This was a biggie for me, so I want to write about it! Grab a cup of coffee and join me for a trek.
I read about this route in a trail book. It's not a route I could find in HAZ, though I am sure many have done it. Several things about this route appealed to me. I had read with much intrigue on HAZ about the La Barge Box canyon and Battleship Mountain, the Marsh Valley Loop and Black Top Mesa. This challenging 16 mile route seemed to have it all.
This has gotta be one of the most scenic trails in the Superstitions. I tell you I was NOT disappointed.
It was a perfect day. Temps were lower (in the high 70's) cause a storm had just passed through. The ground was damp and there were still puddles of water on some of the rocks. The early morning clouds passed further east opening up deep clear blue skies.
My partner and I left the Canyon Lake TH at about 7am. It was an easy familiar jaunt up to the ridge above La Barge canyon. Breathe taking views of where we were about to tread. I couldn't wait to see the box canyon.
The route to the most amazing part of the canyon, the sharp "S" curve, was not difficult. We found a spot to sit on top of the large boulders that seem to block passage through the canyon and ate our lunch.
We knew ahead of us there would be a lot of bouldering and bushwhacking, an adventure yet to be experienced.
I enjoy this stuff, the sheer challenge of passing through and finding your own way to the other side. It was the second, more gradual "S" curve what proved to be most difficult. With no trail or cairns to guide us, by trial and error, we maneuvered our way through the maze of trees, brush, water and tall boulders. Sometimes things seemed to be more difficult before they got better.
As the bounders became smaller and the brush cleared more we pressed on, toward the south, mostly in the creek bed. I was ready for the sight of a trail when it finally appeared out of nowhere. A couple of large cairns in the middle and edge of the creek gave it way.
We were looking for the Calvary trail but without realizing we were on it, we passed through the Marsh Valley. Suddenly, we came to a fork in the trail enlightening us to our oversight.
I was glad to discover we were farther than we thought. The trudging and bouldering in the canyon significantly delayed us but we were on track. This was the Dutchmans trail which led us soon to the Bull Pass trail on the southern leg of our loop.
Though our time was passing quickly, we still chose to explore the Black Top Mesa, but in a very round about way.... We were almost to Bull Pass, when a faint but distinct horse trail on left led us back along the north side of the mountain. We kept wondering, "when are we going up?" Perhaps a 3/4 of a mile into this detour, we came to another saddle and realized this trail was not leading us to the top. So we made the scramble through the tall green grass, prickly pear and black lava rock. The 360 degree views from the top of Weavers Needle, Malpais, Geronimo and Battle ship were spectacular!
We now realized if we keep up a good pace, we weren't getting back to the TH until sunset, I estimated 7pm. So, back to the pass down the route we should have taken. I had to chuckle about our detour, "Why didn't we just go all the way to the pass? It was so clear!"
With about 8 miles ahead of us, we had the additional motivation to move quickly. As we headed down from Bull Pass, I almost stepped on a large black and orange stripped lizard. Seeing this one was a first for me. I fortunately managed to avoid any contact, but it was a beautiful sight. He slowly walked away from me into the nearby brush. I later realized I had seen a Gila Monster. (Sure glad I didn't touch it!)
The trip back on the Boulder Canyon trail from there was pretty uneventful. We were so tired and in a hurry, it became a bit aggravating. I can't count the times the trail crisscrossed the creek bed. There were several times we had to stop, ("where's the trail?") and look for the cairns making our way north.
Finally the trail headed up out of Boulder Canyon. We hardly stopped at the old paint mine. We were late our wives were sure to be worried... so we pressed on. As the sun was setting we enjoyed the steep angles of the sun against the rugged cliffs. It was cool to look back, recognizing Black Top Mesa and realizing we were there, just a few hours earlier.
Almost exactly 12 hours later we threw our packs in the car, grabbed a cool Gatorade and headed home. "That was an adventure!"