Saturday, June 15, 2024

Horse Canyon Miners' Highlights - 6/13/24

Macks Peak from Horse Peak

Ridge Route around to Horse Peak

View from old mining Road

Starting up Macks Canyon Road
If game trails and old miners' trails are your thing, this hike is for you. We have been exploring the Horse Canyon area for a few years now and this figure 8 loop represents three of its highlights; Camp 84, Horse Peak, and Nutans Road. It isn't a hike for beginners. The hike sometimes uses game trails, old mining trails, an unmaintained wash, and mild scramble routes. Brush is a constant. There is also a total of two very steep ascents and two very steep descents in scree. Fun? Well, then have at it! We did! Five of us parked at the Macks Canyon Road entrance on Lee Canyon Road. (By driving into Macks Canyon Road to the junction of Horse Canyon Road, you can knock off 1.2 miles.)

Camp 84

Ridge Route game Trail

Rocky Tor on Ridge Route

Desert below from Ridge Route
At the Horse Canyon Road, we turned left and hiked up  about a quarter mile where there is a small boulder on the left side of the road. We turned left to climb steeply up to the ridge while traversing south. The old miner's camp is still located on the ridge at the 8400' elevation. From there, we began a vaguely trailed, sometimes brushy traverse of the ridge to the south. This is probably the messiest section of the hike. We stayed as close to the ridge as possible as it curved south and west. A familiar trail appeared and we followed it all the way around to Horse Peak at around 8900'. There, we descended to the saddle below taking a deserved break in the shade on the side of the hill. The hike continued by dropping down the scree slope all the way down to the wash below to the left. I have called this Elks Club Wash due to the abundance of old elk scat found the first time we used the wash as a route.

Light trail on Ridge Route

Looking tired after Ridge Route

Horse Peak at Last!

Break in the Shade
At about 2.9 miles into the hike, we turned left up out of Elks Club to find the old mining road where you can find old mining equipment strewn over the area. These are the remains of the Ada & Edith Mine. We found Nutans Road and began following it on a traverse around the ridge to the east and the northwest, passed some more mining remains and took another small break in the shade. As Nutans Road took a last turn, we followed a use trail until we found ourselves climbing steeply up a scree slope to the ridge we had traversed earlier. It would have been better to head for a saddle on the ridge, however, as the brush would have it, we ended up on the highest peak of the ridge (!) only to start down the other side. Knowing this area helps as you cross the trail that you used before on the Ridge Route.

Old mine Site

Another mine Site

Gaining the Ridge

Heading down upper Horse Canyon
There is a somewhat open hillside to descend down into the upper part of Horse Canyon to find the upper regions of a trail that leads down to Horse Canyon Road. Thrilled that the hike was returning to a real trail, we happily arrived at the Horse Canyon Spring which is surrounded by a good amount of grass! Just after that, we sent a "puddle" of butterflies flurrying! There were Charleston blues and Painted ladies. On the way down the road, we passed a few other hikers and a ranger truck who stopped to ask if we had a good hike. Boy, did we ever! He had no idea! 😉 Yeah, just a little hike up the road and back! 😏

Stats: 5.2 miles; 1775' gain; 4.75 hours

Horse Canyon Spring

"Puddling" Butterflies

Horse Canyon Road

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Fletcher Peak v Teepee Route & Wild Horse Canyon - 6/10/24

Fletcher Peak from Teepee Route

View from the 1st Fletcher Peak

Old Bristlecone on North Loop Meadow - Mummy's Nose Beyond

Connector Trail is across from this sign.
This hike will deceive you. The steady climb of 1600 feet in elevation challenges you from beginning to end. Then ... add 500+ feet to the gain as you undulate throughout. All this is done within the 8400'-10,300' elevation range. What seems like an easy slow climb turns out to be a bit more than that. Three of us began at the Cougar Ridge Trailhead located 1/3 mile northwest of the North Loop Trailhead on Deer Creek Road (SR 158). It is a big paved turnout on the right. From this trailhead, you can hike Wild Horse Canyon, Wild Horse Ridge, Cougar Ridge Road and, using the connector trail, the North Loop Trail. The connector trail is an old road that hikers used in the place of the North Loop Trail back in the day. There are a lot of old road spurs in this area that were used when Deer Creek Road was a simple dirt road that was difficult to navigate in bad weather. The new road was built in 1976 and designated a scenic byway in 1988.

Hiking in on the Connector Trail

North Loop Trail

The Teepee Route Junction

Blazed tree on Teepee Route

Cliffs along Teepee Route
We walked up the road 0.15 mile and crossed the pavement at the elevation sign. The old road led us up to join the North Loop Trail and we took a right. Steadily climbing the familiar trail, the quiet of the morning was refreshing. We had seen several cars at the North Loop Trailhead but we didn't see the people. They were all ahead of us, perhaps climbing up to Charleston Peak on this beautiful day. At this time, it is quite an endeavor to climb Charleston on the North Loop Trail. It is 9.9 miles from the North Loop Trailhead to Charleston Peak. Twice that out and back. Or, descend on the South Loop (8 miles) and shuttle cars to get back up to the North Loop Trailhead. Or, vice versa. An 18 to 20 mile day. You can do it! But, start early! And, stash water out of sight of the trail on previous hikes. Go for it! (One year, I stashed water and was not able to get back to it. The next year, after snow, ice and animals etc., I went back for it and happily drank all of it!) Seriously?

Memorial Teepee

Landmark on a Ridge

Mummy's Toe (R) and Charleston Peak (L) from Fletcher Saddle

Starting up the Fletcher Peak Trail from Saddle

Griffith Peak from old twisty Bristlecones
About a mile up the North Loop Trail, we came to the junction of the Teepee Route. Not knowing if the route still existed after all this time, we surmised that we were not the first on the route this year. Suffice it to say, the route is not completely trailed. However, basically, it follows the cliffs on the left side mostly from a distance. There is one nice overlook high above Robbers' Roost. From there, it continues up to the next hill where the teepee resides. I must inject here that the teepee is a sacred place. Please just observe and continue. Several of our friends' ashes are placed in this area. Not far from the teepee, are the cliffs that rise over Hummingbird Gulch. An amazing view. Be very careful!

Beautiful old bristlecones on Fletcher Peak Trail

Griffith Peak 

Charleston Peak and south ridge from Fletcher Peak

Yep! We made it! (10,319'?)

Descent through Bristlecones
At the teepee, the route turns to the right up the hill a little and we found the game trail. It isn't easy but follow the trail up around to the next ridge overlooking the gulch and its wash. The trail jumps up a little but when you see Mummy's Toe rising up in front of you, that will become your trajectory as the trail becomes more and more apparent. The trail climb circles around to the left a little and up to the Fletcher Saddle where we all sat for a well needed break. (P.S. There are a few new trees to go around or up and over throughout the trail. It does add to the effort.) We sat there deciding whether to start our return here or continue to the peak. A man and his dog hiked by. O k a y. Let's climb Fletcher Peak! The climb up Fletcher Peak was slow but, we made it! First time this season for two of us. There was a little smoke in the air but we could see very well in all directions. What impressed me the most was that the Mahogany burn area was yellow! Filled with flowers or yellow bushes. Life is returning from the ashes.

Nearing Fletcher Saddle

North Loop Trail

Twisty Bristlecone Root

Breathing at High Point Corner

Starting down the North Loop Switchbacks
 As we sat for another break, the man and his dog returned from the "real" Fletcher Peak which is about 2 feet higher. We have always been satisfied with the first Fletcher Peak with all the gorgeous views. Maybe someday, we'll check it out. Soon, we started our descent. Down through the incredible display of old bristlecones to the saddle and up, up, up to the North Loop Trail. Turning right onto the North Loop, we continued our climb to the High Point Corner. The North Loop switchbacks were next. We passed a few hikers here. On down to the top of the meadow where we admired the old meadow bristlecone tree. This tree marks the junction of the Wild Horse Canyon Trail and we turned left. Many hikers use this trail so we didn't expect any obstacles that could not be overcome. But, after crossing over to the right turn DOWN, we did get a little tired of the many small switchbacks that gave little rest to the steepness. Finally, we passed Cactus Jack's Trail and continued down through the columbine-filled springs area. This part of the hike is calming and deserved. At the bottom, we came out right across the pavement from our car. A challenging hike at this stage of the game!

Stats: 6 miles; 2100' gain; 5 hours

Wild Horse Canyon Trail Spring

Wild Horse Canyon Trail

Narrows of Wild Horse Canyon