Rock Creek to Barnhardt group backpack/hike:
After a late gathering and introductions at the Barnhardt Trailhead, we loaded up into Alex's truck and shuttled over to the Rock Creek Trailhead. Under sunny skies, Alex, Dave, Joel, Mike, Felecia, Roger, Kate, and myself headed up the Rock Creek Trail, first along Center Creek, and then up brush covered mountainsides. I cursed my 46 pound pack on the unrelenting climb. By mid afternoon, we had reached the waterfalls, where we dropped our packs and had lunch. The wind was picking up and clouds were blowing overhead by the time we continued up the canyon. I shamefully put on long pants and gloves.
In upper Rock Creek Canyon, we crossed paths with Bob, Richard, and Amy, who were on their way back down Rock Creek after visiting the 7500' peaks. Our two groups soon parted ways, and our group of eight continued up to the saddle at the top of Rock Creek. Dave and I decided to make a side trip to the 7559' peak, while the rest of the group continued on to Horse Camp Seep.
Dave and I dumped our backpacks and made the short hike up to Peak 7559', first along an old blazed trail (!), and then straight up through the pines. The view off the east side of the peak was everything I had hoped it would be: straight down and amazing! Ecstatic to be on a peak I had been wanting to visit for years, I took a ton of photos.
Dave and I returned to the Rock Creek Trail, and continued down the west side of the saddle along what I would call the only truly "bad" section of trail. The trail bed was there, but it was covered in thick new growth that attempted to trip one with every step. This lovely stretch of trail vanished altogether at Hopi Spring. Thankfully, we soon located the Mazatzal Divide Trail, which was only a short distance away, and we cruised through the pine filled valley to Horse Camp Seep. Our 6 pm arrival at camp was welcomed with a HAZ marker made of rocks and a nice warm fire courtesy of Steve, who had backpacked in from the other direction earlier that day.
Sunset found Joel and I roaming around the waterfalls below our campsite, looking for photo ops. Nothing too exciting, so we soon returned to camp to enjoy dinner and chase away the growing cold with an evening around the fire. Later that evening, I took a couple of star shots before joining the others, who were retiring to their respective tents and hammocks.
The next morning we were up with the sun, and enjoyed a relaxing morning waiting for the arrival of the Sunday group. Steve was the first to leave, taking the Rock Creek Trail back. Mike, Felecia, and Joel departed soon after for the Barnhardt Trail.
Just before 11 am, my 2 way radio crackled to life with someone calling for Preston the yeti. It was Kyle. He and Bruce had just reached the saddle at the top of Rock Creek, and were only a mile away. Alex, Dave and I hit the Mazatzal Divide Trail after making contact, and soon stopped to make a side trip to the gorge of the North Fork of Deadman Creek, the location of Mike's awesome waterfall. We walked to the edge of the cliffs, and were greeted by two huge waterfalls racing into the abyss. Holy freaking wow!!!
This was the highlight of the trip, and we lingered at the falls for over an hour. Kyle, Bruce, Roger and Kate soon joined us.
We five remaining backpackers left as a group, and made our way south along the Mazatzal Divide Trail, keeping in contact with the day hikers by radio. Chris, Ron, Bruce and Kyle caught up to us at the top of the Barnhardt Trail, and our two groups made our way down, stopping at the waterfalls along the way. We finally reached the Barnhardt Trailhead just after 5 pm, said our goodbyes, and went our separate ways. Del Taco in Payson was calling me, so I went north for good eats before heading home to Safford.
I had a great time. This joins my top 10 list of favorite backpack trips, not just for the location, but for the great company. It was a real pleasure to meet and hike with all of you. Thanks for coming, and I hope to see all of you again!
Big thanks to Alex and Steve for making the shuttle set-up easy!
The full, uncut video of the weekend (15 minutes you'll never get back): http://www.youtube.com/user/PrestonTheY ... v7pn28XD90
Sorry the audio sucks.