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Big Loop Around Weaver's Needle, AZ
mini location map2019-04-04
25 by photographer avatarwildwesthikes
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Big Loop Around Weaver's Needle, AZ 
Big Loop Around Weaver's Needle, AZ
 
Backpack avatar Apr 04 2019
wildwesthikes
Backpack24.00 Miles 4,660 AEG
Backpack24.00 Miles3 Days         
4,660 ft AEG19 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
This was a 3 day backpacking trip starting at Peralta TH, encompassing portions of Miner's Needle Loop, Bluff Spring Trail, Dutchman Trail down into LaBarge Canyon through Marsh Valley, using Cavalry trail and Boulder Canyon Tr to loop back from north to South; connecting back up with Dutchman #104 and finishing up by taking Peralta Tr. #102 south back to Peralta TH.

Route: https://caltopo.com/m/1EUS

Day 1 miles: 9.2 - Camp Charlebois Spring
Day 2 miles: 8.4 - Camp East Boulder Canyon
Day 3 miles: 6.4
Total miles: 24
Note: I based mileages off of what my GPS told me I hiked. The mapped route shows slightly lower mileages.

Day 1: Peralta TH > Dutchman Tr > Bluff Springs Tr > Dutchman Tr > Charlebois Spring (low camp)

Started at the Peralta Trailhead on the 1st Thursday in April. Weather was mostly sunny with a small dose of partly cloudy. Those clouds were a godsend as the high was mid to high 80s. The trailhead was packed as usual, though much busier than I had expected for a Thursday, parking was not a problem. Out the gate I hang a right onto Dutchman trail #104, as one would do to complete Miner's Needle Loop from the counter clockwise direction. I was pleasantly surprised shortly up trail to see a healthy water flow where Barks Canyon crosses Dutchman. I did a trip exactly a year ago in 2018 in the western Supes and the only water whatsoever at the time was Charlebois & LaBarge Springs; 2019 is turning out to be a garden year!

I saw no less than three snakes all of different species (unfortunately no pics!) on the climb up to Bluff Springs -- a black snake, green snake and a super fat long diamondback with its lower end sticking out across the width of the trail. Tossed a rock in its general direction and it didn't move an inch. Started smacking my trekking pole on the ground next to it -- thing wouldn't move a muscle... was it dead? I throw another rock and it slithers off the trail. Sneaky!

Up on top you get some fantastic views of Barkley basin, coffee flat trail and in the distance, a shimmer of the water drainage exiting out the souther portion of the wilderness. Though my original plan involved taking Whiskey Springs to Red Tanks into LaBarge and then west, I have been recovering from an LCL/IT band injury in my knee and decided to keep it under 10 miles per day. So at the top I instead head north along Dutchman Trail towards Bluff Spring. I love this section between the top of Miners needle and Bluff Springs. I can't quite put my finger on why I like this area so much - I guess it has to do with the dichotomy of how much you just climbed and how flat it all seems up there. At the junction of Dutchman & Bluff, passing by Crystal Spring there was another flow of water in the drainage, though it was more akin to a trickle and I believe the drainage will soon be dried up. I passed by the beautiful tree covered campsite that triggered memories of sitting there with my poor knee in pain from 6 weeks before, where I had been hiking in freezing rain and hail, fording LaBarge canyon up to my knees with a 38 degree high temp - what a difference a few weeks makes, weather changes so quick in the desert.

Bluff Springs Trail was full of tall grasses in full green bloom. Lots of bee activity helping to keep my moving speed up. And plenty of water was still flowing from the high desert down into LaBarge. Basically I followed Bluff until I met back up with Dutchman Trail next to LaBarge Spring. I didn't go up to the spring proper but there was still water flowing the entire length of LaBarge canyon. Again - this was totally dry a year before. Thankfully all 5 (6?) creek crossings were uneventful, easy rock hopping. I arrived to Charlebois Spring and picked the low camp for the night. Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy I think it was? If you ask me their breakfast offerings are far superior for any meal of the day compared to the non-breakfast offerings... Anyway, the trail to the high camp at Charlie boi is already becoming overgrown. and bug pressure is increasing, hence my decision to stop at the site just off Dutchman for the night. I do backpacking trips in the Superstitions about once or twice a month and this is the 1st trip I've done where I could go sans rain-fly in about 4 months. It was a beautiful cloudless night. First time using a phone app called Sky Guide (you *want* this app if you're into backpacking / camping); especially if you have trouble sleeping - just lay in your tent, look at the stars with this app in hand and learn what star or planet is what up there.

Day 2: Charlebois Spring > Dutchman Tr > Cavalry Tr > Boulder Canyon Tr > Dutchman Tr > Camp at East Boulder Canyon below Black Top Mesa Climb

After a Greenbelly bar and hot coffee I hit the trail on day 2 around 9:30am. I followed Dutchman Trail northwest and noted how green everything was - the cottonwoods in LaBarge Canyon that often have yellow/red leaves were really just this vibrant bright green; the trail cut through tall knee high grasses. A mile in I turn right onto Cavalry trail -- this just might be my favorite trail in all of the Superstition Wilderness. The 1st time you hike it I'd say do it coming from the west/boulder canyon side - the view into Marsh Valley from that direction is a surprise and a treat. Today I would be going from the east side, using Cavalry to loop from north to south. LaBarge Canyon was still flowing its entire length, but water levels were fairly low; rock hopping again was easy - lots of green/yellow algae hanging out in the drainage. I saw one other hiker the entire day and this guy said he had seen a couple snakes. I saw none that day though. There is a towering lone cottonwood tree with a large boulder wedged up against it in one of the LaBarge crossing points - with a little sand bar in the middle. This was a good place to filter and top off my water as the high was about 88 degrees; I hung out under the shade of this tree for a bit, ate some snacks. I am very thankful for the amount of water flowing at the moment, allowing me to travel fast and light with only a couple liters of water carried at a time.

As Cavalry turns west towards the Red Hills it climbs up over a pass in order to drop down into Boulder Canyon -- I knew what was to come, as my recent knee injury makes flat hiking & easy climbing no problem, but steep climbs & descents are pretty agonizing. When you are injured going downhill, trekking poles are a requirement and that is the only way I got down into boulder. Since it's been dry recently, Cavalry's descent into Boulder Canyon Tr. #103 was full of the dreaded loose over hard terrain where every step is annoyingly slippery and ends up taking longer than the climb up.

At the junction of Cavalry & Boulder Canyon I rested my knee for a few minutes at a well hidden campsite I have stayed at in the past. Then followed Boulder Canyon Trail southward. This is a trail that I hated at first due to the number of boulder laden creek crossings. But I've come around and really enjoy this trail now. Water was flowing its entire length and there are some cool campsites along the way. Some kid was boulder hopping in the drainage proper off trail; met his parents further down at the second to last creek crossing before Boulder meets up with Dutchman. They apparently were doing a 3 day basecamping trip and were unaware of how far down the water went - they were pretty surprised when I told them you can often follow this water all the way to Canyon Lake.

Back on dutchman I headed left (east) and finished up the last mile climbing up East Boulder Canyon - a trail I have done so many times I sometimes forget to take in the views -- really one of the more beautiful places in this wilderness. At the foot of the climb up to Black Top Mesa Pass I took the little side trail to the last camping area. This was a fairly short day - I was all setup at camp by 2pm and kind of sat there using my rainfly as a ground tarp (don't do this if you care about your gear) to take advantage of the sliver of shade the lone large tree in the area was providing in the heat of the day. The entire afternoon was spent fighting off ticks, black flies and mosquitos. I used up almost an entire ounce of DEET on this afternoon alone! Also, if you are going to rehydrate your own veggies - don't be in a rush to eat lunch. Give it time! Crunchy peas are fine, but crunchy corn and green beans are weird when mixed into mashed potatoes with tuna :| (meh...)

Backpackers Pantry Pad Thai for dinner was much nicer. I had a fire and hung out with my Sky Guide app in hand. I ate while the sun went down and got a little worried that I would have cowboys for company, but they passed me by and headed up Black Top Mesa pass. I was surprised to see them going up such a sketchy section of trail on horseback so late in the day. The rock walls of Black Top Mesa have never looked more beautiful basked in the peachy evening light. Surprisingly, it ended up raining at about 3AM - I scrambled to get the rainfly on but thankfully I woke up when it was only a slight drizzle. It rained on and off for the rest of the night until about 7am. Note that the closest forecast you can get is in Apache Junction, where 0% rain is forecast. The Superstitions routinely get rain when there is none in the valley.

Day 3: Dutchman Trail > Peralta Tr. #102 > Back to Car

The final day was straightforward. I got up nice and early at first light and opened my tent up as soon as the rain stopped around 7am. I choked down another Greenbelly bar (they are honestly good meal replacements but very dense eating) and had my coffee and was back on the trail by 8:30. By now anytime I went downhill my knee would loudly tell me to stop doing that! But there were 6.4 miles of trail left back to the car; the descent down from Fremont Saddle was what I was really dreading. Peralta Trail, being probably the most popular trail in the Superstition Wilderness by far - I normally avoid it; I think it was a year since the last time I did it and never hiked the full length of it before. The views simply cannot be beat - there is a good reason it's such a popular trail. Especially with how green everything was at this moment in Spring. My knee thanked me for stopping every 5 minutes to snap photos of Weaver's Needle from its various angles, and the views back towards East Boulder Canyon. On the flat section between the initial climb up and before climbing to Fremont Saddle, you only see a few hikers. Most people stop at Fremont Saddle and turn around up there. I took a short detour to the campsite by Piper Spring. Water was definitely flowing over there but the little side trail to get down to it sucks. I turned around, not wanting to gamble with an already screaming left knee. On the final push of switchbacks up to Fremont Saddle I helped a confused hiker to assess that she was indeed on Peralta #102 and yes she should turn right at Dutchman to do the Weaver's Needle loop hike. At the top I kind of just kept pressing on past the crowds but did stop briefly to snap photos of the hoodoos and needles that define the area. Someday I'd like to incorporate Cave Trail into this multi-day hike, looked like a couple people were heading in that direction.

So, looking down into Peralta Canyon my fate became clear. Time to take out my trekking pole and hobble on down. I was a trooper. That dang knee was screaming the whole way down - I forgot it was basically all rock steps to the bottom. There is a technique, you know, for hiking with a bum knee. Why did it take me weeks to figure this out?? Always lead the step down with your bad knee and brace/launch off of the step with your good knee. This is contrary to how one would imagine it should work, but it did take the brunt of the force off. Amazingly I still flew by most of the day hikers. I think I just wanted to get down as fast as possible to be done with the pain. Hopefully in a few months I can leave another trip report not peppered with reports of my aching knee! Right near the trailhead, probably 500ft from it a loud rattlesnake was warning passers-by that it exists! It was off in the rocks well off trail but that didn't stop several hikers from turning tail back to the car. Instead of Bluff Springs or Dutchman they just got straight in their cars and took off! At the trailhead I had a leisurely conversation with the ranger about snake stuff, trail stuff, how long he thinks the water will stay around. Great trip overall, though I probably will not finish on Peralta on a weekend again - that trail is a victim of its own popularity. If I did this particular loop again it would probably be clockwise instead of counterclockwise.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Substantial
Blooming everywhere

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Bark at Dutchman Crossing Light flow Light flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max East Boulder - Weavers Viewpoint Light flow Light flow
Water flow along the length of East Boulder Canyon - easy to find good water just off trail. Just completely dry at the point where Dutchman #104 crosses the drainage just south of the Peralta #102 junction.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Peralta Creek at #102 Crossing Light flow Light flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Piper Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
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