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Boulder Canyon Trail #103
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mini location map2011-03-05
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Boulder Canyon Trail #103Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Backpack avatar Mar 05 2011
Backpack12.00 Miles 1,500 AEG
Backpack12.00 Miles1 Day   4 Hrs      
1,500 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked linked
Partners none no partners
Plan A: First Water TH -> Garden Valley -> Second Water Spring -> Boulder Canyon -> Summit Battleship Mtn ( time/stamina permitting ) -> Cavalry Trail -> Marsh Valley -> CAMP -> Back on the dutchmans'
Plan B: First Water TH -> Garden Valley -> Second Water Spring -> Boulder Canyon -> Summit Battleship Mtn ( time/stamina permitting ) -> Explore the area -> Back the way we came -> CAMP around 2nd water/Boulder canyon -> Continue back.

Got out late due to last minute supplies and not being packed. We go to First Water trail head at 11:30. No big deal really, might have to shorten the trip. We've been up to garden valley before, so that was all a piece of cake. Heading north out of garden valley was easy. The trail is so well laid out that you don't even need to look for anything, your feet just carry you where you need to go. That's great. We passed some other hikers and I asked about the status of the spring -- the reply was "Ah, not as great as I thought it would be, just a bunch of pools and such". That was kind of discouraging, because I have never actually seen a spring. In fact, I couldn't even find pictures of 2nd water spring to know what I was looking for. I looked at the water reports recently reported as "gallon per minute", and it has just rained recently. From the descriptions I've read, it is a "pipe coming out of the mountain, and nothing to look at". So I am looking for a pipe coming out of the side of the mountain. I want to see it. I want to be there and see what "spring water" is all about. I'm thinking that it's going to be pouring out of a pipe, that I can collect in a bucket, my hands, a bottle, whatever, and filter and drink.


During our hike down the trail to the spring, We took off to the SW up a water runoff thinger in search of the spring. My phone's GPS wasn't syncing ( this is bad, I need to get a real GPS ), so we went off looking for the source. Already through a few liters, I really felt we should water up while we have the chance. Well all I can say is that initial off shoot was the wrong way ( if you know the area and the maps, you'll see another water route to the SW -- that's where we went ). It was totally worth it, and very cool, because down that way a bit is a little oasis carved into the rock with a big pool and a bunch of tall green grass. Very pretty and quiet and out of the way. Unfortunately, no spring, and no running water.

Finally the GPS sync'd, and I saw our mistake. We hiked back down the water way and picked back up on the trail after a quick scramble back up. We ran into some other hikers that, yes, they filled up their water bottles in a muddy puddle. Of all the research I've done, I guess I can say the same thing, that some people are willing to take the risk, others are not. Some might have immunity from drinking whatever they come across, others may not, and if that suits them well, then so be it. I'd personally rather find a semi-clean source, to filter, before I drink or cook it. ( We ended up not being so picky, but at the time, I was still determined to find the alluring 'spring' ).

We made our way down further to where the water way's intersect -- for sure, the spring is to the SE down that one. We were overlooking the intersection, maybe 30 feet up, and didn't think it was a good idea to climb down with 20-30lb packs on, so we decided to take the trail further down where the water way was more level. Here was another mistake. CLIMB DOWN!!!. We spent an extra HOUR OR TWO bouldering up the water way in search of the spring. On the way back, we climbed up, and it was insanely more convenient. In any case, the water way leading from 2nd water spring was alive and green. There was definitely plenty of water, in green growing pools, very pretty. The water ran in places and it was crazy to think that there was actually water in the desert. Since there was running water, I knew that it had to be coming from a source, which I thought would be the spring. Well, we followed the water way all the way up, to what I am now going to refer to as the "King Frog"'s sanctuary. We reached a big pool with green algae, frog eggs, tadpoles, and TONS OF FROGS. It was AMAZING. The frogs were making an incredible amount of noise, and from all my growing up back east in NJ ( yes, there is someone from NJ here now, so no more NJ jokes ), I never remembered the frogs continuing to croak when you were right next to them. Well let me tell you, this WHOLE POND of frogs sang us a crazy tune. I asked them where the spring was, but they just kept croaking. I searched all around the edges of the pond, up the eastern hill, and could find no 'pipe', no 'spring water', nothing like that. There was clearly water seeping out of the mountain in spots, but just a drizzle of water, nothing that you could even lick. Just looked like the rocks were sweating almost. I popped on the GPS ( trying to do map+compass navigation first, and confirming with GPS second ), and it was telling me that the 'spring' was probably 30 feet up the side of the mountain. No way. I walked up the mountain a bit until I was 'right on top' of the spring, and there was obviously nothing there. I can only conclude from this that either A: the 'spring' was under water, probably in the "King Frog's" sanctuary, or B: I just couldn't find it.

We burned a ton of time in there, probably 2 hours total, so we ate lunch and filtered some water out of the run off from the "King Frog's" sanctuary, inside the water way. We got a MSR hyperflow, which I know so many people complain about, but I heard of the 'fix' and I am hard headed and am determined to do things other people cant ( like operate and clean a hyperflow ), and we had no problems with it. To be totally honest, the water running out from the "King Frog's" sanctuary tasted better than the water from our aunt's fridge. No joke. Regardless, the first really odd experience happened in here. My wife was taking some pictures ( which I can upload later, still haven't unpacked ) and saw a face in the cattails ( cattails? in the desert? I might be wrong, could be corn, but sure reminded me of cattails ), which was extremely mean and it scared her. She is very intuitive, and is into the new age healing and energy ( going to school for Reiki, life coaching, hypnotherapy, etc ), and she just could not get over the unwelcomed feeling that she was getting from the area. She, well, we both actually, became very paranoid, lost track of time, and these feelings of yucky didn't abate until after we got out of the water way from 2nd water spring.

Does anyone know where the spring is? Or have pictures?

We continued on down first water trail ( or second water trail, I keep forgetting what is what ... grrr.. ) and made it to the intersection of boulder canyon. With the time warp wasted in 2nd water, it was probably 3pm or maybe even 3:30 or later by then. As we hiked down into boulder canyon, we saw a large group of campers across the boulders. We really weren't looking for a large social event, and I knew we had quite a few miles ahead of us still, and that the trail went down the canyon for a few miles, so we diverted to the SE right through the middle of the boulders in the canyon. We didn't realize until later the large cairns on the other side of the canyon showing us the way to the actual trail.... a mile or more through bouldering down the middle of the canyon, we finally noticed a cairn off to the side, which thankfully saved our feet from all the bouldering and put us on a nicer trail. Phew. Boulder canyon, despite the obvious name, was quite literally a canyon full of boulders. That we bouldered over. For miles.... There should so be a label next to it that says ("literally!" --- but there is a trail on the other side when you first get there!).

Needless to say, we made our way quite painlessly through the rest of the canyon, to the junction with Cavalry Trail, which according to Plan A, we were to take. Looking up at the saddle we were about to mount, the exhaustion started to voice it's pain. Despite my wife's aching knees and blistered feet, we were going to try to get as far as we could, and camp somewhere along cavalry trail, unfortunately before Marsh Valley. About 10 yards along the steep trail upwards, we changed our minds. We were just too beat from the 6 miles or so, the time wasted in the spring, the late start... the little camping spot we passed by in the sand that had a fire ring already established, with wood already collected, started to sound really nice, so we turned back.

"Why on earth would someone leave a nice little campsite, after they already collected wood?" we asked ourselves. Strange, maybe. Could be that they collected too much. Could be that they got scared off by something. Who knows. The fire pit didn't have any 'new' ash in it at all, it was black coals. Had it been left like this for a while? Since the last rain? Nobody has camped here since then? Hrm.

Despite the wondering, the sun was setting over the yellow peak's mountains, so it was time to camp. Period. We quickly unpacked, setup our little 2 person tent, rolled out our mummy bags ( thank goodness.. ), and started up a small fire. There was plenty of wood left at the site to use to get a small fire going, and it was plenty to cook our dinner. We had brought dehydrated beef stew, with an extra bag of instant mashed potatoes. Holy crap was that a great idea!!!! We sat down and were just letting the stew rehydrate slowly, going over our water inventory ( knowing the boulder canyon was full of large pools of water ), when the craziest thing happened.

As we sat and the sun set, the wilderness really starts to come to life. What, during the day, is a totally silent hike, at night, gets quite noisy. First the crickets. Then the birds. Lots of birds and crickets. We had an owl too for most of the night. But you know, we have a cat. And she's an inside/outside cat, but very good about it, always stays in our yard. But when she goes out, there are designated "alarm birds" as we call them, that start calling out that she's around and warding all the smaller birds away, and diving at her, etc. Well we had a bird that was chirping really close to us, that sounded just like an alarm. It was just buzzing and buzzing, and we wondered to ourselves what was going on. Whether the bird was yelling at us, or warning other birds that we were here, we weren't sure. But then, out of the blue, a dozen or so birds flew into our general area. It was too dark now to clearly see anything, but the birds were swooping in and our of the trees and brush around us. They circled our camp, darting in and out. Then they starting doing this thing where they flew in, hovered while batting their wings so hard it made a really loud BBppTTBBppTTBBppTTBBppTT with the air, and darted away. This REALLY freaked us out. I couldn't tell whether they were being aggressive towards us, or being aggressive to a (gasp) mountain lion that was close by, or what. No, we didn't see or hear a mountain lion. But these birds circling around and making all these chirps, whistles and BBppTTBBppTTBBppTTBBppTT's, was really freakin weird. Never have I heard or seen or experienced anything like this. W-T-F

I'd had enough. It was wigging us both out terrible. I stood up, grabbed my knife, and shouted at them to leave us alone, we're just camping, and to get the hell out. They did. Gone. No more birds. Not a single one. No more chirping, no more noise, no more flying around. That was it. It was the last we heard birds ( aside from the Owl ) until the morning.


Doing some research on the forums here, I'm pretty certain that they were Gambel's Quail.

Needless to say, we were spooked a bit, but we curled up in our mummy bags ( thank goodness we had 30 degree bags, it was FREEZING out at night ) and slept the night away. We woke up on and off all night to the Owl, and my wife's snoring. Her snoring never wakes me up at home, but I guess being out in the wilderness, I was a bit more in tune with what was going on around us. She swears she heard something out there at night ( sticks cracking, stuff rummaging through our packs ), but I only heard the Owl and her snoring. We did leave our packs outside the tent, there was nowhere good to hang them, but in the morning I saw no signs that anything had been near our campsite.

The trip back ( the way we came ) was much easier. We filled up our water at a pool of water near the camp, and easily stayed on the trail around boulder canyon. It was quite simple, just going back and forth across the boulders here and there, much easier than bouldering down the middle. We came across two guys looking for a way up battleship mountain. Said something about a wind cave around where to go up. We didn't actually try, we were too tired, but we didn't see a wind cave either. We made it back in 4-5 hours, as opposed to the 6-7 it took us to get out there with all the time warping going on around 2nd water spring. I say time warping because, while we did go off route for a while, it certainly didn't seem like 2 hours worth -- but that's how far we got set back from it. Strange.

And another thing. It is crazy how taking 20 steps away from the trail to look over a cliff can get you lost. We did that a couple times, turned around, and "Wha... where did the trail go?! we just stepped off it!". You really need to pay attention to any land marks on the trail before you leave it, because I could EASILY see how someone could get looped around and just not be able to see the trail they left. You almost have to be 3 or 4 feet away from it to see it, otherwise it just blends in ( when looking eye level for a trail... obviously they are easy to see when you're looking down at them from up high ).
Wiry Lotus

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Second Water Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
I couldn't find 'the' spring, but there has been rain in the past few weeks, and there were definitely some seep springs on the walls of the small second water canyon. Pools of green algae filled water were abundant. The pools were overflowing down the canyon in small trickles, probably a quart of flow per minute, maybe more.
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