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Garden Valley Loop
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mini location map2016-11-24
17 by photographer avatarblack_toes
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Garden Valley LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Nov 24 2016
black_toes
Hiking6.09 Miles 660 AEG
Hiking6.09 Miles   5 Hrs   36 Mns   1.91 mph
660 ft AEG   2 Hrs   25 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Our annual Thanksgiving Day hike and first visit to First Water TH or anywhere else, really, N of the Massacre Grounds. Hiked with MJ, my usual partner if I have one at all. Took about 55 minutes to drive the 45 mi from our home in central Phoenix. Perfect day. Sunny, temps around 70 when we arrived at TH about noon.

Wondered on the drive out whether we would meet a holiday crowd or nobody at the TH. Surprised to count 26 cars in the parking lot. Not full, but . . . . Trail very busy until we passed Dutchman's Trail jct. Crossed rocky and dry First Water Creek and stopped at the jct of Black Mesa and Second Water Trails to look at the "Indian ruins," a disappointing hill of rocks about 50 steps N of the sign post. Who would give the pile of rocks a second glance without reading a trail description? My GPS measured the distance to this major intersection at 1.86 mi.

The best part of the hike began in Garden Valley and continued all the way to Hackberry Spring. Grand views of the mountains, a peek or two at Four Peaks to the N and the top of Weavers Needle to the S. Someone had recently drawn a circled pentagon in the dirt at the start of Garden Valley and burned a wood fire in the middle of it. The circle was perfectly drawn, but the star had jagged lines. Symbolic of something? Escaped me. Crossing this flat valley all the way to Hackberry Spring, the unmarked trail was clearly visible. In their Superstitions book, Carlson and Stewart call the path "a horse trail." Going down the steepest parts was a mite too rocky for my taste. Lots of loose stumble-rock.

At 2.95 mi out, we came to another trail jct, this one unmarked. Looking at a map, I was sure we made a right here, but I asked a man lolling atop some rock with his dog if this was truly a trail juncture. He answered, "Where you going?" I told him, to Hackberry Spring, and he pointed N the way we were going anyway.

Coming downhill from there and making a turn west, it was easy to identify the Spring area. Two large cottonwoods in the distance were sporting yellow autumn colors. And of course there was a forest of mesquite et al surrounding them. Campers appear to use this area often. We plopped down in some grass near dry First Water Creek, spread our jackets and had our Thanksgiving Day meal: Turkey sandwiches, cauliflower and carrot sticks and cranberry oatmeal bars for dessert. Our usual fare for the holiday. Never saw the spring. But did ID my first hackberry tree by a big fire ring at the south end of the area. I read up on the hackberry before the trip and knew the easiest way to identify one is the "warts" on the bark (see photos). The bottoms of the leaves usually have "bulbs" of parasites. But we saw none of the tree's edible berries. I have read one can survive for months just eating hackberries alone.

We steered back to the TH by going south through the narrow canyon of the creek. That meant clambering over boulders and rock for quite a distance. Did not know until I traced it that First Water Creek empties into Canyon Lake. Lots of tanks in here filled with water from rains of last week. We came across a huge pool that I estimated was 30x15 feet, and the water was deep (see photo). I imagine this pool will be available to hikers all winter if not longer.

Somewhere in the canyon we failed to pick up the trail when it emerged from the creek bed. So we plodded on to the windmill and the nearby metal canopy where an old homestead is protected at a point where the creek turns SE. The sun was fading fast, and we decided to head S along First Water Ck until we hit the main trail back to the TH. There was no clear trail there on the W side of rock-lined creek. Once in a while we came across a rock cairn, then lost the trail again in the tall grass and trees. Figured if we kept on this course S we would eventually end up at the right place, and we did. Reached the TH about 15 minutes after sunset at 1722. Only five cars left in the lot by then. For all the trouble getting back from Hackberry Spring, MJ called it "our most beautiful Thanksgiving hike ever." And that goes back many years.
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