The day after the challenging and difficult, yet ultimately relaxing and recharging, solo adventure to Deadman Falls, my kids were driving me nuts. They had buckets of pent-up energy, nagging me while I clung to my coffee like a drowning man. Katie was fed up with them after a long Saturday alone so I decided to give everyone a break - it was time to take the kids for a hike.
It took me over an hour to get everyone fed and packed and in the car and, without much pre-planning and limited time, I decided to head out for a reasonably easy destination in the Superstitions, a riparian canyon outside of Superior. The drive was quick and the kids loved the winding dirt road through massive piles of mine tailings. We parked at a busy trailhead (well, there were six cars, more than I would have expected) and started down an old two-track towards Pinto Creek.
Haunted Canyon Trail makes a small half-circle, following Pinto Creek to an old ranching cabin before zipping up a saddle, ending unceremoniously on a gravel road. Chris and I once schemed about doing this an overnight, looping the road back down to the trailhead, or even an in-and-out, and had never gotten around to it. Today I'd be lucky if the kids made it halfway to the cabin. While the trail started as an easy two-track, it quickly crossed the swollen river, and while we tried to stick to the eastern bank, the footpath dried up and we were forced to cross.
I crossed first with Charlotte, holding her hand to keep her steady, and then let the boys cross on their own. The water was strong and knee-high on them and, with their hiking sticks for balance, they made it across without issue. Of course, once they realized that this was a 'water hike' and getting their boots wet was acceptable, they decided to take full advantage of the situation. Every stream, puddle, and pond along the two-track was mandatory wading, and even though we were now on the easier side of the creek, our pace slowed to a muddy crawl.
Less than two miles from the trailhead and the two-track ended in a tight roundabout. This wasn't because of the wilderness boundary or anything - instead, the nearby mine pulls a ton of water from this creek, and they had numerous pumps along the road, and this was as far upstream as they pulled. We paused here for a brief lunch, sheltered under huge trees and listening to the sound of the noisy creek, feeling about as far removed from Arizona desert as one could be.
I debated how much farther I wanted to take the kids. They were pleased as could be with the creek crossing and deep mud puddles, and would be content to simply turn around and head back. I wanted to continue, though. Two-tracks are terribly boring to walk on, and from the lunch spot I could see the path winding up the bank, luring my imagination. Plus, I had heard about a narrowing of the banks ahead, and wanted to experience a more traditional canyon. So on we went.
We only made it another half mile. They complained about who was the leader and I had to constantly moderate their order. Charlotte began to whine and wanted to hold my hand, though the trail was too narrow for that. When we reached the next crossing, which looked rocky and nasty and would have necessitated me ferrying each child individually, I called it. Noah was momentarily upset at missing out on another crossing, but the other two just went with it.
The return went quickly. I added a short detour to see the water station and an old cement dam, otherwise we stuck to the trail which took us to the two-track which had a million mud puddles that needed fresh exploring. Just to shake things up I decided to let all three of them cross Pinto Creek on the way back, coaching them from a safe distance, letting Noah and Thomas handle their much smaller and more float-away-able little sister. They all had big smiles... once they were safe on the bank.
We made it back home around five, which was perfect, as it gave me a chance for a late afternoon nap while Katie watched the kids and made dinner. Sometimes last minute plans work out best.