Little Saddle Mountain to Saddle Mountain to old jeeps roads leading to Sunflower Mines + side trips onto other sections of jeep road.
This is the second time I've done this route and really enjoy it. I took a friend with me who is not an avid hiker but training for a marathon so I figured she'd be fine. It was cool, breezy, and overcast-- perfect weather.
We reached the Sunflower mines and apparently everyone with a burly 4x4 decided to be out there today. As we descended into the area from the old jeep road, we could see a group of almost 15 vehicles pull up which was kind of annoying. I had wanted to check out the jeep road that ascends above the mines so we decided to head up there, eat lunch, and hope the group wasn't staying long. That road is only about half a mile but really really really steep. There's nothing up there-- we even climbed off-trail a little higher. I have no clue why that road exists but never need to hike on it again.
We could see them leaving so we headed back down. There was another group of two 4x4's hanging out but we figured that was better than 15 so we hiked down to the processing facility for a looksee.
Before going on this hike, I had checked out another set of roads (via satellite images) that I remembered intersecting the road between Saddle Mountain and the mines from my last hike down there. I had asked Grasshopper if he knew anything about them and he reminded me that GPSJoe had mentioned these on a hike description and had found nothing of interest there. I made a track for the roads and thought "maybe" we'd check them out. Well... we made a wrong turn on the way back and checked them out
. GPSJoe was right-- nothing there.
We got back on track and made it back. There must have been a stampede at some point during the day because the Little Saddle Mountain trail was littered with fresh cow pies. IT was a pretty great day. The creeks were flowing less than I had hopes but water was still plentiful on LSM. Saw 6 of the mines today!