Sunday, July 29, 2018

Deer Creek / Meadows Loop - 7/28/18

La Madre Range from North Loop Meadow

Mummy's Nose above Wild Horse Ridge from Cactus Jack Trail

Wild Horse Ridge

Old Deer Creek Road below Mahogany Grove Picnic Area
Nine club members hiked an excellent short distance trek partly off the beaten path today. This hike was researched a couple of years ago and is now used in full or in parts for club hikes in the Spring Mountains NRA. We parked at the Deer Creek Picnic Area parking lot where there are restrooms offered ... albeit stinky ones. It is a large parking lot so there is little chance that it would fill up like the North Loop Trailhead. The beginning of our hike is similar to a back door entrance to the North Loop Trail so this little route gem is good to have in your back pocket in case you find yourself without a parking place at the North Loop Trailhead. Plus, there's a restroom.

Blooming Mountain Mahoganies
The route begins by dropping down into the deep Deer Creek wash at the end of the parking lot near the restrooms. There is a small bushwhack to get around the end of the gully next to the Deer Creek Road above.

Information on the History of the CCC in this Area
Recent rains/floods have improved the bushwhack by dumping a load of rock down from the culvert. Regardless, the object is to get to the old road bed on the other side. The rock wall next to the road bed holds the Mahogany Grove Picnic Area above.

Old Deer Creek Road reclaimed by a Wash

Climbing Old Spur Road
The old road bed is the remains of the Old Deer Creek Road. We followed the road up and around to the right but turned off to the left before reaching the drainage area. This put us on the "nature trail" for the picnic area. Follow this part of the road bed down and jog up to the CCC information display. Along the way, you will see old wood stoves that were used at that time, set up near the trail. Unfortunately, there has been some vandalism done to the old ovens. We read the displays then walked over to a hill that we climbed on the left. The Cougar Ridge Trailhead turnout is at the top of the hill but we continued over the hill and into the wash on the other side. The old road bed continues down this wash for a short distance. At an obvious fork, the road turns up to the right.

Crossing New Deer Creek Road
We climbed the road until we came to an old spur road that turns to the right. We turned here and climbed up to junction with the paved Deer Creek Road. The old spur road continues on the other side of the pavement. (Be careful crossing.)

Climbing North Loop Trail
We followed the road bed all the way up the hill until we junctioned with the North Loop Trail. Tah-dah! We turned right on the North Loop.

Nearing the North Loop Meadow

Arriving at Meadow
At this point, I turned loose the stronger hikers to invite them to climb up to the North Loop meadow at their own pace. A few hikers stayed with me and we climbed a little slower. One hiker was new to the trail and I pointed out different landmarks along the way. There are nice views of the desert in the distance and Angel Peak (with the bubble) is ever-present on this section of the trail. The trail is wooded and, on a hot day, we enjoyed the intermittent shade. Mummy Mountain comes into almost full view as you arrive at the meadow and the trees become scarce.

Taking a Break in the Shade
The front hikers had already set up residence in some shade on the right side of the trail in the meadow. We sat there to enjoy a break with some hilarious joking around.

Beautiful Old Bristlecone marks the Wild Horse Trail
After the break, we headed up toward the huge old bristlecone tree at the far end of the meadow. This is the unsigned Wild Horse Trail junction where we turned to the right.

Waiting at the top of Small Switchbacks

Climbing onto Wild Horse Ridge
The Wild Horse Trail is a small path through the woods making a downward traverse to the top of the next canyon over. At one point, the trail takes a decided turn down using small steep switchbacks. Today, the earth was somewhat damp and the usual slipperiness was less of a problem. Hiking poles are very useful on this path. Then, at the bottom of the switchbacks, there is a choice of unsigned routes. If you turn to the right at a 90 degree angle, you begin a very pleasant cool descent through Wild Horse Canyon. If you continue straight as we did today, this puts you on the Cactus Jack Trail that takes you over to the top of Wild Horse Ridge ... a favorite among our club members.

Descending Wild Horse Ridge
Wild Horse Ridge is a half mile of excellent views from on top a rock ridge likely made up of Mississippian Monte Cristo Limestone; a prominent make-up of the rock in the Spring Mountains.

Fun on Wild Horse Ridge - Mummy Mountain in Background
The gentle down slope of the rock makes the descent very pleasant. The rock is wide so we were safe from the cliff edge. To the left below is the Deer Creek Picnic Area and to the right below is Wild Horse Canyon.

The Trailhead from Wild Horse Ridge

Cougar Ridge Trail
After a short drop off the very end of the rock ridge, we turned to the left. A vague trail took us along the Cougar Ridge Trail road until we dropped onto the dirt road and turned left. The road took us to a right turn where we stepped over a damaged gate. This is where pavement takes you down by the picnic area. There were already a lot of families having fun. The pavement is covered in many places with rock debris that has flooded down from the hill above recently. The forest service will probably clean this up in the fall. The pavement led back to the parking lot and we were done. Very enjoyable morning in the mountains. Hot but no rain. Just blue skies.

5 miles; 1350 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Debris washed down to Picnic Area

Deer Creek

Finishing Hike next to Picnic Area - More Debris from Rains

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