Powers Garden, Galiuro Mountains

October 7-9, 2011

Powers Garden kicked our butts. The more popular trail comes in from the east via Deer Creek Road, but it's 18 miles round trip with a 2000-foot elevation gain and lots of route finding. We approached from the north, via Rattlesnake Mesa, following a 4WD road that runs atop a narrow ridge for eight miles and dead-ends just above Rattlesnake Canyon. During an exploratory hike on August 26 — in 106° heat — we hiked as far as the wilderness boundary. From there the old road drops steeply into Rattlesnake Canyon, and according to all reports, it was an easy five miles to the cabin.

It's a 500-foot descent into the canyon on a surface of loose marbles. But part way down, we caught our first glimpses of milky green water in the stream — a nice surprise, since we'd heard reports that the canyon could be dry and were packing all our water for two days. I was toting a dazzling 15 pounds of water in addition to my normal pack weight. Almost immediately, our delight was tempered the drone of clouds of mosquitoes, and the realization that the "old road" had long since been replaced a tangle of downed trees and boulders.

The first mile was particularly difficult, with many stream crossings and fruitless searching for anything resembling a trail amid the brush and the muck. Eventually, the canyon walls retreated and we had easier hiking on a sandy trail under a canopy of Arizona sycamores and Ponderosa pines that reminded me a bit of the Gila Wilderness. After a six-hour hike (two on the road and four in the canyon bottom), we were dazed to actually find ourselves on the site of a civilized-looking ranch, on the edge of the meadow with to-die-for views of the ruddy cliffs of the Galiuro Mountains. The main cabin is a respectable adobe built in the 1930s, and was not only in good repair, but outfitted with a small woodstove and propane lanterns. As evening temperatures plummeted, we were quite happy to have a warm place to relax after dinner.

The temperature dove into the lows 20s overnight — a bit of a shock after an almost-too-warm day. We were cozy in our little jack-o-lantern tent, and awoke to brilliant sunshine with time to explore the old log cabin and horse curry combs, old metal ploughs and other reminders of the ranch's long history.

We were all disappointed to retrace our steps the next morning, and have vowed to return when we can spend a full day at the ranch, bringing with us fresh stocks of propane, mantles and good coffee!