There I stood, atop Black Top Mesa, my first visit. I was a happy camper since the brutal ascent set by a hiking machine (more later) was over but I needed a break. Thus, another very enjoyable experience with what I think is the premier hiking group in central/southern AZ, "Arizona Strong Hikers". They have accepted me into their midst and given me a whack-job nickname. Me, after having given dozens of nicknames to the undeserving cyclists in Ohio, am now on the receiving end of one.
Another early start at 7:30am up in the Superstitions so I put off the race across the desert in my car by 30 minutes so I'd have some light for some of the drive. I thought if I ran a bit I'd catch the group but the trail was like this so 90% was walking and little running. Gotta keep the head down too on these trails but.....
….sometimes I would look up and snow is present on the north facing slopes of the "Supes".
During the 4 mile hike on the "Dutchman's Trail" I had some fine views of Weaver's Needle and other features. After the 4 miles, I went off route, up to a saddle and dropped into a rocky wash.
While boulder skipping through the wash, one passes an abandoned mine (thanks to a fellow hiker for use of this image). I did not catch the group because if you can not run, you ain't catching this bunch. They hike at warp speed. I reached a side canyon and began the short, .30 mile, but extremely steep, 33%, climb to Palomino Mountain. Eventually.....
….I reach the top and find them on the narrow fin that leads over to Aylor's Arch. I get through the obstacles, arrive at the base of the fin and....
….climb on top. I baby step may way for a little distance but the exposure on both sides was too much. Yeah, I know, it appears you could drive a truck across that but it is very narrow. Given time, I'm pretty sure I could have butt scooted across to the arch but instead I joined.....
….the others who also were reluctant to go arch sitting, far below. Congrats to those who made it, about half our group.
The views were fantastic as always. Soon we began the steep descent where Tracie and others....
….fell. It's not only the steepness, it is the gravelly surface that makes for a precarious descent. Once we make it out of the canyon we....
….begin boulder hopping back to the trail. Doris on the left entertained us with stories of her youth when she burned ants alive with matches and enjoyed dissecting creatures in school. Makes sense she became a nurse and now teaches nursing to others:) Having one major climb out of the way we headed toward Black Top Mesa. After a long climb we reach a saddle where hanging a right begins a .70 mile ascent with an average grade of 16%.
Four of us get ahead of the others and try to follow the torrid pace set by Gina. She is one of the fastest/fittest hikers I have encountered and certainly the fastest woman hiker. Just as I was about to spit the bit, as the others had already done, the trail flattens and I survived. Above, we catch Bill who had gotten a head start.
We all enjoyed the break and especially, the magnificent views. Our hike leader, Wade, looked for and found....
….a petroglyph whose origination dates back to when the Spanish explored the area. Legend is the petroglyph has a clue to the location of a cave full of gold. Prospectors and explorers have been killed by making the mistake of encroaching on someone's claim or search. With 7.7 miles so far, it was time to retrace our route albeit without the side excursion to Palomino Mountain and Aylor's Arch.
The descent off the Mesa and then from the saddle was brutal. Finished with 14 miles and 2800' of climbing. Now for the nickname. If you live in Grosse Point outside of Detroit do you tell people you live in Detroit or GP? Exactly. Or, Encinitas rather than San Diego or Beverly Hills rather than Los Angeles??? So, when I am introduced as "Mark from Tucson" my knee-jerk reaction is to correct and say I am from Oro Valley. So, the crew gave me the nickname "The Snob from Oro Valley" wtf??? All in good fun of course.
1/11/2019 07:57:12 pm
Good write-up and photo gallery. Both of those are worthwhile hikes and take some extra effort to enjoy.
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