Saturday, September 5, 2015

Old Deer Creek Road & Champion Ridge - 9/5/15

Mummy's Nose from Rocky Peak

The Sisters (South, North, & Black L to R) from Champion Ridge

Starting Up from the Campsites
 A founding member of the club once told us a story about he and his military buddies driving the Old Deer Creek Road from Kyle to Lee Canyon. Back then, the road was mostly unpaved, there was snow on the ground and they had been partying. Put two and one together and they got stuck as the road bottomed out in a deep wash. Eventually, they self-rescued and went on their way. Imagination tells us that those young men drove on the part of the road that we hiked today. We parked at the trailhead turnout found approximately 2 miles north from the North Loop Trailhead. From the Lee Canyon side, look for the 2nd turnout after the Desert View Overlook parking.

Enjoying the Old Deer Creek Road
 We had twenty-four hikers today on this leisurely four miles. There were plenty of stops and the pace was slow.

24 Hikers on Rocky Peak

Desert View from Rocky Peak
 We crossed the paved road and hiked up past the campsites here. Taking the trail choice to the right, we began hiking on a gentle ascent up the old dirt road. The path is grown over with brush here and there but most of it is wide enough for 2 or 3 hikers to walk and talk at the same time. This is a plus for this Saturday morning crowd! The ascent lasted about half a mile ending at a corner in the road. There is a small rocky peak situated at the turn and all 24 hikers decided to scramble up the trail to the top where views of Mummy's Nose and the distant desert playas were beautiful.

Who says this group doesn't scramble? - Coming Down Rocky Peak
 The air was cool and fresh even though much of the hike was in the sun. There were also plenty of shade trees along the way.

Starting Descent on Old Deer Creek Road
 We came back down from the small peak and got back on the old road. Our one mile gradual descent began here.

Brush Invades the Road Occasionally

Inspecting the Old Rusted Plymouth
Along the way, we came to an old rusted bucket of a car lying near the trail. It was a Plymouth. We all enjoyed looking it over and speculating on how it got there! We also passed a flight of rotted wooden steps that climbed up the side of the embankment. (Hmm. We had no idea. ...) Next, we passed a road turning off to the right that was blocked by a gate. We continued down on the less traveled road and, at around 1.7 miles into the hike, we took a sharp turn to the right and dropped down to the paved road below. This trail is marked by two gateway type cairns at the paved road.

Trail from End of Old Road to New Paved Road
 We crossed the pavement, went down the road about forty feet, then climbed up to the end of the ridge on the right. This is Champion Ridge, so called because it is the escarpment hanging high above Champion Road.

Rabbitbrush Lines Deer Creek Road
 Our first view of the ridge overlook was immediate. Across from us, we saw Lee Canyon Road, Sawmill Trailhead, Macks Canyon Road, and, the best, the Sisters' Ridge. Next to us was a large shelter built out of limbs.

Peering Down Champion Ridge

24 Hikers on Champion Ridge
 We hiked down along the limestone ridge. Those with exposure issues stayed further away from the edge! We didn't go very far before we could see the rocky ridge for a distance. Knowing we wouldn't get a better view than this, we took our group photo then started back up the ridge until we reached the shelter area again. This is where we sat for our break taking in the views. It was a fantastic break spot! From left to right on the grand ridge with the highest peaks across Lee Canyon, we saw South Sister, North Sister and, if we squinted our eyes, Black Sister, a huge black rock outcropping sitting on the closest peak of the ridge.

Climbing Back up the Ridge to Break Spot
 Alas, it became time to go back. We knew we faced a gentle climb of at least a mile. So, we took it slow and made several stops along the way.

High Point Curve on Return

One of Five Stops on Ascent
 At the high point curve, we congratulated ourselves for getting to the top of the hill then started the home stretch descent. When we got back to the campsite area, there were several campers already set up and prepared for the Labor Day weekend festivities. This was the debut of this particular hike and everyone seemed to like it very much. Well worth repeating.

4 miles; 650 feet elevation gain; 2.5 hours

Descending the Home Stretch

Rocky Ridge Outcropping

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