch effort to make it to the finish line. While were eating another lone backpacker passed us on the trail. We waived and he waived. We later saw him coming back down the trail looking for the lens cap to his camera. He sound Dutch or German but would you believe the irony nver hit me until I sat down to write this triplog. A Dutchman looking a little lost on the Lost Dutchman Trail...never happen!
He ended up finding it, and catching, and passing us again, impressive because his pack was huge too. He never got too far ahead though as he began photographing the canyon. Which, by the way, really begins to shine going through here. The beauty only broken by the sound of a barking dog somewhere on the trail ahead.
Suddenly, we can hear the Dutchman talking to someone. The conversation was loud and it seemed that the dog wanted to be part of it too! Nothing quite prepared us for what was to come as we caught up to the Dutchman in a tight section of trail. Below him was gray bearded "Yosemite Sam" looking guy, complete with clothes that looked like Civil war carry-overs, heavy blue shirt, white cross-over suspenders, Calvary Hat with gold tassles. With him was the barking dog, a larg horse, and a pack mule. His accent perfectly suited his attire. The situation was getting sureal at this point. "Y'all headed to Charley-Boy Spring?". Both our groups affirmed that we were. "Well I better oughta let you by", "If y'all can let my horses through". We got off the trail as much as we could. The horse sniffed me for food as he passed, the mule paid no attention at all. "I gotta camp set up already, but there's plenty of room" We told him that the two of us weren't camping just doing an out an back. To which he replied in a voice that sounded most definitely sounded like Yosemite Sam but smoother perhaps afer a few shots of whiskey, not gruff at all but with an affect that implied that we were crazy "What taaime is it?" "That's a long walk" We laughed a little insecurely at this point because we were definitely loosing daylight.
Wendi noticed that he was pruning the trail as we parted company. So that gave me a little bit of confindence. He had told us that the spring was probably 15 minutes ahead. We passed his campsite. I was hoping for an old canvas tent but nothging of the sort, not even sure I saw a tent, some blankets, another saddle, some modern collapsable seating and tables, a subdued campfire, and pretty large pile of emptied Keystone beer cans.
Wendi wanted to end this long hike with a "Destination" and when she heard Yosemite say Charlebois "Spring" she was on a mission. To be honest I didn't even hear it said. My mission was to find the Peralta Master Map, find the gold and go home rich. But I knew there wasn't going to be time to do what I wanted to do and not only did I not know about the spring but once I did I didn't have high hopes. So I decided that we would turn around as we stood at the mouth of that canyon and call it day... That is not however what Wendi had decided. She powered passed me, found a pool that caught our attention, we stopped and listened to the frogs that ihabited this little oasis. The sounds of 50 squeaky shoes erupted here and there from various points in the over growth. It caused us to laugh and giggle. Wendy asked if this was the spring and I answered "Sure!", knowing that regardless who pushed the length of this hike out I was gonna take the hit if it resulted in a night hike.
She could see that I was lying and immediatey move further up the Canyon. I was getting concerned because I mistook where the Dutchman trail broke off for another campsite, so I didn't realize that we were actually right on top of the spring and the end of the trail. The Dutchman had beat us to it. He was filtering water from the spring when came up on him. We chatted breifly. Not wanting to be too intrusive I didn't bother looking for the "Master Map". We took a few pics and headed back.
We passed the point where we first ran into Yosemite and sure enough he had pruned the tail. Mostly higher though, obviously more for equestrians in mind but it still helped. He left trimmings on the trail in his wake which I greatfully threw off the trail. Probably about 20 minutes later we caught him head back to his camp. "It's long walk back" he said again reaffirming his notion that we were crazy. "I know it" I said.
I was surprised at how far he had actually got in his pruning. I was picking tossing trimmings a 1/4 mile shy of the Calvary. Which is also where ran into a group of horse back riders, probably ten large. One lifted a can of Keystone almost to toast. "Have a good hike" he said with a slight buzz. Another had a can in his shirt pocket. By the last horse, I was confindent enough to ask if they we were meeting up with the feller at "Charley-Boy". She said yeah! It was kind of funny. I realized then that all the pruning was to benefit this group. Perhaps this the Supes equivelant to a beer run.
Coming over the top of Bull Pass was another treat. We could seet the back of Battle Ship and the tops of the ridgel line that makes LaBarge Box, the break in it's southern end and the shadow it casted in the yellowing light was beautifull and I reminder that we needed to get a move on. We got one last look at Aylors Arche as we dropped back down into Boulder. My knee by now was reacting painfully to the down pitches. But we made good time still the same. By the time we were headed up to the parking lot we it was 6:00 clock with a little light remaining. My knee was in pain even on the ascents at this point (And even now as I write this our planned hike today to condition ourselves with our new packs is being cancelled
We were excited to finally finish a hike in this side of the Supes with enough time to stop and eat at the Mining Camp Restauarant.
We both had the Pulled Pork sandwich and a Blue Moon. We were pleasantly surpised that Pulled Pork had more of light Verde seasoning to it rather than a traditional BBQ flavor. It was cheesey too. Put the pounds right back on.
So we are left with only one question. "Charley-Boy" or "Shar La Bwah"?