Hiked out from the upper/west trailhead this time and back from Tony Cabin.
The drive along the road from the lower trailhead to the upper was beautifully scenic. All the way to the lower TH, you are snaking through mining territory and the views are much less than spectacular. But, once you cross over the metal bridge just past the turn-off for the lower TH, you seem to enter a different world. It's a different type of road, as well - one narrow lane, rocky and cliffside. Still no 4WD needed, but you have to pay attention not to drive off the edge while staring at the incredible views! The trees had lost only about half of their leaves so fall was still rockin'.
The hike starts off with a continuous ascent to the saddle. Easy enough at first, it takes you through a cool, shady forest. The last push to the top is full sun and a real cardio workout. Going down the other side is the same in reverse, but instead of the cool, shady forest, you have a mile long bushwhack nightmare. If I had been wearing shorts, my legs would be skinless. The trail is so overgrown in some places, it's useless to try pushing branches aside to pass. I finally reached the point where I would just hold up my arms and keep walking, shoving myself through it. And, it seemed to go on forever. The worst part was knowing that I had to turn around at some point and go back out the same way.
Once you get down to creek level, you're back in the cool woods all the way to Tony Ranch Spring. There were a few small pools of water around the spring, but I didn't see any water before this point. Flow was very slow and it smelled skanky from all the leaf rot. I had brought a garbage bag with me in case Tony Cabin needed some cleaning, but it looked to be trash-free. There was a sign-in book on the table and some considerate person had left a pair of reading glasses on top of it - a very nice touch for all of us baby boomers wandering around out there! Before heading back, I left a HAZ advertisement out in front of the cabin (see photos).
The return trip was brutal. I'll skip the whining.
My GPS readings: 8.2 miles, elevation gain: absolute - 1936 / accumulated - 2230
I would strongly recommend trekking poles for this one. You won't use them for the majority of Haunted Canyon Trail and would only need them to get up and down that first mountain at the upper trailhead, but you will be very glad you have them for that. Trust me.
*Interesting note: There is a manzanita 'forest' just before you get to the bushwhack section. When I was walking through it on the way back, I noticed a LOT of broken off branches along the trail that were NOT there on my way out. I saw NO other people there that day.