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Marsh Valley Loop
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mini location map2012-11-18
19 by photographer avatarDarthStiller
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Marsh Valley LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Nov 18 2012
Hiking16.25 Miles 2,330 AEG
Hiking16.25 Miles   8 Hrs   15 Mns   1.97 mph
2,330 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
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Jim contacted me 2 months ago to do a hike, knowing that he would be in town for Thanksgiving and that the Steelers had a night game. This would allow me to do a nice hike and get home in time for kickoff. Our options were something shorter near the Mogollon Rim, or a longer hike nearby. Jim voiced the idea of wanting to hike out in the Anchas, but that would involve too much travel time for me to make it home for kickoff. I suggested Battleship Mtn or the Marsh Valley Loop. He chose Marsh Valley and Wally and Joe decided to tag along. Battleship Mtn turned out to be a significant hike for our day as Kyle, John, Vince and Frank were hiking that. I contacted Kyle the night before and we arranged to try to meet at the junction of the Lost Dutchman and Boulder Canyon Trails on their way down the mountain and during our homestretch back to First Water.

As a change of pace, Jim refrained from a late night of heavy drinking the night before and was only 10 minutes late. We arrived at the First Water TH pre-dawn and got started at 6:15am. I used my headlamp for about the first half mile, and probably didn't really need it much. The sunlight started to hit the hills around just as we descended into Boulder Canyon. Wally pointed out an abandoned mining camp in this area that I remember trying to look for one about 10 years ago right after I bought the Stewart/Carlson book. The heavy reeds and brush in the bottom of that gulch look just as thick and unforgiving as they were then.

At the bottom in Boulder Canyon there were some campers who had a fire going and just seemed to be waking up. We made our way down Boulder Canyon, hiking right into the sun and boulder hopping across the wash. Going uphill on the Calvary Trail after this was a welcome change to walking on river rock. The views towards the upper end of the Calvary Trail were really nice, especially with the early morning light. Sadly, the views all day of Weaver's Needle from our angle were into the sun, preventing any decent pictures.

Once the Cavalry Trail descended and got adjacent to Malapais Mtn, Wally pointed out to us where Crazy Jake's mining camps were, which involved some slight off trail bushwhacking. This area seems to have grown over quite a bit since those days and finding the remaining ruins wasn't easy, even for Wally knowing where to look. Other than the metal trash and Smart Water bottles, this looks not too different from Indians ruins. We could make out what appeared to be a fire pit (for cooking?) adjacent to what may have been a toilet (yuk!). Further down the trail, Wally pointed out the big rock off trail to walk towards in order to try to find the Z Trail up Squaw Canyon. According to Wally, that trail is very faint and hard to follow, so it didn't seem worth bushwhacking several hundred yards out and back to look for faint trail signs.

At the junction of the Bull Pass and Dutchman trails, we made the decision to go ahead and take the longer route to the south of Black Top Mesa since it wasn't even 11am yet. We headed south along the Dutchman trail until we got to the first shady spot and had lunch. Just before that, there was another camping crew who had 3 of its party departing. They left one guy behind to watch their gear while a horse train came by to pick it up. The 3 older guys we had just seen leaving taking the fainter Bull Pass bypass trail. I think we saw those guys again back at the trailhead. They said they were out there for 5 days and were driving straight home. To San Diego. The guy they left behind to watch the camp, Scott, talked with us during our lunch. He's been going out there for several decades with his family and is very familiar with the area and its history. He was also nice enough to offer us some water. Jim took him up on that and took a gallon since he was on his last Diet Coke.

Once we got past Black Top Mesa on the south side, I started trying to call Kyle on my radio. Apparently, they were able to hear me but I couldn't hear them. My radio is pretty much a cheapie and while the range is supposed to be up to 5 miles, I think its more like a half mile. At least I was able to let those guys know we were at the junction of the Dutchman and Boulder canyon trails like we figured we would be when they were approaching. They weren't at the TH once we started, but I figured they would probably start about 8am or so, which is what they did. They caught up to Jim and I (Wally and Joe were already in homestretch turn-on-the-jets mode) just before Parker Pass and then they all left me for dead as I lumbered back the last 2 miles. I got back to the trailhead by 3pm, giving me plenty of time to get home, shower, eat, etc.

Jim had an odd fixation throughout this hike with the white fungus on the prickly pear cactii which he said was some kind of insect excretions. There was quite alot of it and made most of the prickly pears look like were TP'ed. Mildly interesting to me, but Jim kept picking at the stuff like he was taking samples for a dissertation.

The weather was pretty much perfect for this hike. Clear, upper 70s, no wind. The views in this area are fantastic. I always try to do a new trail every time I go hiking, but I should probably get out to the Supes more often. It was also nice to see everyone again.
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