Still magical--after all these years. It started when I pulled into my car camp at Deer Creek, and walking around a bit before sunset. Many hooves started pounding and I scared up at least 15 deer running pell mell in the tall yellow grasses. As they ran the coyotes started howling, almost in surround sound, seemed like several packs but probably only a few. Were they stalking the deer??? Who knows but I felt my heart speed up, as nature played out a small scene.
Sunset was beautiful with clouds. I slept in the car, then on goes the backpack the next morning. Snow frosted the mountain side of the East Divide. I was thinking about going in on the Tortilla trail, but wanted to see what the snow was like up near Kennedy peak, so took a cross country short cut and intersected the East Divide trail. Lower down thin snow covered the trail and the fading red maples made a pretty picture. It was pretty cold but hiking up to the Kennedy Saddle will cure that. More snow and ice on the rocks, only a couple of inches, and I think it made the hiking easier. The dry snow had good traction.
I came to the saddle in bright sunshine reflecting off the snow. Nice views toward Bassett with more snow among the low vegetation. Down Corral, easy to follow trail now due to the trail maintenance. Some of the cairns are a little over the top.
Snow stayed surprisingly long on the trail, even in the desert area. The spring at Corral was running down the wall, you could fill a bottle quickly. I kept at it, forgetting how long it takes seemingly to get to Rattlesnake canyon. Once there I decided to camp near the Garden, because of the spring, then decide what to do the next day.
I camped on a hill up from the Garden, then visited the old buildings, pleased to see the windows restored in the cabins and how neat they were.
It was cold, I was in a bivy and had a little water inside with me and it still had ice in it in the morning. Hard freeze at the Garden. Decided I wanted to go up Field Canyon to the West Divide then go to Grassy Peak. It's a kick butt day hike, nice views from Field Canyon but it is game trailish in spots, and you get a lot of elevation gain quickly. I've been on it before but came down it. You get the West Divide trail in about 2.3 miles. Snow also in the shady spots on this trail too, in the manzanita and junipers.
I booked on the West Divide. RT this is probably about 11 miles but it ain't easy. The trail cuts off to go to Rattlesnake/Kielberg divide near the old mine, but a good trail continues on the Grassy Peak. On the peak I scouted out any routes down to the West side. No trail, although one is indicated on a map I have. Doable hiking, sure wouldn't want to take stock on this one.
Winter days are short so I didn't dally and headed back. Clear blue skies and great views, but sun angle wasn't great.
I had left my headlamp at my camp so didn't want to be too late. Shadows are long in the canyon. I decided I wanted to camp higher so packed up and made it up the first switchback section of the Tortilla trail before camping in a rock shelter right off the trail. It was great as I didn't have to set up the bivy ( I know, lazy) and I had rock shelves for my stuff. It was much warmer that night and as it was windy, I had a good set up for the dry camp.
The next morning had the short hike out, with snow and ice on the Tortilla trail higher up also. Fabulous views out from the saddle ( the cairn near the tree has to go, wrong place photographically, and doesn't do much to tell you you are on the trail), with cerulean blue skies and clouds, looking toward the Santa Teresas and Pinalenos. It warmed up nicely, and I reached the car before noon. About 29 miles for the three days. Forgot I wanted to check Holdout Spring, oh well, another trip soon.
I was solo and didn't see anyone else, so it was a wonderful solitude that I was due. More!!! and soon----