Saturday, October 29, 2016

Valley Trail - 10/29/16

Oak Creek Wash & Wilson Peak

Calico Hills from Valley Trail

Morning on the Escarpment

Starting in Shadows
 The Valley Trail has probably been in the northern Cottonwood Valley for a very long time, however, it has only recently come to our attention. Potentially, it runs all the way from the Overlook parking lot to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. Today, thirty-one hikers hiked from the scenic loop exit parking lot to the First Creek Trail with a partial loop midway in the hike. It is lucky that we were not going into the nearby Rainbow Wilderness with so many people. The air was warmish but there was a great breeze blowing once in a while. We parked at the exit on Highway 159 and started south on the trail that runs closest to the road.

Jerry points out Wilson Peak Destinations
 Our hiking "train" was very long today. There must have been many different conversations going on during the hike.

Valley Trail view South
 The morning clouds playfully made the light dance on the escarpment.

Jerry finds Dwarf Ash Tree

Climbing Small Hill
 Our trail came to the first wash crossing where Jerry found some Dwarf Ash trees and we turned to the left onto another worn trail. We followed it up a hill above the wash. The views were beautiful from here. It seems that this part of the trail has been tamped down quite a bit since we "discovered" the trail last spring. Much easier to follow now. There were human footprints but there were more horse prints, deer prints and burro prints. We hiked the length of the hill then dropped back down to walk along the Oak Creek Wash.

Descending from Small Hill
 A little further and we came to the Oak Creek Trailhead sign. The sign indicates that this trailhead is "new." It probably was new about thirty years ago.

Passing through Oak Creek Trailhead
 Since there was a lot of "cover" here, we took a restroom break before heading over to First Creek where we would be out in the sun.

Hiking through Oak Creek Wash Area

Trail along Wash
 We crossed the wash at the trailhead then turned to the left. This trail is difficult to find but it runs along an intermediary wash for a short way. After climbing out, we headed toward the escarpment passing the junction where we would be turning on the way back. There are few cairns along this entire route that only indicate major junctions. Take note of their appearances to be able to tell where you are on the return. After this, it wasn't too much further before we reached the First Creek Trail. Here, we took our break.

Dipping through another Wash
 The clouds continued decorating the skies. It was a pretty good day for photos.

Arriving at First Creek Trail
 After the break, we started back from whence we came until we junctioned with that left turn with a cairn. Here, we turned onto the "official" Valley Trail which is a straighter route back to the cars.

View at Snack Break

Cairn aids Wash Crossing
 When offered forks in the trail, we chose the "straighter" fork. We passed through the First Creek Wash. We gained a small ridge then passed across the Oak Creek Trail. Next, we crossed through a wash junction that still tends to be a little confusing but two different cairns helped with the directions. Then, we were back on the same trail we started out on all the way back to the cars. Along the return, we saw several horse and riders. They were beautiful with the escarpment backdrop! Wonderful morning!

5 miles; 300 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Crossing the Oak Creek Trail

Rainbow Peak from Small Wash Crossing

Horse and Riders at Red Rock

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