|On the day after Thanksgiving, Conor and I backpacked down into La Barge Canyon in the Superstition Wilderness, about an hour and a half east of Phoenix.|
|The trail began at Canyon Lake under a sky that threatened to storm at any moment. The first hour was all uphill, leaving the panoramic view of the lake and the noise of civilization behind us.|
|We crested the hill and were greeted with a fantastic view of the Superstition Mountains, with Weaver’s Needle poking prominently through the clouds in the distance.|
|Around every bend were absolutely gorgeous classic Sonoran landscapes, very similar to those in my paintings. The air was warm and the sun stayed behind the clouds most of the day as we wound our way through the rugged desert slopes dominated by the giant saguaros, cholla and palo verde trees.|
|From our vantage point, we could look down upon two creeks, La Barge and La Boulder, neither of which was flowing, but both had pools of standing water.|
|On the way down into the valley I noticed something moving across the trail… a big fat tarantula! The first time I have seen one in the wild. He was nice enough to stop and pose for photos and as we continued down the trail we wondered how many might be trying to wander into our tents that night.|
|We make camp on the sandy beach near the creek. Conor gleefully took on
fire duties, gathering firewood and getting the firepit ready. Everything
was really wet from the storms throughout the day and I had doubts about
his ability to get something lit, but of course I was wrong – the
kid has a knack with fire.
I climbed about 1500 feet to the crest of the hill in hopes of catching a good sunset and was rewarded with spectacular panoramic vistas! I looked back down at our campsite and the tents looked like little tiny dots.
|I lay back on a giant boulder and relaxed in the cool breeze. It started
to rain just a little bit and when I turned around to check out the ridge
behind me, I saw a fantastic rainbow – then a double rainbow rising
above the rock formation “Geronimo’s Head”.
|The sun finally sank down but sadly the clouds had moved away and the
sunset was nothing great.
|After negotiating a treacherous descent, I made it back to camp and cooked
up a meal of pasta with gorgonzola cream sauce and bacon – yum! We
kicked back by the fire for a while and crashed very early.
|We started the next morning with potato and sausage burros, dried fruit
and coffee, then headed out. The plan was to hike through the boulder field
of La Barge Canyon below Battleship Mountain, then bushwack across the desert to La Boulder creek
and make our way back.
|It was a gorgeous sunny day and we had a blast hopping from rock to rock
and catching frogs. During one rest stop, Conor’s eagle eyes spotted
a bighorn sheep high above us on the ridge.
|At the end of the valley we came to the base of Malapais Mountain, where
it formed a massive natural curving slide into a pool of water.
|It was surreal and spiritual feeling place. We were both in awe of the
scale and incredible beauty of this place, tucked far back into the desert
and miles away from any trail. You can get a sense of the scale of this rock from this photo – see Conor in the center?
|We sat on the sandy beach in the shade and had lunch of smoked sausage,
sardines, candy bars and electrolyte chews. Sounds were amplified in this
natural sound chamber and I belted out the loudest “kooooooooeeeee!”
I could – it echoed off the canyon walls for a full eight seconds!
By far the most echo I’ve ever experienced.
|From there we picked our way across the Marsh Valley and into the other
|I spotted a saguaro with more arms than I had ever seen, and at least
forty bird nests… a desert hotel!
|We made one wrong turn on the way back to camp and paid dearly for it
– having to climb a good 1200 feet through steep rocky pass and then
descend down the other side. We had run out of water a couple hours earlier
and both of us were getting pretty desperate for fluids. We had to slow
ourselves down despite our desperation to make it back to camp, just to
avoid dehydration. Dinner that night was four cheese rice with tuna –
and apples for desert. It was delicious and we were famished.
|The hike out the next day was uneventful, but we were both really really tired – my legs felt like rubber from all the rock hopping on the
previous day. But we made it out fine and have yet another excellent adventure to reflect back on!