Noah and Thomas have hiked the Superstition Wilderness over a dozen times now, though most of our visits have been to the north end. First Water Ranch, Hackberry, Garden Valley, and even Siphon Draw are all located off of the Apache Trail. There's a lot of cool stuff on the south side that we haven't touched, mostly because it's been too rugged for them and it heats quickly in the summer. Well, this winter I wanted us to start exploring the Peralta and Carney areas.
We parked at a half-full Carney Springs Trailhead early in the morning. It is not a large lot and, with the popularity of Wave Cave, quickly overflows along the road as the day progresses. After checking over the boys and getting Charlotte bundled into the carrier we set off, following the old two-track north towards the impressive south face of Superstition Mountain, walking past the old Carney campground and into the wilderness. Thomas was a complete wreck along this section, tripping over rocks and repeatedly bruising his knees, bawling when I tried to hold his hand, making me wonder if we should bail before we got to the tougher miles ahead.
A short distance past the wilderness boundary there is a fork. The official trail continues south up to West Boulder Saddle, offering access to either Robber's Roost and Fremont Saddle or the Superstition Ridgeline, or, I suppose, West Boulder Canyon, to those willing to subject themselves to miles of relentless boulder-hopping. Wave Cave is accessible on the western fork. This was once an unofficial spur, though today there is a sign pointing the way and the tread is better defined than the one up to the saddle. Everyone wants an easier photo of the wave, I guess.
Thomas's attitude got better as we continued along. I distracted him by talking about Dacite Cliffs in the east and the gold mine that sits at the base of it. They are still really big into mines after a certain Mountain Rescue mission earlier in the year, one that got live media coverage, and frequently talk about how dangerous mines are and how Daddy needs to save the hikers at the bottom. I'll gladly take the fan base.
Our trail steepened past the fork, swinging around the side of a hill, and they began to slow down. It was funny, though, as there was a large group of hikers who had passed us while Thomas struggled on the flat two-track, and now, even with our slowing pace, we had caught up with them and began playing leap-frog. I love it when my kids can keep up and surpass adult hikers - not because the adult is slow, but my kids get outside and hike the rough trails and can handle it.
We swung around the hill and were faced by a number of obstacles. First, there are some actual climbs, where the trail zips up a small rock face that required some careful maneuvering for their little legs. Then it jumped across a wash, one that drains the side of Three Sisters, with plenty of huge boulders to crawl over. Finally it hauls up to the cave itself over loose scree. The boys loved this section, tackling each obstacle with enthusiasm, only slowing with the loose scree. One day I need to get them on vertical rock - kids have such natural climbing talents.
As soon as we entered the cave any hardship or fatigue from the long hike was forgotten. The cave floor slopes downhill to the entrance and is covered with soft silt, making for a tough, dusty trudge to get around, yet they ran and hollered around with excitement and no trouble. Noah quickly found his way to the eponymous wave formation, Thomas was shortly behind him, and then a friendly hiker took a group photo of us. And, of course, they had to make dust angels, because they are kids and had no qualms about how dirty they were about to get my freshly-cleaned Jeep.
The dust angels signaled the end of our playtime. More groups were showing up in the cave and they were filling the air with dirt and were starting to get out of hand. They were not happy about leaving, protesting and bargaining to play in the fun cave, though I didn't give in. Soon we were back on the trail, butt-sliding down the scree, crawling over boulders, and carrying down the little walls, and then trudging back in the full sun to the parking lot.
Even though the return was hot and the parking lot was overflowing and the boys were drained, I considered the hike to be an overall success. The mileage and elevation was less than Siphon Draw, though the terrain was rougher, and Fremont Saddle is only a few miles further down the road.