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Friday, April 10, 2009

LOWER LaBARGE CREEK

LOWER LABARGE CREEK Superstition Wilderness Tucked into the sun-drenched cacti-studded hills surrounding Canyon Lake, a little-known path leads to a surprisingly lush pool of water, complete with its own sandy beach. Although the middle of the desert might not sound like a good place to find fall foliage, a hike into the lower reaches of LaBarge canyon rewards with torch-bright clusters of Velvet ash, Arizona sycamore, Goodding willows and Fremont cottonwood trees. To find this hidden oasis of color, follow Boulder Canyon Trail #103 for roughly a half-mile to the top of a rise and look for a faint, unmarked path that leaves the main trail and heads right and downhill into LaBarge Creek. Once at the creek, simply hike upstream among the boulders and seasonal pools. Accenting the colorful flora, are veins of jasper and quartz crystals which splatter the craggy canyon walls in shades of ruddy-red and ivory. Fragrant stalks of desert lavender, rustling reeds and frothy clumps of pampas grass add the finishing touches to the canyon’s jumbled crags and rubble-strewn floor. LENGTH: 5.6-mile out-and-back RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 1,680 – 2,300 feet GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take Highway 60 east to Apache Junction to the Highway 88 (Idaho Road) exit. Turn left at the off ramp light and continue on Hwy-88 for approximately 15 miles to the Canyon Lake Marina between mileposts 210 and 211. The trail begins at the sign for Boulder Canyon Trail #103 across the road. A Tonto Pass is NOT necessary if you park in the designated trailhead spaces. Information: fs.fed.us/r3/tonto or call Mesa Ranger District (480) 610-3300

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