Evening on Two Bar Mountain

Shadows rising on the canyon walls

Another blog from my four day solo expedition to Reavis Falls in the remote eastern Superstition Wilderness. Here we will descend briefly to the canyon of Reavis Creek, below the Reavis Falls.

My previous blog Two Bar Mountain View featured this same landscape. 

Shadows rising on the canyon walls are from Lime Mountain and Castle Dome.  In the far canyon, below Two Bar Mountain, is a shadow from the notable cliff and prominence to the right, that rises above Reavis Falls, fall below and out of sight in the canyon.

Here is that prominence from that same day, late afternoon when the sun is just starting to be low enough to throw the cliff into relief. This is a single shot with a canon 200 mm lens. This day I had climbed out of Reavis Creek, up to to this point on the slopes of Lime Mountain. Here I enjoyed an afternoon, evening, night and early morning of the following day.

The second day of the solo expedition, I hiked into the canyon of Reavis Falls from a camp at the canyon mouth. Looking up from the creek this same cliff was prominant against the sky.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Two Bar Mountain Views

Superstition Wilderness

Two Bar Mountain is only part of this view taken the evening of Day Three, my solo expedition to Reavis Falls in the Superstition Wilderness of Arizona.

The view encompasses most of the four day expedition, being the climb into the lower Reavis Creek Canyon from which I camped.  I spent one entire day walking up the valley to the falls.

The patches of yellow on the far slopes to the left and into Reavis Valley are Mexican Poppy (Eschscholtzia californica) blooms.

To find lower Reavis Creek Canyon, look for the prominent cliff formation in the very center of the image.  Follow the end of the cliff down to a dark shadow.  The western canyon wall creates the heavy shadow.  As you move to the right, in the image, the shadow becomes wider because the canyon wall becomes higher.

The view also encompasses a 2005 solo expedition over Two Bar Mountain using the Tule and Two Bar Ridge trails into the Superstition Wilderness around Pine Creek.  See my blog “Racing the Sun” for an image Two Bar Mountain with the path of (most of) two days of that expedition.

An interesting feature of the full size image (lost in the small-scale reproduction of this blog) is the host of enormous saguaro cactuses marching up the sides of the canyon to the left, thinning out and ending on the western walls of the canyon (the slope directly beneath my viewpoint).  Our course, each cactus is perfectly still, casting a huge shadow, and seems very tiny.  The nearest is a mile away.  We are seeing in this thinning host the lower Sonoran in transition to the upper Sonoran life zone.

All of this in one view from Lime Mountain. Here is another, taken just as the sun set.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Finding Circlestone

Ancient Ruins

The Searcher’s Tale

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I first learned about Circlestone from stories The Searcher told during my first backpack into the eastern Superstition Mountains, on the Tule trail, April 2005.  I described this in “Riding from Pine Creek to the Reavis Valley” where the Searcher described a stone circle, overgrown with Alligator Juniper, on the slopes of Mound Mountain.  He pointed south toward a peak and foothills that rose from the valley floor and said, “follow the fire trail east from the southern Reavis Ranch valley.”  There were strange happenings associated with Circlestone (as he called it) and he’d never taken the time to go there.  “There is a book full of stories.”  I eventually sought out Circlestone on the web and in books, but after I found it on my own using only the Searcher’s directions and advice from friends met on the way.

Sunset from Castle Dome

Backpacking with my sister

In 2006 I explored Circlestone twice along with my sister, Diane, who accompanied me.  First for nine days early March 2006 using the Reavis Ranch trail from the north and the second for five days in November 2006, coming us the same trail from the south.  Our first trip was Diane’s first “real” backpack adventure and we took it slow with a camp at Castle Dome where there are flat areas and exceptional views.  Above, is the sunset from our second night (I camped the first night next to the car…we took it very, very sloooowwww).

Four Peaks Sunrise

Castle Dome

Then, there was morning of our third day.  Here is the Four Peaks Wilderness in the first rays of dawn.  These are green, rolling foothills of grass, low shrubs and a few juniper.  If you know where to look, there’s an unmarked trail to Reavis Falls (the highest waterfall in Arizona).  I found the trail and visited the falls on a later trip.

Castle Dome Sunrise

After enjoying the Four Peaks, you turn around and see Castle Dome in the morning light, as in this photograph.  Remember the same of the “dome”, because it is visible from the ultimate view from Circlestone.

Reavis Valley and White Mountain from the trail to Circlestone

The Trail to Circlestone

Our camp was in the Reavis Valley, one of the first sites along the creek coming from the north.  There were fantastic rock formations across the creek.  Not far from there, the land falls away into steepness and then Reavis Falls.   The Searcher told me about going that way, once.  There is no trail down to the falls overlook and deep canyon carved by the water.

This photograph, above, is from a lovely forest of pinyon trees that grow along the trail to Circlestone (described by the Searcher as rising from the southern Reavis Valley).  You can see the valley, just to the right, and a longer and steeper valley that rises from it up to White Mountain.  That way is the southern legs of Reavis Trail.  I have a movie clip from this same spot of the pinyons moving in the breeze and may post it at a later time.

All of the trail to Circlestone is a climb.  You pass over “Whiskey Spring”, named for a still kept there in the 1800’s and over a steep defile gouged from the rock.  The trail is well marked and I am told that, sometimes, there is no cairn marking the trail to Circlestone.  If you are desperate to get there, look-up some excellent hiking directions available on the web.  I have even found the circle on GoogleEarth, since I know where to look.  If you like a challenge and the adventure,  go from the directions the Searcher gave me.

Four Peaks from Circlestone

From the fire line trail, the unmarked branch to Circlestone climbs steeply and follows a ridge through Alligator juniper, punctuated by stalks of century plant, to a broad way that rises to Circlestone as though to a monument overgrown by the same juniper.

My Circlestone Mystery

There was an unusual experience on our first trip, on this portion of the trail.  We were winding through the Juniper and, as it happened, Diane fell behind.  After awhile I missed her and waited and, after a minute, went back to look for her.  I found Diane sobbing uncontrollably, deep in grief over our father who passed away eleven years before.  We talked about it until she felt better.  She said it was as though a door opened and she could feel out father.  What makes this exceptional is Diane is not given to anything like this and I ascribe her deep grief to the nature of the site.  It is a mystery to this day.

At Circlestone, that first trip, we explored and experienced the site.  You cannot see the entire wall at any point and need to wander through and over it, being careful not to disturb anything.  Here and there, in the outer wall, are openings like the one in this photograph.

Site-Hole in the Circlestone Wall

At Circlestone

I call it a site hole because, on your knees, it is possible to look through and see the distant view through the trees.  As you can see, the stones are a striking red color with green lichen growing thick.

On the second trip in November, knowing the way and having great weather, I brought my cameras to capture the exceptional views, one of which is above.  I’d dearly love to come back to camp just below the ruin and do some work in the evening and morning light.  For now, I can enjoy those views from Castle Dome.

Three Horsemen and Castle Dome

Can you see the dome in the middle distance.  I did a portrait of three horsemen who road up to Circlestone in November.  We came to know them pretty well, that afternoon and the following morning down in the valley.

Three Horsemen

I carted up a tripod, so you can see Diane and I in the same spot.

Mike and Diane at Circlestone
Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills, All Rights Reserved