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Superstition Wilderness, AZ
mini location map2009-02-18
5 by photographer avatarWannaCaPuma
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Superstition Wilderness, AZ 
Superstition Wilderness, AZ
Backpack avatar Feb 18 2009
Backpack26.50 Miles
Backpack26.50 Miles3 Days         
 no routes
1st trip
I haven't taken my lazy butt out on the trail since last June, and I was missing my pack in a big way. I guess that's too long to stay in civilization because by the end of this trip, I was feeling like a complete novice; I spent the majority of the time...not lost per say, just not where I was supposed to be.

For those of you not familiar with this wilderness area, it might be helpful to take a look at the map the forest service has posted online to reference as you read my hapless adventure.

Wednesday, February 18th
My plan was to hike along Dutchman's Trail 104 to Coffee Flat Trail 108 to Dripping Spring, where I would camp for the night. This would be about 7.5 miles.

The day started out quite nicely. The trail looked easy enough, and the area sure was pretty. I even had my own welcoming committee; the saguaros were literally waving at me.

At one point the trail dips out of the wilderness for a couple miles, before re-entering. I passed by a HUGE saguaro just outside the wilderness boundary. Just beyond it was a picturesque windmill sitting by a creek.

It was at this point that I made my first mistake. I should have waded upstream, but instead I followed cairns downstream. Cows were everywhere, but I expected that, since I was outside the wilderness. Then I went through another fence, and assumed I was back in the wilderness, but there were still cows all over the place, and trucks had been driving through the area recently as well. The area was less and less picturesque the more cow patties I waded through.

By the time I had walked my prescribed 7.5 miles, it was nearly sunset, yet I hadn't found Dripping Springs. I figured I must be close, though, because I saw a few campsites near the trail. I picked one, pushed as many cow pies out of the way as possible, and bedded down for the night, only to find that my brand new sleeping pad had a huge rip in it and was not holding air. Great; cow poo and a cold hard ground.

Thursday, February 19th
The plan for the day was to hike from Dripping Springs up Red Tanks Trail 107 to La Barge Spring where I would meet a friend from work and camp.

I followed the trail I was on, which by this time was an obvious jeep track, for about another .75 miles before deciding that I wasn't where I thought I was. What really confused me was when I passed through a third gate. Just about this time two jeeps passed me, and the people inside stopped to chat. They were worried about me, a girl, being out there alone, and then really freaked when they learned that I was in the wrong place. By comparing maps, I realized that I was on a road, not a trail, about 2 miles south of where I should be, and still outside of the wilderness area. Oopsie. Sadly, I had my GPS with me, but I wasn't checking it's bearings in reference to my map. Had, I done that, I probably would have figured out my mistake much sooner, and made it to Dripping Springs just fine. Stupid. Oh well, lesson learned.

Realizing that I would never make it to La Barge by following my planned itinerary, I decided to backtrack to the Dutchman's trail, and follow it to La Barge instead. Following the Coffee Flat trail back to the Dutchman Trail intersection, however, seemed like it would take too long, so I went cross country. I did get exactly where I wanted to be, but it probably took me more time to wind around all the cacti, agave, and arroyos, than following the the nice, smooth trail would have.

The day turned into a death march of over 12 miles. The pads of my toes blistered. I drug my self into camp at La Barge Spring just before dark, and lo, no Kate. No Kate anywhere. Oh well, I was tired, and fell asleep immediately, despite the cold, hard ground.

Friday, February 20th
The plan was to return to the trail-head via Dutchman's Trail 104 north to Terrapin Trail 234 to Bluff Spring Trail 235. However, I was concerned about Kate, so I decided to hike the route she was supposed to have taken in, which meant back-tracking south down the Dutchman's to Bluff Spring Trail 235. This route had the added benefit of shaving miles off my day, and let me tell you, my feet were all about that. On the way out I ran into a few groups who had seen her the day before, but I never saw Kate.

Bluff Spring Trail, however, led past breath-taking views. The geology of the area is especially intriguing.

At one point the trail disappeared into a wash. I followed that for 150 yards or so, and then saw cairns marking a trail heading to the north. The problem was that I knew I should be going south. I followed it uphill for 100 yards or so before deciding that it wasn't going to zig-zag back around. By this time I had gained enough elevation that when I turned around I could clearly see the real trail on the south side of the canyon. So I made it where I should have been. However, somebody heading north would have been much more likely to follow those cursed cairns up into nothingness than to turn east down that unmarked arroyo. I think that's what Kate did, which is why she never made it to camp.

By the time I reached the ridge above the trail-head, I was ready to get off my sore blistered feet. Just when I could see my car, the trail veered away. Blast it! As I followed it down the opposite side of the ridge from the parking lot, it got rougher and rougher. I started to feel sorry for Kate, who had headed UP this trail the day before. Soon I noticed a dozen or so people watching me from a trail that ran above me. They were just standing there, staring. Some had their binoculars out. I felt like a polar bear in a zoo. Eventually my trail met that one, and that's when I realized that I was on yet another stupid user trail that some moron had marked with cairns. Instead of ending up at the parking lot, I was 1/2 a mile further away than when I had seen the cars, and back on the freakin' Dutchman's Trail.

Eventually I made it out, obviously. And so did Kate.

Despite the amount of time I spent following stupid cairns, I enjoyed my time outside. This wilderness area is beautiful, and I just might go back again some day.

Planned Mileage: 24.5 miles
Actual Mileage: 26.5 miles
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