I have always been interested in going to the Galuiro’s. It’s remote – I like remote. It’s upper desert – good for a late April trip when the lower desert can be hot and the fact that areas like this tend to hold their water with winter snows. All this led me to the decision to try a trip here. For me, this was a long drive. The trailhead at Deer Creek is about an hour from Safford, which is a couple hours from Phoenix, which for me, is about a twelve hour drive. So, by the time I finally got there I was ready to hike – really ready.
The area once I got there looked dry. The winter had been dry, but surprisingly the Western section of Arizona looked wetter. But so goes Arizona and the micro climates in the Sonoran desert. The trail starts out at about 5ooo feet which is pinyon and oak scrub elevation here. The weather was quite pleasant, afternoons in the 70′s. It was a short first day due to the long drive in and to the fact that water seemed to be scarce, so I had to pick a location that had it close by.
Cows. The western section here has lots of cattle grazing going on judging from the chewed trails and abundance of cow shit everywhere. What few water holes there are are primary for cattle – Mud spring and upper Sycamore Creek. But water being scarce as it was… you take what you can get. Surprisingly, saw no cattle sign within the wilderness beyond Sycamore canyon.
I had planned to head on down Sycamore canyon to lower Rattlesnake, but mistook a new trail with an old map and by the time I realized I was going someplace else, the brushy scramble to get down to the canyon didn’t seem worth it. All the better… I ended up spending the second night at the Powers Garden. The ranch house there is stocked better then my own house… and open to anyone. Situated in an open area of a wooded canyon with several out-buildings, a corral and spring near by, it is pretty swank living for a backcountry cabin. I think it is a popular destination for horse campers as I met a group coming out and a few days later, another group staying there. But this night I had it all to myself – sort of.
The horse campers I met at the trailhead told me of a bear prowling around Powers Garden, but failed to tell me why. So, enjoying the warm afternoon reading, I would occasionally get the pungent whiff of dead animal but couldn’t locate it. About 4 in the afternoon, a medium sized black bear shows up at the fence of the horse corral. Figuring it best to make my presence known, I was surprised to find that no amount of arm-waving or noise making seemed to have any effect on scaring him off. The bear was in no way aggressive, just determined, kind of like a dog that really wants something, but doesn’t want to cause a fuss. At this point I realized that that unrecognizable mound in the horse corral, was a dead horse carcass… and that was drawing the bear. Ok… no way you can drive off a hungry bear, so I slowly retreated back a bit and the bear slowing ambled over to the corral and I got to watch the bear have his evening meal.
The next day I followed the creek down or what was really a dry river bed most of the way. As the canyon started to narrow the water appeared and the farther into the canyon the more the water flowed. I camped down here and had a wonderful night along the small creek. I had thought of exploring down the creek further beyond where the trail left it, but the poison oak was so thick that I thought better of it.
From here I backtracked a bit, on up past Powers Gardens, up Rattlesnake Creek to just above the Powers mine at Rattlesnake spring. The mine relics make you wonder how they ever got all that stuff up here. Huge pumps, engines, crushers… all in the 1920′s. What a noisy racket it must have made. The days were pleasant still, but the nights now got down into the high 20′s at night.
The next day I day hiked over to the famous Power’s mine and location of the shootout and continued down Kleiberg Canyon which was quite nice, dry but water at the dam marked on the map. After my dayhike, packed up to Holdout spring and spent the night there. Another somewhat famous location with a well used camp and one of the nicest caves I have ever been to. Perfect for a winter holdout. Complete with raised bunk, fireplace and indoor well.
At this point I had been devising my return trip back to the car. The main trails so far were in excellent shape, but I had noticed some of the older spur trails shown on the map were hard to find and follow. So I wondered how some of the loop trails would be as I had now planned to take one of two ways back – both relying on potentially non existent trails. I am not averse to off-trail – in fact I love off trail – but off trail through oak scrub can be a nightmare. My first choice for exiting was Paddy’s River – has to be water in a place named Paddy’s River, right? Well, not sure, so I filled my dromedary bag and hoped for the best. The trail up the ridge from Holdout was nice and the ridge trail was well maintained, but once I got the where I thought the junction to be with Paddy’s River trail, I found the unreadable 60 year old sign laying in a pile next to the trail. At this point I decided to give it a go rather than try option two. And it was hard to follow… it took all my off trail skills to follow the few cairns and the fading trail as it switch backed down a steep section of very brushy canyon. Once down in Paddy’s, travel was pleasant through this nice canyon… but bone dry.
That evening after camp was set up, I decided to look to see if water was about and figured the best bet was a tight ‘S’ bend in the creek down a ways. Sure enough I found a couple of very small pools – 3′ round maybe – complete with dead moths and algae, but the best sight ever when you are trying to conserve water.
The hike back out the car got no easier to follow. Kind of hit and miss with the trail, but on the section that required it – a narrow, very brushy section of canyon area – it was followable.
The trip turned out quite interesting, but the area was a lot drier than I had expected. Not sure if this was an abnormally dry year of this area doesn’t hold its water.