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Tim’s Saddle Day Hike
Superstition Mountains
October 29, 2011
by Ted Tenny
  GPS Map N 
  GPS Map S 
Dave, Oliver, Doug, Jackie, and Kim in West Boulder Canyon

Tim’s Saddle Trail can be seen on satellite imagery from Google Maps. But then, when you compare the imagery to the trails shown on USGS 7 1/2' topographic maps, they just don’t line up. I had to find out why.

My Garmin eTrex GPS does a pretty good job of recording tracks and downloading them to my computer using the TOPO State Series software from National Geographic. So why not go there and record the Tim’s Saddle Trail on my GPS?

Tim’s Saddle is no place to be hiking alone! So the best option was to schedule it with the hiking club and hope somebody would go with me. I was blessed with experienced, congenial hikers who were eager to explore this remote region of the Superstition Wilderness.

Rock goblins peer down at unsuspecting passers-by.

Six trusty Trailblazers set out from First Water Trailhead under high, thin clouds and a mild breeze. We crossed the two tributaries, and then First Water Creek five times. The last crossing is an unmarked junction for upper First Water Creek, O’Grady Canyon, and Old West Boulder Canyon, where we’re not going today.

From here the Dutchman’s Trail took us up to White Rock Pass and over to Parker Pass.

Turn right at this cairn for Tim’s Saddle.

Just beyond Parker Pass we turned right at a cairn that led us up and away from the Dutchman’s Trail.

Tim’s Saddle Trail is lightly traveled, very faint in places, steep and gravely in others. We cautiously threaded our way on the trail up to a saddle between Parker Pass and O’Grady Canyon. This saddle is the high point of our trip, but well before the mid-point. We then dropped steeply down to O’Grady Canyon.

Skeleton marks the way to O’Grady Canyon.
Did we cross O’Grady? I didn’t notice.

I’ve hiked O’Grady Canyon. several times, completely missing the Tim’s Saddle Trail the first time and later having to bushwhack to find it. Today we found out why. The crossing of O’Grady Canyon is so obscure that we didn’t even notice it from the trail!

“Hey, we’ve crossed O’Grady Canyon,” Ted observed when we looked back and saw it down below us on the other side.

From there up to Tim’s Saddle is an easy climb — if you can follow the trail. The scenery changes dramatically, with West Boulder Canyon down below and glimpses of Boulder Basin, where we are going. The southern part of the trail is steep and uncertain in places. Then the trail kind of fades out when you get all the way down into the canyon. No wonder it’s hard to find!

Some kind person had put up cairns in the bottom of the canyon to mark the place where you catch Tim’s Saddle Trail. Ted built up the cairns.

Across Tim’s Saddle lies West Boulder Canyon.
Southern end of the Tim’s Saddle Trail.

West Boulder Canyon is aptly named. There are plenty of boulders to sit on as we enjoy our picnic lunch. Then we get up and head downstream toward Boulder Basin.

There’s no water in the canyon this time. So we do the West Boulder Canyon Rock-Hop over dry boulders and cobblestones. There are no real obstacles, and no trail even though the map shows one.

A leaning rock and a balanced rock mark our entrance into Boulder Basin. Ted assures everyone that the Dutchman’s Trail really is out there, somewhere up ahead of us, before we get to the cliffs of Black Mesa. Finally, after a mile of rock-hopping in the streambed, we find it.

IMG_0557_538 IMG_0556_538
Leaning rock and balanced rock mark the beginning of Boulder Basin.

“Turn left and go at your own pace,” Ted advises. One by one the other hikers surge ahead, but Oliver stays back with Ted in the sweep position.

We haven’t met anybody since leaving First Water Trailhead this morning, but now hikers are passing us on the Dutchman’s Trail. All the clouds are gone. The day has warmed up considerably, but it doesn’t matter now that we’re on the home stretch.

Saguaros in formation salute Weaver’s Needle.
Holiday prickly pear graces the Dutchman’s Trail.
Almost There! First Water saguaros cheer us on.

Everyone re-convenes at First Water Trailhead. We enjoy an air-conditioned ride back to Red Mountain Park in Ted’s new 2011 Subaru Forester.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated March 4, 2018