This Loop was definitely on my list and it should be on yours too. You get a lot of bang for your 15 relatively easy miles....at least as easy as Supes miles can be considered.
We met at the TH at 7ish with a start time around 7:20. Once up to Garden Valley, we decided to de-layer. I happened to look north and there it was.... that darn Arch
so many people had talked about but I could never pinpoint. So I got photos and videos of it. We could smell campfires too as we passed several groups of campers. One larger group at the stock tank berm had created a major toilet paper mess. It was sad!
And down Second Water we went. There was some water along side but not a lot. We got to Boulder Canyon and found a bigger pool of water so we tried to get some reflection shots. And then it was on to our next intersection with the Cavalry Trail. We did encounter a few folks on this trail that criss-crosses Boulder Creek. It's good to have the cairns for this route so you can keep moving without having to look around for the best route.
We did cross over an area where there was enough water for us to classify it as a lake
. We took quite a few pics here. Not too far before Cavalry Trail junction, I pulled out Scout to see if we could locate about the area of the spur to Battleship Saddle and within moments, we found the spot and it was marked with a cairn.
We continued on a little further and found a camping spot that one could use if you were to backpack and camp. Then you could head up to the Battleship, down to the Lower LaBarge Box and back to camp OR you could head over to the Box continuing all the way thru meeting up with the Cavalry Trail and back to this camp spot. I have since found out that there might be a nice camp spot on the saddle too.
And within moments, as I had said to Ambika, we would be at the Cavalry Junction (9:55AM-10:10AM) where we would re-fuel. I had heard the hill up Cavalry was steep but short and it lived up to its mantra as well to a description by another HAZer declaring this one of the prettiest trails in the Supes. We thot the garden-like area at the top of the hill and thru somewhat of a valley (between LaBarge and Boulder) was just lovely not knowing that what was ahead of us was almost jaw dropping.
And then as we came to the other side of this valley and we looked over to the east, I proclaimed, "and this is what hiking is all about"
! Before us rose the mighty Malapais Mountain with LaBarge Creek below. It was so great hiking down to the creek bed as the sights were simply outstanding. From here you once again do creek criss-crossing but are filled with wonder and awe at this giant mountain to your left.
We came to a large creek crossing that Trish went north on and we went south. Let's just say, we came out completely unscathed
. By this time though, I was starting to get a little hungry and was hoping Trish would find a scenic place to stop. We ended up stopping for lunch at the junction (12:15PM-12:45PM) which wasn't too unscenic but certainly seemed to be the center attraction as folks were passing by. The folks included the writer of the Marsh Valley hike description igallery/image_page.php?id=4659
. He called out to Ambika and then to me though I don't know how he knows me except on this site and FB. However, I was flattered nonetheless.
Next up it's a choice between Bull Pass or staying low on the Dutchman, thereby adding another mile. We all had already chosen our desired route: BULL PASS. I had heard this was difficult so I was prepared mentally. I've been hiking a lot lately so I was ready
. The hike to and up Bull Pass was quite scenic too. We dawdled a little at the bottom admiring and listening to the water flowing in the creek crossing.
And then it was UP we went and then DOWN... what... oh and then UP and then UP that last little bit where I could see some horseriders at the Summit. I had a hard time keeping going, not because of the hill but because I could see so much from this trail including the Battleship.
At the top I got to pet one of the horses for awhile. The couple we spoke with were from Enis, Montana so we talked about old Montana vs new Montana as they had been down here for nearly 20 years. They apparently ride/pack in the Supes quite often and like me, they love it here. Unlike me, they all had a beer in their hand
. I did see the spur trail to the top of Black Mesa and I have to say, that climb does look a bit steep. However, it's not long so for me, that's quite doable. We have put Black Top Mesa on our list of hikes to do altho Ambika says she's been up there before. She adds that it's worth it to spend the day up there and wouldn't mind coming back at all.
And so it's down the other side of Bull Pass we go. And just before intersecting back with the Dutchman, we encounter Claus. I didn't know who he was until Trish mentioned the forum topic: viewtopic.php?f=18&t=6679
. So we took a couple pics and went on our way. From here we had about 4 miles to go but as you know, that last mile and a half seems like 4 in and of itself. It was a beautiful day though it got just a little warm from time to time.
We did encounter a couple more horseback riders that apparently had not consulted a map. From what I understood, they were already on the wrong trail
. At Parker Pass we bid hello to about 4 hikers relaxing after a trek to Black Top Mesa. And not too far from the junction with First Water, a gal asked me if we had completed the Loop. I presume she meant the Dutchman so I just said we did part of it. You know once you're that close to the TH, you just want to get there so I kept moving. That was probably rude, I should have been more polite. Shame on me!
Anyway, we arrived safely at the TH. Hank did splendidly well for his first long hike in quite some time. He and Trish hiked ahead of us for quite a bit of the last 4 miles. I highly recommend this hike; especially the Cavalry Trail. I don't think you will be disappointed.
1) from Second Water to Boulder Canyon - http://youtu.be/XSGrAM2_4a8
2) from Boulder Canyon to Cavalry - http://youtu.be/RCR__6DSJ4o
3) Cavalry Trail - http://youtu.be/bPpfR69qTtU
4) Cavalry Trail to Dutchman - http://youtu.be/FdmYJfrAf9I
5) Dutchman Trail to First Water TH - http://youtu.be/MIb9yVZXr6A