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Miller Creek Trail #28
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mini location map2010-10-06
24 by photographer avatarkeepmoving
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Miller Creek Trail #28Tucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Backpack avatar Oct 06 2010
Backpack43.00 Miles 2,000 AEG
Backpack43.00 Miles4 Days         
2,000 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Partners none no partners
I got a couple days off work and school and figured there was no better way to use the time then to hit the Rincons. I decided the best way to see the entire area was to take a 4 day tour, starting at Miller Creek and hiking out the Douglas Spring trail.

Day 1: 12 Miles
Knowing the Miller Creek trail is exposed to the sun; I woke at 5am and was on the trail by 8:30. I made good time for the first mile as the trail followed the creek bed, but soon I passed the park boundary sign and began to slow down. My pack weighed 60 pounds, mostly due to the 12 liters of water I was carrying, and the climb began to take its toll. After several short rest breaks I found a good rhythm and was able to make steady progress for the remainder of the climb.

By 11am the climb was over and I arrived at the junction at Heartbreak Ridge. I wandered down the trail a little ways and was surprised to find the campground so quickly. My map showed it was located half a mile further south at the junction with the Rincon Peak Trail, and had it not been for a vacant forest service tent that was already set up, I would never have spotted it. I dropped my gear, set up camp, and had a quick lunch, but the day was not over yet and it was time to hit Rincon Peak!

The initial climb to the campground must have taken more energy then I thought and I climbed slowly towards the peak. Luckily it was a cloudy day with a strong wind that kept me cool and I was able to make it to the peak in less than 2 hours. I took a short break on the top, and then headed back down to camp to have dinner and go to bed early.

Day 2: 11.2 Miles
Woke up with the sunrise, had a quick breakfast and enjoyed the solitude. I was looking forward to the hike along heartbreak ridge to Spud Rock Spring Campground; an area I had never explored.

From camp the trail north looked quite steep, but once I got moving I found it was not as bad as I expected. I was also impressed by how well maintained the trail was, not overgrown, and with stone steps in several locations. I took the turnoff to Happy Valley Lookout and enjoyed a quick break while taking in the view of Rincon Peak.

The remainder of Heartbreak Ridge was uneventful and about an hour later I found myself turning onto Deerhead Spring Trail. I was making good time, looking forward to setting up camp, but I lost the trail shortly after passing Turkey Creek Trail. There is a very overgrown section where ferns have obscured the trail, causing previous hikers to deter down the hillside to form a new trail that quickly peters out. I backtracked 50 yards, carefully examining the trail, and eventually located the correct trail again. I cairned the junction and beat back the ferns as best I could, but I have a feeling they will soon reclaim the trail, again.

Excited to be back on the trail, I increased my pace and ambled into camp a short time later. After dropping my pack and exploring the campground, I set up camp and filtered some water. Afterwards I consulted my map and decided it was time to explore the surrounding area, specifically Mica Meadow and Reef Rock.

I could not have made a better choice of an area to explore: Mica Meadow if beautiful and the views from Reef Rock cannot be beat. As I walked through Mica Meadow the late afternoon sun highlighted the grass and ferns and made the area look magical. Just when I was thinking the area couldn't get any better, the trees cleared and I found myself on the edge of Reef Rock with views stretching out many miles below me. After soaking in the views and the sun, I reluctantly grabbed my gear and headed back to camp.

Day 3: 7.6 Miles
I was a little sore in the morning, but if there was one day I was looking forward to the most, this was the day! I would get to see Devils Bathtub, Manning Camp, Mica Mountain, & Spud Rock! All of which I have been wanting to see for a long time!

As I was leaving camp I was struck by how great the aspens looked, having turned golden after being struck by the rising sun, and I had to pause to take a picture. Back on the trail my sore muscles began to loosen up and I soon found myself at Devils Bathtub. I scrambled down to the main pool, scrapping my leg pretty badly in the process. My map labeled the pool as "seasonal" but I would think it would only dry up during a really dry year.

Back on the trail I increased my pace and quickly found myself in Manning camp! I took some time exploring the surrounding area and checking out every camp site before choosing a spot. My only criticism: compared to Happy Valley & Spud Rock Campground, several of the sites felt cramped and lack flat areas to sleep on. But the bathrooms are top notch!

After setting up camp I left to see Spud Rock and Mica Mountain! All the miles I had covered over the last couple days had begun to take their toll and I was beginning to move very slowly. I felt like I was crawling as I left camp and had to take numerous breaks before I reached Spud Rock. I enjoyed the 'climb' to the top and the views, but I must say I prefer Reef Rock!

After leaving Spud Rock I headed towards Mica Mountain, the highest point in the Rincons! I was already aware that the view from the top was nonexistent; even so, I was still a little disappointed when I arrived. After a short break I took off to explore a couple more trails in the area, and then headed back to camp for an early dinner and to kick back and relax.

Day 4: 12.2 Miles
Having read Jeff's description from his backpack over the Rincons in June, I did not want to have to hike down Douglas Spring Trail in the sun! The night before I had packed all my gear and was planning on waking up at 4am to begin my hike out. Unfortunately I woke up before my planned departure time and couldn't get back to sleep. So reluctantly I crawled out of my bag (it was cold) and hit the trail at about 3:20am.

The hike to Cow Head Saddle was quite fun, with absolutely no moon out, I had to rely solely on my headlamp for navigation. There were a couple times when I came across eyes gleaming at me through the darkness, which made the hike just a little bit spooky...

My super early departure had me so far ahead of the sunrise that I was able to pass Douglas Spring Campground before I got hit with any sunlight! Shortly before Bridal Vail Falls I ran into a fellow SARA member who was headed to Douglas Spring CG, and after chatting for a couple minutes we both went our separate ways. With only a couple miles left I increased my pace for the remainder of the hike, and ended up running the last 6/10ths of a mile back to the trailhead!
Camp-fire Fraley Pose
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