We are up around 6:30, eat, pack, and leave at 8:00. Our plan is to carry minimal water up to Page Springs where we will filter for the dry camp tonight and the trip out tomorrow. The trail climbs a little and then heads northwest for about a half-mile until reaching the trail junction heading up to Horseshoe Mesa. We have less than three miles and about 1200' of altitude gain to reach the mesa, so this shouldn't be too bad today. However, it is pretty warm already, so I wish we had left a little earlier. Had we done that, we would be in the shade now. It's a pretty view looking back toward Hance Creek.
We continue to see lots of plant life. The flowers and cactus are just starting to bloom and this is one of the few Century plants with an extended stalk I have seen that was alive.
After about an hour and a half, we reach the trail junction to Page Springs, also called Miner's Spring. The spring is named for prospector John Page. This old wheelbarrow is kind of neat. We leave our packs here and walk to the spring with our filter and bottles.
We reach the spring in a few minutes. It is lush with Redbud trees and other growth. The pool is fairly big, so we have no trouble filtering water. We spend about a half-hour filling all our bottles and Platypus containers. Just before reaching the main trail again, we meet a couple doing a day hike from Grandview Point.
The trail is definitely steeper from this point on. This is turning into a much harder climb than I imagined. Of course, that seems to be the general theme of this whole hike. In another half-hour, we see a lot of rock tailings, so a mine must be just ahead. We then come to some interesting steam-powered equipment, an old tank, and a mine entrance. There are plenty of the green, copper-laden rocks laying around. That must have been a challenge to get men and equipment down here and get the ore back to the rim.
I didn't think the trail could get any steeper, but it does. It takes another hour to reach Horseshoe Mesa. I first come to what appears to be a mule-driven, cable winding device. Maybe that's how they transported the ore up from that mine shaft below.
The Last Chance Mine is just around the corner. Downhill from it is an old tin-can trash pile. Just before reaching the cook's cabin and campsites, I come to an interesting stone marker with numbers on it. I wonder if this is how Pete Berry marked his copper mining claim on Horseshoe Mesa.
The cook's cabin is the only structure left on the Mesa. It is substantially intact, but I was upset to see that someone had taken the large cooking pot out of the fireplace and threw it on the floor. The pot was in the fireplace when I was here last year. It's a shame that some people disturb historical artifacts. Click here to see two pictures of original buildings at Horseshoe Mesa taken around 1903.
I find an empty campsite near the portable toilets. The Park Service removed the one built-in toilet and replaced it with two that are completely portable. Two of the workers, Russell and Frank, have bundled the debris and are waiting on the helicopter to haul the stuff to the rim. It is fascinating to watch the chopper carry everything away. Their next project this afternoon is to disassemble the built-in toilet at the group campsite and replace it with a portable unit.
The dominant physical feature on the mesa is a butte just to the north of the campsites. Art and I talk with Randy, a solo hiker about our age, who has been over to Grapevine and Lonetree Canyons and returned. We give him directions to Cave of the Domes. At one time early this morning, Art and I toyed with the idea of hiking all the way to the rim today. Since we are again quite tired, we promptly dismiss that idea. Anyway, it will be good to get a whole afternoon of rest before the climb out tomorrow.
Randy returns a little later, offers us a drink, and we all talk about his cave explorations. We are surprised that the three of us are the only hikers on the Mesa tonight. This normally is a very popular place in the spring. Art and I agree to get up early tomorrow to avoid the heat and sunshine we encountered this morning.