Not sure why Scout said 15.99 miles and HAZ says 15.62 when I upload the route as that's almost 1/2 mile difference.... and you know, every tenth adds up.
After research I decided we should put together the following hike for the day with the highlight being BTM: 1st Water to Black Mesa Trail to Bull Pass to BTM and back to Bull Pass taking the side route to the Dutchman to 1st Water. I figured the hike would be around 15 miles and 10 hours max. I didn't account for the amount of time we would spend on BTM plus it was a beautiful day to be outside in the Supes.
We met at the TH and left around 7:15AM. The temp was quite cold and we really didn't get warm until we hit Garden Valley. This was a case when you really appreciated being in the sun. Next we headed up the Black Mesa Trail. The last time we had been on that trail was Nov 2010; it was a warm up hike for my first trip to the GC. Ambika asked me what I had done to train for the GC and the Black Mesa Loop hike was pretty much it. In retrospect, guess it's lucky I made it in and out of the GC based on that
We stopped at the middle of the Mesa for a refueling break. It's amazing how fast a banana can burn off. But I'm always happy to munch on my Mango Tango and I got to start on a new batch. While finishing off the Black Mesa Trail we admired the shining prickly pear cactus in the western distance and some of the saguaros on the east
. Next we would pass by the west side of Yellow Peak and take a couple photos of the limited wildflowers. It was also interesting looking at BTM trying to figure out exactly what route we would be taking (which incidentally is not really visible from the Black Mesa Trail). Altho, you can see part of the Black Mesa Trail from BTM as you get higher up.
We got to the junction and a little ways up the Dutchman to see some campers were just rising. We made our way up Bull Pass and though it had its moments of steepness, you know it's short so it's not really that bad. At Bull Pass Saddle we encountered a hiker I had seen dropped off at the TH. He was obviously very speedy (not a bad thing
) and said he had been hiking in the Supes for 30 years. He said he was surprised to see a well worn path to the other side of the mesa and at the same time expressed dismay that some of the artifacts are no longer there.
We took another fuel break before heading up the side of BTM. Once again, this was steep and slippery in some places but for only short moments of time. The sun was making the grasses and prickly pear cactus light up so beautifully
. And of course, the views are simply stunning; especially since we had just hiked the Marsh Valley Loop a month previous. I so enjoy getting to know the lay of the land. It just makes it that much easier to understand where people are when they write about certain areas in the Supes.
We took a couple little detours mid-way up on some paths we saw but from what we could tell, one led to a camping spot and the other to a vista. As we continued on we kind of waited to get to the top but you really don't seem to get to the top top until you find yourself staring this big old rock in front of you; that rock being Weavers Needle
. The trek to the south side is fairly well trodden so we made pretty good time and arrived around 11:30AM.
Once on the south side, the immediate mission was to find the sunglyph. I pulled out a pic I had printed from when Bruce was up there and we found it relatively quickly. And within moments we found the compass (which is actually pretty cool). We found quite a few more inscriptions and then decided to find a place out of the wind to enjoy our lunch. We found the perfect place on the SW side where we could actually lay back a little AND on top of that Ambika noted that we had sniper
vision of people passing far below us on the Dutchman Trail. This sniper vision was aided by the zoom factor of our cameras.
For some reason, we thot there might be a master map up there so after lunch we spent some time looking for it but to no avail. We found a couple more inscriptions and then decided to head back. I was hoping we could find THE END but I had no idea where it was located. However, my eagle eye hiking partner found it within moments
. We were quite pleased.
We continued on our way north but not before following somewhat of a trail to the western side of BTM. The hiker we had met earlier said we should be able to find mine workings. The trail faded in and out but we followed it as far as we could. We got some great views over the side toward Palomino but didn't really find any mine stuff until we started back tracking where we did find a mine rock cairn; and though it wasn't exactly what we expected, at least it was something for the effort.
We got to Bull Pass Saddle at 1:40 so we spent nearly 2 hours at BTM... but why rush. In fact, if we hadn't planned some extra mileage, I think we could stayed another hour easy. Now the challenge: following the side trail around BTM rather than taking Bull Pass. I figured this side trail would save a mile. The question: is that last 1/2 mile or so of that side loop worth saving the mile
? We enjoyed the first part of this side trail but the second part from the saddle was a bit straining.
And yes, the horse is still there, still dead, still has its shoes and you can see its pearly whites. Ambika wasn't sure I was taking her the right way as the the dead horse doesn't show up til nearer the junction with the Lost Dutchman. You know it just dawned on me that when I would come across a horse shoe I always thot the horse threw it (lost it or it came off) but I never thot that the shoe you come across might be from a dead horse
It was getting a bit warm as we came down the side trail. It was interesting to see some water in the creek and it was nice to come across some shade on this part. The trail is getting a bit overgrown here in some areas. It's really a pretty area and we could see big pools of water here and there. We finally made it to the Terrapin Junction but now we would be pretty much exposed to the sun for several miles. I figured we had two miles or so to the Junction with Bull Pass.
It was fun to look up at where we were sitting a few hours earlier. I have to say, this is a beautiful mountain to admire
. We just started to head up out of the drainage and since it seemed to be a little warm, I decided we would stop in some shade before continuing. I didn't realize the hill was so little but I'm glad we stopped to eat some snacks. It was just enough to put that bounce back in my step. I think it was around 3 when we stopped.
Little did I know when we got to the top of that hill that we would once again have some great views that would get better and better once we rounded the corner back toward Bull Pass Junction. I really liked this whole section of the trail. We encountered a nice group of wildflowers where we discussed that we should PM the HAZ Webmaster that the flower sightings were more sparse than isolated and should that be an option under "Wildflower Observation"?
And of course, once we got to the Peralta Junction, this trail was just scrumptious; altho I think the shade may have had something to do with that
. We also spotted the 3/4 moon above Black Top Mesa so we had to slow down and keep our eye on it for the perfect photo op which we were presented with not once but THREE times
. And then we finally found our Dutchman's gold
: gold reflections in some of the water that is. We also passed some wonderful camping spots. In the excitement I dropped my hat but fortunately realized it fairly soon and didn't have to backtrack too far to get it.... that pesky hat keeps trying to get away from me and I really like this hat!
We arrived at Bull Pass Junction at 4:45PM knowing that we had 4.5 miles to go. But it was a lovely day so we put our poles away, took a break a little ways past the Black Mesa Junction and then headed to the 1st Water TH arriving at 6:45. It was a productive day.
Here is some video of Black Mesa, from the Dutchman before heading up Bull Pass, at Bull Pass Saddle and up Black Top Mesa: http://youtu.be/2plqhwoCoNA