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Superstition Wilderness, AZ
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Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Superstition Wilderness, AZ on 04/27/2010 00:55:05 MDT Print View

What do I love about BPL? Several weeks ago I posted a request for information for a trip to Phoenix to mix business & pleasure. Andy King responded immediately with a great tip and an offer to play host. He invited a few other fellow ABC (Arizona Backpacker Club) members.

Angelo Pisano & Scott Downard were nice enough to pick me up at the airport. These 3 guys store my luggage, showed me the best part of the Superstition Wilderness (aka the Supes), and even carried in their special magarita recipes...gotta like that!

I realized that they are a special breed of desert rats, they are rabid hammrockers. I thought I knew UL lingo and the players, but I could not keep up with the hammock terminology they were throwing around. It was great to talk gear, techniques, and previous hikes.

Andy drove the ~30 miles down gravel roads to the trailhead while I was gradually getting introduced to the Supes with great views out the window of his "yellow submarine." We hit the trailhead late ~4 pm with a nice cool breeze that required a base layer and windshirt.

Unloading and packing up

Andy had planned a lollipop hike with three days each about 10 miles, although I would come to realize that not every trail mile is the same length. The Superstition Wilderness is nestled inside the Tonto National Forest. We saw temps in the 80's (or higher) during the day, but it got down to ~38 F the first night, so I was glad I brought both my big floppy hat and BPL Cocoon jacket.

Day 1:
We started at the Reavis Trailhead, headded south on Trail 109, which overlaps with the AZT (Arizona Trail) part of the way. Camp was ~9.5 miles at Reavis Ranch.

Day 2:
Continued south on Trail 109 until we hit Rogers Canyon and came NE on Trail 110. At Angel Basin we veered north onto Trail 112 until we reached Nirvana (aka Fish Creek), where we made camp. About 10.2 miles.

Day 3:
Continued on Trail 110 and closed the loop with a short cut across Trail 287 at Plow Saddle Spring. Then it was Windy Pass and all downhill northward along the path we came in on (Trail 109). About 9.8 miles.

Superstition Wilderness

We could see Apache Lake below us as we got ready.

Apache Lake below the trailhead

I was immediately awed by both the long and short views.

Blossoming cactus

Andy told me that this was a great time to catch what can otherwise be a very unforgiving area since the rainy season was just ending, so we got near peak greenery and water flow without the actual precipitation. Although we saw some threatening clouds on the horizon, so we were all glad that we brought tarps as back-ups.

Threatening clouds

Angelo was a machine and pulled ahead quickly to collect firewood & prepare the libations. Andy & Scott educated me on the Supes and AZ hiking while making >3 mph speed to race against the sun (we lost, but we all still seemed to win in the end).

Andy & Scott

We hit Reavis Ranch well after sundown, found a great campsite, and enjoyed our well-deserved dinner. The margaritas were much appreciated!

Making dinner

I was the only ground dweller among these hammock hangers.

Hammock Hangers

Scott's Hennessey

Andy's Warbonnet??

My Oware Epic/Spinnaker Bivy

Trail Junction

Andy, Angelo, & Scott

There must have been some great water source for this huge tree. It was still flourishing even after a fire had obviously gone through the area and charred its trunk.

Angelo, Tom & Scott


Trail junction

Approaching the cliff dwellings

These cliff dwellings were a real highlight of my trip. They were in great shape considering that they are 600 years old.

Cliff dwellings

The Salado people lived here 600 yrs ago


Rogers Canyon & Frog Tanks junction

This was at Angel Basin, looking back toward the cliff dwellings.

Angel Basin

We made camp along Fish Creek, where it meets Rogers Canyon. It was a great spot, and we had lots of reptilian company. The frogs were sending up a cacophony of sound much of the night.


Looking down Fish Creek

Looking upstream toward Rogers Canyon

Andy & Angelo


We had a hard hike ~10 miles that day and REALLY enjoyed soaking our feet in the cold creek.

Self portrait

Andy caught a bit of the creekside magic on video...

Angelo & Scott


We enjoyed some nice tunes and had dinner around a small fire to keep the bugs away. All three of us were cooking with Caldera Cones. Here is our tribute to Caldera Cones that Scott posted on their site...

We got an early start the next morning. The trail went uphill and through some rugged sections. I have come to "appreciate" the need for sturdy gear in country like this. Luckily the Cat's Claw wasn't in full bloom, but it still made us work harder.

Cat's Claw

Looking back toward Fish Creek

More exotic desert plants

Morning hike

Finally leveled off some


Scott got too close to some of this stuff

Interestingly, they don't seem to mark trails in AZ other than at trail junctions and a few random cairns. We had to work a bit this day to stay on trail...actually we worked a bit when we were off trail too! We crossed the creek lots that day.

First of many creek crossings that day

After a nice flat section with a sandy trail bed, we were punished by a VERY long & steep uphill section. I did not take any photos during that particular section. Andy & Angelo set a steady pace that proving hard for me to keep up with in that heat. We got a much appreciated break at the top. I saw that the pokey plants had killed my Platy, luckily I noticed it before I lost much valuable water.

Long, hot, hard climb up

It was nice to go downhill a bit.


Scott & me

They used to run cattle or horses in this country...amazingly enough. There were a couple cement troughs, corrals, and miles of barbed wire along the hike. An earlier one had Bacon Upton's name written in the cement and was dated from the 40's or 50's.

Plow Saddle Springs

We lost the trail a bit coming up from here, but did find poison ivy. The Supes claimed another casualty when it ripped Angelo's GG Gorilla side pocket.

Plow Saddle Springs

Plow Saddle Springs

Nice View

Desert blossoms

Me near Windy Pass

It's all downhill from here

Life is good.
Self portrait

It was nice to see the trailhead, with the promise of cold drinks and good Mexican food.

Reavis Ranch Trailhead

What a weekend. Hiked ~30 miles through a beautiful alien landscape and enjoyed some good companionship with three new friends. Thanks guys!!

Edited by TomClark on 04/27/2010 11:23:28 MDT.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Supes on 04/27/2010 05:11:07 MDT Print View

NIce pictures so far, Thomas!

What trailhead did you start at? I did the Supes in December, but never got to see Apache Lake.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Superstition Wilderness, AZ" on 04/27/2010 06:37:31 MDT Print View

Thanks for taking the time to share your trip through your photos and words, good stuff. I've flown over the Supes a bunch of times heading out of PHX Sky Harbor Int'l Airport and wondered how the wilderness area was for backpacking. Perhaps I'll make a weekend out of it in the late fall when things cool down again. Being the only ground dweller amongst a rabid group of hangers is something else! I remember 2 years ago being the only hammock user amongst a group of ground dwellers, that would be my last.

Joe Geib
(joegeib) - F

Locale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
Re: Superstition Wilderness, AZ on 04/27/2010 07:19:45 MDT Print View

Nice TR, Tom. Those frogs sounded like sheep.

We need to get out again soon, although it's only PA.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
Re: Re: Superstition Wilderness, AZ on 04/27/2010 11:14:41 MDT Print View

what you mean, hamrockers??

and look at all those te-wa underquilts.. you gotta love it. ;)

Edited by mikeinfhaz on 04/27/2010 11:27:14 MDT.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Re: Re: Superstition Wilderness, AZ on 04/27/2010 11:22:42 MDT Print View

Sorry you couldn't make it on this trip. I did hear some stories about you though. ;)

Andrew King
(drewboy) - F

Locale: Arizona
Re: Superstition Wilderness, AZ on 04/27/2010 12:33:54 MDT Print View

Hi Tom, what a super writeup and thanks for capturing the moments of this memorable trip. It was definitely a pleasure to meet up with you and get to know you. You've got an open invitation to come back any time. You always know when getting together with another BPL'er that you'll share many common views and gear obsessions. And thanks for indulging us in our fanatical hammocking ramblings.

To answer the poster's question above, we started out at the 109N Reavis trailhead, located just off the Old Apache Trail Rd. There are expansive views of Apache Lake, both at the trailhead and along some stretches of the trail starting out. This was definitely the perfect seasonal window to do this route.

Tom pretty much nailed the picture taking, I'll just add a couple more:

Tom standing at our Fish Creek campsite with his bivy perched on the sand bank above the creek
Tom at our Fish Creek campsite with bivy perched on a soft, sandy bank above the stream

Another scenic view looking down into Fish Creek canyon.
A scenic view looking down into Fish Creek canyon.

Another view looking up Fish Creek from our campsite.
Another view from our campsite

Edited by drewboy on 04/29/2010 05:45:02 MDT.

Philip Delvoie
(PhilipD) - MLife

Locale: Ontario, Canada
Superstition Wilderness, AZ on 04/27/2010 15:08:14 MDT Print View


Great pictures and trip report. Sounds like you had a great time and great company.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Superstition Wilderness, AZ on 04/27/2010 15:24:12 MDT Print View

Nice TR and pictures Thomas!!

Andy Clark
(AndyClark) - F

Locale: East Coast
Superstition Wilderness, AZ on 04/28/2010 06:20:31 MDT Print View

Another great TR, nice job Tom. Your reports always get me itching to hit the trail. Can't go wrong with margaritas, mexican food and the cacophony from the creepy crawlies.

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
"Soups" on 05/10/2010 12:04:19 MDT Print View

Nice photos Tom. I have done a bunch of trips throughout the Wilderness since the mid 70s and enjoyed your report. It has been 6 years since we done a hike there but your photo report has inspired a committment for next winter. Thanks.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: "Soups" on 05/18/2010 04:59:55 MDT Print View

Glad to hear it, but I was just tagging along with Andy, Angelo, & Scott who were great hosts. If you're from AZ, you should check out the Arizona Backpacker Club. I think it's only a few years old, but has ~350 members and sounds awfully active. They focus on BACKPACKING, not hiking car camping, or racing.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
Re: Re: "Soups" on 05/18/2010 09:38:18 MDT Print View