My first backpack without Ambika or Wendy comfort zone.... and I was taking someone out on their first successful backpack trip. Other than the cold at nite and in the AM, everything went very smoothly... oh, except we both had sore shoulders and neck from the backpacking part. I look forward to going on a backpack trip when the nites and breakfast times are not so cold.
We headed out on Saturday morning to Dripping Springs. The weather was cool and crisp but we weren't complaining. It's been awhile since I've had a backpack on so it takes awhile to walk straight rather than side to side
; I guess it's akin to getting your sea legs. About a 1/2 mile or so from the Junction with Coffee Flat trail, we stopped to re-fuel with some slightly squished blueberry donut holes. I like this type of morning snack cuz it seems to stick with you.
There were some more wildflowers from here on out until after the washes on the Coffee Flat trail heading south. We also noticed the birds were many and singing loudly
. It's something we both enjoyed and commented about as we lumbered along the trail. Of course, once you get on the Coffee Flat trail, the trail is a little more challenging from time to time as it gets quite narrow and rockier in some spots. You also cross in and out of several washes and then find yourself climbing
a pretty good sized hill.
At the top of the hill before you head left (don't go right or I think you'll end up at the Circle Ranch). Before continuing on, this is a good time to look back across the Barkley Basin with the Castle Rocks on the right, Miner's Needle in the middle and the Dacite Cliffs above Peralta TH to the left. It's a wondeful sight to behold as the sun warms the landscape. I thot back to all of the times I had looked across from the other side of Barkley Basin.
We continued our trek and of course ran into another hill along this stretch. It was around here somewhere that I recall NONOT (Steve) saying in one of his trip reports that Coffee HILLS would be a more appropriate name
for the trail instead of Coffee Flat. Fortunately the trail would wrap around and down this hill to a dry creek bed before we started heading east toward Reed's Water. NOTE: the hills really aren't that significant but with that 40 lb pack on, it took a little more air and effort
Yep, we would encounter another hill to go up and over. Here we would go thru an incredible ocotillo forest on each side of the trail. And of course, to our east (left) is the even more incredible L shaped Coffee Flat Mountain that seemingly goes on forever. I thot on the way back it would be nice if they could have something similar to Bull Pass as it would open up so many different hiking possibilities. I'm just not sure how high the Pass would be as compared to Bull. But I guess if they haven't built it yet, it's not to be
We stopped on our way down one of the hills because the trail was deep enough that we could sit on the side of it which meant we didn't have to take our packs off to have a fuel break. We eventually got down to Reeds Water which was inhabited by a hiking group. They were rather loud as you could hear them from quite a distance. We didn't stay long. We took our obligatory pics of the windmill and of course the large saguaro as we hit the trail again.
As we passed through the gate and you're tempted to keep going straight, I remembered distinctly from the first trip report
on this Trail to GO LEFT. Linda said, "are you sure?". So for her satisfaction, I got the hike desc out and read it to her and off we went up the canyon. We were right below the off-shoot mountain of Buzzards Roost for a little while until finally the Roost came into view. You criss-cross the creek for the rest of this trip and though there were moments when the cairns disappeared
, it was easy enuf to eventually find them again.
The cottonwoods new leaves were glimmering in the sun so that was quite a treat. Finally we got to Dripping Springs and then it was just a matter of finding a campsite. There were 3 other guys already there but it seemed they hadn't put down stakes yet and in fact, they would pass by us heading up the Red Tanks. We would see them again the next day as we headed up Dutchman Hill around 12:15ish. I'm not sure where they had camped the night before but two of them looked pretty exhausted.
The best site we found, and I wanted to be in the morning sun, was at the junction of the Red Tanks and Coffee Flat which was at the confluence of Fraser and Randolph Canyons. We put down our packs and then walked back to Dripping Springs to see if we could see another/better camp spot but ultimately decided The Confluence would be the best. There was limited tent areas but we each found an acceptable, though small spot. We had our lunch, filtered some water, put up our tents and then headed up Randolph Canyon.
As we were walking up, we separated and then pretty soon I look over and Linda is right next to a duck cairn. We then realized the Red Tanks Trail crosses over to the other side. We went as far as a big bunch of boulders, a pool and some Cottonwoods before turning around. Oh I forgot to mention, the three guys that passed us by weren't sure where the trail went from the confluence so we pointed out the trail sign to them.
We went back to camp, had another snack and then decided to go look for the spring. We think we found the spring and directly across from it and across the creek I found the group campsite and above it The Cave. I climbed up to the cave and when I looked closer, I saw a cot with straw on it
. Well since I went into my girly girl mode
I wasn't climbing in further to check it out. Where is John when you need him?
So hopefully one of you other HAZers can climb in and get a closer look:
A tight crawl through the opening will bring you into a small cavern extending back about forty feet.
After enjoying the view I climbed back down and met up with Linda who was checking out the springs area. We started gathering some wood for the fire, dropped it off and then headed up Fraser Canyon. We went as far as a group of large sycamores before turning around and gathering some more wood for the fire. The sun felt so good that we both moved over to the sandy beach on the east side of the creek to soak in as much as we could before it went down.
We made our fire, cooked our dinner, had a couple sips of butterscotch schnapps, admired the intensity of the many stars accumulating in the sky
and before you knew it, the fire was out and the cold set in. So at 8, I snuggled in for a test with my new 10 degree sleeping bag's ability to keep me warm. VERDICT: almost. My hips kept getting cold so I turned into a human rotisserie and about every 15-30 mins I turned from side to back to side to back to side to back... well you get my drift. I did that for 10 hours
When I woke up at 5, there was a great deal of moisture inside my tent. That had never happened before. I figured the ground must be covered with dew as it had been the morning before but that was not the case. I do love the bag as it's one of those where the sleeping mattress goes in a slot in the bag and the pillow also goes in a slot so no matter where you go, your bag, mattress and pillow goes with you
We hastily prepared our breakfast and our gear. My toes were even getting frosty. So off we went arriving at Reed's Water in 1.66 miles but not before admiring the beautiful cottonwoods again. We de-layered, had a Peep and headed on out. There's a couple hills on the other side of Reed's Water and once you're at the top of what I call Ocotillo Hill, your view of the entire Coffee Flat Mountain is worth admiring once again. Soon we were back down creek side and making the trek to the hill where we had to do the double climb.
The weather seemed ominous all the way until we took our break after the last wash of Coffee Flat Trail. Once again we sat alongside one of the deeper cuts of the trail for re-fueling. The place I chose had beautiful wildflowers all throughout so it was an unexpected pleasure. Altho when I got up, I found that I had squished a poppy
. Not much I could do for the poor poppy so off we went as the sun tried to peak out and stay out. We kept hoping the sun would come out strong so the poppies would bloom but Kat (when we got to the TH) said she was talking to an expert in these things who said the poppies don't bloom until the afternoon.
Once we got back to the Dutchman Trail, the traffic started to pick up including a large group of well groomed horses and riders. I mean like WOW! I didn't know which I liked better, the human or horse attire or the horses. We watched a lot of money ride by. Just beautiful! We ran into various other folks, mostly novices by the looks of them. One couple asked Linda if we were able to find a flat place to put our tents
Four washes or so later after you start heading west, you finally get to the long Dutchman Hill. And of course by the time you get there, you're ready to be up and out. I was pleasantly surprised that I climbed the hill at a nice steady pace
and wasn't even cussing as I got to the first top as I waited for Linda to join me before heading up the last and easier part of the hill.
And just before reaching the TH, these two fellas stopped to ask where we had been and had said they tried Cardiac Hill but turned around because it was just too much. The one guy had 7 stents
. He sure didn't look that old but he was well tanned. They were nice enough and we just told them to take their time.
I was hoping Volunteer Ranger Kat would be at the TH so she could see her protege return from the first backpack trip in the Supes. The TH was very busy so we hugged and talked for a moment and she introduced me to her surfer friend
, Lou. I talked really fast as I knew she had to get back to her very busy duties this days but it reminded me of all the great hikes we had in the past where no matter the circumstances, we always had a good sense of humor about it.
It feels good getting that first almost solo backtrip out of the way. Don't know that I'd ever do a solo trip though as I like a little company. It's so much more fun when you can share your adventure with someone other than your camera.
You know I don't talk that much on the trail so I don't know how these reports get so long?
Maybe I should talk more on the trail
Part 1 - from Peralta TH to a little ways past Ocotillo Hill before Reeds Water:
(There's lots of birds speaking so I hope you enjoy it as much as I did)
Part 2 - from around Reeds Water to Dripping Springs to the campsite at the confluence of Fraser and Randolph Canyon. Up Randolph Canyon - back to Dripping Springs and up to the Cave - Up Fraser Canyon - Day Two: a view of Coffee Flat Mountain on the way back:
Our total miles including our side trips was 14.5 for the hike to and from the TH.
Side trips was about 1.5 to 2 miles.