Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weavers Needle Hike

Another great hike in Arizona. This time a work trip took me to Phoenix and I added a hike in the Superstition Mountains to it. When I flew in I saw the Superstition mountains from the airplane with the Weaver's Needle being a prominent peak. Unfortunately I was seated on the wrong side of the plane so I could only glimpse the view across the cabin.

Peralta trailhead

I started at the Peralta trail head at about 3pm after picking up the rental car at the airport, swinging by REI for a fuel canister and to fill the water bladders, and repacking the backpack at the trail head. The trail started right away along a nice stretch through the canyon and then climbing up to Fremont Saddle. On my way there I passed a group of boys with a couple adults that packed in for the night as well. They told me that their plans was to camp at the base of Weaver's Needle.

Peralta trail

Youth group hiking Peralta canyon

Fremont Saddle gives a great view of East Bolder Canyon and Weaver's Needle. On my hike to the base of Weaver's Needle I must have tripped over a cactus somehow and drove with my left food a big needle into my right leg. It hurt and when I pulled out the needle, blood started to spray out. The needle must have hit an artery. To stop bleeding I quickly put my finger over it and waited a little. The area swelled and the bleeding stopped pretty soon. I limped to a nearby rock to sit and rest a little. With all the cactus and other thorny plants you don't want to sit just anywhere. Luckily my fear of being hurt that I couldn't continue the hike didn't come true and the injury didn't bother me fairly soon.

View from Fremont Saddle of East Boulder Canyon and Weaver's Needle

Several nice campsites were scattered at the base of Weaver's Needle on the Peralta trail. But since I still had a little time before sunset and the group of boys probably going to camp here I decided to continue on. The remainder of the Peralta trail didn't look that exciting though. I've been eying the Terrapin and Weaver's Needle Crosscut trails when I was planning my hike and had downloaded GPS tracks for them as well. So I took the opportunity to alter my route. Finding the start of the Weaver's Needle Crosscut trail was quite hard. Lots of brush, finding and loosing the trail until the steep and large bolder ascent. It's certainly not an easy trail but once up there it's gorgeous. I hiked about two thirds of the Weaver's Needle Crosscut when I found a more level area in a bowl that was surrounded by Weaver's Needle and a mountain range with many small needles on top of it. The perfect location to camp for the night. I setup the tent directly on the trail to keep environmental impact low and since it was the best place for it anyway.

Weaver's Needle Crosscut trail

Camp at Weaver's Needle

At about 6:30pm the night fell pretty quickly, temperatures dropped and the wind picked up. So I pretty early to bed and kept myself warm in the sleeping bag. I ended up not only wearing my sleep layer but also my base layer as the night got colder and the wind blew any warmth out of the tent. In the middle of night I did get up a bit and enjoyed the clear skies, stars and the scenery around me. I even managed to get some photos in. A full sized tripod would have been very useful there. The sun didn't rise until 6:30am so it was a long night. With the cold temperature there was no temptation of getting up any earlier either. I cooked my oats, granola, chocolate milk mix for breakfast and finally got back to hiking at around 9am. Hiking through Terrapin was great and at the top Terrapin Pass I got another awesome view.

Night sky with Weaver's Needle

Campsite in the morning with minor needles

Hiking Terrapin trail

When I got to the Dutchman trail I wasn't totally sure how to continue my hike. I didn't just want to head to Charlebois Springs since I had the whole day available but I also didn't feel up to walk all the miles though the Boulder Canyon/Cavalry trails. I headed west planning to take Bull Pass east bound but pretty quickly decided instead of dropping down to the start of Bulls Pass and then back up again I could just go straight up to Black Top Mensa. Bushwhacking and bolder climbing my way up I had to dodge quite a few cactus. I wasn't the only one to have done that as I identified on some spots foot prints on the steep ascent. BTW, this climb was even harder than the Weaver's Needle Cross cut and should not be taken lightly (probably not at all). On the top of Black Top Mensa was quite windy. I'm glad I didn't plan on staying overnight up there as it would have been even colder. After taking a break and enjoying the views I headed down to Bull Pass trail. That's when I meet the first people of the day that were hiking up to Black Top Mensa.

My direct approach of Black Top Mesa

On the Bull Pass I headed east toward Charlebois Springs. Nearly at the bottom of the trail I encountered a dead mule. I guess there is a reason why you need to carry a gun with you if you ride mules in the wilderness. There is not much you can do if your mule breaks a leg that deep into the mountains. The intersection of Bull Pass and Dutchman trail had a nice campsite and ample of water for filtering. Just the large hole of a critter made me wonder with whom you'd share the camp. A little further along Dutchman trail I meet Trish and her friends from HAZ. We chatted a little and took photos before parting in opposite direction. Not much longer I hiked along a couple that are also active on HAZ website. They were heading for Charlebois Springs for their day-hike. We passed a guy dressed like a traditional gold prospector with a big revolver on his belt, two mules and a big ragged dog. He was trimming some brush along the trail and told us that he had his camp at Charlebois Springs. His camp had a large pile of empty beer cans and plenty of mule manure was nearby where they had been tied up. Since I prefer a quiet camp and it was still mid afternoon I continued my hike after filtering water at the Charlebois Springs. The water was very clear and great tasting.

Cactus tree

Charlebois Springs

Hiking along the Duchmans trail toward La Barge Spring I meet a group of four that were planning to camp at Charlebois Springs. Then I meet a group of three that decided to camp at a spot along the trail since someone was already at La Barge Springs. I didn't bother checking out La Barge Springs and continued. The Bluff Spring is a steel pipe bringing smelly water out of dense bushes. Another hiker told me the water had a terrible taste as well. There weren't any spots to camp at the spring either so I setup camp at the Dutchman and Bluff Spring trail intersection. The brushy camp site gave protection from wind and my tent stayed fairly warm that night but the scenery wasn't as nice as the first night.

Dutchman Trail at La Barge Canyon

Dutchman trail near Holmes Spring

Camp at Crystal Spring

The next morning I didn't bother to cook and instead had a quick cold breakfast predawn and tore down camp as soon as the sun came up. Hiking out on Bluff Spring trail in the morning was great and quite beautiful. I was at least halfway to the trail head before I encountered the first hiker. Bluff Spring trail gave me another day of beautiful views of Weaver's Needle and a view down to the first part of the Peralta trail and all the hikers that started their hike. I arrived at the trailhead at about 9:30am.

Bluff Spring trail

Bluff Spring trail

Barks Canyon with Weaver's Needle in the distance

Peralta trail seen from Bluff Spring trail

My early hike out was driven by a photo of the cliff dwelling at Tonto National Monument. After the hike I drove around the Superstition Mountains on highway 60 and 188 through the copper mine town of Miami, which I found kind of sad because the mines destroys a huge part of the landscape. The cliff dwelling was neat but the highlight was the drive along highway 88, a gravel road that winds through canyons and across mountains. A great way for people to experience the Superstitions if they aren't able to hike them. Of course the driver shouldn't be afraid of narrow mountainous road.

Arizona highway 88 winding up a canyon side

Arizona highway 88, a mountainous narrow gravel road

On my flight back I choose a window seat on the right site of the plane in the hopes to see Weaver's Needle and take photos of it. As you can see from the photo we went right over it and it brought some nice memories of a beautiful hike.

Weaver's Needle from the airplane

Wanderroute 1406074