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Red Hills Trail #262 - Mazatzal, AZ

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Guide 25 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
Rated
3.1
3.1 of 5 by 8
 
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HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
Statistics
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance One Way 17.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,910 feet
Elevation Gain 3,232 feet
Accumulated Gain 5,830 feet
Avg Time One Way 12 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 36.53
Interest Ruins
Backpack Yes & Connecting
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Will recalculate on button tap!
35  2018-09-03
Midnight Mesa Loop - Mazatzal
jacobemerick
15  2017-12-29
Fuller Seep Loop
jacobemerick
24  2016-04-09
AZT: Roosevelt to Washington Park
DallinW
52  2016-03-12
AZT Trail: Picketpost to Pine
friendofThunderg
12  2016-02-27 friendofThunderg
8  2016-02-27 DallinW
26  2015-03-28
Mazatzal Divide TH to Wet Bottom Creek
friendofThunderg
22  2015-02-14
Mount Peeley to Twin Buttes
friendofThunderg
Page 1,  2
Author jacobemerick
author avatar Guides 31
Routes 71
Photos 795
Trips 96 map ( 1,037 miles )
Age 34 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
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Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Mar, Oct, Nov
Sun  6:08am - 6:36pm
Official Route
 
9 Alternative
 
Water
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Over the Hills and Charred Forest
by jacobemerick

Overview
Remote trail in the western Mazatzal Wilderness that starts from Dutchman Grave valley, climbs into the Red Hills, and then plays around Wet Bottom Creek and Fuller Seep before finally ascending to the heights of Knob Mountain. The higher, eastern end of the trail is part of the AZT and sees a fair amount of traffic, while the western end is part of the fabled Midnight Mesa Loop. As neither end of this trail connects to a trailhead, it is common to use sections of this trail to complete larger, multi-trail adventures, and hiking it end-to-end would be difficult.


Warning
While the majority of this trail lies within the Willow Fire burn area, only a two mile segment around Wet Bottom Creek saw significant damage. Take extra care while planning to hike through this segment to account for the remoteness, deadfall, and route-finding challenge that awaits.

Hike
This guide assumes eastern travel, which means parking at Sheep Bridge and hiking in along Verde River Trail and Dutchman Grave. This adds a long drive along an unimproved road and close to six miles of hiking before starting on Red Hills Trail. The approach is similar to the recommended Midnight Mesa Loop route.

After passing the Lower Spring along Dutchman Grave Trail, a signed junction for Red Hills shows up. The trail heads north through grasslands and some mesquite trees, passing through a small wash before climbing a low saddle. From here one can get a good look at the unnamed tributary of Sycamore Creek that runs parallel to this route. Interestingly enough, this tributary will be a friend for the next seven miles, as the trail continuously bumps into different branches of it, for better or for worse.

North of the saddle the trail swings down a bit and approaches the tributary on the left, teasingly close to some tall sycamores at one point. There are some old camp ruins near here. Enjoy this relatively flat travel here, because the route will start to swing east and climb the hills. One quick wash crossing and then, at 1.5 miles, the climb begins in earnest. It swings around the side of the hill, following one of the branches of that tributary, continuously gaining ground. At 2.6 miles the trail crosses the branch and climbs up the northern bank, eventually reaching a wide, flat platform beneath some extensive mining explorations. Checking out these ruins is a great excuse to catch your breath before the next climb.

At the point of the platform there is a large cairn marking the next climb, a quick 600' over 0.6 miles. Parts of it are steep and loose enough to warrant some handholds along the way, especially if you miss a switchback. Halfway through this haul the trail bends sharply south near some old mining pits at a saddle, marking the end of the tributary branch and the beginning of some ridge travel, as well as some great open views to the east. At 3.4 miles the trail levels out and enters into a wide mesa with junipers and mining pits dotting the grassy land.

The mesa is cut by a drainage that, yes, empties into that unnamed tributary from before. To get around the drainage means a long, lazy swoop to the south that follows the contours. Near the end there is a little climb up a hill, then a drop into the top of the drainage, then another climb up to a saddle at 4.7 miles. By this point the trail is well within the Willow burn area, though the damage is spotty and there are plenty of green trees that survived.

On the far side of this saddle there is a bit of hillside travel towards a second saddle to the east, one that overlooks the next drainage to follow (yes, also part of the unnamed tributary). The trail drops down to the drainage, cuts across a fork, and then follows it upstream. Things get difficult here, as the burn damage is more significant next to the drainage and there are several branches to choose between, so keep a careful eye out for cairns. The path on the bank is overgrown so keeping to the rocky drainage may make for faster travel. At 6.1 miles the trail zips up a ridge on the northern bank, traveling under some lovely short pines, only to slink back down a short distance later. After some more playing along the drainage the route finally leaves it for good at 7.1 miles.

Now the route climbs about 400', again heading up to a saddle and then following a ridge southward. The elevation is now over 5000' and the views to the north and east are spectacular, especially looking down into the chasm of Wet Bottom Creek far below. Don't worry, we'll be down there soon enough. First we need to get around 5601'. Trail is wide and well-defined as it makes a wide swing to the south, not quite summiting the peak, instead offering expansive views all around. On the far side it begins to drop down on a ridge for a short bit before committing to a truly dreadful descent.

At 9.2 miles is where, what once must have been a lovely pine forest, the deadfall from Willow Fire takes over, and as of 2018 this meant a tough scramble over logs, through manzanita, all down a steep and loose slope. At least this particular thick section is less than a half mile long, and the trail soon turns east and follows a drainage down with more definition. Finally, at 10.1 miles the route meets Wet Bottom Creek at a delightful water source.

Continuing east means climbing out of the valley of the creek, a healthy 950' over 1.6 mile that is quite overgrown, though not as bad as the western bank. This starts with following a drainage for a bit, then swinging up onto a ridge, then following the hillside to the southeast and summiting two separate saddles along the way. The grade levels out near the top, at the crest the trail is suddenly well-defined again, making for an easy trot to reach the 12 mile mark and the junction for Midnight Trail. If you are doing the Midnight Mesa Loop, this is the next trail to follow.

Red Hills Trail begins to turn northward, following the contours in a generally eastern direction, staying above a tributary of Wet Bottom Creek until it reaches Fuller Seep at 13 miles. There are a few old ranching remains here - some corrals, firepit, etc - that, combined with the water source, making for a great campsite.

The trail continues northeast from Fuller Seep along the flat valley floor for a short distance before meeting a ridge climb that leads to the side of Knob Mountain. This is one of the steepest climbs of the trail, 700' over 0.5 miles, with sharp switchbacks up the crumbly side. Once at the top, comfortably above 6000', one can enjoy a quick view back down before walking through a small ponderosa forest and joining up with the Arizona Trail at 14.6. Brush Trail heads west, Red Hills Trail continues north before turning east.

Now on the AZT, the next section of trail is well-trafficked and maintained. It drops down into a drainage for Boardinghouse Canyon, following one branch down to a fork before following the other branch upstream. This area of the Mazatzals was spared from the fire and is quite lovely, shaded by tall ponderosa pines that tower above the red rock drainage that, sometimes, can even hold water for hikers to filter. After climbing the eastern branch to its head the trail swings south and meets up with the Mazatzal Divide. From here one can head south towards the park or north towards City Creek Trailhead.

Water Sources
On the far west end, before the start of Red Hills, is Lower Dutchman Grave Spring. After this there are undependable tributaries for the next seven miles, and the only good source of water is Wet Bottom Creek. Fuller Seep is located a few miles above the creek and Red Hills Seep along the AZT section may have water during wet seasons. Given the remote nature of the trail and low traffic the only truly dependable source is Fuller Seep.

Camping
There are two great campsites along the way, first at the valley of Dutchman Grave and then at Fuller Seep. Along the AZT are a few good pads, and near Wet Bottom Creek could work as well. Also, there are a few flat spots for dry camping en route that could work in a pinch.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2019-01-26 jacobemerick

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    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.

    Most recent of 17 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Red Hills Trail #262 - Mazatzal
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Fuller Seep Loop
    This was supposed to be a three day backpack, sort of a reverse Midnight Mesa Loop, but the lack of water out there forced me to turn around early. So I guess it turned into sort of training dayhike?

    Mazatzal Divide #23
    Car camped at City Creek Trailhead to the hum of Doll Baby Ranch. It was teeth-chatteringly cold out when I started at 5:30, definitely below freezing, and I didn't stop shivering until I was two miles up the trail and I got away from the lowlands. Trail is in great shape, as expected. The grade is constant and easy to maintain a decent pace going either up or down hill, although my uphill rate was annoyingly slow thanks to my pack weight.

    Red Hills #262
    The first two miles were breathtaking (literally, the temp must have dropped twenty a short distance into valley). This spared forest is beautiful and beats The Park hands down. Trail conditions continued to be great even after leaving the AZT on the far side, where footprints faded and horse tracks took over. Another stand of mostly-untouched pines lurk right before the drop off. Speaking of, that drop is ridiculously steep and I didn't look forward to climbing back out at all. Path was easy to follow all the way to the old corral and there was barely anything trickling through Fuller Seep. Took a quick break here to filter water and eat an early lunch.

    Getting slightly worried about water conditions I pushed onwards, enjoying the easy trail to Midnight junction (which seemed to be in great shape from here) and beyond. 500 yards further west (at the saddle) is where things started to get dicey, and it did so slowly. First it got overgrown with some deadfall, though the tread and cairns were still easy to pick out. Then it got more dicey. A thousand yards to Wet Bottom Creek, while dancing along the ridge, is when elk tracks and two sets of cairns all diverged. Eventually I found a way down and found the anticipated majestic pool of awesome all but dried up.

    This was the breaking straw. If this was dry, I figured there was no way that the branch of Sycamore Creek along my route or Dutchman Grave would have water, so I probably wouldn't see water again until Mountain Spring. That was too far out of my comfort zone, especially as my planned camping (and cramping) site was near Sycamore. Drank some water and turned around, slowly hauling my way back to Fuller Seep for an afternoon snack. Climbing up the overgrown hillside was no fun, and then climbing up the steep drop on the way back to Brush junction even less so.

    Brush #249
    First mile was beautiful and gave me a few good views north, then the second mile got a bit steep and rocky and I had to slow down. Bumped into two AZT section hikers near Brush Spring (there are other people who hike in the Mazzies?!?) and had a quick chat before starting those little climbs out. Sun fell while we were chatting so I only had a third of my loop to do after sunset, he he. Managed to reach the saddle between 5556' and 5610' before I finally gave in and pulled out my headlamp and sweater. Then it was some steep switchbacks in the moonlight until the next junction. All in all this trail was easy to follow, had some good views, and with the exception of that one steep rocky section during the first half, downright enjoyable.

    Bull Spring #34
    Had braced myself for a tough downhill on this trail and was pleasantly surprised to find it sandy, gradual, and easy on the knees. The views seemed good too, from what I could make out in the moonlight. At this point I was starting to get a bit heads-down so I'll have to hit this section again (heard the LF Hilton takes walk-ins). Last mile got a bit rocky and hard to track by headlamp, especially the little hop over Copper Mountain.

    Doll Baby Road
    Did not like. Those rocky sections were worse than anything on the last two trails, and the repeated little climbs after so many miles was just mean. Had to keep my headlamp on to help with navigating all the rocks and only turned it off once I hit Doll Baby trailhead. Speaking of, the road between City Creek and Doll Baby was impeccable compared to City Creek and the pavement - if you're willing to drive your vehicle of choice to the humble City Creek trailhead, the extra mile to the much more established Doll Baby is nothing.

    Mazatzal Miles: 196/275 (71%)
    Red Hills Trail #262 - Mazatzal
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    AZT: Roosevelt to Washington Park
    April 9th
    Miles: 19
    AEG: 6,413 ft

    We started the climb from the 188 around 7:30 AM. The goal for the day was to make it to Pigeon Springs. The weather was great, and the views of Roosevelt Lake got more spectacular as we climbed out of the basin. After taking a break at Buckhorn Spring, the trail climbs relentlessly before topping out and contouring the mountain.

    Eventually we turned a corner and BAM!, the four craggy peaks were staring us right in the face. Quite the view! The trail through the Four Peaks passage is very well maintained, except for a small stretch where we were pushing through overgrowth that nearly obscures the trail. Despite the large swaths of burned forest, this passage was one of my favorite so far. Eventually we reached Pigeon Springs and found a relatively flat spot to set up our tents.

    April 10th
    Miles: 19
    AEG: 2,196 ft

    The morning began with a clear sky. After packing up the gear we headed for Pigeon Springs Rd to begin the long road walk. I'm usually not a fan of road walks, but this was an exception. There were great views on either side of the Superstitions, Sierra Ancha, and Lake Roosevelt. The immediate area itself was very beautiful as well. Around 10 AM we could see clouds beginning to build on top of Browns Peak, and a storm hitting the Supes.

    We stopped to take out the rain jackets and a white mini-van rolled up and asked if this road would take them all the way back to the 87. I pulled out my map and told them it looked like the road ended well before reaching the 87 and that they needed to turn around and take El Oso or the other forest road. The wife sitting in the passenger seat seemed concerned that we were about to be backpacking out in the rain. :roll: By 11 AM it was lightly raining, which was initially quite exciting (I needed to test the rain gear anyway).

    Just as we reached the Boulder Creek drainage the storm began to give us its all. Heavy rain, wind, and thunder! By the time we reached Sunflower, the trail was a muddy slip and slide, my phone was soaked and unresponsive (may it RIP ](*,) ), and we were slightly chilled.

    We waited under the 87 underpass for my brother to arrive, who was picking us up so I could take an exam for an online class I'm taking before returning to the trail the next day.

    April 11th
    Miles: 12
    AEG: 2,643 ft

    After finishing up my exam, we were back on trail around 1 PM. Under the 87, we did some last minute gear prep before heading out and ran into three other hikers, Giltch, Kegel, and Minus. They were 17 days into their thru-hike and were excited to get into Pine for some much needed beer. We were all aiming for McFarland Canyon for the night.

    We started up Saddle Mountain and enjoyed all the green scenery in the area. Just before reaching camp, we passed the half way mark for the AZT and celebrated with the thru-hikers before settling down for the night in McFarland Canyon.

    April 12th
    Miles: 21
    AEG: 5,249 ft

    The thru-hikers were up and leaving camp just as we were beginning to pack up. We weren't sure if we would ever see them again. The trail gets a little hard to follow just after McFarland Canyon to Thicket Spring. The Guthooks app says to head straight up a wash but apparently there is an alternative route that is clear of brush and well defined that you can take at the first junction past McFarland.

    Once we reached the junction for the Peeley TH we stopped to take a break and ran into Joe, a gentleman I had met at a trail maintenance event about a month earlier. Quite the coincidence, if we would have left a minute earlier we probably would have never seen him. He was meeting up with another fellow to remove some downed trees along the trail.

    The views along the Mazatzal Divide from Peeley to Y-Bar were my favorite for the entire trip. The rugged peaks of the Mazatzals and expansive views on either side were exciting to see. We ran into Minus again at the Bear Spring junction taking a lunch break. After taking our own lunch break at the spring, we headed for Horse Camp Seep.

    As we approached Horse Camp Seep, we ran into the three thru-hikers again. There was another hour or so of light, so they continued on, we decided to call it a day where there was water. Horse Camp Seep was a sweet spot and had great camping.

    April 13th
    Miles: 18
    AEG: 2,907 ft

    The goal for the day was to make it to the East Verde River, a relatively easy day that was mostly downhill. We made our way along the Divide trail and passed "The Park", an inviting stand of pines and great campsites. We stopped to take a lunch break at the Red Hills seeps. From here the trail descends steeply to the East Verde River. Not very fun for the knees.

    We camped just across the river and enjoyed the warmest night of the trip. We were now done with the Mazzies, and I felt the proposed "overgrowth" was kind of blown out of proportion, or there has been a lot of trail work in the past couple of months. Probably a bit of both. ;) I never felt like the trail was hard to find (except for the stretch between McFarland and Thicket) or that I had to deal with excessive brush that I wouldn't expect on most wilderness trails.

    April 14th
    Miles: 23
    AEG: 4,196 ft

    With burgers and beer on our minds, we got up early to make it into Pine with sufficient time to hit up THAT brewery and the market. The rocks along Whiterock and Hardscrabble Mesas were annoying and it felt like I was constantly stubbing my toes or rolling my ankle. Otherwise the area is quite beautiful and welcoming. The rocks put these two passages high on my list of "one and done" passages.

    We reached Pine around 5pm with plenty of time to get burgers and beer. Lo and behold, we run into Minus, Kegel, and Giltch at the brewery along with another thru-hiker, Thomas, who was taking a zero in town. We joined them and enjoyed the comradery. Thomas decided to join us at camp for the night near the Pine TH while the others reserved the cabin in the back.

    April 15th
    Miles: 17
    AEG: 3,303 ft

    We woke up with frost all over our gear. :yuck: After packing up, Thomas headed for the Highline and we headed for breakfast at the Early Bird. Just before we finished up eating we ran into Minus who was getting some breakfast himself.

    We headed for the Highline. It was nice to be climbing on a well graded trail with less rocks, especially because a hole was beginning to develop in my right shoe. I could feel every rock under my foot on that spot.

    At Red Rock Spring we made a quick stop and finished off the last bit of the Arizona Trail Ale we picked up the night before at the market.

    Once we reached Webber Creek we caught up with Thomas who was drying out all his gear. We stopped to take a break, and eventually Minus came strolling down the trail to join us. Minus decided to hike with us for a stretch after the break. The Rim gets right up in your face along this stretch and red dirt contrasting with the green pines and cedars made for great scenery.

    We were about 9 miles from the finish and a little antsy to finish up. Eventually Minus stopped to take a lunch break and we continued on after filtering some water. Now with only 5 miles left, we kicked it into high gear and made for the Washington Park TH. Clouds started to build along the rim.

    We reached the trailhead and got ready to hunker down for a few hours of inclement weather before our ride would arrive. However, after a few snow flurries, the clouds broke. Eventually Thomas and the other three thru-hikers caught up with us, we exchanged information, and said our goodbyes. All of them were very enthusiastic about Arizona and couldn't stop commenting on the diversity of the state and how we had a pretty cool home.

    ---------------------------------------

    Besides my foot issue due to my failing shoe on the last day, I felt great this entire trip. I never woke up sore or feeling exhausted. I listened to my body, and I was proactive about keeping my feet and knees happy. It really paid off and made the trip that much more enjoyable.

    This concludes all of Southern and Central Arizona passages for me. I'm looking forward to the easy walking on the plateau to the UT border!

    Wildflowers
    Lots of lupine in the middle elevations, not much at the highest and lowest elevations.
    Red Hills Trail #262 - Mazatzal
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    AZT Trail: Picketpost to Pine
    I was kind of looking to see where I was at for another big trek this summer and Karl was looking to experiment with a lighter weight higher mileage backpack, so I proposed Picketpost Mountain, or the beginning of section 18 of the Arizona Trail to Pine and the end of section 26 of the Arizona Trail. Karl was down for four days and had a somewhat flexible plan for ending his trip when he needed to. Meanwhile, I was about 50-50 if I could do the entire hike and was content with just seeing how far Karl and I could get and then playing the rest of my trip by ear, or I should say by body.

    Day 1: 29.92 miles 6268 aeg

    We made it to our planned first night's campsite on day one, Walnut Spring. Section 18 really exceeded my expectations. This is about the best time of year to be walking though that desert right now and Whitford proved to be a real treat with the flowing water and abundance of green. The climb was grueling and relentless but it offered some very solid views of the area and was really made manageable by liberal use of switchbacks. Karl was so confident with our performance at that point in the day that he insisted we bag Montana Mountain while we were up there. I agreed, but only because I was born in Montana and I said it had to count it as our break. Reavis Ranch looked like Daytona Beech and I had not apprehensions about making the short trip past it to my cozy little campsite at Walnut Spring. Got to Walnut just at headlamp time. Blew through camp chores, made a fire, ate and got to bed as soon as we could.

    Day 2: 25.67 miles 6392 aeg

    We came up a little short on our proposed campsite on this day, but the hiking was great so no worries. No stranger to the Eastern Supes, but Sunday still offered me all new areas after Two Bar Ridge. Cottonwood Canyon was great! No shortage of water in there and some cool little sites in this random little riparian jungle in the far corners of the northwestern Supes. A little bit of road and then it was the traverse from hell along the 188 waiting for that damn bridge to come into sight. From the bridge it was up the stairway to heaven. Where fittingly we had a trail angel waiting for us with tons of snacks and H20. After our sugar, hops, and caffeine binge at Mills Ridge we decided to just push for Buckhorn Creek. However, on that side of Four Peaks, pushing for a few extra miles usually entails a nice chunk of aeg as well, so we earned it. I did find a set of Indian ruins though along the way, so that was cool. We were both excited to learn that after carrying all that fresh water from Mills Ridge, there was water flowing in Buckhorn Creek. Oh well no filtering to do, quicker camp set-up, quick fire and in bed even earlier than previous night.

    Day 3: 31.24 miles 5239 aeg

    Day three was all new ground for me. Four Peaks makes you work, but alas the beauty of nature is enhanced by the ardor of the journey. I really enjoyed this section, an instant new favorite! I hiked through perhaps one of my nicest sunrises in a long time and marked several rock pile sites along the trail for future exploring. This section just kept getting better for me as we neared Four Peaks and started contouring towards Pigeon Spring. The lingering and previous snow had some of the creeks flowing nicely along this stretch and the trail got very nice as we approached its end. The road felt a little like Mad Max with the amount of Jeeps, trucks and atvs out. However, I must say not one negative experience with any driver and I do not think I have been offered as much water in such a short amount of time as I was along that 11 mile stretch of road. One guy asked, "is there anything else I could give you?" I said I could use some sunscreen and he offered up the whole bottle. The hike down into Sycamore was also very nice, again a great time to be in the lowlands, a little water, some flowers and green. However, it was hard to appreciate at times with the fatigue and anxiety over coordinating a last minute drop off of some additional things I felt I needed, if I was going to have any chance of reaching Pine. The drop and pick went smooth, a small adventure, but relatively smooth. We did not get an ideal spot to camp, but spirits were high after our resupply.

    Day 4: 24.7 miles 6297 aeg

    This was the day Karl and I would be saying our goodbyes. Karl decided on a Peely exit and I would push on to Bear Spring from there. More new trail for me to start the day and again I was not disappointed. The canyons on the way up to Saddle Ridge were picturesque, there was a lot of water and signs of some pretty extensive trail work in spots. I will admit things got a little dicey after we left the quaint McFarland Spring area, but we endured. The trails definitely need some work in there. I found myself kind of embracing the ruggedness and challenge the area presented. However, I could see that area becoming another hiker's hell if they were not expecting it. Karl and I parted at Peely. Losing Karl sucked, as he and I had a good thing going the first few days. Karl was keeping our pace in the areas where I tend to day dream and I was doing what I could do to keep us at a respectable place for some of the more stout climbs. But no time to dwell, I was solo now and needed to reach Bear Spring, just another 2000 feet of aeg and a shade under ten miles. There is no sense harping on the point, but the Divide Trail is getting nasty along there and I did make it to Bear Spring before head lamp conditions, but I was obliterated from that last little push from Peely. I replaced Karl with another Carl at Bear Spring. I am going to assume he spells his with a C. Anyways, I ran into Carl, better known as Spiced Rum on HAZ. He was on the final night of a backpack to gather some information for future work in the area. We chatted it up for awhile and I am not ashamed to admit I took some extra snacks from him. He was leaving a day early and I could not believe the amount of food I was going through on these long days, so I had no problem taking the charity. Superb stuff too, some great dried fruit, trail-mix and a Rice Crispy treat. Good guy all around and a source of wealth on some other major trails that I am interested in. And what a nice little spot to camp near Bear Spring, that saddle is great, I see why toughboots is fond of the place.

    Day 5: 26.9 miles 4051 aeg

    This was my make or break day. I had my city creek trailhead bailout option if needed, or I was pushing for the East Verde via the dreaded Red Hills and making my final push for Pine from there. The divide trail has its ups and downs, both in terrain and condition, but overall it was pretty smooth going. There is a section of Divide Trail that is now immaculate from about the intersection with Brody Seep to the intersection with Barnhardt. Kudos to that trail crew. I stopped for way too long to soak my legs and filter water and then realized I was looking at about ten more miles to include the worst part of the Red Hills and it was nearly three. My rational side said, "set up camp here, hike out LF or Saddle Ridge tomorrow," however, my other side said, "quit making excuses and finish the original plan." I am not sure what it was, but I was really dreading the last half of the Red Hills. Out of paranoia of being too exhausted to complete the entire section and having to dry camp somewhere I carried way too much water. This weighed me down and annoyed me even more as several of the creeks and main valleys I crossed had running water in them. As it turned out, while my worries were warranted, I did just fine and to be honest felt the area did not seem as bad as it had before and I must give props to the horse(s) whose tracks I followed through the entire Red Hills section, a doable stretch, just may require more time and detail. Camped at the Verde where I was serenaded to sleep by cows, frogs, chickens, maybe peacocks, cats and perhaps even a species of monkey. A very lively river at night.

    Day 6: 23.08 miles 4329 aeg

    This was the one I was waiting for, the "easy" day. A nice early start, I don't think there is a better place to be in the world than a half hour before light in the mountains somewhere, just pure serenity. There were ankle breakers abound on this day of Whiterock and Hard Scrabble. A nice steady pace was all I tried to keep and I followed a liberal break plan, as I crawled into Pine. The final two sections were not my favorite, but they were also the last two sections of a 160 mile trek so they would have had to have been perfect to really capture my imagination. Nevertheless, I got through both of them and endured the lava rock tread and bland road. I did find the last few miles to be more redeeming with the scenic Oak Spring and Bradshaw tank area. It was a reunion at the trailhead with Jackie and the pups, Del Taco and then home.

    Final Notes

    I need to work on a better nutrition plan for these big ones. I simply did not bring enough caloric energy for the type of days I was doing and the amount of energy I was putting out. I need to go healthier and more efficient, just a good lesson to learn.

    Karl played a huge role in getting me through those first four days, very glad to have him through there, he was missed later.

    A good song to have stuck in your head while hiking is Passion Pit, "Take a Walk."

    I can definitely go lighter on these ones too, I packed light, but by no means did I make any attempts to go ultra-light. In the future, that may be needed to knock out some of these more ambitious multi day treks.

    The hardest days by far were Day four with its nearly 7000 feet gained and day five with its 27 legit miles through the Mazzies without as much as a foot of road relief until the very end.

    Wildflowers
    About normal to not so great, to really good in spots. Most action in the first few sections though.
    Red Hills Trail #262 - Mazatzal
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    I headed to the Mazzys for some trail maintenance this weekend. I wanted to combine a nice little over-nighter at a cool campsite with a solid afternoon of trail work. I chose the Red Hills, as I had been pining to camp in there since my Mazzys thru hike last year. That little stand of pines dotting the main drainage along the first few miles of the Red Hills trail after you leave the Mazatzal Divide is a real nice little area. I PM'd the boss to make sure it was ok and he offered some tools, but it was easier to borrow some from Chumley rather than drive across the valley late afternoon. On a hunch he might be interested I invited DallinW.

    Jackie, myself and the dog pack met Dallin at City Creek trailhead sometime just before 8. Dallin finished up some packing and Jackie and I got a head start. It was not long before Dallin caught us. I picked his brain for a few miles about the Colorado Trail and then he was off well I coached Jackie up her biggest climb yet. I think there were ten, "one more switchback" from me. A quick hike from the divide to our nice little campsite. Then it was set up, grab a quick snack and hit the trail. Jackie stayed back to nap and enjoy a book. Dallin and I cleared from camp all the way back to the divide intersection. The section we did was certainly not the worst of the Mazzys, however, it was definitely in need of some TLC in a few areas. Chumley's pruners broke like ten meters from the signed intersection, so Dallin finished up that little area and we headed back to camp.

    We rested a little and then continued our work north up trail. Jackie came along this time, but I had lost my zeal after transitioning to the hand clippers and saw. Nevertheless, we cleared another eight tents of a mile. That put the day's total at about 1.8 miles of trail cleared. I was hoping we could have done more, but not having a pair of loppers for our afternoon run, really killed our efficiency and productiveness. But hey if I was thru-hiking that area, I would find much appreciation in hitting a nice little 1.8 mile stretch of pretty good trail.

    We had a raging fire most of the night and ate large amounts of food around it. We were in bed relatively early and generally slept well with what I thought was a chilly, but not overly cold night. There was about a half hour interruption in my slumber somewhere around 2 a.m. after Blanco got sprayed by a skunk. Not sure how it all went down, but he got it pretty good in the face. To his credit he did seem to minimize the smell some by rubbing his face in grass for about 20 minutes. But the initial attack was heavy.

    We all had to be back to Phoenix relatively early so we broke camp rather early and made the easy hike out. Jackie was not overly thrilled about following skunk dog for most of the day, but she did give us two thumbs up for our trail work. The hike out was naturally fast with the 5.5 mile downhill and great trail. The Mazatzal Divide Trail is in great shape along from the divide to City Creek TH.

    Final Notes:

    I hope to get out on one of the more formal trail clearing operations in the near future, but it was still nice to contribute a little drop in the bucket. I could not think of a better place to put in an afternoon of work and it was nice to meet Dallin and get some good intel on the CT. The stand of pines proved to be a great campsite and we really enjoyed our surroundings. In the end, it was just nice that everyone came back with the same amount of fingers and tails after my first real trail clearing endeavor.
    Red Hills Trail #262 - Mazatzal
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    After the seemingly never-ending drive to the trail-head, we set off on the faint, but fairly easy to follow Willow Springs Trail, making it to Mountain Spring before nightfall. Unbeknownst to us, a mountain lion had made a deer kill within the last week about 10 feet from where I had setup my tent, and some critters, including a fox, visited during the night to try to snack on the little that had remained.

    The next day was mostly a pleasant surprise, trail conditions were pretty good, to nearly highway like, along the remainder of the willow springs trail and the midnight trail. There are only two areas where it gets bad: the first is the area where willow springs trail intersects the midnight trail. The fire heavily damaged this area, and the beginning of the midnight mesa trail is not clear. The second is where the midnight mesa trail first meets Wet Bottom Creek. Though I was sure we were on the trail, the 6 ft tall bushes we had to wade through suggested this 100 ft span has already reverted to its natural state. A large camp was found setup at Wet Bottom Creek, and presumably this group had done the maintenance on the remainder of the Midnight mesa highway to its junction with Red Hills. :thanx:

    The Red Hills trail from here on is pretty much a disaster, and is pretty much non-existent in several places, and overgrown (badly) in the remainder. Other than the nice part where it crosses Wet Bottom Creek, it was not enjoyable.

    Thanks Fan for joining me! The 3 days went by quickly. The fact that some of the crazy people on this site hiked this in a day is mind-boggling. And from their GPS tracks, they only did about 70% of their loop on the actual trail.
    Red Hills Trail #262 - Mazatzal
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    I did one of Topo's Mazzy hikes today and it did not disappoint.The last time I did the Red Hills it was with a head lamp so I had been meaning to get back to that area in day light and maybe hike further down the Red Hills Trail. I noticed a description for the Mazatzal TH to Wet Bottom Creek using the Red Hills. I decided to go with that itinerary. The Grand Canyon and two track meets this week left my dogs feeling a tad neglected, so I was looking forward to getting them out for a good walk.

    The Mazatzal Divide Trail from City Creek TH to divide is in great shape. One gains some pretty good elevation along that nearly six mile climb to divide, however, the quality trail and gentle grade make it a pretty manageable climb.

    The Red Hills started out a little dreary with a short stretch through a severely fire damaged section. However, after that the trail has several redeeming sections including a few stretches through some pretty nice stands of Ponderosa that parallel a normally dry creek that is flowing very nicely right now.

    I actually did not make it to Wet Bottom Creek. With a little over a mile to go, I decided to turn around and head back. The trail was getting kind of nasty and I was losing patience, plus the dogs were having more fun playing in the water and after all this was their hike, so I decided to just go back and also enjoy the water. We had got kind of a late start anyways and we were already looking at a 20 plus miles day, so turning back was probably a good idea. It was a tad warm and I did not want to break Cup off with up to three more miles of some pretty rugged terrain when I knew she would much more prefer to cool off in the creek and start the trip back to the TH. Taking the dogs back to the creek turned out to be a great call. The dogs really enjoyed the water taking several swims between the two of them and tormenting about a dozen frogs along the way.

    It was real nice to get back out with the dogs again and I know they enjoyed the exercise. The Red Hills are pretty amazing right now with all of the water I was very impressed. There are actually some very scenic stretches along that trail and it is worth a trip, or at least a trip before it dries out. I really want to get out there on an over night trip before the water dries up and the real heat comes. I would like to knock out Midnight Trail and see what is remaining of Willow Spring Trail.
    Red Hills Trail #262 - Mazatzal
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    Mount Peeley to Twin Buttes
    I have been meaning to do hike since last Spring when I saw the sign just off Twin Buttes that said Mount Peeley 48 miles. The idea of a north to south or south to north trans-Mazzie hike really appealed to me and it would give me a chance to cover several areas of new ground in the Mazzies. There was also the added bonus of knocking out a couple sections of the AZ Trail, something that is still not really on my radar, but a little closer after this weekend.

    The HAZ network helped make this one possible. I ran into slowandsteady after Serena's event two weeks ago and she mentioned her and bifrost were also looking for a shuttle in the area. As it turns out they needed a car left at Peeley to complete a section of trail they were day hiking and would also be traveling to Flag later that evening. Therefore, they had no problem using my car to complete their shuttle then dropping it off at Twin Buttes on their way to Flag. I should mention though, all week I kept telling Karl yup leave it at the Pine TH, until he informed me that was not on Twin Buttes road and another 12 miles further into town. I am glad we cleared up that before I stepped off with the intention of my car being on Twin Buttes ;)

    My original plans were to do this in an ambitious over night trip. However, after mulling over the miles and AEG, I figured why not make it three days and utilize my Monday off? Even with the trip scaled back to three days, I had a bad feeling about bringing Cup along. I knew from the few areas I had hiked that although it was the AZ Trail, there were certainly some rugged areas in there and I felt with the warmer temps it just might be a little taxing on Cup, so it was just Blanco and I for this quick adventure.

    Even though I planned for three days and packed for three days, I told myself if day one went smooth, I would shoot for two days. I got kind of a late start on the first day, but still seemed to be making pretty good time, so I thought I would revert back to my original plan and just turn this trans-wilderness romp into an ambitious over nighter. I ended up about three miles past the Park at the junction of Red Hills and Mazatzal Divide Trail. 25 miles covered just over 11 hours of hiking and about an hour's worth of breaks and filtering water.

    I thought by hitting 25 miles on my first day, I was setting myself up for a pretty easy hike out to Twin Buttes. I got a much more FOTG approved starting time, however, the going just seemed slower all day on the second day. I was happy to cover some new ground but found Brushy Trail and Bull Spring Trail to be a tad underwhelming for stretches. However, I ran into several elk along Brushy Trail which was a pleasant surprise so there were some redeeming qualities about that stretch of trail. Tons of "goat heads," or what I call goat heads made life miserable for Blanco and myself coming up the initial stretches of White Rock Mesa. Cacti the dogs easily learned to avoid, but impossible to avoid this plant for the dogs, seems to be more prevalant in cattle country. Poor Blanco could barely make it 20 feet without getting several of those balls of spikes in his pad. He even laid down in frustration and gave up at one point. The trail finally got a little more scuffed up and rocky and the goat heads passed. The trail seemed to drag a little towards the end, it got pretty warm and a few of the short climbs kicked my pumpkin a little more then they should have. We reached TH and vehicle just after 5:30 p.m. Just over 22 miles covered on second day in a little over 11 hours with probably an hour of breaks and water refills.

    Overall, a nice little test of endurance and mettle. I wish I did not carry three days worth of stuff and such warm clothes. I certainly had to keep a steady pace, but it never felt too much like a death march, trails are a tad nasty in spots, but I enjoyed their ruggedness. Blanco was a perfect companion for this trip, no complaints, just hard hiking, he hit the wall a little on the first day, but led us out most of day two. In hindsight, I should have ended in Pine and knocked out that final AZT section in there, with the road miles it could still be done as an over-night I think.
    Red Hills Trail #262 - Mazatzal
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    Ken and I knocked this out two weeks ago. I really enjoyed what I saw. Unfortunately 9 hours was in the dark so I didn't get to see half of the hike.

    jj and I started out 40 minutes before sunrise with just enough light to avoid headlamps. Well at least I thought so until the Travelocity Gnome scared the crap out of me. On closer inspection I was looking at the vertical attention of a skunk's tail. Lucked out and moved on.

    Dutchman Grave Trail #22
    Still the trail I fell in love with weeks ago. Not as many yellow wildflower varieties, just green green green everywhere!

    Red Hills Trail #262
    The first few miles are outstanding. Experience paid off on this bad boy. Navigation was easier. I can now say this one takes the most time in route finding having done the others in daylight. Still unique and worth it once for those that haven't checked it out. Well at least the portion in this loop anyhow.

    Midnight Trail #272
    Not on my favorites list for the Mazzies. Yet easier to follow in daylight. The best part being my two planned bushwhack detours worked out great. Willow Springs Trail came quicker than anticipated.

    Willow Springs Trail #223
    The moment of truth. Ken & I had a heck of a time negotiating the 0.5 miles of trail around Midnight Mesa. Today in was still sketchy for a tenth of a mile. Yet easier to see, negotiate and didn't look so steep in daylight. That's it right? Head down and it's over.

    Not so fast. The hike down was phenomenal. Perhaps the weather. Perhaps the stunning views all the way down. I really enjoyed this trail in the daylight. Nice backside views of Peeley, Sheep and Saddle Mtn too!

    Second scare of the day was looking straight down the purple throat of a gila monster. I'm beginning to notice a pattern after a week of three snakes, a skunk and a gila monster at close range... jj is in the back wolfing down taffy!

    How it panned out
    I felt better on this loop. 20 hours was outta my comfort zone. JJ would probably knock off an hour or two without me and I'd probably add an hour two without him. So a nice medium. I hit 40g protein, 3 quarts of water, 2 Qts Gatorade, four ibuprofen, sunflower seeds, pistachios, half a pepperoni beef stick, 1 large chewy yet crunchy sweet tart. Feel great now a few hours afterwards. Of course jj survived on unfiltered creek water and his typical plethora of sugar treats...lol Also tried one super anti histamine to ward off the quickened paced snots a couple hours in. Yeah that worked for maybe ten minutes.
    Red Hills Trail #262 - Mazatzal
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    The inner Mazzies have intrigued me since 2001 when I created a FLASH map of the wilderness. Ken suggested this loop. I spent a solid twenty minutes throwing it together with his previous routes. Posting my gps route realized Richard did this loop CCW as a 4 day backpack. I should have known... lol!

    Driving across the Verde shaves about 1 hour off the drive to Sheep Bridge. Even with Horseshoe releasing 5 cfs the Verde was bone dry. We started the longest day hike of my life at 8:05am. "Wow" expectations where pretty low for this hike. If there is a cool hike in Arizona surely I know about it... right? Storybook temps albeit breezy set the stage.

    Dutchman Grave Trail #22
    Enjoyed this trail the most. Spring was dancing and changing tunes along the way. Healthy, out of idiot range, saguaros cover the hills.

    Red Hills Trail #262
    Some of the coolest mazzie terrain. Notably in two less burned creek areas and one mine area. Finding the trail is difficult. Year 'round water in the pools? One of 'em seems likely...

    Midnight Trail #272
    Welcome to the show. Dreams are filled with ridiculous access trails in the middle of large wilderness. The sun was setting and a full moon rose as we stepped into dreamland. The 2004 Willow Fire has destroyed a majority of the route. Extremely difficult to follow at night. Probably easier in daylight. Considerable amount of cairns. Unfortunately most are spaced out of view leaving no clue, aside from gps, which direction to go.

    Wind was really cranking. Plenty of water. My growling stomach was so loud it sounded like it was digesting internal organs. Ken whipped out the best mint chocolate Cliff bar I've had in my life. Then came the cherry on top. Literally too! A BAG of dried cherries. Wow, wow, wahoo! Christmas isn't usually this good!

    Willow Spring Trail #244
    Back to reality. #244 skirts the ESE side of Midnight Mesa proper for a half mile. Either we missed the trail or it is gone. Ken was not liking it. He slipped down and started yelling in Stiller tongue. A little further, then he slipped in a precarious spot. Looked like Luke hanging onto the edge of the weather vane under Cloud City. The situation called for some emergency jedi training. Ken used the force and denied the wrath of the dark side. Yoda would have been proud.

    We made it to some cairns rounding out the final third of the half mile skirt. Perhaps we just missed the rest. From there the majority of the trail down is easy to follow. Night hiking under a full moon is cool. Even better when the wind stopped.

    Horseshoes - 6
    Mylar Balloons - 1
    Crested Saguaros - 1
    Gila Monsters - 1
    4am Finishes - 1

    Carried 5 quarts, consumed 6

    Anyone interested in a predawn start at a quick pace or jog a few flats hit me up for a redo!

    Wildflowers
    predominantly along Dutchman Grave Trail #22
    Blackfoot Daisies are abundant 2200-2700ft, crazy hopbush for a half mile, claretcup, strawberry hedgehog, blue dicks, poppies, lupine, Dudleya, Cream Cups, Desert Anemone, Desert Phlox, Verbena, Dune Primrose, Filaree, Narrow-Leaved Popcorn Flower
    Red Hills Trail #262 - Mazatzal
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    With sub-100 temps, I decided to get in another Mazzy hike.

    I started out at the City Creek TH. The trail has been cleaned up from the TH to the Red Hills intersection. The CREC crew went a little past the Red Hill trail, but by then the trail is pretty wide open anyway. I went past the Red Hills trail and then the sky clouded over and a cool breeze started blowing.
    I then decide to go with my original plan and go to the LF Hilton. I double back to the Red Hill trail and took that to the Brush trail, to the Bull Springs trail.

    There was some recent activity on the Bull Spring trail. There were fresh footprints and cattle prints going to the cabin. I got to the Hilton, but they lost my reservation :sl:
    I took Bull Spring back to FR406. Some part of the Bull Spring trail had been cleared up. The Forest Service did some work at the Doll baby TH. They setup wire mesh cages full of rocks marking the wilderness boundary. They spaced the cages so horse and people could get through. BUT, they left the gate OPEN! :o

    The weather was perfect the entire day. The creeks were boon dry with an occasional small pool of water. The Bull spring looked more like a seep.

    Permit $$
    None


    Directions
    Map Drive
    or
    Road
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To Sheep Bridge Trailhead
    Take Cave Creek road east and follow the directions to Seven Springs - Cave Creek Road turns into FR24. Take FR24 35 miles until it ends at FR269. Take FR269 another 12 miles to the southeast until it ends at Sheep Bridge. NOTE: the last 8 miles or so of FR269 is unmaintained! While it may be passable by car - I would urge something with more clearance and designed suspension.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 105mi 3h 38m
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 182mi 4h 50m
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 119mi 3h 44m
    page created by mazatzal on Jan 26 2019 10:30 am
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