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Hackberry Mesa summit, AZ
mini location map2014-04-18
12 by photographer avatarCannondaleKid
photographer avatar
Hackberry Mesa summit, AZ 
Hackberry Mesa summit, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 18 2014
Hiking6.10 Miles 1,879 AEG
Hiking6.10 Miles   4 Hrs   9 Mns   1.53 mph
1,879 ft AEG      10 Mns Break25 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Partners none no partners
After our luck encountering the tortoise and Gila Monster when my grand-nephew and I visited the mine on the western mid-slope of Hackberry Mesa I figured it was worth a return trip for my birthday.

Last week's trip also reminded me of my desire to locate a mountain lion den I felt was nearby. I had been followed by a mountain lion early in a peak bagging hike last September but on the return leg of the hike I returned the favor and tracked it until it turned to head up toward the volcanic tuff on the western slope of Hackberry Mesa. So I figured this would be a good time to check that out as well.

I made good time from the horse lot using the most direct 'on-trail' route to the saddle where I followed the trail across the slope toward the mine. I thought I'd see if the tortoise was still around but really didn't expect to find it three days later. I did not find the tortoise but within a 200' hundred foot radius of the tortoise sighting I encountered three rattlers. Of course I shot video of all three and posted on YouTube:
Rattler Medley video:

From there I proceeded north over a series of ridges until reaching the one just before the wash where I had broken off my mountain lion tracking last year. Looking closer at the terrain I felt the craggy volcanic tuff areas held the most promise so aimed for it. And wouldn't you know it, just as I was digging in hard with both my hiking poles to keep from sliding down the hill up pops a gray fox. We made eye contact and for a moment neither of us moved. I'm thinking... if I let go of even one pole to grab my camera I'd begin to slide down toward it and it would be gone in a flash. So I slowly backed up just far enough to lean my right foot against some brush, took out the camera and leaned forward to take the shot but the fox had already started moving down the slope. So I dropped my poles and slid far enough down to the next level spot where I would be looking through an opening ahead of the route the fox was on. But it stopped before the opening somewhere. Not seeing or hearing anything for a minute or two, I decided to throw a stone in the general area. Just as I'm about to release the stone the fox stepped into the opening, providing an absolutely perfect photo op. Too late to stop the release I threw the stone as high as I could hoping to shoot a photo before it hit the ground and scaring the fox away. Not quite... I knew I'd have to 'lead' the fox with the camera before taking the shot but I led it a bit too much so the best shot was gone. Thankfully the fox did stop not too far away so I was able to take a few photos of it. (I posted the best of three photos here) But with only a 4x zoom it wasn't the best.

Ok, enough messing around, time to find the lion's den, which I not only found one complete with scat, but a second one. The real adventure began at the second one. Just as I was about to take a photo of some somewhat fresh scat (within a week or so??) when a swarm of bees came at me.
Uh, oh... time to be moving right along, thank you... and not just moving but in full sprint mode. Somewhat luckily, I hit on a well-beaten game trail traversing the slope so for a little while I could move pretty fast, just not fast enough. With so many bees landing on my hat and upper arms, and now beginning to find their way under the rim of my hat I knew I had to do something fast. Mindful of the steeper slope just below the game trail I dove through every bit of brush I could find along the way in an attempt to 'brush' off the bees.

Looking at the GPS track later I ran as fast as I could through brush, trees and what-have-you for almost two hundred yards before ridding myself of all but the bees under the brim of my hat... that's when I realized were too busy sucking sweat out of my by-now fully-drenched skull cap. Still, I wanted to get them off so I quickly shed my hat as I rolled sideways through a large jojoba bush, whipping off my skull cap at the same time. Whew! It worked! Well almost... one insistent bee will follow me for sometime, constantly flying into my hat from all angles. At least it wasn't stinging me.

Having done some almost straight up climbing to get away from the bees (the other option was fall down a steep slope at that point) by now my chest is heaving, I'm hardly able to take a full breath and sweating through every pore of my body and I am thoroughly wiped out. But always one to look for the bright side, while laying prostrate almost face-down I manage to look up and see a mine I never knew was here. (the Lost Dutchman mine??!! don't I wish)

So after taking 5 minutes to catch my breath (it felt like an hour) I dragged myself to my feet to check out the mine. My flashlight was still in the car ](*,) but I'm here so I figured I'd go in as far as I could still see where I was going. I almost didn't make it 5 feet... as I walked toward the mine I felt light-headed (got up too fast??) and just managed to keep from stumbling as I entered it. (Yes, I had the video running) Thankfully it was a horizontal mine!

Hackberry Mine #2 video:

I didn't go far in before I realized it was a deeper mine than expected so it would have to wait for next trip. As I turned around to go back out, what'ya know, the lone bee was waiting for me and resumed his banging into my hat again... and it will continue for another 20 minutes.

And right about now I realize that with all the crashing through brush I had lost my telescopic snake hook. Hmmm, I wonder how far back it is, and will my busy-body-bee-buddy go back and raise the troops again if I go too far back? Not wanting to lose another snake hook I retraced my steps... which was quite easy with all the broken bushes and Palo Verde branches snapped off during the chase. Whew! I found it thoroughly stuck into a jojoba bush only halfway back. I grabbed it, returned to the mine and since I was now barely 50 feet below the top of Hackberry Mesa I continued on up. Back on flat ground I made a bee-line (hmmm... seems to be the theme today) for the southwestern-most point of Hackberry Mesa and began my descent... very carefully.

Once back on the trail I proceeded counter-clockwise past Hackberry Spring, meeting a group of three, then farther on I met a group of 19 if I recall correctly (see last photo in the photoset) with a number of them from Germany. I took photos of the group using their cameras as well as mine and finished the hike about a uneventful as ever. Good! I'd already had enough excitement for a month, let alone one day.

Final note: More excitement will come my way within another day... at the beginning of FR 25A the Cherokee broke a rear spring. Tracey wasn't too excited about me using three worn ratchet straps and an old off-brand vise-grip pliers to keep the axle close where it should be for the long drive home. But we made it, safe and sound!

I posted an abbreviated photoset here on HAZ, the full set of photos 27 is on my website as usual.

{Edit} P.S. I had an extra 3L plus a 16 oz bottle of water as I planned on leaving a water cache on the hike. It turned out to be a good thing because after the extra effort of evading the bees I ended up drinking it all including my original 3 liters.
Mine Shaft
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