We packed up our site, threw our packs on our backs, and headed down Bluff Springs Trail to get back to the trailhead. It was a cool, sunny morning, and we'd had several days to ourselves in this beautiful wilderness. We talked about the hike, talked about our youth and about getting older, and thought about the breakfast burritos we were going to grab in Phoenix before we got on the plane. It had been a great getaway, although more stressful at times than I'd have hoped due to critters and weather conditions. More than anything, it made us excited for our backpacking season in the Pacific Northwest to begin. And those blue skies weren't too bad.
We woke again to beautiful morning light, enjoyed several cups of coffee, and let the condensation on the tent dry before we packed up. I was reminded that morning, while staring for several minutes at drops of dew hanging from the tips of bent grass, how wonderful it is to be in the wilderness with nothing more than the beauty of the big, wide world filling my mind. We headed south through Needle Canyon on Terrapin Trail which became my favorite hike of the trip. The sky was perfectly blue and the terrain was stunning with saguaro, ocotillo, and prickly pear cacti, huge agave plants, and piles of big rocks everywhere. It was a desert playground. We took tons of photos and laughed at how amazing the setting was. Eventually we made it to Bluff Spring Trail which we took east, set up camp (where we saw our second exciting critter - a scorpion), and continued on without our packs. Our destination was a dot on our map marked "Giant Saguaro." I'm not sure that we ever found that specific cactus (there were so many that fit that description!) but the trail through Bluff Spring Canyon was stunning. On our way back to our tent, we soaked our feet and washed up a bit in the prettiest little water hole. Back at the campsite, we sat by a fire and watched the colors in the sky get dramatic as the sun set. We were cozy in our tent when I heard a sound I hadn't heard all weekend - a loud screech. I turned to Barry and asked if he heard it, if it was a bird. He vaguely nodded and I drifted off to sleep. The following morning, I learned that Barry had a fitful night's sleep. While I'd slept through it, the screeching apparently continued all night long, coming from several directions in a wide circle around us in the canyon. Barry was pretty confident that he knew what the screeches were, and they weren't coming from birds. His thoughts were confirmed later when we found this video.
We spent a leisurely morning at our campsite, admiring the early light of day on the mountains around us. Leaving our big packs at the site - such a nice treat - we headed east for a short hike through Upper La Barge Box on Red Tanks Trail, back to our site grab our things, and then west on Red Tanks Trail through La Barge Canyon. We wove our way through all types of cacti and past several refreshing streams (which were "flowing" according to the park ranger we'd met at the trail head, some of which we might have called a trickle and which will completely dry up in the following month of two) where we cooled our feet. Gorgeous mountain views surrounded us. The hiking was fun and relatively easy without much elevation gain, but the sighting of the rattle snake the day before had us both on high alert. We were using out hiking poles to tap the growth ahead of us along the narrow trail to alert any critters living within that we were coming. Toward the end of the day when we were feeling ready to set up camp for the night, we got to a trail intersection near Charlebois Spring where there was plenty of available water and a few open, flat spots to set up a tent. But the number of mountain lion and badger paw prints in the sandy soil was warning enough not to spend the night there. We hiked on only to find that the water sources fizzled out. We had to backtrack a bit to fill up on water for the night, and then had to push on to find a suitable spot for our tent. We were tired and a bit sore, but so relieved to find the coziest spot for a campsite with a little cacti garden next to the tent and stunning rocky peaks all around us - Black Top Mesa to the west and Weavers Needle to the south. It was good to rest our feet and heads that night.