6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

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pukha23
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6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by pukha23 » Nov 03 2019 6:24 pm

i will be flying in to phoenix from oregon on thanksgiving day, and will be driving straight to peralta trailhead to begin 6 days of backpacking. as i am not from the area, i am hoping for some feedback on my route, on water availability, and generally on post-woodbury fire wilderness conditions. i'm looking for narrow canyons, wide open vistas, and a deep dark sky full of stars.

my draft route is 63 miles, and to avoid the recent burn it winds around most of the western trails (only enters the woodbury fire perimeter on (most of) day 3). it starts with a very short segment since it'll likely be 3p before i hit trail, and ends with the superstition ridgeline from siphon draw (which i'm super excited about). here is a link [ 6 days in the Supers T-Day 2019 :: map ] i would much appreciate any thoughts on the route as it is by no means set in stone. any awesome trails i'm missing? recommended areas for camping? off trail vistas i'd be a fool to miss? considering the recent fire... is there somewhere else within a few hours of phoenix that you think would be better for ~60 wilderness miles?

as for water... i'm starting to gather that end of nov / start of dec is not the best time for water, as the rains may not have started yet. i've marked on caltopo the springs that (per an outdated forest service water report) may be considered reliable. these are 2nd water, bluff, charlebois, hackberry, kane, and la barge. if i can get water at these springs, and veer slightly off course into lost dutchman s.p. for water, then i will never be more than 24 hours without a source. is this at all a sane view of the situation? should i anticipate no water availability and pack in 23 liters (lol)? are there other sources i should consider likely/reliable?

i've read a number of trail guides and trip reports... but if you have any particular tips, suggestions, or wild wisdom you'd like to share, i'm all ears. thanks!

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nonot
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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by nonot » Nov 03 2019 6:38 pm

The superstition ridgeline, with a backpack, is not to be taken lightly. There are very few, if any water options once you leave the campgroup near siphon draw, before you complete a lot of elevation and distance. Definitely make a side trip to get water from the campground.
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pukha23
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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by pukha23 » Nov 03 2019 7:01 pm

@nonot
thx. my current plan is to have 6 L capacity, and yes i plan to fill up at the state park campground. i haven't finalized my packlist, but i estimate that with 6 L of water but only a days remaining food and fuel i should have around 33 lbs on my back. not ultralight by any means but not too heavy. my understanding of the ridgeline is that it is very steep at siphon draw, and has a lot of scrambling, but isn't technical. i expect a challenge, and some thrilling views.

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AZClaimjumper
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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by AZClaimjumper » Nov 04 2019 8:53 am

I, sincerely hope you will be carrying a GPS & a Personal Locator Beacon, just in case. You can download a track here on HikeArizona of the Ridgeline hike, beginning @ Siphon Draw. It's always good to know WHERE you are in relation to WHERE you SHOULD be.

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lisac
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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by lisac » Nov 04 2019 8:54 am

Welcome to the desert! I second nonot's comment on the ridgeline hike. It is much more enjoyable as a dayhike. There is no water on the route unless there has been recent rains. Glad to hear you are concerned about water. While lone tree point is a beautiful place to camp, it will be a dry camp. And your second will be dry until Bluff spring, which is somewhat reliable but will probably be dripping quite slowly.
I have suggestion for day 4 - you might consider breaking up day 4 and camping near La Barge box. The box usually has water and is beautiful. To get to La Barge box, you’ll have bushwhack down from the saddle on Battleship but it would be worth it. You could leave your pack at the saddle, bushwack up to Battleship, come back down to the saddle, retrieve your pack and continue down the NE side of the saddle to La Barge to camp. BTW, not sure if you’re going alone or with someone, make sure anyone who goes up Battleship is comfort with heights.
Hackberry is a little off your route but it is a reliable spring.

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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by Tough_Boots » Nov 04 2019 12:04 pm

lisac wrote:To get to La Barge box, you’ll have bushwhack down from the saddle on Battleship but it would be worth it.
No need to bushwack. There is a trail that goes from Boulder Canyon up and over Battleship Saddle and drops you right into the box.

@pukha23
In all honesty, I wouldn't do 6 days in the western Supes. I'm assuming you planned your trip before the fire and decided to shrink your area of coverage? There's really nowhere on your route that's not accessible as a dayhike so you're not ever that remote.

It looks like you're camping at the lone tree by Fremont Saddle your first night which means you'll be waking up at the busiest place in the the entire Tonto National Forest on #optoutside day on a holiday weekend. I hope you don't mind crowds because you'll be surrounded by dayhikers as soon as the sun is up.

If I were you, I'd do a stretch of the AZT and try to figure out shuttle options but that's just my opinion.
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trekkin_gecko
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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by trekkin_gecko » Nov 04 2019 12:17 pm

or base camp and do all the cool hikes as dayhikes

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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by SuperstitionGuy » Nov 04 2019 12:49 pm

Better yet consider moving on into the eastern Superstitions for a part of the trip. You will see less day hikers and meet a few backpackers. There are Indian ruins, Ranching ruins and better options for water. You just might run into Wally our Joe Bartles checking out the apples at Reavis Ranch. : app :
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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by wildwesthikes » Nov 04 2019 12:50 pm

@pukha23

This is personally the way I'd do a 6 day loop on the west side while getting some sleep at 5-star campsites that have (mostly) nearby water.
[ Route Editor ]

Here is some is some advice from someone who goes 2-3 times/month backpacking in the Supers. Your route is interesting and is obviously designed to cover a lot of ground - but I personally think you will be miserable trying to cover what you are trying to cover in the time available. Several sections are going to take longer than you think and are not that interesting. You will be bored to tears covering all of Boulder Canyon #103 in between Dutchman & 2nd Water. It also has a tendency to get overgrown; just kind of depends on the time of year and has frequent crossings of a usually dry creek where finding cairns and navigating large boulders can make for slow miles. The way up to Battleship mountain is a challenging day hike on its own. You will be missing out on some of the best views on Day 4 by taking all of boulder canyon - it is not very scenic until springtime when it's flowing. I would suggest Cavalry Trail instead. The views along cavalry are breathtaking. You will still get through the nicer half of boulder canyon on the way down and still have the option to turn-off to Battleship if somehow you'd have time for it. But I kind of doubt it, there are pretty long trail days. On the route I published, I have you making camp early on the 3rd day and then hiking out to Lower LaBarge box... Not to be missed.

I don't wish to deter you from your campsite plans at the big 2 springs if you're set on it. But Charlebois spring & LaBarge spring are highly competitive spots on a weekend anytime in-season, but will be difficult on a holiday weekend. T-day weekend is probably among the busiest. I would still plan to get water from those springs, but allow time for as much as a 0.5 walk from them to find a good campsite away from LOUD crowds who have already setup camp in your intended locations well before you arrive (a problem I frequently experience). Also, using the less popular campsites away from the springs, you'll have less trouble with mice... Basically what's happened in recent years is REI started to capitalize on the good weather out here in winter and offers 12 person group 'adventures' several weekends per month beginning in mid-October all the way up through the end of Spring. Those groups tend to monopolize those two springs as well as several other popular sites with good water availability. You will hear them cackling late into the night without earplugs. Just something to be aware of, that sort of thing seems to not bother some people. You can time these group activities by checking REI's website backpacking adventure calendar.

Late November tends to be a drier time of year... But you will for sure find water in the following locations which are not fire burned:
Hackberry Spring, 2nd Water spring, Lower LaBarge Box, Charlebois spring, LaBarge spring, Bluff Spring.
There is a good chance of flowing or standing pools in East Boulder Canyon along Dutchman Trail #104 - right below the section where Peralta Trail meets Dutchman.

I would not plan on finding water at Kane Spring until springtime - it's hit or miss there. I would look into Brad's Water instead. It is an un-trailed side-canyon but has cairns at the location where you exit the canyon. GPS is really important in the Superstition wilderness - Red Tanks is a trail that tends to get people lost. Here is some detailed info on getting there (it's actually quite easy honestly): Exit the trail and follow that canyon up about another 1/4 mile. Keep an eye out for cairns on the right. Exit the canyon here - it will be an obvious exit point. Travel overland east via a game trail I'd guess less than 1000 ft to a small cave which I'm 99% sure will have a large pool of water in it that you could swim in. You will pass two dry springboxes full of trashed camping gear. That's how you know you're in the right area. The route is not well marked on maps but any topo map will show Brad's Water on it. All of what I just described is easy to walk and routefind for an experienced hiker, no technical skills required. If you Search "Brad's Water" on the HAZ search, you will find some good details about accessing it. The water there is a pretty sure bet but I can't guarantee it with the fire damage and all.

The area on your Day 3: There are not a lot of reports yet about what has happened on Peter's Mesa, so you may or may not have difficulties with route finding. I would be most concerned with the condition of Red Tanks trail in upper LaBarge Box which is the section immediately north of the Dutchman/Whiskey Springs junction (what you'd be hiking a couple miles before the brad's water stuff I referred to above). You might encounter a landslide, boulders across the trail, unstable ground... or not (?). Anybody's guess really but I haven't seen reports about Red Tanks whatsoever since last spring. It was in good condition before the fire. All I know is that section of trail in upper LaBarge box was already tenuously narrow and departs along the canyon wall quite high up. I would want to be sure it was in walkable condition before doing it.

You will probably regret the campsite you planned for night 4. It's the kind of place that looks good from satellite photos (and it is a big campsite area for sure). But it's right next to one of the most popular places for day hikers to take a break and have conversations on the Black Mesa loop hike, so lots of day hiker traffic, has little to no shade, and zero water availability. I would advise hiking the extra couple miles to East Boulder Canyon on Dutchman trail. It's quieter, much less hiker traffic, better views, better shade, better water availability. At least 4 different campsites areas to choose from and decent chance of pools or flowing water.

I agree with others that SS Ridgeline is not a good trail for backpacking. Not only will it be entirely dry, there are vertical sections of difficult scrambling just below the Flatiron. Views are pretty much the smoggy dusty city on one side and wilderness on the other side.

That's a lot to digest - hope this helps with your route planning. Let me know if you'd like more information.

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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by friendofThundergod » Nov 04 2019 1:04 pm

@pukha23
I think you could still do six days in the western Supes, with some zig zagging and changes of plans. I know from experience, its a bummer to say your plan is not feasible, but I have hiked and backpacked a ton in the Supes and would want anything to do with carrying a six day pack along the ridgeline. That 16 mile day three could be real rough as well. That section of trail is not great under normal conditions and I am not sure how the fire impacted that area.

Rough Suggestion:

Day 1: Peralta TH, dutchman, to RedTanks and Whiskey Spring (pray for water or dry camp)
Day 2: Short day: Whiskey Springs to Charlebois, day trips along way or day hikes from Charlebois up Peters Mesa to fill out day.
Day 3: Charlebois, Dutchman, through Marsh Valley to Second Water and camp, reliable water.
Day 4: From Second Water Spring continue through Garden Valley to First Water Trail, take First Water Trail over Parker Pass to your Day four campsite (Dry camp, pray for rain)
Day 5 and 6: Some sort of looping combination with Perlata, Terrapin, Bluff Springs and Barks Canyon.

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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by nonot » Nov 04 2019 8:32 pm

SuperstitionGuy wrote:
Nov 04 2019 12:49 pm
Better yet consider moving on into the eastern Superstitions for a part of the trip. You will see less day hikers and meet a few backpackers. There are Indian ruins, Ranching ruins and better options for water. You just might run into Wally our Joe Bartles checking out the apples at Reavis Ranch. : app :
You can't be serious, or that oblivious to remember the entire eastern superstitions burned to the ground only 3 months ago?
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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by nonot » Nov 04 2019 9:02 pm

Since you only have 2 posts to your name, nobody here really understands your experience, and will be trying to find ways to make your hike easier and more enjoyable. I agree with most of what has been suggested.

If you are very experienced in desert backpacking, your original route/plan would work out fine. If you are new to the desert, I would agree with those trying to tone down your trip. Personally, I would want 2 gallons minimum for backpacking the ridgeline and camping overnight up top, and even so I'd be worried whether I brought enough. I've drank 7 liters doing that as a dayhike (in perhaps warmer weather - upper 80s for the high) I also wouldn't suggest you exceed 12 miles per day. These are not flat forest paths covered in pine needles, they are rocky routes that are like standing on baseballs and marbles, and your ankles will feel it plenty.

In any event, the western Superstitions are great and you are picking the right time of year to enjoy them, whatever you decide, please post a triplog and some photos.
pukha23 wrote:
Nov 03 2019 7:01 pm
@nonot
thx. my current plan is to have 6 L capacity, and yes i plan to fill up at the state park campground. i haven't finalized my packlist, but i estimate that with 6 L of water but only a days remaining food and fuel i should have around 33 lbs on my back. not ultralight by any means but not too heavy. my understanding of the ridgeline is that it is very steep at siphon draw, and has a lot of scrambling, but isn't technical. i expect a challenge, and some thrilling views.
http://hikearizona.com/garmin_maps.php

Hike Arizona it is full of sharp, pointy, ankle-twisting, HAZmaster crushing ROCKS!!
Hike Arizona it is full of sharp, pointy, shin-stabbing, skin-shredding plants!
Hike Arizona it is full of striking, biting, stabbing, venomous wildlife!

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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by SuperstitionGuy » Nov 04 2019 9:05 pm

Not all of the Eastern area burned and there have been some hikers from HAZ that have reported on their findings. The only unfortunate part is that the road is blocked at Tortilla Flat except for the USFS, ADOT and SRP that have padlocks on the gate.
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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by pukha23 » Nov 04 2019 10:09 pm

Thanks for all the responses! I backpack, hike, and trail run and am comfortable with sustained effort and route finding. But, especially in recent years, most of this is in the pacific northwest. It’s been something like 23 years since the last time I backpacked in Arizona, so your knowledge of the area is pure gold and exactly what I was hoping for when I posted here.

I’m grateful for all the insights on routes, campsites, and water… I’ll be reviewing all comments and considering route modifications. Also appreciate the wake up call on how not-solitude it may be. (This is just minutes from Phoenix and I was naively hoping everyone would just eat turkey for 6 days and leave me alone).

Seems with mild or major edits I can make this work still, but I am eager and open to other ideas in the area. My intention is simply to walk (much of the day) in the wilderness, without getting dumped on (hello pacific nw), and see awesome landscapes. Preferably without city lights or too many other peoples. Looping is preferred as I am solo and not from these parts, but I’ll gratefully consider any ideas and try to make a shuttle happen somehow if needed. When I started scheming this trip google seemed pretty clear the Supes were the right place (only learned about the Woodbury fire two weeks ago).

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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by wildwesthikes » Nov 05 2019 7:46 am

@pukha23
Assuming the comment about solitude was regarding my prior advice. Definitely you can find solitude out there anytime of the year. It's just that literally everyone plans to camp at those springs - with good reason! If it's not the middle of the week, I just don't plan on camping at either of them if the high is below 85*F. There are a lot of good tucked away sites less than 1/4 mi from the big springs. When your GPS tells you you are getting close, I would begin looking off the side of the trail while along the LaBarge drainage and make some mental notes of the campsites available.

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Re: 6 days in the superstitions, thanksgiving 2019

Post by bretinthewild » Nov 06 2019 1:48 pm

pukha23 wrote:is there somewhere else within a few hours of phoenix that you think would be better for ~60 wilderness miles?
You're getting some good advice here but you could also consider the Mazatzal Wilderness north of Phoenix. The Arizona Trail runs through it for about 50 miles. There are loop options as well but trails are less maintained overall and some trailheads are harder to access than others. Generally lower usage than the Supes.

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