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Hackberry Mesa and Tugboat Attempt, AZ
mini location map2021-10-24
4 by photographer avatarAZHiker456
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Hackberry Mesa and Tugboat Attempt, AZ 
Hackberry Mesa and Tugboat Attempt, AZ
Hiking12.00 Miles 1,992 AEG
Hiking12.00 Miles   8 Hrs   17 Mns   1.45 mph
1,992 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked   none no linked trail guides
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My fellow HAZ’ers, I poo mess you not: there is a mini mountain in the Supes named Tugboat, and it’s located just NW of Battleship. I was not even aware this mountain existed until Day 2 of my three day trip when I noticed it, courtesy of an old school feature of Route Scout that I have always appreciated and that is what I call ‘bonus waypoints’ ( = a variety of nearby waypoints ranging from summits to mines to springs, etc. etc. etc. that automatically appear when the Route Scout app is started).

Given just how much ass I’d kicked on Day 2 (summitting 4 of the 5 peaks I’d planned for both days), my final day would require me to do a 2nd hike OR lengthen my final planned hike (to Hackberry Mesa) in order reach both my time and mileage goals. I opted for the latter, given Tugboat’s relatively close proximity to Hackberry Mesa and also given the very beautiful section of the Supes (near Boulder & La Barge Canyons), I’d be traversing en route. It was the perfect addition to complete Day 3… but as I would soon discover, li’l Tugboat is NO li’l poo mess to be taken for granted!

The topo map (which can sometimes be painfully off) suggested this little summit to be a walk in the park from all directions. 2D satellite revealed otherwise (some very cliffy sections BUT still suggested a very doable North to South approach); and 3D Google Earth satellite corroborated the 2D satellite imagery. REAL LIFE however was a VERY DIFFERENT story (see photos!). Lets just say: despite towering a good 500’ or so above li’l Tugboat, Battleship Mountain (which can easily be summited without ropes from the right approach) is like the ‘gentle giant’ by comparison. Unless you are skilled in what most would describe as suicidal freeclimbs, you best be packing your ropes/harnesses/climbing gear if you plan on conquering Tugboat!

It’s RARE for me not to make summit (and usually a slight disappointment) but in the case of Tugboat, (360 degrees of Class 5) it’s not like it would have even been remotely close. The journey was BEAUTIFUL and I gave it as best a shot as I could: the South and East sides can clearly be ruled out from the trail and to rule out the rest, I hiked all the way up to the base of the cliff and then contoured the mountain in hopes of finding a gully or break in the cliff (no such luck!). The climb to the base was LOADS of fun from the logical take off point along the portion of trail, (that goes from Boulder to La Barge Canyo)n: just before the trail starts to drop toward La Barge Canyon, there is a mini “ridge” that’s mildly routed and you simply start scrambling up. Practically devoid of brush in many areas, it makes for a fun ascent… but believe me, Mother Nature makes up for it on the other side…! Upon reaching the base of the cliffy section and starting a counterclockwise contour, the footing gets nasty: not terribly brushy in terms of the gnarly type brush but TALL grass that completes obstructs the dirt (as well as fist-sized ankle breaking rocks). This was also representative of the footing for much of the descent off the North side.

Had my calf muscles not taken such abuse the previous day (thanks to compensating due to my INFERIOR footwear), I very likely would’ve continued to savor my final pair of greatness (5-10 Camp Fours); but the treacherous footing I encountered (that – had I been in my Scarpas – may well have resulted in a fall, almost surely a few close calls, and most definitely a lot of four letter words muttered out loud), made me feel very lucky to have finally broken out the FAR SUPERIOR shoe. While I did not make summit (obviously!), it was a fun attempt with BEAUTIUFL scenery that was well worth the journey.

As for Hackberry Mesa… VERY easy (topography wise) but sheesh, a large part of Garden Valley and part if not all of the Mesa was torched in a recent burn (yet still surprisingly brushy in many areas)… can’t image what a “normal” amount of brush for the Mesa would look like! Go figure, about 1/5 mile shy of the summit on the approach, (while traversing a patch of THICK grass that completely obstructed the dirt/small rocks/any critters underneath), I would've stepped square on a small to mid sized pale greenish rattler had my intuition not led me to test the ground with my trekking poles. As my trekking poles struck dirt, the startled reptile that had been about 3-4 feet away came in to view as it recoiled slightly and started to rattle. Views were beautiful from the Mesa and you get a NICE variety of views as one follows the ‘ridgeline’ of the Mesa as it wraps around.
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