Friday, June 6, 2014

Middle Deer Creek Canyon (O&B) - 6/6/14

Deer Creek Canyon Overlook at Pinnacle Rock

Mummy's Nose from Deer Creek Canyon Trail

Lee Canyon from Trailhead

Here's a new one! The wooden signs call it the Deer Creek Loop, however, our hike today would be better suited for a name such as Middle Deer Creek Canyon (out and back). This is a very well marked trail that begins at the chain link fence & solar panels trailhead at Lee Canyon Highway's mile marker 10.5. The signs indicate that the trail is made for horses and bikes, however, hikers are probably welcome. We did not see any other trail users throughout the morning but we did see hoof prints and motorbike tracks. We also saw evidence of elk and deer.

Tree Bones
We dropped down into Lee Canyon on the trail behind the chain link fenced in solar panels and followed the trail to cross the wash below. Soon, we passed the trail junction for the Lee Canyon trail heading up the large wash.

Approaching the First High Point

We went straight and climbed up the hill to immerse ourselves in a pinyon pine and juniper filled terrain that undulated over the small ridges in front of us. Sometimes we went over the ridges and sometimes we went with the contours. The early hour provided us with shade from the hills and trees on a day when the temperatures would be climbing into the 80's at this elevation. There was a small breeze that kept us comfortable.

Entering the Lower Elevations at Early Morning
Our views of the mountains to our southwest and the desert playa to the north east were expansive and gorgeous under the blue sky. We could clearly see all of Mummy Mountain except that, from this angle, it looked more like a bird mummy!

Mummy Mountain (R.I.P.)

After passing the lower elevation section of the hike where we dipped into the scrub and joshua trees, we climbed back up into the pines and junipers. We took a left at some trail flags sticking out of the dirt then found a partially fenced spring. What a surprise! Obviously, the horses (wild and domesticated) drank from the watering hole. Getting back on the trail, we took the left fork again. This trail took us on a long switchback up to the top of the ridge above Deer Creek Canyon.

Second Spring Found Just Above Canyon
The trails in this area are a mess of game trails. They hang on the rim of the very deep canyon and pass by another spring coming out of the canyon wall. We found a good place to overlook the canyon at a rock pinnacle. Still, we would not recommend anyone giving the big rock a small push!

Lettie Explores the Rim Trail
As we peered down into the canyon, we wondered if there was any sort of trail on the bottom. We already have another idea for an exploratory hike!

View Down Deer Creek Canyon

As we were viewing the canyon, two dark colored burros walked by on the canyon floor! Find one of them in the photo to the left. (Lower left.) Up canyon, there were ponderosa pines growing. Down canyon, the large crevice opened out into the distant desert. We looked for a good place to take a morning snack but had to retreat uphill for shade and seating. Our mileage was then right around 4 miles.

Trail Near Canyon
We rested up and got up to head back. The small maze of trails offered an option for the return to the first spring. Our instincts proved correct and we got back to the spring quickly.

The Pre-Hikers! ... ahem ... The Explorers!

Next, we took another option that we thought might take us back to the trail junction marked by orange flags. We were correct again! From then on, it was a simple matter of following the same trail that we came out on. This proved to be harder than it sounds! The high and low points of the hike are on the beginning and, subsequently, the ending of the 7.5 miles. Therefore, the last 2 miles of the hike are somewhat grueling in the warm days of late spring.

Dead Tree Stands Alone
The distant views of the lower elevations improved with the rising sun. The mountain views were better in the early morning.

Mid-Morning View of the Lower Elevations

During the last couple of miles, we climbed up and over and around five ridges. That, plus the climb back out of Lee Canyon to the cars were the most taxing parts of the hike. Otherwise, the ups and downs were barely noticed and we were free to enjoy the Spring Mountains high desert terrain.

7.5 miles; 1300 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Macks Peak in Distance

Huge Cairns Mark the Trail Crossing the Lee Canyon Wash

Returning to the Trailhead

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