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Aylors Arch Black Top Mesa, AZ
mini location map2021-02-20
27 by photographer avatarJohn10s
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Aylors Arch Black Top Mesa, AZ 
Aylors Arch Black Top Mesa, AZ
Hiking14.50 Miles 2,866 AEG
Hiking14.50 Miles   9 Hrs   12 Mns   2.16 mph
2,866 ft AEG   2 Hrs   29 Mns Break
1st trip
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I'd seen Aylor's Arch from a distance but hadn't hiked around to the west side of Palomino Mountain for a close-up view, and we decided to add Black Top Mesa to the hike to tack on a few extra miles. We started from First Water Trailhead, and the parking lot was mostly full just after sunrise, which wasn't surprising on a nice day. I hadn't been out that way since last May, and the effects of last summer's wildfires were very visible along the first mile along Second Water and Lost Dutchman. I'd forgotten that that area was affected by the fires, so it was sad to see the scorched earth.

After turning onto Lost Dutchman, we had the trail mostly to ourselves for the next few miles until we approached the Bull Pass/Boulder Canyon intersection, when four or five groups all seemed to converge at the same time. We left the trail near there and started up Little Boulder Canyon, and there were some pools and even a trickle of moving water in the creek bed. The geology in the canyon very unique, and we passed one of the old partial mine shafts just before leaving the creek bed to start up the ravine toward Aylor's. It was a fairly steep climb, but the trail was well-worn up to the top of Palomino. There were great views in just about every direction, with Weaver's Needle, Four Peaks, Malapais, and many of the other peaks in view.

On our way down, six hikers were making their way up the ravine toward the arch...more crowds on one of the more off-the-beaten-path routes, which is becoming the norm in the Superstitions. We made our way back to the official trail and connected with Bull Pass for the steep climb up to Black Top Mesa. Early in the ascent, we could see Aylor's Arch from the opposite side of the mountain. The views on the way up and on the top of Black Top are always great, with Battleship, Yellow Peak, Geronimo Head, and other peaks on the horizon. I spent some time looking for the Spanish hieroglyphs on the south side of the mesa but, like last time, failed to find them. I climbed down farther over the rim of the mesa among the black rocks than I did last time, but still nothing. I've seen pictures of those and of a register on top, but I must be looking in the wrong places :).

The wind really picked up while we were on top, and a group of four hiked up while we were there, so we didn't spend too long on top. On the way back toward First Water, I decided to take a quick detour to check out the cave on the south side of the ridge along Lost Dutchman--the official guide for Aylor's Arch refers to it as "Dead Woman's Cave," but I haven't seen it referred to by that name anywhere else. I left my backpack behind and took only handheld hedge clippers with me, which proved to be a good decision--there was a wall of thorns between the trail and the slope leading up to the cave. Once I got through that, the climb up was steep, but nothing too difficult obstacle-wise.

What was in the cave? Not much of interest...there was a small tunnel in the back that looked like the start of an old mine shaft, but that was about it. I climbed up a little higher to the left of the cave to explore an area with what appeared to be mine tailings before I headed back down. Nice views from up there, but nothing out of the ordinary. I picked up a lot of cuts and scratches getting through the brush to get up there, but it was worth it to satisfy my curiosity. [ youtube video ] .
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