Monday, May 20, 2013

Another hike to a Willow Creek tributary

I did a few things differently for this hike. I studied Google Earth carefully around the area I intended to explore. I noted possible routes to my destination. I picked 3 potential parking spots. I ate a good lunch (thank you, Sweetums!). I packed plenty of water. I carried backup GPS batteries (for geotagging pictures; I never rely on it to get me somewhere). I wore my gaiters and had my gnat net (but it wasn't necessary). I got an early start so I wouldn't be racing sunset. The only thing I didn't have that would have been nice to have was my walking stick. I keep forgetting that I want to bring it along to poke around in tall grass before I walk through, to flush out the rattlers. I rarely come across rattlers, but it only takes one to spoil your day.

My destination was the tributary I had been to on May thirteenth. This time I wanted to enter the tributary further upstream, above the tinaja that had stopped my progress last time. I started my hike at some roads in what must have been part of an old mine or quarry right next to Apache Trail.

Old road at the beginning.

As I walked along the chalky road, I noticed some clumps of fur laying around that reminded me of the clumps of fur I find around the house when the cats transition from "I'm just playing" mode to "I'm going to rip you to shreds" mode (and they go screeching through the house knocking over furniture and people). A few feet further along, I found most of Fido. The fur matched. I wondered if somebody had gotten tired of him and left him out there to fend for himself. I don't think domesticated animals can last more than a few days on their own in the desert.

What's left of Fido.

My planned path would take me down to Willow Creek and then up a small wash on the other side. There was a trail of sorts on the way down. It was hidden by grass in lots of places. It was mostly easy walking. It goes by a mildly interesting stone arch.

Short video of the stone arch. It's hard to get pictures of these things.

Then I started up the other side. It wasn't very steep, but it was rocky, with lots of cat claw and cholla in the way. The sun was still high in the sky and it was uphill, so I made lots of stops. Finally, I got to the saddle and had a view of an area that probably very few people have beheld before. That's always exciting. It looked mostly ordinary. I know that not many people go there because there were no trails, no shotgun shells, and no cairns.

A sight that few have seen. I guess folks don't consider it to be worth the effort to come out here for this.

The descent to the wash that was my destination was quick and easy and painless except for something poking me in the back of my foot. Right away I saw something that made the hike worthwhile for me.

Well, I thought it was cool.

There was a stick near the balanced rock and a dragonfly on the stick. I sat down to get pictures of the dragonfly. It flew off after a couple of pictures so I looked down at my shoe and saw that the gaiter had crept up, leaving my sock exposed. My sock and the lining of my shoe were full of grass seeds. Dad gummit.

Dragonfly and rock.

After I got home and was looking through pictures I realized that this rock looked like a guy riding a horse. Well, rocks are sort of like clouds; light and fluffy. Wait, no, that's not it. If you stare at them long enough you will think you see something you recognize in their randomness. There are lots of hoodoos in the Superstition Mountains that resemble people from the right angle at the right time of day. There's an Indian legend that the first people to live in this area were too haughty so the gods turned them to stone, hence the hoodoos. Anyway, this balanced rock reminds me of a guy on a horse, so I have named it "The Rider" so I don't have to keep saying, "You know that rock that looks like a guy on a horse...?"

The Rider. His right arm is hanging down by his side. He has a bedroll tied behind the saddle. His head is turned slightly to the right. He's sick and tired of eating canned pork and beans for three meals a day.

I walked slowly down the wash because there was so much to see all around. I came across a lizard with a stubby tail. Every time I see one of these I remember an article that showed a strong correlation between the ease with which lizards shed and regrow their tales and the density of venomous reptiles. Lots of rattlers means lots of lizards re-growing their tails, and vice versa.

There are lots of stone arches in this area, or maybe they should just be called "holes through rock".

This is the first tinaja with water (well, they dry up) that I came across. It took a little clambering to get around it.

Rocky landscape.

This looks like an alien wearing a 3 piece suit as he contemplates the extermination of ... something.

The landscape in this area reminds me of Crematoria. Maybe I've watched that movie too many times. I hadn't gone down the wash very far before I came to the tinaja that had stopped my upstream progress on 5/13.

Too risky to try to get past this.

Short video of the area.

Have you noticed that most of my videos are about 36 seconds long? Matches my attention span. Anyway, I sat in the shade enjoying the breeze until I got bored (36 seconds) and started back. I thought about taking an alternate route I had planned to get in there, to get out. They all looked like they would involve too much climbing, though. As I was going past the spot where I had seen the tailless lizard, I heard a buzzing noise. I thought it was a cicada. That's a dangerous thing to think when it's actually a rattler. Wow, the second one I've seen this summer. It was dark in that area and there were lots of twigs in the way and the snake was backing away fast so I didn't get one single decent picture. I really wanted a picture, too, because it had kind of a yellowish tint that I haven't seen before. I thanked him for the song as he continued to buzz under the rocks and moved on.

Short video of the rattler. You can hear it, but can't see much of it.

When I got back to The Rider (you know, that rock that looks like a guy riding a horse), I noticed some holes in rocks there that I hadn't notice when going the other direction. Well, you can't be looking at everything all the time. Anyway, I stopped to rest a while there because I felt strangely tired. I hadn't gone that far but I felt like I'd gone 3 or 4 miles. I thought about going up the slope by The Rider and getting pictures from different angles but decided that would be too much work and I already had pictures from the best angles. Then I proceeded to climb the slope. Well, I had to do some climbing some time to get out of there. I did a lot more than I had planned, though. The view was worth it.

The Rider looks like some rocks from this angle. Fancy that.

You almost can't go anywhere without seeing Four Peaks.

I like this picture because of all the places down there that I've visited in the past few weeks.

Since I was way above my route in, I decided to stay up there hoping the walking would be easier. It was, but then I started worrying about when I would be able to get down. It was pretty steep where I was. If it was that steep when I got to Willow Creek I would have to backtrack, and I was too tired to backtrack. I found a way down and when I got to Willow Creek I saw that it would have been easier to get down there. I'll have to remember that next time.

I know I'm getting too tired when I look at something interesting or pretty and don't take a picture. I couldn't resist this cholla skeleton, so I was OK.

Just after I passed Fido's bones on the way back, I found a dog collar. I also found a belt. Maybe Fido's owner tangled with the same cat. I would say that I don't remember reading about somebody being missing in that area, but that would be silly since I only read the paper on weekends. It was good to get back to the truck. I don't know why I was so tired. I only hiked 2.2 miles. My GPS track says I climbed and descended about 1000 feet, which would make me tired, but I don't think that's accurate. The bad satellite view from the canyon probably caused a lot of that supposed up and down. Click below for all of the pictures.


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