Sunday, May 28, 2017

Lower Mud Springs Loop CW - 5/28/17

Mud Springs

Indian Springs in Distance

The Sisters and Macks Peak (Macks Canyon Below)

Willow Peak from Red Trail
 Between the Cold Creek and Lee Canyon foothills, there is a lot of real estate in the Springs Mountains NRA and the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest! And, right in the middle of this vast amount of land is Mud Springs; a place where a lot of wildlife, including elk, come to quench their thirst. Getting to the springs requires hiking for at least 3.5 miles if you start from the trailhead that 9 hikers used today. A rough and tough high clearance 4WD vehicle might negotiate the Mud Springs Road from Cold Creek but ... why?

Hiking the Red Trail
 We drove out Macks Canyon Road from Lee Canyon and encountered a whole lot of people camping in the primitive campsites along the road. (Memorial Day Weekend) The road is in fairly good condition but it still has its bumps.

Shade on the Red Trail
 Just as you drop into Macks Canyon proper and veer around to the left, there is a small brushy turnabout on the right side of the road. This is the trailhead for the Approach Trail to the Mud Springs Trail, aka the Red Trail.

Wooded Red Trail

Staying High on the Red Trail
 We passed the trailhead without seeing it but turned around and found it from the other direction. When ready, we hiked down the approach trail and turned to the left at the cross trail junction. This was the Red Trail. It travels by traversing the contours high above the washes, canyons and ridges to the right. An old trail runs parallel to it and we saw it a few times. The new trail is nicer. It was clear that the Red Trail is used often by horses and riders. But, as we continued along, we began to see a lot of elk prints on the trail, too.

Elk Print, Pontoon at Mud Springs, Animal Condo, & Locoweed
 The trail went up and down then way up and down then way down as it curved in and out of the washes.

Burnt Area above Mud Springs
 When we dropped into the Mud Springs Canyon, we came upon a trail junction in the middle of an area that appeared to have burned recently.

Water in all the Mud Springs

Fence around Mud Springs (Tread lightly within its bounds.)
At the junction, we followed the trail that curved to the right going down the hill. This trail has been covered with sticks and logs but it is, in fact, the trail of old that leads to the fence around Mud Springs. At the fence, we followed the trail around to the left and arrived at a portion of the fence that has been trodden down, presumably, by horses. We entered into the springs area being very careful not to disturb anything. The springs meadow was growing high grass and very green.

Mud Springs Sign at end of Mud Springs Road

Crossover Bushwhack
 In the years that the writer has visited the springs, this is only the second time she has seen any water. It was the first time that she saw "pools" of water at each spring site. The water was clear and running. We left the meadow as quickly as we had arrived ... after a few photos. Back across the fence that lay on the ground, we continued down the trail. It was a pretty cool morning and we thought that the lower half of the loop would stay cool enough for us to complete the loop. So we hiked along the fence and found Mud Springs Road.

Junction at the Green Trail (Anybody got some green tape?)
 The top part of the road was no longer drivable. We found a small trail that paralleled the road up on the right side. It was more fun to use the trail than the road below.

Particularly tough Hill
 When we reached the end of the drivable part of the road, we stopped for our snack break at the Mud Springs sign. However, the sign seems to be in the process of being redone.

Mummy's Nose rising above Trees

Another shot of Indian Springs & Creech AFB
 After the break, we tried returning to the small trail above but it was not as clear now. Our choice was to go back down toward the road on the left or just go on up to our right and begin a ridge crossover. What the heck? It was a great group of hikers today and all seemed to enjoy the prospect of a little bushwhacking. So, we headed over the hill on a diagonal looking for the Mud Springs Spur Road. We found it but it would really be nice if someone made a trail that crossed over that ridge ending right at the Green Trail junction without having to use either dirt road for very long.

Getting close to the Connector Wash
 Down the Spur Road, junction with the Green Trail, and begin undulating across the base of the foothills. Up, down, around, in, out, big up, and finally we came to Macks Canyon Wash. Very large and deep.

Starting to cross Macks Canyon Wash
 There was just a little more (seemed like much more) and we were dropping into the Connector Wash. The Green Trail continued across the wash and we turned to the right in the wash.

Dropping down to Connector Wash

Trudging up the Connector Wash
 Now, at the end of an already long hike, we had to ascend a sandy gravel wash for around 3/4 of a mile. A few of us were feeling the pain of the trudge. Several stops had to be made in the shade even though the weather still wasn't too warm. It was the hard work that was breaking us down! A big "hooray" was heard when we finally reached the climb out of the wash and dropped down into Macks Canyon Wash one more time to junction with our Approach Trail. Long hike. CW and CCW directions both seem to be equally tough. But, we all agreed that it was a beautiful area that is worth the trouble.

9 miles; 1800 feet elevation gain; 4.75 hours

Using the Shade in Connector Wash

Finally dropping back into Macks Canyon Wash

Turning onto the Approach Trail (Yea!)

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