Last Wednesday, Feb 11th, was a special hike in more ways than one.
Our youngest boy, Chris, came down to Arizona for a few days visit last week. In the time available we did all the usual stops to show off our adopted winter home. A drive down to Tortilla Flats, a visit to the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Anthony, tour of Casa Grande ruins, a couple authentic Mexican restaurants, and a drive up to the ruins at Tonto.
But high on my agenda was a desire to show off the back country and share my love of Arizona hiking with him. One of my favorite hikes is the route to the waterfall grotto at the head of Barnhardt Canyon.
This is a beautiful hike in the high country of the Mazatzal Wilderness. Usually this trail can be impassable this early in the year due to snow and ice, but we’ve had a stretch of mild (low-mid 80’s) weather, so the trail was clear and dry, the the temps up there Wednesday were ideal for the hike (50’s/60’s).
Depending on whose GPS you believed (we had three) the total (in and out) hike was either 6.0, 7.35, or 7.98 miles. Since I’m writing this report, I declare that we hiked 7.98 miles.
The trek up the canyon can only be described as gorgeous! Due to the elevation, the usual saguaro cactus seen on most of our hikes is replaced with alpine vegetation like holly, juniper, mountain pinion, and some (fallen due to fire) ponderosa. Even so, one “desert” plant, the agave, seems to thrive in this canyon. We saw some really great examples along the way. This example, next to an alligator juniper, gets bigger everytime that I’ve been up here.
I’m a sucker for weathered old trees. Chris caught this shot which I like a lot.
Below are some others along the way.
OK, a geology lesson. One of the unusual features of this hike is a geologic feature called synclines and anticlines. It is seen on the cliff walls in many places along this hike, and is the result of two opposing (crushing) movements of the crust of the earth during the mountain-building process, resulting in accordion-like folds in the rock structure. Here’s a drawing I googled up, followed by some photos from the hike.
In this shot the feature is seen near photo-center, just above the sunlit slope.
Here’s a shot across the canyon on another slope. Note the repeating pattern all the way up the canyon wall.
Below is a zoomed in shot of a segment of the scene above.
Some more shots along the way up the trail.
The “destination” and turn-around point for this hike is a series of two waterfalls hidden in a grotto off the established trail. The tip-off is a pool of water along the trail, fed by a little babbling stream. A short trek off the trail, some clambering over rocks, (thanks, Dana, for the steadying hand) and you’re inside a vertical red-rock grotto about 100+ feet tall, with a waterfall merrily splashing from the rocks far above.
Here Chris prepares to take a photo of the falls.
A view of the lower segment of the falls, feeding a pool at the base.
Here I tried a wider view to capture then entire falls, top to bottom. Didn’t work! A portion of the top and of the bottom are missing.
Here we see Frank admonishing us “Don’t you guys tell ANYONE about this place!” (Photo by Debbie Kirke)
Frank and I contemplate a route up, while Dana comes down telling us “No WAY!”.
After a long break admiring this find, we hiked back down canyon the same way we came up. Here is a Class Picture of our merry crew (less Debbie, the photographer) assembled back down at the trailhead. Chris says this hike was the highlight of his trip to Arizona. Thanks to all who made him feel so welcome, and for not telling too many “Hans stories” in his presence!