Sunday, September 6, 2015

Deer Creek / Catch Pen Loop - 9/6/15

Mummy Mountain from Low Point Area

Desert View from Ridge Ascent

The Group at the Spring and Catch Pen

Wash Trail Descent
 Today, we embarked on another elusive trail that was new to the handout map when the Spring Mountain Gateway Visitor Center opened last spring. There had been several hikers that complained that they were losing the trail so the route was promptly removed from the handout map. We were ready for our attempt with cool weather and a nice breeze so eight brave hikers found the trailhead turnout and prepared. The Orange Trail turnout is found approximately 2 miles north of the North Loop TH and 0.4 miles south of the Desert View Overlook on the east side of Deer Creek Road.

Wash Trail
 At the trailhead, there are three directional choices. We veered to the left and started hiking. We had chosen to descend in the wash and make the return on the ridge.

Nearing the Trail Left Turn
 The trail was easy to follow by keeping our eyes open for nuances, cairns and flags. But, at around 1.6 miles, the trail took an unexpected turn up the hill to the left. We followed it a short way but the leader was not convinced that it was leading in the right direction so we returned to the wash.


Angel Peak from near where Trail Returned
 A bushwhacking down the wash ensued and continued for around 0.75 miles. We knew that we couldn't go wrong by following the wash after studying maps, etc. and we also knew that the trail would be found again on the left side of the wash further down. Yes, we found it! And, just like that, we were back on track. ... And, likely in a shorter distance than the official route. The trail returned right when the views started appearing as we made our way up onto the neighboring ridge. To our right was Angel Peak; behind us we saw Mummy Mountain; and, before us was a gorgeous view of the desert and Sheep Mountains beyond.

Sheep Mountains from Descent Trail
 The trail was wide and welcoming. We zigzagged over to the next ridge and were looking for the cross trail connection. ... Yes. We were looking for it.

Switchbacking to View Mummy's Nose
 When we reached the junction, the leader was not expecting it to switchback back in the direction we had just hiked from. Therefore, when we saw the Orange Trail signs that were facing the opposite direction, we thought that probably didn't mean us!

Nearing the Orange Trail Markers

Moon Hill
 So, anyway, we kept hiking straight not realizing that we were now on the cross trail going the wrong way. Luckily, a previous hike on this same cross trail (and a jackrabbit) clued us in that we needed to turn around. We turned around and caught the short cut trail back over to the intended route. Again, we were just fine. We hiked the smaller trail taking a shorter up and over route when we came to the long switchback. (Again, the previous hike on this trail informed us of this alternate.)

Oh, the jackrabbit? The same jackrabbit on the same section of trail as one year ago!

Back on Track on the Cross Trail
 Finally, we reached the spring and old catch pen. We marveled at the mud and the old wooden fence posts. There was also old rope lying in a bundle.

Arriving at the Catch Pen
 We took note of our trail on which we would return leading up from the catch pen. But, a short trek over to the nearby Deer Creek Canyon was in order. When we returned, we took our long break to prepare for the upcoming climb.

Old Rope and Wire at the Catch Pen

Old Deer Creek Loop Sign after starting Ascent Trail
 The ridge ascent trail turned out to be much easier to follow. There were no choices to make and the trail was very clear. It was somewhat of a laborious climb on tired legs but every once in a while, the terrain would flatten out a little and give us a rest. The rimrock came at last signifying that we were nearing the transition segment of the trail. This is where we dropped down on a long ramp to follow the contour of the hills between us and the cars. We were all exhausted but happy to have learned a bunch of new things. Perhaps we should have followed the trail on the descent when it turned up the hill but our route worked just fine.

10 miles; 1950 feet elevation gain; 5 hours

Mummy's Nose from Ascent Trail

Rimrock on Ridge Trail

The Last Climb

Red Marks today's Route - Blue Marks the Actual Trail Route

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