Wave Cave

Today Jim Hardy led a group of us on a hike new to almost everyone in the club, a 4-mile (2-in, 2-out) trek to a cave on the flanks of the Three Sisters formation in the Superstitions.  You won’t find this hike in any of the “official” places, it is basically a detour off the Carney Springs trail.

I first heard Dana and Deb Kirke talking about the “Wave Cave” a couple years ago, and being an old Sailor, of course my ears perked up.  Back in the day, “Wave Cave” was the nickname of building B30, the barracks where the lady Sailors lived on the Norfolk Naval Station.  Turns out this is an actual cave, not at all what first came to my mind.  Oh well.

The photo below taken at the trailhead shows the formation known as Three Sisters.  Our destination (the cave) is about midway up the right side of the formation.  Just below the right peak, about half-way down the photo is a light colored horizontal strip — this looks like an “eyebrow” over the cave.



Here is a zoomed in view of that area.  From this vantage the sandstone formation just inside the cave looks like a VERY large white bear.



As mentioned earlier, this is not an established hiking route.  Once you leave the Carney Spring Trail, the route is not always well defined (you’ve all heard of the Lost Dutchman — ask me sometime about the Lost Dutchwoman) and the last third mile is something of a “scramble”.  Total elevation gain from the trailhead to the cave is around 900 feet.  About 500+ feet of that is in the last half mile.  It is not overly difficult, but it calls for good boots, hiking staff(s), and careful attention to your footing and balance, especially when descending on the return trip.  Don’t let me scare you off, but this is a “steady as you go” piece of footwork.


As you reach the cave, the “bear” seen from afar now resembles an ocean wave, thus the name “Wave Cave” the Dana and Deb attached to this place.  The interior of the cave is quite large, I’d estimate 2 or 3 times the size of the Canyon Vista ballroom.  It would seem that it would have been a good dwelling place for the Indians who build many structures in caves all around the Superstitions, but I didn’t seen any evidence of that sort of occupation.

Wave Cave 080


From a vantage inside the cave, the “wave” is even more convincing.



Some of us couldn’t help striking a “surfer” pose!


The wave also served as a good spot to eat our lunch and enjoy the long-horizon views below.



Put this one on your bucket list, but pick a cool day.  That last leg of the climb will drain your water reserves quickly on a warm day.


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Red Rocks and Mud – Whitford Canyon

Last Wednesday (after the Tuesday rainstorm) Botany Bob led a group of us on a pretty hike at Whitford Canyon.  Half the adventure was the trip to the trailhead which is on Forest Road 650 (the back-door road to Montana Mountain).  Did I mention that we had a rainstorm last Tuesday?  The 5-mile-or-so muddy road into the trailhead was pretty much solid red slick mud from end to end, but we all made it in without getting stuck (all except Dennis who has 2-wheel drive, so he did a quick U-turn and found another hike for his passengers south out of Picketpost trailhead).  Put me in mind of the old western ballad which goes “Detour, there’s a muddy road ahead. Detour, paid no mind to what it said.”

The Whitford Canyon hike is a short “in and out” segment of Passage 18 of the Arizona Trail (http://www.aztrail.org/passages/pass_18.html).  Our round trip was about 5 miles.

Whitford Map

As you can see in the map above the hike is basically flat, following a well marked trail in the bottom of the canyon.

Canyon photography is always challenging because of the mix of deep shadow and bright sunlit areas, so my photos in this posting will not do justice to the scenery that we walked through.

For a short distance from the trailhead (a wide spot in the road!) the route takes you over rolling landscape towards the canyon.

Here the hillsides were thick with some of the healthiest saguaro you’d ever see.


It was along this first part of the trail that we saw the remains of a half-consumed serpent on our path.  It wasn’t a rattler, but I don’t know the species.  This remaining tail segment was 8 or 10 inches long.



After a short while you approach the canyon and start seeing the red rock walls.  Here the saguaro thin out and you see more mesquite, prickly pear, and cottonwood.



Last month the cottonwoods still held a lot of gold leaves which are very striking in the stark canyon environment.  But the now bare branches have a different kind of beauty, especially when silhouetted against the rock and sky.

One old specimen, now dead and weather-worn, captured my imagination and I took several shots from different angles.  Somehow it speaks to my soul about things like perseverance and always reaching upward.  If you look close, notice the sliver of silver moon at the top edge of the first photo.









After about a mile in the canyon, the trail breaks out into open country again, surrounded by rolling hills to the south.

126-1It is always remarkable how the vegetation changes so abruptly.  Inside the canyon, near the watercourse (even though it is dry) there is lush green vegetation but in the scene above, just a half mile out of the canyon where water and soil are scarce a completely different set of plants flourishes.

We explored a bit in this open “brush” country, and ate our lunch near this old structure.  The prevailing story is that it was once a jail, but I’m not so sure about that.  The windows are large enough for easy exit, and the wood frame show no evidence that they might once have been barred or otherwise obstructed.




After our lunch we retraced our route back up-canyon to the cars.




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Happy New Year

Yesterday I promised that I’d pass along some photos if our storm gave us snow overnight.

Here are a couple of shots that I got this morning.

Enjoy snow on the Superstitions.




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Siphon Draw on New Years Eve

(…or, “Dammit, I left my rain gear in the boat!”)

This morning a small group of us (six) headed out to the Siphon Draw trail.  Weather reports predicted rain around noon, and the early morning skies didn’t look that bad!  We were even treated to a rainbow on our way to the trailhead.


Siphon Draw trail is basically the “on ramp” to the trek (“climb”?) up to the Flatiron.  It’s about a 3 mile hike over the talus slope and then up through a crack in the face of mountain.

Below is our view from a spot soon after we started up the trail this morning.  Our path will take us up and around that large mountain in the center of the scene.  The yellow flowers are brittlebush, which are quite unusual for this time of year.  Normally you’d not expect such a widespread bloom until maybe mid-March.


As our small group moved up the mountain, the cloud cover changed from broken overcast to “ya know, it just might rain!”  With temperatures in the upper 40’s, a good soaking rain didn’t sound like my idea of fun.  Everyone else in the group had rain gear, but mine was safely stored in my walleye boat in son Carls’ barn back in Minnesota.

From the location in the photo below I hiked about another half mile up the mountain.  By that time a rather steady drizzle had started, so I wimped out and turned back to the trailhead rather than get soaked and cold.  My companions continued their hike, snug in their comfy rain gear.


Meandering back down the mountain, I took a second photo of the brittlebush scene (see below) —I wondered how snug my friends were up inside that wet looking cloud which now covered the mountain.


Just as I reached the comfort of my truck the rain started in earnest.  I was happy that I’d turned sissy!

It’s rained pretty steady all day since and with cool temps overnight, we might get lucky and find that mountain covered with snow to start the new year, in which case I’ll head back out to get some shots of that tomorrow.

Happy New Year to all!

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for my hiking blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,200 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Ring Around the Picket Post

If you’re driving toward Superior on US60 it is hard to ignore the sight of Picket Post mountain as it looms on on the south side of the road.  It’s a very dramatic mountain, rising a couple thousand feet out of the valley floor.

The club usually schedules at least one hike to the summit each year, and the 800-mile Arizona Trail skirts the western side of the mountain on its’ way from Mexico to Utah, so the trailhead is a common destination for our club.

(I’ve inserted smaller photos in this post to shorten load time, but you can click on any of them for a larger view.)

Mountain 0

But today we weren’t here to climb the summit, or follow any established trail (at least not for very long), but rather to circle the mountain via a route cobbled together from a segment of the Arizona Trail, an old Jeep road, bushwacking through one canyon, following cattle trails through a second canyon, and eventually returning to the Picketpost trailhead via a short section of the Arizona Trail.

Loop Map

Loop Summary

The total route ended up being 9.24 miles by my GPS reckoning, but a very “doable” hike.  (Yes, it’s a bit long, but no tough climbing or scary cliff lines to negotiate.)

Loop Elevation

It was a cool morning.  My truck thermometer at the trail head tells why everyone was in jackets and gloves at the start.


The few miles were a gradual climb, with total elevation gain of around 500 feet.  Under a friendly sun, by the time this grade was topped, most of the jackets and gloves were in our backpacks.  This was on the western and southern sides of the mountain in open “rolling” terrain.  The dominant view was of the mountain.


Mountain 1

The highest point in the route was about directly south of the mountain.  From there the next couple miles were a slow descent in open country to the southeast corner of the mountain.  Easy walking on a jeep trail.

Southeast of the mountain we headed northeast into Telegraph Canyon. Being an old Navy Radioman, I listened closely for Morse Code, but hearing none I have no clue why the canyon is so named.

This is a fairly narrow canyon with only a sketchy trail.  Scenic, with a small stream in the bottom.  In a couple of spots we had to work our way higher on the canyon wall to clear obstacles — those are the two “up blips” you see in the elevation profile above.

In the scene below you see Tony suggesting a path through one boulder field.

Telegraph 0

Here a couple more scenes from this rocky passage.

Telegraph 2

Telegraph 1

Telegraph Canyon is a side canyon which eventually drains into Arnett Canyon which runs WNW along the north side of Pickpost Mountain.

Arnett Canyon is a wider canyon, older than Telegraph Canyon, and has a “soil” (vs “rocky”) floor.  This supports a completely different vegetation set.  While Telegraph was populated primarily by cactus and mesquite, in Arnett Canyon the cottonwood tree was the most noticeable resident.

Arnett 2

Arnett 1This canyon is shows a lot of evidence of use by cattle, and with good reason.  There is ample water, and good vegetation.

Arnett 3

Arnett Canyon opens up near the end, and then drains into Queen Creek.  Just before that junction we left the canyon and cut cross-country back to Picketpost Trailhead.

After not hiking for a couple of weeks, this was a great hike — a tad long but not strenuous, and with great scenery all along the route.

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Pass Mountain

The club hiked the Pass Mountain Loop today.  This is an 8-mile loop around Pass Mountain just north of Mesa.  Being a loop, you can hike it in either direction, clockwise or counter-clockwise.

If you hike in a clockwise direction, the first 2 miles or so is a my least favorite trail segment in Arizona — a trek at the base of the mountain, basically flat, but always climbing into or out of one of a seemingly endless series of washes (gullies to you Minnesotans).  Tiring and boring.  If you hike it counter-clockwise, well you’ve saved the worst for the last, but you still have to do it.  The group split roughly in half, doing the hike in two groups, one in each direction.

The most scenic portion of the hike is the first 4 mile segment if you go counter-clockwise, and it also is the segment with the best morning light.  So I had this great idea, I’ll just hike that segment, but twice — once in, and once out.  So I got the full 8-miles under my new boots, and avoided that hateful segment on the south base of the mountain.  The bonus was excellent rich morning light in the most scenic portion of the hike.

The start of this segment in this direction is a climb of about 1.5 miles to a saddle (between the two small peaks at the far left of the photo below).  This is a climb of perhaps 800-900 feet, fairly steady, so not too bad on fresh legs.



To the right of the “rocky” scene above, is a view (below) of an older smoother mountain range.  I wish I were a geologist so I could understand the forces which shaped this country.



In the early going it is a very good trail, but gets pretty rough and rocky after about a quarter mile.

When you reach the crest of the saddle, a wide-horizon view of several mountain ranges opens to you.  In this first view from the saddle Four Peaks is the “blue” mountain at the far right horizon.



I hike another 2 and half miles until I met the leading guys from the clockwise troop.  This segment of the hike circles around the north side of the mountain.  There isn’t a lot of scenery in the immediate environ of the trail, but a lot of nice long-horizon scenes to the north.

Here are a couple.







After a lunch pause at this skeletal cholla I joined the second group of hikers and returned with them to the trailhead.




Nearing the trailhead, this view of Flatiron was a nice ending to the hike.



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