Saturday, September 19, 2015

Lower Mud Springs Loop - 9/19/15

Mud Springs (Brown in Foreground is Water)

Desert Panorama from Mud Springs Loop Lower North Quarter

Sisters and Macks Peak from Mud Springs Trail

Bushwhacking Down to Saddle Area
 Seventeen qualified explorers drove out Macks Canyon Road in the Spring Mountains NRA this morning and parked at the first campsite turnout after the Sisters Spur Road (0.30 miles further). This campsite turnout has a sandy entrance so it is wise to make sure you have 4WD before you go down the hill on the right so that you can get back up later! We began our bushwhack that we had done on previous hikes down to the Mud Springs Loop (south side) saddle area. From there, we continued down the wash trail away from the saddle.

Seventeen Qualified Hikers
 At around 1.1 miles, we passed the Mud Springs Loop south side junction. This trail to the right leads back to the Sawmill Trailhead in around 3.5 miles.

Negotiating the Connecting Wash
 Continuing down the wash, we bushwhacked to the north side of the Mud Springs Loop staying in the wash and keeping the high embankment on our left side. When the embankment lowers, there are three washes entering your main wash; look for the trail that crosses. There is a cairn on the right side of the wash only.

View from Near Junction of Mud Springs Loop North Side

The Undulations Well Underway
 We turned left here and immediately began the many undulations of the north side of the loop trail. The trail was easy to follow as we made our way across to Mud Springs Road. Horse and riders had recently walked along this part of the trail and the hoof prints led the way ... not to mention the kicked up sand and gravel. The first landmark on the trail was the crossing of Macks Canyon wash, or Macks Wash. It is a very wide wash with steep banks on either side.

Diving into Macks Wash
 We dove down into the wash following the horses. Views of the desert one way and the mountains the other were seen from the rims.

Macks Wash from Top of West Side
 After crossing the wash, we had a long steep climb out on the other side. In the distance, we could see Mummy's Nose, the Sisters Range, and the north side of Macks Peak. It was here that we began seeing motor dirt bike tracks. Such a shame that they didn't even stay on the trail at times.

Mummy, Sisters, and Macks Peak at Macks Wash

More Undulations
 Concentrating on trail directions that wound around, up and down, the next couple of miles went by fairly quickly. The group was staying together very well with no complaints. The only wildlife we saw was a cottontail and a few lizards. The cool air was cleaned by the winds of recent days and there were no clouds in the sky. Once in a while, a cool wind would anoint us as we climbed over a ridge. The undulations began taking their toll and the small ascents became more difficult.

Finally, the Old Trail Sign
 Finally, an old trail sign announced the junction with the Mud Springs Spur Road, although, at the time, we weren't sure whether the road was the spur or the main road.

Wrong Way Shenanigans
 For later reference, turn right here to go down to the fork a short distance away. Then turn left onto the main Mud Springs Road. There are no cairns here to direct hikers. We mistakenly turned left onto the spur road and followed it until we knew that we were not on the trail. Knowing our mistake, we took a steep bushwhack jaunt over the hill to our right and found the main road which had now become a trail above the large Mud Springs sign. At 6 miles into the hike, we took our main break satisfied that we were familiar with our surroundings.

Arriving at the Bottom End of Mud Springs

Fencing and Trail Along the Springs Area
 After our break, we continued up the trail toward Mud Springs. This climb that continues past the springs is definitely the most difficult part of the hike. We arrived at the bottom of the springs to see the old sign seen in the photo above. The trail follows along the fence that surrounds the springs. At the top end of the springs, there is a place in the fence that would allow a photographer to get the photo seen at the top of this entry. The trail continues into a maze of old and new routes. The cairn that we left here three months ago to help us with the route was gone.

Passing the Top End of Mud Springs
 Somehow, we got onto the old trail route that climbs the hill steeply instead of going a little further up to find a circular route up the hill. At any rate, we paralleled the new trail at the top and adjusted our route onto this one.

Returning on the New Mud Springs Loop South Side
 From Mud Springs to Macks Wash, the Mud Springs Loop south side leads along the contour of the hillside. There are undulations but not as many as the north side of the loop.

Seventeen Hikers Stretch a Long Way

Desert View from Trail
 On tired legs, we reached Macks Wash and climbed up to the saddle. We saw a few elk prints in this area. From there, the difficult bushwhack back up to the cars proved to be too challenging after 5 hours of hiking so we defaulted to Macks Canyon Road up to our right and finished the hike by taking a left on the road and back to the cars. This is a half day of hiking. We learned a couple of things and hope that this entry helps future hikers.

10 miles; 2000 feet elevation gain; 5.25 hours

Arriving at Macks Wash on Return

Tree Decor at Alternate Trailhead Junction in Macks Wash

Climbing Up to the Saddle

Red Indicates Our Wrong Way Routes Today

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