06 December 2016

Superstition Mountains: Music Mountain

Tonto National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5

(Day 2 of 5) The night sure is long this time of year. Orion marches the entire length from east to west as the night goes on. Phoenix is like some sort of eternal sunset on the edge of the sky. Eventually the brightness in the southeast overpowers the brightness in the southwest and it is morning.

clouds lighted from below
A sky textured by clouds brightens in the dawn light.

As we left, there was a 20% chance of rain for this morning. We expect nothing to come of it, but the cloud cover is nice. It helped keep us a little cooler yesterday and is doing a better job of that today. Not that the day has had much of a chance to warm up anyway. We get ourselves packed and start for the top, which is really just a few turns away. There are more and bigger spaces up there and the air has been very calm. Winds are always a worry at saddles, but last night would have been nice.

The divide rolls on to higher things to the east.

Upper La Barge tributary
The way to drop down toward Upper La Barge Canyon.

Red Tanks Canyon
One last look back over Red Tanks Canyon.

And so we drop back down again, this time toward Upper La Barge Canyon. There are a few little pools on this side too and a white tailed deer to startle. The deer waves its flag on an initial sprint away, but then decides we are not worth quite that much panic and trots away with a little more care for the terrain.

furry paddles
A cactus so full of thorns it seems furry.

Music Mountain
Music Mountain with Tortilla Mountain rising a little more impressively behind it and Herman Mountain somewhat blocking.

chain of pools
Seemingly reflective spots seen from above turn out to really be a string of pools.

white tailed deer
The white is just an outline around a bit of black once the deer stops panicking while getting out of range of the camera.

Curiously, the views seem to get better as we drop down into the canyon below.

Upper La Barge
More of the canyon.

puffs of white
Taking in one of the few flowers along the trail.

Bluff Spring Mountain through Upper La Barge Canyon
Looking down Upper La Barge Canyon, there is a large cave in the wall. Bluff Springs Mountain (perhaps) rises below it.

The trail drops down into the creek to cross it and climb out only to drop back into the creek and stay there. The old trail has been lost. The first section corner that I was planning to look for is next to the lost trail, but after finding the one last night, I am a little emboldened. We are 280 feet away when we are closest and stop. The hill is steep and covered in thorns, but it faces south and the thorns have good spaces between them. It is quick and painless to get up it and find the post just 50 feet from my estimate. There is a flat area below it that looks a lot like it could have had a trail along it once. There is very little indication of one now.

section corner
Found it! Another section corner post set in 1919.

I have a piece of 1966 map to help me locate the section markers and while examining it, could not help but notice we have already passed the second reliable spring I had identified before starting. It was back up the creek where we first hit the creek bed and started generally down it. We have a rather nice looking pool next to where we stopped, but it seems better to go after the spring water. We might have nicer water and it leaves this for the wildlife. So we head back with our water gathering gear. It is a waste of time as I perform a grand navigational fail taking us up the wrong canyon and not going nearly far enough. Someday I need to learn to just put the points into the GPS if I really want to find something. I have almost learned this with the section corner searches, and water seems like a little more important a thing to find. Coordinates were available on HikeArizona along with the water reports. We end up grabbing from the puddle after all before heading down to the next trail junction.

Herman Mountain from near the old trail.

At the sign, we turn up Hoolie Bacon Trail. This is not much harder to follow than what we have been on, but we leave behind all the footprints. There will be no more little reassurances that someone else thought this was the trail too.

looking back
Climbing past Herman Mountain and leaving all the recently walked areas behind.

We are looking for another junction, this time with an unmaintained trail. It will allow us to cut across a low ridge to another maintained trail without first wandering all the way over to the closest trailhead. We start climbing the hill that should be past the intersection and turn back. There is nothing to indicate the intersection. The scarp of 1966 map agrees with the one from Beartooth Publishing that this should be the intersection. Switching the GPS over to UTM should make it simplistic to locate ourselves on the map and be sure. So I do and finally figure out what has been bugging me about the blue lines on this map. They are too far apart. I usually use these lines as a double check for printed mileages, but these lines indicate something so different I was having to try to turn that off. Some brilliant person in the office decided that lines at 1000 meters was way too cluttered and they should be at 2500 meter intervals. The division required to estimate my location from the numbers on the GPS is entirely non-intuitive with this interval. Nevertheless, we seem to be in the right spot.

There is nothing but well spaced desert plants there. I look out across it. There are some clumps of green that are likely to be cats claw. We have gotten to know this plant rather well already. Any path across that should not include the spots that are likely to be thick with cats claw. It looks like we can do it. We set off, passing a large cairn that is certainly not part of the other trail, but also leads to nothing for the trail we are not finding.

We work our way along. The cats claw is not the only thing out to get us. There are lots of prickly pear cactuses, too, but they kindly grow with plenty of space around each and are easy to avoid. The cats claw is the only difficulty. It reaches out between the bushes and fills in the spaces. It looks like high to our left has space for us to travel, so I tend to that. There is an outcrop that looks like a large cairn up there, but it certainly is not. As we go, there are spaces to walk, but the way is interrupted by small ravines that tend to be full of cats. We can find places to cross them, but this usually means downclimbing a steep rock. Eventually, we are on the top of the central ridge and with only one wall of cats claw, one plant deep, to cross on the way.

ridge on Music Mountain
Out on the ridge on Music Mountain.

My original plan for the day included climbing Music Mountain from this ridge. It is about 500 feet and a half mile to get to the summit. Picking a route from here looks non-trivial, but still quite easy. We do not have anything like the time for that, though. The battle to get this far has been demoralizing. I am uncertain the views will be worth it from the top and had picked out another high point to also visit for the likely better views down into Music Canyon, which is our final destination for the day. We just set out to find a path without too many cats back to real trail instead.

Music Mountain
Music Mountain from nearer to trail again. It is rocky and steep.

rounded ridge end
A rounded knob on the end of a ridge provides an easy landmark for finding Peters Trail, which is supposed to pass through the saddle to the right of it.

Tortilla Mountain
Tortilla Mountain looks a little interesting.

There is another large cairn as we cross the last creek and start up the hill hoping to find something that looks like a traveled trail. Again, the cairn seems to lead to no other indications of trail, but is definitely not part of one that is maintained. There is a little worry we could miss the maintained trail. Some of what we have traveled already could certainly be missed by someone crossing it. Travel is a lot easier on this side of the ridge, so that is a plus.

bird nest in cats claw
Not everyone is worried about the cats. Some bird made a nest in this cats claw.

The trail is just a little bit higher above us than expected, but not higher than seems possible from the map. It is clear and easy to follow, but still clear of any footprints. It also gets us through the small cats claw filled ravine just ahead of us a lot easier than we were getting through such things going cross country.

ridge off Music Mountain
One last look at the ridge behind us before following Peters Trail over the ridge beside the knob.

There is a remnant of a fence as we shortcut a bend in Peters Canyon over the ridge by the knob. There is no gate. Someone simply dropped a big rock on the barbs so we can walk over it easily. This is obviously not containing that cow we saw yesterday, but this rock is not the only problem the fence has. We take a moment to enjoy the high point.

Peters everything
Sitting on Peters Trail looking over Peters Canyon with Peters Mesa rising on the left hand side.

Tortilla Mountain
The ridge line as it climbs to Tortilla Mountain.

We will really have to get moving if we are going to get to Music Canyon.

Tortilla Mountain
Another view of Tortilla Mountain, now from down in Peters Canyon.

Martha says she wants to stop. There is a pool of water under the campsite we are standing next to. She followed me through the trail free stretch, up and down rocks, with cats grabbing at her from all sides and trying to ruin her Z-lite without a single complaint. It seems so early to stop and I am a little infatuated with staying in Music Canyon. Supposedly music can be heard on the mountain sometimes, particularly in the canyon. Sure, it is probably some tall tale told by a long dead guy to drum up a little guide business, but it would be fun to believe it for a night. And I do not much like the look of the water on offer. We head on. The next bit of water comes with multiple choices.

water pooling in rocks
More pools. And some of them look quite nice enough.

This time the pools look better. The camping is less. It really seems unlikely we actually will get to Music Canyon today, even if we put a bit of determination behind it. Determination we do not have because the cross country mile (or two) has really taken it out of us both mentally and physically. Up on the mesa seems like it could be a good plan. We could gather water here and go up. Somehow the bottom has dropped out of any desire to move, so we will stay here.

New plan for the rest of the day: experiment with making bread. I threw in two mixes at the start so I could try it under "real world conditions" rather than a warm afternoon at practically sea level. These conditions are calm and a little chilly at a little under 3500 feet. The result is about the same as at home. The setup is temperamental and the flame can sometimes take off a bit burning the bread, but a little attention can prevent anything too bad. It is still not quite ready for prime time. And there is one little problem with doing the experiment. When I am done eating the bread, I am not full but there is not really enough room for a whole supper. I snack on some lunch foods as it gets dark enough to turn in.

Continue reading: day 3

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 14 December 2016

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