There were several horse trailers in the parking area when we got there. As I was turning on and strapping on all my gadgets (I'm seriously starting to think I carry too much crap when I hike), one of the horse guys came over and asked if we knew where the trailhead was. I nodded towards the telephone pole where the trail starts and said it was over by that pole. Words mean different things to different people, though. He thought he had to do something about a rattlesnake (pictured above) that was at least 70 feet from the pole before he could take horses down the trail. I clarified. You can touch the pole at the start of the trail. The snake remained unmolested, and nobody got bit.
It turns out that the reason all those people and horses were there was because a woman's horse had run off a few days earlier and a hiker had found the horse that morning and they were all going to try to find it again and retrieve it. They were planning to take their horses down Black Canyon to First Water Creek. I don't know a lot about horse capabilities, but I told them that I thought it might be too steep for horses in a couple of places. Turns out they made it about two thirds of the way down before several people went back with the horses while a couple of guys carried on to get the horse in the creek.
The guys after the horse were in a hurry and left us behind once we got to the creek. Gary and I went upstream a little ways but it didn't take long to get to a spot where too much climbing over rocks was involved. Also, it was getting dark, so we started back. About that time, a Maricopa County sheriff's helicopter started circling the area. It spent a lot of time hovering over some parts of the creek and we wondered if they had spotted the horse. When we were about a quarter of the way up Black Canyon, it came and hovered over us. I zoomed in and took some pictures like I always do when they fly over. Then we continued hiking. As I walked, I thought it was strange that he hovered over us like that. I brought up the pictures and zoomed in on one and I could see a hand out a window pointing toward the trailhead. The copter couldn't get low enough for us to see the hand directly (copters in canyons are a bad idea). If I hadn't had substantial zoom and then zoomed in on the picture, we would not have had any idea what he was doing.
On the one hand, it annoys me that some deputy thinks he can say when it's time for me to go home. I'm an adult. If I want to dance with rattlesnakes in the pale moonlight, that's my business. On the other hand, maybe he thought we were also looking for the horse and he was letting us know we didn't have to search any more because somebody else had it. Here is the story about the horse's rescue. I would like to know what route they took to get out of there. I don't think they could have come out the way we went in.
When we got back to the parking area, there was a deputy there that wanted our names and the names of anybody else that was still down at the creek. It seems they did think we were with the people trying to get the horse. I guess if I was a deputy, I would want the names of everybody that came out of there, just in case somebody turned up missing that night. If he had the missing person's name on his list then he would know the missing person is probably in a bar somewhere and they wouldn't have to search the canyon for him.
Click below for all of the pictures. Didn't take a lot in the darkness.