Monday, May 25, 2015

Mud Springs - 5/24/15

Mud Springs and Meadow

Mud Springs Trail

 Mud Springs Trail is an approximately 20 mile loop that begins and ends at the Sawmill Trailhead. Last week and this week, we explored two sections of this newly maintained equestrian and hiking trail. We began on Macks Canyon Road, today, where we left off last week; around 2.5 miles out the high clearance road at a large campsite area. Physically and mentally prepared for rain (which never came), we set out bushwhacking toward the northwest direction. With the previous week's route still fresh in mind, we hiked directly to the Mud Springs trail junction saddle without a hitch.

Mud Springs Trail Junction from Bushwhacking
 The saddle hangs high above a wide wash and we proceeded down the trail. As we crossed the wash at the bottom, we passed the alternate approach trail coming in from Macks Canyon Road much lower down. It's trailhead is located almost at the end of the dirt road.

Which peak is under which cloud?

Mud Springs Trail
 The coordinator of today's hike had only been out this trail one time several years ago but it was obvious to her that the trail had been rerouted to lead around on a higher contour. To get to the top of the first two springs, we would have had to transfer to the non-maintained old trail and drop down. We decided to enjoy the good trail and stayed up high missing the first two springs. The trail undulated quite a bit and provided a good workout in a medium altitude of just under 8000 feet. The new trail also proved to be longer than the old one as it was almost three miles before we began dropping down to Mud Springs.

Following the Good Trail
 Dropping into familiar forest, we passed by the springs junction since the trail seemed to be strong straight ahead. We should have turned to the right onto this trail that headed down into the wash.

Horse or Burro?

Cut Log for Easy Stepping
 Our trail soon started petering out. We began following trail flags and a very vague small trail leading away from the springs area. This part of today's hike is not reflected on the maps below. We only got about a quarter of a mile before we decided to turn back and figure things out. We ended up dropping back down to the old Mud Springs Road just below the meadow area but we didn't know it yet! Knowing this was the dirt road we were looking for, we hiked down the road. Yep, down. A quarter mile later, we found the Mud Springs Road trailhead sign and gate. Laughing, we pointed at the big sign and declared that we had found Mud Springs!

Big Ponderosa and Little Maria
 Four miles into a seven mile hike,... we were at our halfway point so we rested and took our break.

Mud Springs Sign at Mud Springs Road Trailhead

Mud Springs Road Approach to Trailhead
 Okay. So, we knew the springs must be back up the road. Essentially, we unknowingly had circled around the whole spring meadow area. We hiked back up the road and found Mud Springs. Yea! We could see behind the fence that the springs were flowing. We chose not to hike through the meadow and stayed on the outside of the barbed wire fence. At the top end, there was an easy access point and two hikers went a little way in to snap a photo as seen at the top of this entry. Our group was in a very jovial mood so any elk in the area were long gone!

Road Trailhead and Signs
Next, we followed the trail back to the junction that we had previously missed. Hoping to help future hikers, we placed a cairn at the junction. We turned to our left and began the return to the cars.

Building a Cairn at the Junction We Missed

Quick Paced Return
Not wanting to push our luck with the rain and wishing to get hikers back for Memorial Day festivities, we laid it all out on the trail back. After climbing back up to the main elevation contour, the hiking went smoothly and pleasantly. Finally at the trail junction saddle, we began our bushwhacking back to the campsites and the cars. We found out the importance of sticking close together while bushwhacking but all's well that ends well.

7.5 miles; 1500 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Gorgeous View from Trail

Rain Clouds in the Area - View from Campsites

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