Blessing

blessed water

The blessing of desert water flows through a portion of West Boulder Canyon known as O’Grady Canyon, named after “Rattlesnake” Tim O’Grady who prospected the area mid-Twentieth Century.

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Even more so as this is an intermittent flow, dry boulders offer no solace in dry seasons. In the distance, beyond a Black Mesa ridge studded with Saguaro cactus, is Malpais Mountain (Spanish, “Bad Country”). Closer, on the right, is the ridge of Palamino Mountain.


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Into O’Grady Canyon

touching base and more looking around

Twenty-three minutes later I caught up with Dave and Al taking a break at a large loop in the trail, a half mile below Parker Pass.

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Fourteen years later, using GoogleEarth, I deduce the location to be 33°27’19.39″N , 111°24’38.58″W. After the horse party proceeded, I stayed behind to record them.

….as well as the surroundings. The geological formation is the escarpment of Black Mesa above O’Grady Canyon.

The name O’Grady Canyon piqued my interest, so I poked around the internet and found this posting from Tom Kollenborn, a well-known authority on the Superstitions.

“I was told Tim O’Grady prospected the area for about twenty-five years before moving to Washington. He was a well known character around Apache Junction from about 1945 – 1980. There are other interesting stories about Tim. I visited with him several times on the old First Water – Charlebois Trail in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s when I worked for the Barkley Cattle Company.

Tim’s Saddle was named after “Rattlesnake” Tim O’Grady a prospector who searched the Superstition for the Dutchman’s Lost Mine in the 1950’s and 1960’s. O’Grady Canyon is also named after him. The story goes something like this. A USGS map crew was working in the area around Parker Pass in the early 1950’s and came across this old white bearded prospector. They ask him about several landmarks in the area and their names. He pointed to a saddle and said that is Tim’s Saddle and the canyon on the right is O’Grady Canyon. They talked for a while about other landmarks and finally ask the old prospector for his name. He looked at them politely and said he was Tim O’Grady. The last I ever heard of “Rattlesnake” Tim O’Grady was he moved to Washington. He was 87 at the time.


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Respite

stopping for a look around

One hour and twenty minutes into Lost Dutchman Trail I stopped for a look around.

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My party is out of sight, Parker Pass seems no closer, Weaver’s Needle looms 3.1 miles away over several ridges.

A sole day hiker is on the trail ahead. I carried a gallon of water with a siphon pipe, so was taking sips every so often and becoming dehydrated anyway. Ahead is the ridge of Parker Pass, the pass is the green slant of land on right.

This is a capture from Google Earth of our route to Parker Pass, with a chart of the elevation changes. I am on that last hump with a few more up and down climbs before the pass.


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On The Dutchman Trail

to Parker Pass

Our expedition party on Dutchman Trail. Ahead is Parker Pass. Look carefully to pick out two horsemen and three horses packing equipment and supplies. They travelled much faster than my 3 – 4 miles per hour on foot.

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Ahead is Parker Pass, the opening between the two hills in the middle distance. Weaver’s Needle, 3.7 miles distant, at left above the Parker Pass ridge. You can still see my party, ahead. I “zoomed” in for a better view of the party, rapidly pulling ahead and out of sight.

As I top a rise my party is out of sight, more of Weaver’s Needle is visible on the right. The trail falls here before rising again to achieve Parker Pass. Distances on the Lost Dutchman trail are difficult to estimate, visible objectives are much farther then they appear. Constant sun, clear air, difficult terrain conspires against the unprepared leading many into overextending their luck. As a case in point, 37 minutes transpired between the second and third photographs.


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Headed Out

The Beginning

Dutchman’s trail, starting from First Water Trailhead, meanders through Sonoran Desert hills and washes, gradually climbing about 400 feet before descending into Boulder canyon.

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We were a party of three with five horses: two mounts and three pack. I was on foot, unencumbered by the usual backpack loaded with 80+ pounds of equipment and supplies for an extended wilderness expedition.

Our expedition party on First Water Trail. That is Parker Pass, the opening between the two hills in the middle distance. Look carefully to pick out two horsemen and three horses packing equipment and supplied. They travelled much faster than my 3 – 4 miles per hour on foot.


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End of the Beginning

Exploring Arizona in my Fifth Decade of Life

….continued from the chapter “A Rocky End to a Perfect Day.”

The Searcher arrived after breakfast. My camp was bundled up to join the rest of The Searchers equipment and supplies on Colorado’s panniers that replaced the saddle where I sat, and was dumped from, yesterday. This fifth morning of the adventure, I was to have the experience of a light pack for the 4.7 mile trail from Pine Creek to Campaign Creek, past the Reavis Mountain School of Self Reliance.

First, there was the climb to the edge of Pine Creek canyon where we, for the last time, enjoyed the view to the north of the Arizona Trail and, in the distance, the Four Peaks Wilderness.

North from Reavis Gap

At Reavis Gap we took a rest before the 1500 descent to Campaign Creek on a trail rated as so difficult backpackers go miles out of the way to access Reavis Ranch.

I split an energy bar and took a swig of water before setting up the tripod to capture the following view of our path. The ridge, hazy in the distance of 22 miles, is Apache Peaks, the near descending ridges an improbable green after a wet winter. In the previous photograph, “North from Reavis Gap” you can clearly see the transition from the desert to a grassland biome as the elevation increases.

Generations

On this, the southern shoulder of Two Bar Mountain, we enjoyed desert grasslands almost the entire length, starting with this unlikely oat field. The higher, eastern Superstitions are the western and northern-most Sky Island of Southern Arizona: rising from the desert as isolated mountain systems, catchments for passing storms, with life zones progressing with altitude, the highest typical of Canada. As with oceanic islands, each is a haven for life with potential for evolution of unique species from the isolating effect of the surrounding desert.

These oats are domesticated grain spilled from a horse or donkey pack to thrive in the decades since, sprouting into this spread of light green after a wet winter, ripening, then turning gold with the summer, the grains falling to wait for the next opportunity. This green hue is my first impression of Reavis Gap, see my post “Two Meetings” for a video of the morning breezes rippling along the hillside.

The camera sweeps 180 degrees for all the views from this spot, including prickly pear cactus among the grasses, a butte-like formation to the west, as in the following photograph.

Upper Horrell, the end of the beginning.

We passed the length of the Reavis Mountain School of Self Reliance, the Reavis Gap trail is 100 feet or so higher on the north side. The name “Upper Horrell” is attached to this location. Reavis Gap trail used to start at a ranch house, part of the “Upper Horrell Ranch.” Horrell is the family name of the former owners.

Upper Horrell is a fortunate location for the school, with the perennial Campaign Creek flowing parallel to their 13 acres on which is a large garden, many fruit trees, livestock and poultry. The school provides lodging and classes throughout the year.

The Searcher initiated his time in the Superstitions with wilderness survival classes and they allowed him to park is horse trailer and pickup outside the gates. We were loaded and out of there with a stop at Roosevelt, population 28, where we were the only customers for mesquite grilled hamburgers and french fries. We talked about the potential for future trips and I took him up on an offer to store my stuff until then. In the following years I did more Superstition Wilderness day trips, backpack expeditions, some with my sister Diane, and one horse expedition with The Searcher and a friend.

Here is a gallery of this post’s photographs, for you to flip through.
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