29 Electrons with No Charge Circling Camp
You should only consider this hike if you can do the Grand Canyon rim to rim. This hike involves high miles (22 miles), elevation gain (5,850 feet), route finding skills and a couple miles of bushwhacking.
First thing, there been some road damage on the FR to the Mormon Grove TH. There was a land slide that has covered about half the road and about 2 feet on the other side of the road has washed away down the drop off. I have an unmodified Jeep. I was OK going up. It was a little dicey for a couple of seconds. I do not recommend any non 4x4 vehicles for this road until the forest service fixes it. You should be an experienced 4x4 driver to get past this section. The other parts of the road had some minor wash outs and two creel crossings.
We (two Mikes and me) started hiking about 7:40am on the Saddle Mountain trail (91). This is an old Jeep road that leads to the Story Mine. The trail was soggy. We came to the trail intersection of Saddle Mountain (91) and Sheep Creek (88). We turned down the Sheep creek and descended to McFarland Canyon as we past the Thicket Trail (95) intersection. The creeks were flowing pretty good, but they were still passable. We hit the Sheep Creek (88) and the Copper camp (87) intersection and took off on the Copper Camp trail. We would be returning on the back to this point via the Sheep Creek trail.
The trail starts to slowly climb out of the creek bed and becomes harder to follow. The trail eventually comes to an open area. You can see a big valley with Bartlet lake, Horse Shoe lake and the Verde river in the background. This is one cool area. It is remote with spectacular 360 views of the area. The trail climbs up higher and then level of for a bit. Now you descend at a very fast rate. The trail turns very faint and then disappears at times. There are 3 to 4 foot cairns to guide along the way. You just hike from cairn to cairn. If you get off-trail, just stop and look for the next cairn. It will be there. Now you go down to a creek bed. You'll pass an old fireplace (33 degrees 57.721'N , 111 degrees 34.132W) from some old house. Now the trail goes in and out a creek bed. Things get tricky now. The trail gets pretty hard to follow and the pricker bushes don't help you. If you take is slow and look hard for the cairns this section is doable. You'll pass an old fence posts. You will need to eventually be on the left side of the creek, so look carefully for the creek crossing. The copper camp is at 33 degrees 58.083N , 111 degrees 35.151W. This is good place for a light snack. I wouldn't recommend eating a big lunch yet, because you have to climb / bushwhack up the Cypress Ridge. Now you leave the trail and start the bushwhacking section of the hike. The biggest difference is that there no more cairns to guide your way. I higher recommend downloading the GPS track for hike and following it. You cross the creek and start hiking up the ridge. You go through two rock scrambles before you reach the top. We use the following waypoints to guide us up the mountain in this order:
33 degrees 58.219 N, 111 degrees 35.031 W
33 degrees 58.344 N, 111 degrees 34.484 W
33 degrees 58.466 N, 111 degrees 34.313 W
33 degrees 58.688 N, 111 degrees 34.178 W (this is top)
There are two or three cairns along the way, but you don't see them until you pass them up. Once your at the top, stop and study the terrain. You need to wind up at 33 degrees 59.760 N, 111 degrees 32.996 W. This waypoint is straight ahead and a little to right from where your standing. From our previous experience, your better off going to the meadow to your far left. You will move allot faster in the meadow as appose to go through brush, downfall and the gullies. We went through meadow, then we climbed down a hill. We then went to another meadow to the left. The meadows were wet. The groups consensus was to take the path of least resistance and worry about hitting the waypoint when we get closer to the Sheep Creek trail. We left the second meadow and climbed a hill. I keep on an eye on my GPS the whole time watching where the waypoint was. On this hill we could see the old corral with a concrete water box(this is our waypoint). We headed down to it. We were finally back on a "trail". In hind sight we should have stayed in meadow longer and avoided the climbing and descending of the last hill.
This part of the sheep creek trail sees very little use. The trail is overgrown, but there are good cairns to guide you along. The trail has numerous creek crossings and some of them are tricky. We had two spots where the group had to spend 5/10 minutes looking for the trail. One section was so bad that we put up some cairns to help the next people through. Now the trail climbs and climbs. The trail levels off and we where glad, but that didn't last! The trail then climbs again. The payoff is awesome views of the valley below. The trail does eventually stops climbs and levels off. The trail is level for a little bit, then there's a steep climb down and we wind up at the Sheep Creek (88) / Copper Camp (87)intersection. This is where we start the loop section of the hike in the morning. By now it's dark so we break out the flash lights and return back to the car the same way came out. We reach the car by 9PM. I had packed 6 liters of fluids for the day and drank all of it. We had tried this hike three times and finished it twice.
But wait the adventure is not over. Remember the landslide section of the road? When we got to it, the ruts where pretty deep. I got stuck in the ruts. The two Mikes got out, dug some of the clay and built up the ruts to give me more clearance. With them pushing , I was able to get through this area.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.