Okay, maybe we weren’t ‘lost’ in the purest sense, more like disoriented. But in the Superstition Wilderness, there’s a fine line between being disoriented and lost. It all boils down to the quantities of confidence, water supply and daylight.
Always download the map to a GPS or phone. Don’t depend on cell phone service, as it’s usually spotty. Carry a paper map as a back up, as well as plenty of water, emergency provisions, first aid kit.
“We just came down this path the last time we were here a few years ago, right?”
“No, I think we came down from a different trailhead, but we’re still coming out in the same place… at least I think. It all leads to about the same place.”
“Yeah, I don’t remember this at all.”
“Doesn’t this trail go past Hackberry Springs… where we saw the mules last time?”
“I think so.”
“Wait, I think we’ve gone too far down First Water Creek! Aren’t we supposed to cut back up the hill toward Garden Valley?
“It all looks so different now, after just a couple of years.”
“It’s been more like six years… Yep, it’s way overgrown now. All the rain and snow melt.”
“Yeah, we don’t want to get turned around like we did that time when we started down into Boulder Canyon and thought we were headed to Hackberry. That would’ve been a long day of hiking.”
“Okay, this looks all too familiar now.”
“Yep. This is Garden Valley. I can see Weaver’s Needle.”
“Now we’re back at the intersection of Black Mesa and Second Water Trails. So, the First Water Trailhead should be up past that rise.”
“Should be. We have to cross First Water Creek again.”
“Hey, look! More poppies! Boy, I bet Lost Dutchman (state park) has a bunch in bloom right now!”
What was supposed to be a five-mile loop turned into a 7.5-mile loop. When we arrived at the main First Water parking lot, it was full so we were forced to turn back and park at the staging area. We began our Hackberry Springs/Garden Valley Loop from there, heading down toward First Water creek, unknowingly passing by the old windmill and corral area, and wallking along the creek on the west bank, heading north, and ultimately missing the turn heading east. When we realized our error, we reversed course, crossed over the creek and come up around the bluff at Hackberry, gradually along the ridge to Garden Valley. Not having gone this clockwise direction before, most of the territory appeared unfamiliar.
We recommend starting at First Water, completing the loop counterclockwise, with the only precaution to not overlook the turn to Garden Valley. Rock cairns usually mark the spot, but not always! After the sign to Black Mesa, look for a trail veering left. After crossing the “valley,” the terrain changes. Keep to your right (easterly), and the trail will lead you along a canyon ridge with sweeping views. After 1.7 miles, you’ll arrive at a sort of rocky roundabout, you may be tempted to take a trail to the left, but stay to the right, Once you’ve descended into the thickly-grown springs area, you’ll have the bluff on your left. Continue along the creek; watch closely and you may see a dripping pipe protruding from the rocks. You’ve made it to Hackberry Springs! Continue along the creek toward the windmill and corral and walk up the old road to the staging area parking lot/trailhead or the main First Water Trailhead and parking lot.