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Dutchman's Middle Trail Loop, AZ
mini location map2016-01-25
19 by photographer avatarPeraltaPhil
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Dutchman's Middle Trail Loop, AZ 
Dutchman's Middle Trail Loop, AZ
Hiking avatar Jan 25 2016
Hiking6.30 Miles 1,082 AEG
Hiking6.30 Miles   7 Hrs   30 Mns   0.93 mph
1,082 ft AEG      45 Mns Break15 LBS Pack
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I had hiked the Bluff Springs/Dutchman Loop a couple of times and have used both trails to access other trails for a longer out and back, or loop. I had heard and read about a north/south route connecting the Dutchman's with the Bluff Springs.

So, on Dec. 31, 2015 my friend, Mark, accompanied me to explore this route. Unfortunately, as we went north through the Middle Wash, I exited on the wrong side. Following the contour brought us too far west to the Bluff Springs Trail, just north of hill 3,179; not where I intended to be. Mark and I hiked back to the Peralta. I would have to try again some other day.

Today is that day. However, I decided to add an additional element. [ youtube video ] On the way to the middle trail I want to locate the Red Cliffs Mine east of the Lower Barks Wash.

The hike began shortly before 8:00 A.M. from the Peralta Trail Head. Hiking from the Dutchman's Trail east I ascended a small hill overlooking the Barkley Basin. Shortly thereafter I stopped to take a photo and a panoramic video of the basin.

Less than a mile into the hike, I entered the Lower Barks Wash, traversed north a bit, then exited east near the Red Cliffs. I found what seemed to be a trail, which I followed north. (The wash exit was cluttered with bushes and cat claw. I wish I had crossed the wash first, then hiked north.)

Just before 9:00 A.M. I passed by some bushes and was startled to see the mine opening in front of me. My heart rate increased. But nothing compared to what would happen a little later.

With a mitten cap, gloves, headlamp, and camera I cautiously ventured inside. I had been inside a couple of mines before. This time I was alone. My mind conjured up questions - Were there critters? How deep was the mine? Could I walk or need to crawl?

I proceeded with care. Immediately, some small flying insects zinged past me. I was momentarily shaken, (not stirred). The shaft was about 3 to 4 feet wide and at least 5 feet high. I had to stoop a little. No sounds, until . . . I stepped on . . . an old soda can. I hope I did not awaken anything! As I quietly ventured in further, I noticed a small mouse descending the wall to my right. I pressed on. Many steps later I saw an off-chute tunnel to the right, and the shaft which I was following coming to an end. What should I do? Turn back? Or, follow the other cut? What would you have done?

You are correct, I continued exploring. I was not prepared for what would happen next.

I proceeded with a guarded demeanor. Experience from others had alerted me that off-chutes from the main mine shaft were more inclined to contain nocturnal nesting creepy critters. About half a minute in, the inevitable happened. I was timidly tiptoeing towards the unknown, When all of a S U D D E N . . . I was buzzzzzed by BATS!!! Yikes!!! After verbally voicing my surprise, I immediately came to a realization - My exploration expedition time had expired! Naturally, I was buzzed again as the bats flew back to their lair. [ youtube video ]

The exit was made without further incident. The entire episode took about seven (7) minutes. My fixbit recorded approximately one hundred and thirty steps (130) in and back out. There was definitely some heavy breathing involved.
A sense of exhilaration and jubilation was experienced as I made my way out through the entrance!

It was 9:15 A.M. This would normally have been a "mission accomplished" and then back to the trail head. But, my main purpose was to hike the Dutchman's Middle Trail Loop. So, I continued.

Instead of hiking south and reconnecting with the Dutchman's Trail I decided to circle around the hill and catch the middle wash, north of the Dutchman's. The hill had a rock formation which, from below on the main trail, looks like a mitten. I call it Mitten Rock. [ youtube video ]
It takes about an hour until I am north of the mitten, on the east side of the wash, and up around another hill, on the east side. Hindsight will show that I should have stayed on the west side of this hill. It would have been closer to the actual middle trail route. If you have been out there you know there are several hills which create hiking direction choices. By 11:00 A.M. I am up and over another hill, hiking in a northeast direction. I had not realized that I was too far east. Remember, I had gone the wrong way around a hill about half an hour ago.

After 10 minutes of hiking, a familiar landmark was in view to the east, the Miner's Needle. [ youtube video ] The good news was that I was to the west of it. The bad news was that I needed to be farther west. By hiking north another 10 minutes I reached a valley northwest of the needle's western saddle. In this valley I found a marker, a rock pile surrounding a chopped off Agave stalk. If anyone knows its significance, please let me know.

From here I hiked north towards another saddle. I should mention that ever since I left the Mitten Rock and middle wash behind there has been no trail. The terrain consists of scattered bushes, boulders, loose shale and dirt; no cat claw. I make my way up to the saddle and am rewarded with a fantastic view - Weaver's Needle, Bluff Mountain, Bluff Springs/Dutchman's junction, Ely-Anderson campground, and somewhere the middle trail junction. Now, all I have to do is determine the best route down to the valley. From my vantage point I realize I am not exactly following the middle trail route. My goal now is to take the path of least resistance. [ youtube video ]

I had reached the saddle with the panoramic view at 11:45 A.M. This was a good vantage point from which to observe the southeast side of Bluff Mountain. An old trail, Ely-Anderson, winds its way up to the top. Cool! The trail cannot be seen from here but I have hiked it so I know that it's there. The contour of the hill prodded me to take a slightly N.N.E. route, which would actually lead me to the Dutchman's Trail a short distance southeast of the junction with the Bluff Springs Trail. I came across a large rock pile. I am unsure of its purpose. Maybe someone reading this may know. Soon I came to a group of bushes and trees, a suitable campsite perhaps. There was also a faint trail which I followed for a while. It led to the valley affording a panoramic view. I named this area "the bowl". [ youtube video ] At 12:30 P.M. I made connection with the Dutchman's Trail, ending four hours of route-finding and bush-whacking. Yippee!!

I looked around and determined that I was southeast of the junction with the northeast terminus of the Bluff Springs Trail. The trail sign is just north of a wash crossing. A camping area is there. A pipe signifying the Crystal Spring is also there. Less that a quarter mile north, if you hike the Dutchman's (I did not) you would find a trail leading towards the mountain. This would lead to the Bluff Spring. It is hidden among trees and bushes. A pipe, sometimes with dripping water, leads west to towards the mountain. I have not ascertained its origin. These are just some of the sights in the area. My focus was really on hiking west from the signpost.

Very near the signpost at 3,000' elevation and hiking west, I came to the campfire ring which marked the spot for the Ely-Anderson Trail up to Bluff Mt. It's a rugged zigzag hike which gains 800+ feet of elevation. Remember my earlier account of being on the saddle and viewing the Bluff Mt. That was at an elevation of 3,300 feet. Now, I continue west on the Bluff Springs trail. Shortly after 1:00 P.M. I came to a drainage which I believed to be the Dutchman's Middle Trail north terminus. I did hike south a short distance on a previous hike and I did so again today. I will need to schedule a hike that will allow me to hike further south from here to try and locate the more direct middle trail route to the Dutchman's Trail about 2+ miles south.

Reaching this junction accomplishes the second and final goal of this hike. The first was related to the old mine. I appreciate your forbearance. I hope to upload photos and/or short videos to help with visualization of this presentation. I have made a route map with points of interest but have not yet learned how to combine it within this triplog.

Now, how did I get back to Peralta? Within 20 minutes from leaving the middle trail jct. I reached the junction with the Terrapin trail. From there the Bluff Springs trail heads south 2+ miles to the trail head. I would enjoy a leisurely hike of 1.5 hours on the maintained trail. Familiar landmarks included the "peralta stone", Hill 3179, Upper Barks jct., Lower Barks jct., and Geronimo Cave trail southern terminus junction.
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