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Rock Creek Trail #42 - Mazatzals
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mini location map2013-03-31
14 by photographer avatarDarthStiller
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Rock Creek Trail #42 - MazatzalsPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 31 2013
DarthStiller
Hiking13.30 Miles 4,300 AEG
Hiking13.30 Miles   9 Hrs      1.48 mph
4,300 ft AEG
 no routes
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wallyfrack
The last time I did a hike in the Mazatzals's, it was a shuttle hike, took up all day, and was exhausting. That was two years ago. Not much has changed. I had been wanting to do a shuttle hike to go up North Peak Trail, south on the MDT, and then down Rock Creek. Rock Creek was the trail I went up 2 years ago, and it's in even worse shape now, but we'll get to that later.

The hike up the North Peak Trail was the typical workout/slog I expected. It gets patchy and faint in some spots, but I don't think it's really too hard to follow. The steepness of it can be a bit relentless at times, but after the 3 mile mark, it starts to level off a bit. I last hiked this trail 4 years ago and I remember thinking then that the manzanita that was starting to grow would soon choke this trail out. Thankfully, that hasn't happened. The condition of this trail is pretty much identical to what I remember 4 years ago: some work, but not miserable. It took just over 3 hours to make it to the top, so we were making good time.

Once we got to the junction of North Peak and the MDT (at "The Park", although I didn't see any swingsets or monkey bars or anything....), we turned left and headed south on the MDT. Triplogs that I read 3 to 4 years ago about this section of the trail sounded grim. Lots of talk about overgrown sections that slowed your progress down to under 1mph. Thankfully, it was nothing like that. It's very easy to follow and the views along here are really nice. Just south of the junction with the North Peak trail we saw the junction with the Willow spring trail. this junction doesn't really have a sign, and the condition of the Willow Spring Trail seemed tenuous at best. Not sure if it gets any better as you get closer to the Sheep Bridge TH, but at this point it was little more than a possible route to bushwhack.

We took lunch about 1.5 miles south of the junction and had some really nice views of the San Francisco Peaks, Kendrick, and maybe Bill Williams Mt. and Hualapai. Amazing that you can see so far. We got to the "junction" of the Rock Creek Trail a little after 1 pm, making for 5 hours total of hiking time, still making good time. But all good things must end.

As I mentioned, we got to the "junction" at about 1pm. Of course, there is no junction here because there is no Rock Creek Trail at this point. I had my GPS track from 2 years ago so I knew at what point we had to begin bushwhacking up the hill to look for the trail I remember hiking down from the saddle. Wally was confused as to where to begin and why we were suddenly bushwhacking in a spot that had absolutely no sign of any trail. On my way up, I slid in some mud from Hopi Spring and my knee was covered. Once we found the trail, it really didn't make much of a difference from the bushwhacking. This trail has gotten way overgrown in the last two years. I remember the hike down to the MDT from the saddle starting with a trail that got faint, a little overgrown and then disappeared. The brush was thick and unrelenting the whole way to the saddle. but at least the brush covered the loose rocks that made it impossible to get solid footing.

From the saddle down to the TH, the condition of the trail is overall the same until about 2 miles from the TH. the going was very slow and made for about as miserable of a hike as I've had in a long time. It took us 4 hours to hike between 4.5 to 5 miles. The brush doesn't have any thorns for the most part, but it's so thick that it just about pushes you off the trail as you try to move past it. This combined with the constant loose rock made for my feet being blistered, swollen and sore by the end. At the point where it finally opened up, we made up some time moving down the trail, but there were still some steep descents at points. by this time, my legs and feet were sore enough that even the shortest drop into a wash was almost excruciating. By the end of the hike, the mud on my knee had been completely cleaned by the constant brush along the trail. The views along Rock Creek were probably the best of this hike, but there is definitely a price to be paid. It would be nice to see some maintenance done on this trail at some point, but until this, I'm not looking to repeat Rock Creek ever again.
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