top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureDebbie Marsh

Journey to Weaver's Needle

Updated: May 6

Journey to Weaver's Needle: A Hiking Odyssey Through the Superstition Mountains Wilderness

weavers needle
Weaver's Needle - View from Peralta Trail

Saturday, April 27, 2024, marked a milestone for my husband and me as we embarked on a challenging wilderness hike deep into the heart of the Arizona Superstition Mountain Wilderness. It was more than just a hike; it was a testament to the idea that age cannot limit our capacity to push ourselves beyond our perceived limits. Thriving over 60 is not only possible but entirely doable, and our adventure was proof of that.


me on the Bluff Spring Trail

Into the Wild

We covered an estimated 13 miles in about 11 hours and 40 minutes. It was a wild ride, full of excitement, challenges, and surprises that we'll never forget.


The Chosen Path

Our adventure began at 10:20 am at the start of Peralta Trailhead. We decided to head towards Weaver's Needle by taking the Bluff Spring Trail, followed by the Terrapin Trail instead of the direct route up the Peralta Trailhead. This scenic yet challenging path promised to immerse us in the beauty of the wilderness. Our plan was to then head back via the Dutchman's Trail, heading back down by way of the Peralta Trail and return to our starting point. Originally the hike was mapped to be 11.1 miles. We soon learned, due to some of our hiking misses, it was closer to 13 miles.


The Outlined Map Route

To better understand our journey, and the trails and sites we saw, you need to understand the route we chose, on the map. I'm no expert, and still learning, but here's the rundown:


The Path in Order as shown in the map:

  1. Start at Peralta Trailhead. (10:30am AZ)

  2. Took trail to Bluff Spring Trail

    1. Pass Bark's Canyon

    2. Pass Terrapin Trail

  3. Took Terrapin Trail

    1. Pass Terrapin Pass

    2. Bluff Spring Mountains along part of the path

    3. Weaver's Needle in view

    4. Pass along Needle Canyon

  4. Took Dutchman's Trail (2:30-3:00pm AZ)

    1. Pass Upper Black Top Mesa

  5. Took Peralta Trail (halfway point to our return)

    1. Pass Boulder Canyon

    2. Pass Pinon Camp (Map 3.9 - we met Kevin)*

  6. Over Freemont Saddle (Night fall, 7:00pm AZ)

  7. Continue on Peralta Trail

    1. Pass Peralta Canyon

      1. Path to Geronimo's Cave nearby deep into the canyon (we did not go).

  8. Continued along Peralta Trail

    1. Pass Dacite Cliffs

    2. Pass Peralta Spring (20 minutes from the trailhead end).

  9. The end of Peralta Trail, back to Trailhead start and parking lot. (10:00pm arrival).

path around weavers needle
Weavers Needle - The Planned Path
Challenges and Determination

As we ventured deeper into the wilderness, we encountered large patches of overgrown trails, resembling dense jungles, along with sandy surfaces and steep inclines that required constant scrambling. The path alternated between narrow, winding trails and open vistas, leading us to cross through washes and rocky canyons. Despite the challenges, the surroundings offered breathtaking views that were simply amazing.


David on the Bluff Spring Trail

Encounters on the Trail

Along the way, we crossed paths with fellow hikers who shared their experiences. Some had just returned from visiting Weaver's Needle, while others decided not to continue and were heading back after being deterred by the distance or reports of snakes along the path (though we were fortunate enough not to encounter any). Despite their warnings about the time of day and the remaining distance, we remained confident and determine to press on.


As we neared the 5-mile mark, the iconic silhouette of Weaver's Needle emerged on the horizon, serving as a tangible reminder of our journey's progress. Upon reaching the Needle, we were greeted by a sight beyond words—a magnificent structure that left us in awe. The hike to Weaver's Needle had been nothing short of impressive, yet as fatigue began to take its toll and the sun beat down relentlessly, we knew it was time to start our return journey.


weavers needle in view from Terrapin trail

Despite the temptation of returning the same way we came, we made the bold decision to press on, opting for the longer route via the Dutchman's Trail back to the Peralta Trail. Though this choice added to our mileage, we were eager to fully embrace the wilderness experience we had set out to conquer.


We never felt the need to catch our breath, which was a relief! But soon enough, we realized just how challenging the journey would be. Endurance was crucial, and as time went on, we started feeling the strain. Our energy levels fluctuated, our joints ached, and the relentless sun beat down on us, all lasting longer than we expected.


me infront of Weaver's Needle

Running Low on Resources

Preparation proved vital for a hike of this magnitude. Despite my husband carrying our 20lb backpack filled with essentials such as food, water, first aid supplies, and more, it became evident that even the best-laid plans can fall short. As my husband, nearing his 62nd year, pressed on with the weight on his shoulders and hiking poles in hand, fatigue began to set in. Despite still having water, it became apparent that our supply wouldn't last the entire return journey.


With joint pain setting in, we paused to rest, hydrate, and refuel with a light snack before continuing towards the Dutchman Trail. The stretch from Terrapin Pass to Dutchman's offered scenic views but presented steep descents and treacherous terrain. As the sun beat down relentlessly and loose rocks made the path slippery, my husband slipped forward, cushioned by the backpack he carried. Moments later, I too lost my footing but managed to break my fall with my hand, avoiding any serious injury. Shaken but determined, we pressed on, mindful of the challenging terrain that lay ahead on our descent to the Dutchman's Trail.


Dutchman's Trail, on our way to Peralta

Despite being well-prepared with sunscreen, hats, breathable clothing, sturdy hiking shoes, and a properly filled backpack equipped with hiking poles, the strain of the journey began to take its toll. The journey to Dutchman's Trail demanded extra energy, and we started experiencing more than just fatigue. This was when the harsh reality of our water supply shortage hit home. Even though we had brought plenty of water, it wasn't enough. We had to start rationing our water, staying calm, and keeping each other motivated.


Reaching Dutchman's Trail was a relief, but we decided to push on to Peralta before taking a proper break. As we reached the halfway point back to our starting point, fatigue came in waves, and we continued rationing our water to maintain enough energy to keep moving forward. However, the realization that we wouldn't have enough water to make it back was a formidable reality. At that moment, we didn't know how our journey would end, but we knew we had to keep pushing forward with unwavering faith and determination.


Pushing Forward

Motivating each other, we pressed on, trying to pick up the pace as nightfall approached. Despite our exhaustion, we took short breaks to sip water. I experienced a scary cramp in my abductor, making it difficult to walk, but I pushed through mentally, knowing I had to keep moving forward. The power of the mind and a positive mindset, coupled with faith, guided us through the most challenging moments of our journey.


We made sure to sip our water and ration it carefully to avoid dehydration and weakness. We ate sparingly, just enough to provide energy without increasing our need for water, which was already hard to swallow. With another 7 miles to go and less than 2 hours of daylight remaining, we took another break to rest, and managed to work through the physical pain and pressed on without stopping. It had never been our intention to stay the night, so I kept my husband reassured and motivated, assuring him that we would find a solution to our water situation as long as we kept moving forward.


Despite his efforts to keep me calm, I couldn't shake off my growing anxiety. As darkness fell and we were still hours away from reaching the car, the seriousness of the situation became apparent. We both acknowledged that if we couldn't find another solution, we would have to camp out and wait until morning. Fortunately, there were plenty of cacti, firewood, and a nearby running creek where we could hike to for resources. The only thing we lacked was enough water, or a way to filter it from the creeks and streams along the trails. We needed more water.


Lots of trail to cover

A Serendipitous Encounter

Regardless of one's beliefs or faith, whether in God or the universe, it felt as if a higher power intervened while we were on that trail, facing the grim reality of running out of water. After hiking about 3 miles of our 7-mile finish, my husband spotted what looked like a wild dog. We had been assured that there were no wild animals like this in the wilderness, yet here it was, seemingly appearing out of nowhere.


Instantly, my husband signaled for me to retrieve our gun from the backpack on his back. Reacting quickly, and stuck my hand in the pack, and grabbed it and had it ready. But then, my husband's attention shifted to his right, where he was startled once more. I thought it might be another dog, as they often travel in packs, but to our surprise, it was a young man. The dog wore a collar, indicating it wasn't wild. I hesitated with the gun, released it, and zipped the backpack shut.


As my husband engaged in conversation with the young man, we learned his name was *Kevin, coming all the way from Utah. He was camping in the wilderness with his dog and had plans to hike to Weaver's Needle the next day, completely roughing it. Kevin empathized with our predicament of having no water. He generously offered us his bottled water and the water from his backpack.


Grateful and touched by his generosity, we accepted Kevin's offer. He assured us that he wasn't worried about sharing his water, as he was planning to filter more from the nearby creek when we showed up. Kevin shared that he had been in our shoes before, hiking with no water and no resources nearby. He understood our situation and was genuinely worried about us, especially since we clearly weren't planning to stay the night in the wilderness.


A Stroke of Luck

Encountering Kevin felt like a miracle. He was our savior in that moment. If we hadn't crossed paths with him and received water, I shudder to think what might have happened to us. It's a moment I never want to forget, a reminder of the unexpected blessings that can come our way when we least expect them.


Kevin reassured us that once we reached the Freemont Saddle, the path leading to the end of the Peralta Trailhead would become mostly downward and less rugged. With about two hours left to reach the Freemont Saddle and the sun beginning its descent, we pressed forward on our journey.


looking back at Needle canyon on the Peralta trail

About a mile past our encounter with Kevin, we decided to take a brief break. We resorted to a a longer rest period, sipped more water, and nibbled on some remaining food. As we resumed our hike, the diminishing sunlight posed a challenge.


Suddenly, we faced an unexpected challenge—the trail vanished, leaving us at a loss. We searched around, hoping to spot any clues about where it might continue, but our efforts failed. A moment of worry sounded from our voices as we reluctantly considered the idea of retracing our steps to Kevin's location.


Taking a moment to gather our thoughts, we acknowledged that we had enough water and provisions to camp if needed. Revisiting the spot where we had stopped, we retraced our steps and consulted our map. It occurred to us that the trail couldn't just vanish, and we likely missed a turn somewhere in the thick brush.


Carefully scanning our surroundings, my husband eventually spotted the faint outline of the trail hidden by shrubs and rocks. Relieved, we continued on our journey, picking up our pace as darkness fell.


Nearing the End

Armed with flashlights, we made our way up the steep trail toward the Freemont Saddle, determined to conquer the rugged terrain before darkness fully took over.


Now equipped with water and a renewed sense of determination, we pressed on even as night descended upon us. Though we lacked the convenient headlamp-style flashlights, we gripped our flashlights and hiking poles tightly, forging ahead in survival mode. As we neared the Freemont Saddle, my flashlight suddenly flickered out. I immediately switched to using the flashlight on my phone, a bit more cumbersome with my pole in hand, but it sufficed for the remainder of our journey. The closer we got to the Saddle, the darker and more ominous the trail became. Thankfully, our flashlights cast enough light to illuminate the path directly ahead, revealing the rugged canyon rocks around us. Knowing the risks, my husband led the way while I followed closely behind, my focus solely on him and the ground before me. With the nightfall, my prescription sunglasses were no longer needed.


Upon reaching the summit of the Freemont Saddle, my husband spotted distant lights, from far away, possibly campers somewhere up on one of the cliffs or saddles; or maybe from a far away road. Not knowing where the lights were coming from, using his flashlight, my husband waved it as a signal to them, ensuring our presence was known. Those lights remained with us for the rest of the hike. While the journey downhill was somewhat easier, it still presented challenges as we navigated through washes and scrambled over rocky terrain, occasionally encountering stretches of open sandy paths. Our fatigue continued, compounded by the pitch-black darkness surrounding us. At times, the distant lights vanished from view as we descended into the depths of the wash. Despite a few instances of wondering slightly off course, we managed to navigate back onto the trail, encountering various wildlife along the way, from toads and chipmunks to bats and birds, yet thankfully, no snakes or other wild animals, nor any other humans.


I forgot to mention earlier that, besides our trusty map, we also had a tracking app on our phones. It recorded our distance and time, which came in handy for the rest of our hike. I checked the app to see how far we'd come and how much further we had to go, comparing it to our map. My husband thought we still had hours ahead, but according to my calculations, we were getting pretty close. Then, as we made our way along, he heard the sound of running water nearby. Turns out, there was a creek right beside us. We spotted a big boulder, the perfect spot for another break. We sat, sipped water, and reflected on our day. Meeting Kevin, our unexpected hero, and all the crazy experiences we'd had. It just reminded us how tough we are as a team. After our breather, we checked the map and the app again. That running water had to be Peralta Spring, meaning we were nearing the end of the trail. And guess what? We were less than 20 minutes away.


Reflecting on the Journey

Eager to finish up the hike, we pushed on, just wanting it to be over. The trail seemed to stretch on forever, and my husband couldn't shake the feeling that we were nowhere near the end. Then, he spotted a bunch of signs and suddenly realized – we'd made it. We were back where we started, at the parking lot where we kicked off our adventure at 10:20 am. We were both super excited! "We did it!" my husband shouted out, his voice echoing. "We're over 60, and we just hiked 13 miles!" We stopped, looked at each other, hugged tightly, kissed, and told each other how much we loved one another. Then, we headed straight for the car. Opening up the trunk, we grabbed our big jug of spare water and drank it down in big gulps. After tossing our hiking gear in the trunk, we hopped in the car and hit the road. On the drive back home, we couldn't stop talking about how amazed we were, how blessed we felt, and how grateful we were for the whole experience.


Even today, we're still in disbelief over the whole experience. Surprisingly, we came out of it with no major injuries, just a couple of scratches, some pesky foot blisters, and a bit of sunburn. Despite battling fatigue and dehydration, we emerged as victorious warriors! Now, we're already plotting our next hiking adventures for the fall.


Conclusion

Our hike through the Superstition Mountain Wilderness was a true testament to the idea that age is just a number when it comes to adventure. Meeting fellow hikers, some our age and even one in his 70s, along the way only reaffirmed this belief. It showed us that thriving over 60 isn't just a dream – it's completely achievable. Our journey was living proof of that.


As our thrilling journey through the Superstition Mountain Wilderness comes to a close, my husband and I are already eagerly planning our next hiking adventure. With the Peralta Trail and Freemont Saddle still fresh in our minds, we're determined to conquer them again, this time during daylight. Additionally, we're setting our sights on exploring further along the Bluff Spring Trail to catch a glimpse of the enchanting Minor's Needle. The anticipation is palpable, and we simply can't wait to hit the trails once more. Be sure to check back regularly for updates on our upcoming adventures, and don't forget to sign up for email notifications to stay in the loop with all our latest posts and excursions!


Be sure to watch the video I created for a full pictorial of this beautiful hike!

Use the link below:



Disclaimer: The experiences shared in this post are personal and may not reflect the outcomes of similar adventures for others. Hiking in wilderness areas involves inherent risks, including but not limited to physical exertion, exposure to natural elements, and encounters with wildlife. Before attempting any outdoor adventure, individuals should thoroughly research the area, assess their own abilities and limitations, and take appropriate precautions, such as carrying adequate supplies and informing others of their plans. Always prioritize safety and follow best practices for outdoor recreation.



Related Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page