Sunday, August 30, 2015

Upper Mud Springs Loop - 8/30/15

Desert View from Mud Springs Loop

Hello, to our friends in Hawaii!

Macks Peak from Red Trail Descent

Crossing One of Many Washes
 Many of our AtBF friends are in Hawaii on a hiking excursion this week and someone has to hold down the fort! So five hikers came out for an 8.5 mile hike on the Mud Springs Loop starting at the Sawmill Trailhead off of Lee Canyon Road in the Spring Mountains NRA. The entire Mud Springs Loop is approximately 17 miles long and it serves bikers and horse riders as well as hikers. By cutting the large loop into two loops, it is more palatable for hikers. Today, we explored the upper half loop and enjoyed the challenging workout of ups and downs.

Desert View from Red Trail Descent
 We began by climbing up to the ridge on the trail that circles around beneath Macks Canyon Road to the left. At the ridge, we turned left onto the Red Trail. A fast pleasant gentle descent ensued.

Mid Way Down Connecting Wash
 We had hiked this part of today's route previously and sailed into the wash at the expected 3.5 mile mark. Here, new stuff began. We turned right instead of left in the wash for a 3/4 mile wash descent.

Taking Our Break at the Trail Junction

Trail Leading Down a Wash
 We had to make our way around some initial brush but soon found the wash to be smooth packed sand with no obstacles. Looking out for expected landmarks (i.e. 3 washes entering in from the left side), we found the trail crossing for the north side of Mud Springs Loop. There is a medium size cairn placed out of the wash on the right side about twenty feet up the embankment. We sat here for our long break. The upcoming trail back to the cars would be mostly an ascent. Better to rest up!

Desert View
 Starting out again found us climbing and dropping on short steep sections of trail as we crossed the drainages in the terrain. We had heard that this part of the loop is difficult to follow, however, we found that it was just a matter of keeping all 10 eyes open.

Climbing One of Several Sharp Trail Undulations

Look Closely - One Wash & One Trail
We had to make choices only twice. We later found that either of our choices would have brought us to the same point. Granted, we were hiking up this section and not down, but, we did not have any problems. Sometimes hikers who are not from the western United States don't know to always consider that the trail might lead up or down a wash. This is something you get used to around here! The trail in this section did, indeed, go into the wash for a short way a couple of times.

Swan Tree Junction
 As we crossed over one of the easier undulations, we couldn't help but notice the Swan Tree!

Climbing the Wash Up toward Sawmill Ridge
 Finally, we found ourselves in a long wash ascent. We were pleased that the ascent was gentle and the wash bottom was very hikable. At the top of the trail ascent, we curved around to our left and noticed the sign in the photo below. The words were imprinted but not painted on the very old signs.

Very Old Trail Junction Signs with My Typed In Lettering

Final Climb to Sawmill Ridge
This curve sent us uphill to junction with the Pinion Pine Trail where we took another right. Further climbing brought us to the Sawmill Ridge. We turned to our left and dropped down the hill until we came to the Blue and Yellow Trail junctions. We turned to the right onto the Yellow Trail. Although we thought we were done with climbing, it wasn't so. There was still one more mean climb before we were able to drop back down to the cars at the trailhead where hamburger smells were wafting from the many Sunday picnickers. Great workout with a swift pace.

8.5 miles; 1600 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Spring Mountains Divide from Ridge Junction

Descending on the Yellow Trail

Yellow Flowers for Yellow Trail

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