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Rock Creek Trail #42 - Mazatzals
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mini location map2010-05-01
5 by photographer avatartopohiker
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Rock Creek Trail #42 - MazatzalsPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar May 01 2010
topohiker
Hiking21.20 Miles 5,480 AEG
Hiking21.20 Miles   10 Hrs      2.12 mph
5,480 ft AEG
 no routes
Partners none no partners
I parked at the Rock Creek TH. Getting there was not hard at all . Just three updated details:
1) The turnoff from the Beeline is right across from the huge bicycle junkyard.
I didn't see any signs for the turn off.
2) FR414: you know you went too far if you go past a gate. The gate is 10 feet after
the FR420 turn and before second creek crossing.
3) The trailhead GPS location is: N34 07.560 W111 26.198
An interesting note: When you start down FR414, there a sign for the mineral creek TH. This may be a quicker way to get here than going through Payson

I had planned on parking at the Rock Creek TH and hiking to the Mazatzal divide , then hike the divide to the Wet Bottom Creek intersection and return. It would have been about 6~7 miles one way.
I had parked at the new Rock Creek trail head and headed down the faint road. After about a quarter mile, the road disappears into a creek bed. After another quarter mile of rock hopping and finding small remaining section of the road, I reached the Half Moon / Rock Creek intersection. I seen Preston's ribbons and trail maintenance. This helped out a lot. I was able to follow the ribbons and cairns all the way to the water falls. The water falls was flowing, but not as much as I had expected. I didn't see any more ribbons past the falls. I continues on and climbs to the high point of 7,071. By this point I had climbed 3,000 feet in about 4 miles. When I was at the top, black clouds rolled in from the north and a very cold wind stared blowing. It looked like it was raining over Payson. I scrambled to get to the other side of mountain and start my descent. When I got within a quarter mile on the Hopi sprint, that's when the hike turned for the worse. The fire took out all the trees and now the Manzanita took over the west side of the Rock Creek trail. Not only is there overgrowth, there are 2 foot new Manzanita growing all over on what left of the trail. I used GPSJoe's track and still had issues. I would be on a trail for 3 feet and then it would disappear. I would find a cairn, but it didn't help. After a while I just used the GPS to locate the Hopi spring and bushwhack to it. The only clue that I hit the spring was the wet ground and a burnt-out spring box. There was no signs that I hit the Mazatzal Divide trail. It took me 4 hours / 5 miles to get to this point. I took lunch and pondered what to do next. Looked north on the divide, all I saw was downed trees and the clouds turned darker. I didn't want to go back the bushwhack and climb back to 7,071 feet , so I decided to "Do the Loop". Loop as in Rock Creek to Mazatzal Divide to Barnhardt to Half Moon. I had no desire to do the route finding Sandy Saddle again. I knew I had a lot of ground to cover, but at least it would be open and relatively flat from here. One thing against the loop was that I parked at the wrong TH. I calculated that to get out before dark( with a half hour buffer), I would need to maintain a 3 MPH average. I went for it!

I head south on the Mazatzal divide and about 10 minutes later I came across two guys backpacking. They were planning on staying at the Hopi spring that night and planning on taking rock creek out in the morning. I warned them about the route finding adventure that awaited them. They warning me about getting lost at the Divide / Sandy Saddle intersection. I laughed and told them how I went down the Sandy Saddle trail by mistake the week before. I think this section of the Mazatzal divide is the most scenic I've seen so far. The fire did open up the views. There a huge dry water fall that must be a sight to see when it's flowing. I made to the Barnhardt intersection by 3:30. I made it to the TH by 5:30 and wished that I had parked there. I started on the last leg of the hike, the Half Moon trail. There was fresh ribbons out on the half moon. Everything was on-track until I got about a half mile from the Rock Creek intersection. There's a low flat area that's way overgrown with cats claw. Even with the ribbons and Joe's track, I still had issue staying on trail. In some spots the cat's claw so thick, it obscured the cairns. I made it to the jeep by 7:15. Just 45 minutes more than I had predicted.

This was one of the more challenging hikes I've done in a while. It's high miles, lots of climbing and lot's of route finding. I don't think I'll doing the whole Rock Creek trail unless the western side gets rebuilt. I think it's only worth your while to hike to the water fallsand back on the rock creek trail.
_____________________
"Everywhere is walking distance...If you have the time"
-Stephen Wright
HAZ Member
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