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Published: March 20th 2019
As soon as we had arrived at the Tortilla Campground, I had my eye on the ridge across the creek from us on the other side of the canyon. It began as a low hill a little bit west of us, then tapered up gradually to the east, until near the end, where it steeply rose to a sort of mesa, with sheer cliffs falling several hundred feet over the road. It looked very climbable, though the last pitch could be a challenge.
The real issue though, was the creek. A few days ago, when we had come up here on our reconnaissance mission, it had looked like you could step over it. After the heavy rains of our last night at Dutchman, it was a torrent. So I watched it, and on our third day there, it was much lower. I had a talk with my safety officer, and she agreed to my plan,
and my adventure was a go.
Crossing the stream turned out to be no problem. I had brought an old pair of sneakers to use as wading shoes, and I put those on to cross. The water, cold and pretty clear, never went above
my knees in the fording spot I had picked. At that time I noted that it looked like a perfect trout stream, too bad that it is probably completely dry for 90% of the year.
After reaching the other side, I left the wet shoes on a prominent rock, where I’d get them on the way back. I put my socks and hiking boots back on, and was ready to go. It took a bit of doing to pick a route through the shrubs and bushes of the flood plain. This being a desert, all such plants seem to want to hurt you, everything that grows is armed with needles, prickers, or thorns.
Soon the hillside was reached, and the more sparse vegetation there made things easier. I saw a cairn of stones, and by that, a clear trail leading up the hill, it looked like I was far from the first to attempt this hike. The trail led up to the spine of the ridge, and it was easy walking. The footing was good, and it was not at all steep, I made good time.
About half way along the ridge to the steep point, I
heard someone calling, I listened, and it was “Tommy!” Sure enough, I saw Cathy far below me, standing over her bike on one of the campground roads. We waved at each other, and took pictures of each other, which we both later found to be too far away to discern anything of either of us, oh well!
I continued on until I reached the last steep pitch to the top. I don’t know what the actual definition of “climbing” as opposed to “hiking” is, but for me, when you begin to need to use your hands on the ground as well as your feet, you are now “climbing”. So this bit was climbing, but it was pretty easy, the sedimentary rock made for step-like notches that gave excellent grip. The route was well back from the cliff face too, so there was no scary exposure to worry about. Maybe 100 vertical feet of that, and I was back to walking on my feet the rest of the way to the top.
The view from up there was fantastic, mountains and mesas all around, some close, some far off in the blue distance. Even a few with white, snow
dusted tops. I could also see over to Canyon Lake, where we were just the day before, I could even see the “Dolly” the tour boat that operates there. The only downside was the wind, it was absolutely howling from the east, blowing out off the shear cliff face. So I stayed well back from there, it was definitely blowing hard enough to effect my balance, and a fall from there would spoil your whole day.
After I took a few pictures and a panoramic video, I started back down. I had brought water and a snack, but the wind-blasted summit was no place to enjoy it. I took a seat on a rock in a more sheltered spot below the steep climb and had my treats there.
After that it was back to the camp. I then enjoyed a real, hot water shower in the tiny stall of Fred’s bathroom, as there were no showers available at this campground. The new water pump that I installed before we left home worked great, as did our gas water heater. The only issue was that I neglected to flush out the water heater tank first, so there was a good bit of RV antifreeze still mixed in with the water.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no objection to using alcohol, but I’d agree that applying it topically in that volume is probably not ideal.
After that Cathy and I walked the short distance to the Tortilla Flats Outpost and hard a nice meal. What a contrast late in the afternoon to what you see there around lunch. It was much less busy, and we enjoyed a nice quiet dinner, followed by a walk back and an early night, another great day.
Tomorrow, we plan on another hike in the Superstition Mountains, and maybe some exploring in the Mesa area, we’ll see.
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