Well, the rain has finally stopped out here in Arizona but is heading east to play havoc with everyone’s travel plans for the Thanksgiving weekend. We‘ve waited 2 days for the trails to dry out and we’re off today for a trail we’ve done twice before: the Boulder Canyon Trail, though we’ve made different loops each time and come at the trail from different directions. It’s called ‘Boulder’ Canyon for a reason and these ‘reasons’ range in size from fist-sized to 7’ tall. They make for a tricky hike especially after a heavy rain storm which we’ve just had. In 2011 we had some water in the canyon, in 2012 it was bone dry but this time we had running streams, short waterfalls as the stream tumbled over the larger boulders and small lakes. Now, walking beside a bubbling brook is no problem but this trail crosses this running stream cum waterfalls 20, count them, 20 times. And, indeed I did count them. And, it goes without saying that the more water there is, the harder it is to find boulders to step on to get over the water to the other side. Often all we could find was tippy small boulders. Whee-e-e! That’s what those ‘sticks’ are for.
This has always been one of my favorite hikes: the stream crossing makes it challenging, the trail is not well-used and thus is narrow, overgrown and sometimes difficult to find. Cairns have been placed along the trail especially on each side of the bank where the stream goes down to and across the boulders to the other side.
Can you see a problem here: who can see a small cairn when there are huge boulders all through the creek? And - here’s a big problem - many years when the monsoon rains hit this area, the water rises so much that it overturns the cairns. This year was a GOOD year for monsoons and we had to guess where the trail crossed the creek. Luckily there were two of us and thus 4 eyes to spot the cairns. When we didn’t see any cairns, which was often, all we could do was look across the boulders, scan the opposite bank and guess where we thought the trail might be. Sometimes we were right and crossed over to find the trail. Sometimes, we crossed and found no trail there but maybe further in. It was often a crap shoot.
The trail is a ways from our resort so we didn’t begin our hike until 9:15. The beginning is fairly easy, at one point so many people use the trail that it looks like a super highway. Then the trail heads down a rocky slope through a canyon to the Boulder Trail. Here most people enjoy the view, eat a snack and head on back up the trail returning to the trailhead. Sounds like a good plan, and why do Gary and I turn right and onto the Boulder Canyon trail, where we had our first stream crossing not more than 50’ down the trail? That was a clue - which we ignored.
Actually, the bubbling stream, the boulder crossings, the small lakes, the greenery and the solitude all combined to make for a neat hike. In fact we saw only one other hiker until we were about 1 mile from the trailhead. For 9 miles we were alone in the wilderness. Here are some pictures of the area through which we hiked:
I always have a song in my head, usually based upon something we’ve seen or done. Today we hiked through some pretty overgrown brush, obviously the monsoon rains in the fall created a lush riparian vegetation in the winter and we were hiking through it. Sometimes it obscured the trail and only after struggling through this brush could we finally see the trail. There there were all those pokey things: cholla cactus, mesquite with its thorns hiding behind every little leaf, prickly pear cactus, and the stately saguaro cactus. Sometimes the trail weaved through these and all I could think of was:
‘Mesquite to the left of me
Cholla to the right
Here I am
‘Stuck’ in the middle with you.’
Gary's actually on the trail here.
'Oh, by gosh, by golly,
It’s time for mistletoe and holly'
as we wiggled though the holly bush - that’s pokey too.
This 3.2 miles of the Boulder Canyon trail took us about 3 hours and it was 1:00 before we reached the junction with the Lost Dutchman Trail which we would follow back to the trailhead. What with missing cairns, having to carefully cross the stream 20 times and the brush, we were not hiking as fast as we usually do. At the junction, it was time for lunch. We took off our packs, I took off my shoes, we found 2 ‘comfy’ rocks and we relaxed for a bit as we ate.
The rest of the trail was much easier and we got back to the car at 4:00, a bit later than we had planned - we had planned to get back early enough to stop for ice cream on the way back home. That will have to wait until another time.
Is it still one of my favorite trails? Sure although by the 12th stream crossing, I was getting a bit weary - and there were still 8 to go.