Not All Who Wander Are Lost
Overview: Follow Dutchman Trail #104 for 7.4 miles. Follow Red Tanks Trail #107 1.3 miles to Trap Canyon. 0.6mi out-n-back to check out the entrance. Continue 0.8 miles ESE on #107. Take Whiskey Springs Trail #238 2.1 miles back to #104. Return 4.3 miles to Peralta Trailhead.
Hike: A burning desire to reach Trap Canyon on a day hike and forgotten HAZ trail guide printouts led to this loop of the Dutchman and Whiskey Springs trails. I'd had a serious jones to check out the alcove at the mouth of Trap Canyon for a potential overnight destination, and thought I'd refresh my memory of the trails I'd taken so many years ago to get to the area.
After a freeway sprint from north Phoenix, I arrived at the Peralta Trailhead and headed out at 9:30 across Barkley Basin. The wide trail jinked in and out of the foothill canyons on its way to the base of Miner's Needle and the Coffee Flat trail junction, and was a good warm-up for the climb up to Miner's Summit. There was even an odd pool nestled in a bend in the trail.
The summit provided the first option of the day - right on the Whiskey Springs trail, or left continuing with trail #104. As the crow flies, Trap Canyon lay 1.2 miles to the NE, a distance that would slip back and forth tantalizingly over the next couple hours. Squinting at the tiny screen of the GPS and making a mental note to put a pair of old reading glasses in my day pack, I took off down the Dutchman trail, slowly dropping into the drainage and views of Bluff Spring Mountain and the tip of Weaver's Needle. Midway between the summit and the junction with Bluff Springs trail near Crystal Spring I passed the only other fellow traveler I encountered that day.
Turning back north I committed myself to the task of making it to Trap Canyon, now a tantalizing .7 of a mile NE. The trail worked its way past multiple well-used campsites as the toilet paper - Arizona's back-country state flower - could attest. No surprise, since level sites and proximity to the trail head and Crystal and Bluff Springs would make this a desirable camp. Now the distance was ticking its way down.
Within a tantalizing half mile of Trap Canyon it became obvious that the trail was going to turn northwest to parallel La Barge creek and the base of Bluff Spring Mountain. Even though it'd been dry for several weeks lush growth in many spots along the trail hinted at water just below the surface, an interesting break from the rougher nature of the trail here.
Finally I stumbled down to the Red Tanks trail junction at La Barge Creek. Three plus hours and 8 miles in I was still planning the day's route on the fly. My goal lay a mile up the creek, and I could potentially choose from among a couple of return routes. The trail up the creek to the mouth of the canyon passed quickly, as did a number of viable campsites. The short diversion up Trap Canyon to the amphitheater was almost an anticlimax.
Recharging with a protein bar I pondered the options. I could return by basically retracing my steps via the Bluff Springs Trail, or complete a loop using the Whiskey Springs trail just upstream. While I'd have to exit through Barkley Basin on the Dutchman Trail I'd come in on, that option seemed best since it spared me a knee-jarring downhill in the final stretch of the Bluff Spring Trail.
Winding up Whiskey Spring Canyon past several more camp possibilities brought me to the final, exhausting press to the highest point of the loop, and down the rock slab to the junction at Miner's Summit. I had to reach a little deeper to complete the last miles out, but did so thinking that the more level track back to Peralta Trailhead was a better investment than the alternative.
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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