Saturday, November 28, 2009

Back to Hackberry Mesa

A lot of times, when I don't reach my intended destination on a hike, I won't try that hike again for a few weeks. That's because going back over the part of the hike I had been on before so soon would be boring. I really wanted to go back to Hackberry Mesa, though. The main reason I wanted to go back was to get pictures of the dead saguaro in the arms of another saguaro. Something like that won't be around for long.

I loaded up my backpack with snacks and lots of water and left the house shortly after 10. I wanted to have plenty of time to look around after going to all the effort to get out there again. On the drive to the trailhead, I thought about the fact that most people that go out there go in the morning. Sure enough, the trailhead lot was full. I think the car that got there just before me was the one that topped it off. I was a little miffed, but it turned out to be a good thing. I drove back to the overflow lot. It was at least a quarter mile walk between the two lots, and there would be traffic stirring up dust along the road. I decided I was not going to walk along that road.

An annoying thing about the trail out to Garden Valley (which is next to Hackberry Mesa) is that it takes a long detour around a ridge along the way. It's only annoying if you are in a hurry, though, because it's scenic and a very pleasant hike. While looking at Google Earth, I could see pieces of trail from the overflow lot out to Garden Valley. They aren't official trails. They aren't on maps. They don't look like they go all the way. Anyway, I decided that I would see where they did go, and maybe I would get lucky and get to Hackberry Mesa after all. At least it would be different.

The first half of the trail is in a wash.

Early on, the trail descended into a wash, and stayed there for a long ways. I assumed I was on a trail because there were a lot of footprints in the wash. There are a couple of things I don't like about being in a wash, though. First, you can't see what's around you. You miss some scenery and you can't see navigation landmarks. I could tell from the sun that I was headed in the general direction I wanted to go. Second, the soft bottom drains your energy as you walk. I try to stay on firm ground, but that isn't always possible.

I was on top of that cliff a few weeks ago.

There's an arch at the base of that cliff on the left. I'll have to go check that out some day.

Just before the wash opened up, I met a young guy going the other way. I asked him if this trail went all the way to Garden Valley. He said he didn't know anything about any gardens but assured me that I was on the trail. Not much help.

After a short distance through solid rock, the wash opened up.

I sat in the shade of a large boulder to look at my map and decide which direction to go next. I could go towards Hackberry Spring and then the western side of Hackberry Mesa. It was kind of steep over there, though. Or I could head towards Garden Valley. I knew there were some trails in that direction, but I didn't know how far they would go. I decided to head towards Garden Valley.

While I was sitting by the boulder a couple came along that seemed to be familiar with the area. I asked they guy about getting to Garden Valley or Hackberry Mesa. He said some silly, confusing stuff. I asked where they had parked and he couldn't tell me. Well, if he couldn't tell me where he parked, I didn't want to listen to anything else he had to say. Other than that, they were very nice people. Most people on the trails are.

I sat in the shade of those boulders to look at my map. The boulders are visible on Google Earth.

Hackberry Mesa is on the left, with that black line at the top.

I have a lot of trouble taking decent pictures in the middle of the day.

Before long, I found myself on a very well-worn trail. It didn't seem to be going in the exact direction I wanted to go, but maybe it would head that way, and blazing my own trail would be rough. As I followed the trail, I was thinking that I should be close to where Elephant Trunk Arch (my name for it) is. I looked to my right and there it was.

Elephant Trunk Arch from the other side.

More hikers on the trail. By now I had given up on asking people where the trail went. They looked like they had come from Garden Valley, though.

Now I was sure that the trail would take me where I wanted to go. Along the way I saw side trails that I will have to explore some day. I'm going to have to check out Hackberry Spring. It looks like it's very green in that area. There must be water there year round.

That diagonal white line back there is the trail.

I'm in Garden Valley! Now on to Hackberry Mesa.

Cholla forest in Garden Valley.

Getting on top of Hackberry Mesa from Garden Valley is pretty easy. Well, it's not too steep and you don't have to push your way through trees or bushes. The footing is sort of treacherous. The mesa is covered with angular black boulders (which I suppose is better than round boulders) with lots of grassy stuff coming up between them. Sometimes you don't want to step on the boulders because they look wobbly so you have to step in the grass, but you have no idea what's there. Sometimes it's soft dirt, sometimes it's a pointy rock, sometimes it's a wobbly rock. I lost my balance on that stuff several times and had to do some fancy footwork to keep from falling on a cholla or prickly pear. A walking stick would be handy there.

Treacherous footing.

I found the saguaros I wanted to photograph pretty easily. I wish I was more artistic, so I could have gotten a better picture of them.

They look like they're dancing.

The desert has large patches of what looks like decent soil that are completely devoid of vegetation. I don't know why that is. I wonder if the lack of rocks makes it less hospitable to plants. Maybe it dries out faster. Anyway, I saw a large antler on one of those spots. Well, large in comparison to all antlers I've seen before in the desert.

I sat on the edge of the mesa for a while enjoying the view. I could see places I've been in all directions. Well, maybe just most directions.

I didn't take many pictures of the Superstitions, because that was shooting into the sun.

I didn't take many pictures of Four Peaks, because it was directly opposite the sun. The Canyon Lake marina is visible in this photo.

I took a slightly different route on the way back and followed a wash with a solid rock bottom for a little way. The water has carved some interesting channels in it. I might go back there Sunday if it really does rain this weekend.

This hole is so deep, it still has water in it.

I had a great time on this hike. I wore myself out, though. I plan to spend today resting. Click below for all of the pictures.


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