Wake up early to get to the shuttle. As I pick up my pack, I notice that it is soaking wet...I find out I didn't properly seal my water bladder the night before. With no time to do much about it, I quickly shake it out, reseal the bladder, and towel off the outside of the pack and the puddle. In my haste, I didn't even think to refill the 1.5 liters or so that had drained out.
Met everyone at Miles Trailhead. We head out west on the West Pinto Creek Trail on a cool morning. The hiking is pretty easy, most of it is shaded and in the creek bed. Piece of cake.
At Oak Flat we head north and begin the long climb up the Campaign Trail to get to the Campaign Divide. It looks like the trail has been worked on recently near Oak Flat. There's new trail signs and the trail has been cleared wide...for about the first mile. After that, the trail gradually disintegrates and turns into an all out bushwhack as you approach the divide. Bring your kevlar hiking gear. This was a substantial climb, luckily it wasn't too hot.
We take the rest of Campaign downhill in Campaign Creek until we get to the pines at the Fire Line Intersection. You lose both half of the elevation you gained going up to the divide, and a pint of blood to this other half of the Campaign.
Fireline goes west, up and over Mound Mountain. What better way to get to Reavis Ranch than to climb over the tallest mountain in the Supes with a backpack... Actually, I really liked the Fireline trail. Nearly the entire trail is in the shade and the views are pretty darn good. It is also clear of thorns.
Up at the top, I took a side trip to see Circlestone. It was rather interesting, though it should be cleared of the trees so you could really get a feel for the place and the commanding lookout it has. I also took a look at Mound Mountain. It looked like about a 300 foot climb, but it was both very steep and heavily choked with vegetation. Running low on time and motivation, I passed up the summit. I'll file Mound Mountain peak in my "to do when you are absolutely out of other things to do" file.
Down Fireline to Reavis Ranch, ending with finding water at Reavis Creek. Filtering water that night, I spooked a skunk, or the skunk spooked me. Luckily he was not an angry fellow and the scene played out without any mishaps.
At night, I was finally able to dry out my soaked gear over the fire.
I consumed about 4.5 liters of water, temps ranged mid 40s to upper 70s, or at least that's what it felt like.
Day 1 Water report:
No water sighted on West Pinto Creek to Oak Flat
No water sighted on Campaign Trail to Divide
No water sighted on Campain Trail Divid to intersection with Fireline
No water sighted on Fireline Trail
Water at Reavis Ranch-The creek at Reavis Ranch is flowing...slowly.
(Other hikers indicated they were searching for water at "unmapped springs" near Oak Flat, no idea if they were successful)
Wake up at Reavis. Meant to start out at 8, actually got moving at 9. Headed south on Reavis Trail. This is one beautiful section of trail. Good views, no catclaw, good shade for awhile, what more could you ask for. Eventually, you begin a steep descent down Grave Canyon to get to Rogers. After the last switchback, look for a cairn on the west right as you have gone 50 feet in the creekbed for Reavis Grave.
At the bottom, we continue down Rogers Canyon. There's a little catclaw here and there, but nothing unmanageable. I scoped out the creek for water hiding under boulders and rocks, finding none. I checked out the ruins again, but had to continue on soon enough. The last eighth of a mile to Angel Basin goes through a catclaw forest, so now is a good time to don the kevlar full body armor.
We head south from Angel Basin. You may have a difficult time locating the continuance of Roger's Canyon through here. This is called foreshadowing. The fact that you can't find the trail means that...yep, it's rarely travelled and never maintained. Experienced Supes hikers know that this means one thing: bushwhacking through thorny hell. The portion of Rogers Canyon that climbs up to JF is the worst official trail I have seen in the Supes. The catclaw, shrub oak, and occasional prickley peak are ridiculous. Its not until you hit the switchbacks near the top of Tortilla Pass that it begins to relent. The record-breaking heat wasn't helping either. So fit your gas powered hedgeclippers and self-contained air-conditioner in that ultralightweight pack of yours
At JF, we continue on south and the trail is marginally better. When I hit the Randolph Canyon intersection, I find about half of our group. Apparently they decided to wait for most in the group to catch up. Worried that people wouldn't be able to make it to Dripping Springs, especially since some opted to take Frog Tanks instead, they have been waiting. Some had cached gear in Stiller's car at Woodbury, but with no car keys, couldn't retrieve it yet.
Waiting there, eventually Wally arrives with the keys. Looking at our watches, we decide there is no way the remaining members could make it to Dripping Springs before dark, so we leave a note and head to Woodbury to camp.
I looked around at the windmill and cows at the Woodbury Ranch site and continued on. Since Stiller had extra water in his car, even the people who hadn't cached water could partially refill, so it worked out for everyone.
I consumed about 6 liters of water. Temps ranged from the lower 40s to upper 80s, or at least that's what it felt like. At night, there was a localized hurricane apparently headed right over Woodbury as there were 30-40 mph winds from 6PM to 7AM the next morning.
Day 2 water report:
Water at Reavis Ranch, no water on Reavis Trail once you leave the creek that runs along the first mile of the trail.
No water in Grave Canyon
No water in Rogers Canyon
No water in Angel Basin
No water on western Branch of Rogers Trail
No Water on lower JF Trail south of Rogers Trail
No water at woodbury ranch
Water found in Stiller's car.
(Other hikers report finding water in Fish Creek off of Frog Tanks)
Pack up your gear or watch it fly away in the wind. It never got cold but the wind prevented anyone from sleeping well, especially those in tents. Started out hiking the road to JF Ranch. Passed the ranch and went onto the Coffee Flat Trail. Pretty easy stuff, just stay in the creekbed.
We found water along Coffee Flat Trail, so everyone was able to top off. This relegated the trip to Reeds Water as unnecessary. We keep going until we get to Dripping Springs. Don't count on Dripping Springs for refilling your water. Some people ate breakfast, but I continued on Red Tanks.
Heading north, you bake in the sun on a day for record heat in November. Oh, and there is abundant catclaw as well. The climb is pretty steady once you climb out of the creekbed, until you finally top out at the Red Tanks Divide. I had to rest in the shade of a boulder for 20 minutes to cool down as I felt the oncoming signs of heat exhaustion. (I was thinking I was talking to people who weren't on the hike, when I realized that, I knew it was time to take a break.)
A short time later, I summit over the divide and head down through catclaw hell to get down to the creekbed. Holy Criminey, those thorns are sharp. I swear they have purposely routed that trail through the worst sections of the catclaw just to screw with you. Do many people do this trail? Not by the looks of it.
When I finally drop into the upper labarge creek area, I had to wander around for about 30 minutes to find where the hell you are supposed to go. It's hot out and there are creeks and side trails everywhere. I eventually back track to where I began and start following the creek beds. By the third one I saw a cairn and followed it to the signs at the intersection of Hoolie and Red Tanks.
You begin the steep climb up into Upper Labarge Box. I catch up briefly to some of the people ahead of me, but then take a break and am on my own again. Upper Labarge Box is pretty interesting, but the trail is precarious along the upper portion of the northern cliffs. I pass up climbing to Herman's cave, which I have done before and wouldn't recommend, and continue on down the canyon.
Finding the intersection with Whiskey, it is a fairly level walk along Red Tanks. This portion is definitely in worse shape then when I hiked it last year. There is more catclaw and there are several camping areas with side trails going every which way that have obscured where the hell the true trail is supposed to continue.
Eventually I make it to LaBarge Spring, where we decided to camp for the night, versus continuing on to Charlesbois.
I consumed about 6.5 liters of water. Temps ranged from the lower 50s to the low 90s, or at least that's what it felt like. I slept like a baby that night.
Day 3 water report:
Water found on Coffee Flat Trail.
Dripping Springs was Dripping, but not really useful.
Stagnant water found in Randolph Canyon intersection with Red Tanks.
No water seen in upper Red Tanks to Upper Labarge Box.
No water seen in Upper Labarge Box. (Some hikers reported seeing a pool somewhere, I might have missed it, it may not be accessible.)
No water sighted along Red Tanks from Whiskey Spring to Dutchman.
LaBarge Spring was flowing at about a liter a minute.
Wake up and find people ready to head out. We march on the Dutchman. I found the Peralta master Map, but I zoned out and didn't really scope out Charlesbois, Needle Canyon, Marsh Valley, or Hidden Valley like I had wanted to. It got gradually hotter and hotter, but I finished before it go too hot. Then, waited at the trailhead for everyone else to finish.
I consumed about 4 liters of water. Temps ranged from the mid 40s to the mid 90s, or at least that's what it felt like. I finished before it got quite that hot though.
Day 4 Water report:
No water sighted along Dutchman.
(Other hikers reported that Charlesbois is flowing, but the trough is nearly empty.)
It was great hiking with all of you. This was a great trip, even though the weather in November didn't cooperate with our plans. I had almost all of these trails on my wish lists and can't believe we did them all in 3 and a half days.