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LaBarge Box Day Hike
February 27, 2021
by Tamar Gottfried
  GPS Map 
Cindy, Tom J, Nancy, Dan, and Tom S in back; Quy, Li and Tamar in front.
[photo by Quy]

With a later than usual 8 AM start, eight Trailblazers were thrown an unexpected block in the road to First Water. Apparently, the lot was already too full and we had to start from the Horse Staging Area. An extra 0.5 miles each way to add to an already ambitious day!

We still successfully found each other and assembled by the official trailhead to start the hike.

The first 4.5 mile leg of the trip along the Dutchman’s Trail involved a little climbing, but the path was steady and not too busy, and we leapfrogged with another hiking group with some of our members who were on the way to Aylor’s Arch. A quarter mile past the turn off for Black Mesa, we found the Boulder Canyon Trail and headed off in that direction.

Although a little overgrown with prickly thorny plants, the trail was relatively easy to follow. We crossed creek beds multiple times, but the complete lack of water made these crossings uneventful. About a mile in on this trail, we stopped at a campsite with a nice fire pit and stone benches, for a snack. There were a surprising number of hikers and backpackers on this leg of the trail, one group coming from their campsite in the La Barge Box heading toward Charlebois.

Quy, Tamar, Tom S, Cindy, Tom J, Dan, Nancy. [photo by Li]
On the trail to adventure! [photo by Li]
We’re gettin’ closer with each step. [photo by Quy]
That row of boulders looks familiar. [photo by Quy]
Up we go. [photo by Li]
Overlooking Boulder Canyon. [photo by Quy]

At around the 7 mile mark, we veered off the main trail and climbed the steep marked trail to the saddle near Battleship Mountain. No sooner had we gotten to the top of this, we had to shift gears and take the steep downhill trail to the entrance to the LaBarge Box.

On the trail to adventure! [photo by Li]
Boulder-hopping. [photo by Li]
It isn’t ice. [photo by Quy]
Here’s some water. [photo by Li]
It gets rocky. [photo by Quy]
Trailblazers enter LaBarge Box. [photo by Li]
Dinosaur tracks?  Metates?  [photo by Li]

As it was now lunchtime, we were not alone in the Box, but it is large enough for social distancing. Unlike our last visit in December, 2018, there was very little water, but the majestic rock walls and smooth stone bottom were still impressive and created a nice cool surface for us to enjoy our lunches.

Let’s take a break. [photo by Quy]

It was so cool in the shade that several of us quickly relocated to the more sunny areas. It was a completely different feeling than in 2018, with less water and more sun, but still a place that we wished we could have spent more time relaxing and exploring.

Alas, we were only half way on our journey at 8 miles and it was time to boulder hop. The next few miles were slow and tedious as, even without water, LaBarge Creek bed had large and huge and medium boulders for us to slide across and down. Toes were crunched and foot bottoms were challenged as we made our way back to solid ground.

Next was the walk up to the Paint Mine and a brief rest while another group of hikers waited for their turn to explore. There was an old bed frame there that none of us had previously noticed.

Next we crossed Boulder Creek, also dry, and made our way to the Second Water junction. Although the projected high temperature was only 70 degrees, it felt warmer with the afternoon sun and a climb ahead of us. We passed a few places with a little water, enough to wet a scarf and then began the big slog uphill to 2500 feet.

The final part of the trail through Garden Valley and beyond was familiar to most of us, but still seemed to go on and on at the end of a full day of hiking. Finally, we reached our cars, happy to have made it through all those miles and through a scenic day in the Superstitions.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated March 1, 2021