Saturday, January 21, 2012

Reavis Ranch New Year

Hike Report
New Years Hike
December 31 - January 2, 2012

Michael at the Trail Head
It has been a couple of years since we assembled the group for our Traditional New Year's hike. Joe Tansill and I started the tradition by rounding up the boys and heading into the Wilderness for a 2-3 night backpacking trip over New Years Weekend. We think this was our 6th outing. We started the tradition with a trip to Angel Basin in the Superstition Wilderness east of Phoenix in 2004. We returned there in 2006 and took two trips the Sycamore Creek (2005 and 2009) area of the Tonto National Forest north of town, and a trip to the Indian Paint (2007) area north of Canyon Lake, also in the Superstitions.
This year we settled on a 3 day/ 2 night expedition and selected the Reavis Ranch area of the Superstition Wilderness. Joe and I have both been to the area on previous trips over the years. We selected the northern approach from the Reavis trail head near Apache Lake. Its a well marked 9.5 march to the Reavis Ranch area. We planned to hike and set camp on Day 1, hike to the Circlestone ruins on Day 2, and hike out on Day 3.

This year's participants included a newcomer, Daniel's roommate David. Mark Atkins and Jacob Tansill had better offers for the weekend and missed our trip. Our 7 man team fit nicely in Deb's Urban Assault Vehicle.

Goin' in photo!
31 December 2011
Michael and I were up early brewing coffee and packing the last minute items in the truck. Deb bid us farewell and Michael drove us to the Tansill's to pick of the balance of the expedition (Joe, David, Daniel, Jonathan, and Patrick). Luckily Joe's coffee brewer was up and running and we reloaded our cups while we packed all the Tansill gear into the truck and headed out on US 60 toward the Apache Trail. We followed AZ 88 past Canyon Lake, down Fish Creek Hill, and found the well-marked turnoff to the Reavis trail head just past the ADOT maintenance yard (if you get the the Apahe Lake Marina, you have gone too far!

Perfect day for a hike!
Surprisingly, we regained cell service at the trail head (we think there must be a cell tower near the Apache Lake Marina!). We posted a few pictures, hoisted our packs, took the obligatory goin' in photo, and were on the trail by 0950!

The boys set a solid pace and we covered nearly two miles in the first hour before before we stopped to slather on some sunscreen and peel off a few layers of clothing!

Old fence line on one the saddles north of Castle Dome
The trail is very easy to follow. It is the remnants of the road/wagon trail to Reavis Ranch before the area was designated a wilderness area and motor traffic was prohibited! A few miles from the trail head, the grade becomes a very steady and tilts up toward the Castle Dome formation. The trail enters a wide valley and it is very easy to see the trail for miles winding toward Castle Dome!

By now our little team had stretched out along the trail. With Joe and I bringing up the rear; we reached the north saddle of the Dome at about noon. The rest of the team was motoring up the trail, as we came around the bend. Luckily (they had the lunch bag) they waited for us about 500 meters from the south saddle. We agreed to take lunch at a spot called Windy Pass on the map (about three quarters of a mile up the trail). Again they motored up the trail and were soon out of sight.
Joe powers up toward Castle Dome

Grassy slopes below Castle Dome

Heading toward Windy Pass after lunch
The lead element of our team stopped at the south saddle, just before Windy Pass. It was a great spot for lunch, so we stopped right there. 
We feasted on sardines, cheese, salami, flat bread, honey and peanut butter smorgasbord style for lunch. Joe broke out some targets and soon they were filled with holes from Joe's historic .22 target pistol and Mike's 9 mm handgun!

After our leisurely lunch and shooting break, we were back on the trail. From here the trail heads mostly downward toward Reavis Creek and our day's destination; Reavis Ranch.

Flow Springs and Frog Tanks Areas from Windy Pass
As we wound down the trail toward Windy Pass, we could see the Frog Springs area in the distance. On one of our previous Angel Basin hikes, we had to hike all the way to Frog Tanks to get water! Windy Pass was in fact very windy and not very conducive to a proper lunch break!

Soon the trail dropped into the Reavis Creek drainage and we could hear the water running in the creek. There are several springs in the area that feed this creek, a very reliable water source, in a very unexpectedly lush and flat valley.

After nine and a half miles of hiking, we were all ready to find a good spot to set up our camp. There were lots of fire rings and places to camp in the lower valley. But we pressed on and soon the trail continued through a nice grassy park. We left the trail and headed toward the creek and found a very grassy flat spot under the trees near the creek with a fire ring and some sittin' logs. This was the spot.

The team dropped packs and started setting up the camp area. By the time we were set up, the sun dropped behind the ridge and the temperature started dropping dramatically. Mike and I started preparing dinner as Team Tansill started gathering firewood. We prepared Chicken Quesadillas, enjoyed a nice salad, a great campfire, and awesome fellowship. Even though it was before 10 pm; we were all in the sack well before midnight on New Years Eve!

1 January 2012
All thumbs up for pancakes!
Mike and I rolled out of the tent early New Years Day. Since today's objective was a day hike to the Circlestone Ruins, we could afford a nice leisurely breakfast of coffee and pancakes. So with Michael firmly at the wheel of the FryBake pan, we cooked pancakes until we used up the whole box of Crustez mix and everyone had their fill. We had a few extra, so we put them in the lunch bag and set off for the ruins a little after 1000.  

Front steps of the Reavis Ranch Cabin
About a half-mile up the main trail we arrived at the ruins of the Reavis Ranch Cabin. All that stands there now is the foundation and the front steps. The rest of the cabin was destroyed in a fire in 1999 (The first time I hiked to the Reavis Ranch many years ago the cabin was still there!). After we checked out the cabin area we dropped into the creek bed to pump some water for our day packs. Soon we found the Fireline trail and were climbing out of the Reavis Valley toward Mound Mountain.

Snow patch along the Fireline Trail

The Circlestone ruins sit on a minor peak a few hundred feet below Mound Mountain at 6000 feet. The trail continues up from the ranch area to a saddle above the valley. There were several snow patches on the saddle and a few snowballs were tossed about.

We continued along the trail as it began to drop down into the next valley. About a half-mile from the saddle a rock carin marks a side trail that heads UP to the Circlestone ruins. The ruins are a ancient ceremonial site. The walls (some are still standing) form a circle on the sub peak. Inside the circle are some smaller rooms. Some astronomical studies have indicated that a number of the doors and openings of the ruins align with the celestial motions. We thought is was a cool spot for lunch. From the ruins we could make out the mountains and skyscrapers in the Scottsdale and Phoenix areas.

No human would stack rocks like this!

Enjoying lunch in the ruins.

We posed for a group photo and headed back down toward the ranch and our camp. Back at camp we started the process of gathering firewood, pumping water, preparing dinner, and having enjoying a hot drink or two.

With plenty of daylight, we had plenty of time to prepare two versions of Steve's Chicken (regular and PKU) and spend time around the campfire. The weather was a little warmer and we spent more time around the fire toasting marshmallows and relaxing.

Old farm equipment at the ranch
2 January 2012
Mike firing up the bagel melts
We planned to head out early to get home in time to take our respective brides out to dinner. So that meant getting up before dawn and starting breakfast. Mike and I fired up the coffee pot, packed our bags and tent, and fired up the FryBake. The best way to entice a sleepy camper out of their cosy cot is to have piping hot bagel melts and coffee ready to go. 

Heading out
Soon we were packed and heading up the trail toward Castle Dome. We planned to have lunch and more shooting practice at our Day 1 lunch spot, but the wind too strong. We decided to continue to the saddle on the north side of Castle Dome. It was protected from the wind and offered great views and a perfect spot for a 'road kill' (anything left to eat) lunch and more target practice!

The sardine cans did not stand a chance against out team of marksmen!

It was almost all downhill back to the trailhead and we made great time. We loaded the truck and with Michael behind the wheel we were soon heading back up Fish Creek Hill. There was quite a bit of traffic since it was the New Years Day holiday. We decided to stop at Tortilla Flats for a cold adult beverage. The place was hopping with motorcyclists and tourists. The restaurant had a wait so we decided to have a few beers and sodas on the patio. We were able to get our drinks right away and find a table. A 4 piece country band provided great entertainment. When the band finished their set we decided to call it a trip and head back to the valley.

Tortilla Flats

Where to next year?

A few more pictures here.

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