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Williams-Needle-Hassayampa Loop, AZ
mini location map2020-12-08
3 by photographer avatarGrangerGuy
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Williams-Needle-Hassayampa Loop, AZ 
Williams-Needle-Hassayampa Loop, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 08 2020
Hiking10.50 Miles 1,496 AEG
Hiking10.50 Miles   7 Hrs   13 Mns   2.11 mph
1,496 ft AEG   2 Hrs   15 Mns Break10 LBS Pack
1st trip
Partners none no partners

The road
I started from the BLM trailhead on the Hassayampa Canyon Wilderness. The speed on the road is 5-10 mph for the last 5 miles. Took 1.5 hr from route 60. I was glad I had a 4x4. High clearance without 4x4 would have been possible, but not pleasant.

The trail

Arrived at the Hassayampa Canyon Wilderness BLM TH at 8 am. Put on my water shoes. Converted my pants for water walking. Signed the register. Looks like a few people visit this wilderness every week.

About the time I got to the creek, a couple of the ranch dogs came down to check me out. One of the ranch dogs followed me at a distance but very wary of me. Every time I turned around, he backed away. Eventually he got bored and headed home.

In early December 2020, the creek was very low. Looked like it would pose no hassle whatsoever. I headed downstream, and in a short distance, the creek disappeared into the sand. In one sense I was glad the stream was dry, so it made the walking ridiculously easy. On the other hand, I did not bring a lot of extra water. I saw that the water was actually just below the surface at some places. It could be found by digging down. The water regularly came to the surface, then disappeared again.

My biggest concern about this trip was quicksand. Based on an earlier report on HAZ, I reviewed self-rescue from quicksand before departure. I figured, by following the paths of the cows, I should stay out of trouble. Any time the sand was smooth, I poked at it with my sticks before stepping onto it. I did not encounter any quicksand.

There were a lot of quail. Also, from time to time I smelled skunk, although I never saw any. I also saw elk sign, and maybe deer prints.

Near the bottom of the Needle Trail, I spotted the remains of someone's gear. It was a black and red giveaway sleeping bag with a Marlboro logo. Also a pair of scissors, brush, comb, and some lotion. It looked like someone was cutting hair here. I marked the location to pick it up on the way back.

I did about 2.5 mph in the streambed, much better than I expected. Because the stream was dry, walking in the stream bed was fairly easy. Although it was tempting to try to follow shortcuts that cut off meandering portions of the stream, it did seem to be faster just to stay in the stream bed. The stream bed was alternately sandy and small-bouldery. With the right footwear and the confidence to walk in the water, it was easy to maintain pretty good speed.

Conditions were near perfect. 50-70 deg., The sun was mostly behind the hills. The stream bed was mostly, but not completely dry. The only disappointment was that the area is not as beautiful as I hoped. At locations where the stream came up, there tended to be a few trees, and a little fall color. I kept comparing this to Aravaipa, but this canyon is much drier. My wife points out there is a reason Aravaipa requires permits and this place doesn't.

By the intersection with the Williams Trail, I had traveled 4.7 miles. I found a shady spot for a 15 minute break, then headed up the wash to the right. Going up, there was a place where two washes come together. A flat one to the right, a rugged one to the left. It turns out, the trail leaves the wash here, and goes up in between. The trail climbs aggressively from the intersection of the two streambeds. You need to pay attention to the GPS track to stay more or less on course. Once the trail levels out a little, it becomes easier to follow. At times, however, it vanishes, and requires attention.

Eventually, The Needle came into view. It is a needle like Weaver's Needle.

As you cross the ridge near the needle, there are many paths, and they appear and disappear. It took some effort to find the best way over to the Needle Trail. Finally, I just decided to ignore looking for the faint Williams Trail, and arrived quickly at the Needle Trail. I came out slightly above the preferred intersection, but not far.

Leaving the trail intersection, the Needle Trail follows down the ridge. Part way down, there is a camp with a couple of steel fireplaces. I dubbed it "Camp Poopy". After this, the trail drops down to a drainage, then climbs aggressively up the other side.

Be careful when crossing the next saddle. There is a clear trail heading up the ridge, but you really need to descend from the saddle. The trail skirts the left side of the peak 3236, and then it is all downhill to Jesus Canyon. The last couple hundred feet of elevation down to Jesus Canyon requires care, as it is steep. The trail up over the ridge after Jesus Canyon is pretty pleasant.

Before Jesus Canyon, I had heard one of the ranch dogs barking. After crossing the canyon and climbing the other side, I encountered the ranch dog, trying to herd some cattle someplace. Once I passed, he herded them back down toward Jesus Canyon. He was obviously independent, and on a mission.

I arrived back at the main canyon without incident. Returned back to the trailhead, with several pounds of trash from the abandoned camp.
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