Friday, August 12, 2016

AtBF Canyon Loop - 8/11/16

Heading into AtBF Canyon Narrows

Amid AtBF Narrows

Diving Down the Trough Trail

Starting Down from the Juniper Trailhead
It was warm yet cooler than the previous month in the lower elevations of the Spring Mountains NRA. Nine hikers drove up Deer Creek Road and turned onto the Lucky Strike Road where the Hilltop Campground is located. But, instead of veering to the left at the immediate fork, we went right and down the road to what the park service has named the Juniper Trailhead. Before, we had called this the Upper Showgirl Trailhead. From here on out, it will be referred to as the Juniper Trailhead.

Mummy Mountain from the Upper Showgirl Trail
With packs ready, we started our hike down the Showgirl Trail. After the first long switchback, we crossed the wash in which we would be returning at the end of the hike.

The Showgirl Trail
The very nice Showgirl Trail led us through the woods and around a couple of hills on our right. A view of Angel Peak and the Spring Mountain Youth Camp were seen to the left.

Connecting over to the Trough Trail

Trough on the Trough Trail
Our route passed by the first turn to the left and continued toward the Hike a Bike Trail. But, before starting down that trail, we turned to the left and began a steep descent down the old Trough Trail. The Trough Trail has since been replaced by the more gradual switchbacks that have been installed but we chose to pass the side by side water troughs and descend straight down the wash on the old trail. At one point near the top, a wrong turn was made and then corrected. The right choice is to take the trail going down!
Down the Trough Trail Wash
The old Trough Trail ends at Telephone Canyon Road. After a brief water break, we crossed the dirt road and took an immediate left turn onto Tin Can Alley.

Along Tin Can Alley
Tin Can Alley is another bike trail that runs from Kyle Canyon Road up to the Trough Trail junction. It is named for the many old rusted tin cans found along the trail. They were left there by the workers who camped in this canyon when they were laying the telephone lines for the cabins and houses off of Deer Creek Road.

Through Bright Manzanita on the Showgirl Again

Stepladder Peak from the Showgirl Trail
The junction for the Middle Showgirl Trail is marked by a new wooden post. As of this posting, there are no words on the post to indicate Showgirl or anything else. We crossed the dirt road and started up the trail. One of the first landmarks will be the scree rock fall that the trail leads through. This part of the hike has views of Stepladder Peak across the canyon and, more distant views of La Madre Peak. La Madre is the mountain with the "scar" located across Kyle Canyon. We quickly ran out of shade as we began the lower portion of today's route.

La Madre Peak from Showgirl Trail
We passed one biker on the trail. He was very polite even though we surprised each other with our presence. We saw him again back at the trailhead.

Hiking Around the Bend
Earlier, we passed a trail runner with his four hounds in the lead. We saw this same fivesome last year on a hike. Daisy, the real hound, was less shy than last year but still not sure about those two legged creatures with sticks! Lots of hound barking, then feeling like she did all she could to impress us, she caught up to her dad.

Dropping into AtBF Canyon on Game Trail

Snack in the Shade entering Narrows
The Middle Showgirl Trail rounded the last ridge and AtBF Canyon came into view. Hoping to be able to drop into the canyon upon reaching it, we peeked over the side. No way. It was too steep at the first switchback point. We continued down to the next switchback point on the canyon side and it was still too steep. Heck. We just bushwhacked down the edge until we found a "trail" that took us down. Not sure if it was a game trail or hiker trail but it got us into the canyon easily. Then, we had to wade through some brushy washes until we reached the narrows.

Scramble No. 1
Just before the first scramble, we found a nice shady place to sit and have a snack. Shade was at a premium here in the lower portion of the route.

Scramble No. 2
After the break, we turned to the first scramble. Each scramble in this canyon is difficult. Not because of the height nor because of the lack of possibilities. They are challenging because of the slippery foot and hand holds that are required.

Watching and Waiting at Obstacle No. 3

Scramble No. 3
We all got up the first scramble fairly easy but, at the second scramble, one hiker slipped as he tried a more difficult climb. Sprained his ankle as he fell a couple of unplanned feet. Still walking, he decided to keep going because if he stopped any length of time, he likely would not be able to continue. We climbed up the third scramble which is best negotiated on the wall to the left of the actual slippery obstacle. Then two "half" scrambles went by. Then, the fifth scramble is the most challenging of all.

Scramble No. 5
In the past, this scramble had a tree in front of it that aided in the climb. The tree is gone. Weird. It was pretty big. Anyway, we had to rely on our rock climbing skills. Jerry showed us how it was done and up we went.

Wash at Left Turn Fork
After this last scramble, the canyon begins opening out and we followed it up until we got to the canyon fork left. If you stay in the wash on the left side, the wash will lead you right into the correct route.

Messy Wash

Messy Wash
Although this is a messy wash with a lot of brush that has to be navigated around, it isn't that bad. We stayed true to the wash direction and kept the hill on our right in sight. When we passed through the "rotting tree section," we knew we were close to the trail junction that we passed in the beginning of the hike. We had slowed down quite a bit as we stayed with the sprained ankle. It happens. Very sorry. Finally, we hiked back into the trailhead. Unfortunate day but a really nice route.

8.5 miles (without mistakes); 1600 feet elevation gain; 5 hours (due to injury)

Messy Wash

Connecting with the Upper Showgirl Trail

Almost back to Juniper Trailhead

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