Superstition Mountains, AZ

Flew down to Phoenix to do a 4 day backpacking trip through the eastern Superstition Wilderness area. Got to the trailhead about 20 minutes before dark, but that’s fine since I was only going in a couple miles to the first campsite. Camp was going to be at a location known as Pinon Camp. I setup camp on a stretch of slickrock, had some dinner and went to bed. I thought the person I was backpacking with was up and walking around after I fell asleep, and that woke me up. I heard footsteps walking in a circle around my tent, then down into the brushy area and back up. I called out their name, but nobody responded. I sat up to see who was making the noise, but when I looked where I last heard steps no more than a second ago, there was no one, and the person I was with was still asleep in their tent.

I was awake after that, so I thought I’d try some night photography. Found out my camera only captures up to 15 seconds, and it takes it almost that long to process the imagery it captures into a grainy mess. It was still fun though. It took about 5 shots to get one framed how I wanted it cause you can’t see anything through the viewfinder, or on the screen. Then there’s the matter of back lighting from the moon to deal with, and adjusting the ISO for more exposure without unnecessarily increasing the graininess, or decreasing the length of exposure. I got some decent results. Film would’ve been superior in this situation, but digital is what I deal with now.

Next morning I was off to Charlebois Spring. Didn’t see another party on the trail the whole time. It got nice & hot, a little too hot. I had to make up more Gatorade on the way, and there’s only one good spot of shade the whole stretch. Got to Charlebois with only a little water left. Going up the canyon the spring is in, in search of some nice, clean, cool, refreshing water I passed a trough full of somewhat clear water with green algae growing all the way to the top of the water and fish swimming around in it. In the back of my head I thought that might be the “spring” but I wanted to go up further to find out for sure. The canyon bottom is full of dense trees, vines & other growth with a marshy bed, and small cliffs on both sides making it impossible to navigate through there. I went as far as I could before I tried climbing up on the cliffs to get closer to the source, but with cactus of all varieties hedging up the way it was impossible. Thankfully I had a water filter, and tons of iodine tablets. I’ve had to drink nastier, and untreated before, so I was okay with this. A real spring would’ve been awesome though. So I guess they just pipe the spring water down to the trough and let it fill up. I think they should have the pipe drop the freshwater from a height into a trough so it doesn’t get mixed immediately with the trough water, but I guess the BLM can ensure everybody treats their water this way and avoid any unnecessary problems if the spring water is contaminated, or gets contaminated on its way from the source to the end of the pipe.

That night while I was eating in my tent I heard footsteps pounding up the trail for about 20 seconds. I looked up to see who was coming and someone paused for a second, looked at our camp, and kept going. It probably was an actual hiker this time around, but since they didn’t stop for water, and this was the only water source for many, many miles, we were far from any trailhead, they were alone, hiking at night, plus what happened the night before, you’ve gotta wonder.

The next day I went to filter more water and while I was doing it, this thing with six legs, and the body of a cricket crawled out of the green mass on the side of the trough, slid itself across the concrete and plopped down on the ground next to me. I have no clue what it was, but given it’s state, I’m guessing it just did a transformation from something else to it’s adult stage and it wanted to dry out. That’s why there are filters.

Next day I hiked to Whiskey Springs. There were more cactus, and only one good spot of shade the whole way. That section of trail felt like I was a world away from the desert for a couple hundred feet. A picture was taken in that section, and it looks like I have a bloody elbow in it, so when I saw the pic on my camera’s screen I asked the person I was backpacking with if I had unknowingly done anything to my elbow and the response was no, and we took a closer pic of my elbow to prove it. Weird stuff.

Whiskey Springs has a couple excellent campsites, well shaded with plenty of rocks to sit on. Unfortunately most of the lower sites had equine visitors so you’d have to be okay with loads of dried up horse crap getting on your gear to camp down there. There’s another trough here, much worse than what we had at Charlebois, but there was enough water to finish the trip without using that gunk. I went in search of the spring source only to come up empty handed. There’s a small pipe coming out of the trough with some water dripping out the end, and that might be a piped source, with the trough only holding water that flowed through it as it came downstream during bigger storms, who knows. I can think of some better names for these things than springs. A quick hike up the hill above our campsite yielded some really incredible views of where I’d hiked from over the past two days, unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera up to where I was, and I wasn’t going to waste energy going all the way down & back up just for a couple shots.

The hike out took me to the South side of the Superstitions and the desert plants are stunning in this area. It looks almost like it was landscaped. 1.5 miles from the car, after having gone for 3 days without seeing a rattlesnack, there 10 feet in front of me was the tail of one sticking out on the trail. I took a couple steps to make sure it knew I was there and to take off, instead it winded up the rattle and backed out of the bushes onto the trail, and made it’s way into a massive prickly pear. Since it wasn’t budging, and rocks didn’t persuade it to move any I just made my way around a bush off the trail and let it sit there and rattle.

View photos from this trip

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