|Hiking||7.70 Miles|| 6 Hrs 17 Mns ||1.23 mph|
|2,751 ft AEG|
|We dubbed this our "Reynold's Creek Redemption Hike." Our family tried this one on Labor Day back in 2012, only to get off track from the get-go into a side canyon that ultimately forced us to abort the hike as planned. Details at: http://hikearizona.com/x.php?I=4&ZTN=716&UID=55481. As we drove away from the TH in 2012, I vowed: "I'll be back to experience the real Reynolds Creek Trail again . . . ."
Today was the day.
So, with a lesson learned under our belt and a knowledge of where the actual trail starts, we arrived confident and determined to finish what we started two years before.
We arrived at the empty parking area and proceeded for the entire day without coming across a single soul on the trail. If you are looking for some solitude in your search for a fall-colors, this is your hike.
Ok. On with the hike....
Knowing now where the trail starts (which, by the way is still completely UN-obvious from the parking area), we confidently made our way to the split-log bridge. The past couple of years have not been kind to the log bridge (see photos). It looks to have taken a particular beating from the flooding that surely accompanied our recent historic rains.
Passing the trail sign just beyond the bridge, we were at last on the REAL trail.
Within a tenth of a mile, we crossed the creek and realized quickly that finding the TH was only the beginning of the navigational challenges held by Reynolds Creek. The trail was very overgrown and very difficult to follow. Although there were a couple of rather elaborate trail markers (see photos), Mother Nature has been busily obscuring all more mundane signs of the trail and re-claiming the pathway like a scratch in her flesh that was finally healing over, leaving little trace of the original wound.
We patted ourselves on the back for being able to discern the course for a few tenths before it became clear that we had veered off track at some point, and found ourselves plodding through endless brambles of pokey raspberry bush strands and piles of deadfall. After about a half-mile of randomly wandering around in vain efforts to relocate the trail (thinking that we didn't want to backtrack and "waste" all the progress we had made), we decided to (1) retrace our steps back to a point where we knew we were on the correct path and (2) actually consult the map we had brought along with us. Both proved to be key in helping us get back on track. When we got back to the last cairn we had seen, I looked at the map and realized that there was a switchback that we should have come across and that we clearly had missed. With that information in hand, we moved forward on the path, paying very close attention for any signs of a switchback. Knowing what we were looking for, along with our more focused attention, allowed us to see what we had missed before--a very overgrown pile of rocks along the trail that marked a sharp turn at the bottom of the switchback. Had we not known what to be looking for, we never would have seen it. And, even after finding the rock pile, there didn't look to be much of a trail up the supposed switchback (it was also very overgrown). However, after heading up the hillside another 30 yards or so, the trail became slightly more clear and we regained confidence that we were, once again, headed in the right direction! Yay! [We made some effort to revitalize the marking at the switchback juncture for future travelers.]
Other than the initial navigational challenge, the hike itself was great! As an added piece of adventure, we had researched the set of native american ruins that were in the general area of the trail, but whose precise location has been unpublished on this site (and I agree, should remain so). Based on the "clues" provided by others, the kids and I had a lot of fun doing some "detective work" that we hoped would would lead us to the ruins. Long story short, we were successful, and with some off-trail bushwhacking, my son and I were able to locate the ruins (my wife and daughter waited for us, after the bushwhacking got a little rougher than they cared to endure).
The ruins were, in short, very cool. They are built into a large cave in the rock, which is around 30-40 feet in depth, and about 50 ft in height, with an opening at the top, providing perfect ventilation for the dwelling. The dwelling itself is at least 3 levels tall, and includes about 6 separate rooms. We enjoyed carefully exploring the dwelling, and marveled at how people were able to make this remote and rugged place their home. I'm sure the privacy was great, but accessibility is a whole 'nother story. (Not sure how they managed to get water, food, building materials, and other necessities into such a remote and inaccessible location)!
We also enjoyed the short side-trip to Reynolds Creek waterfall. The falls were running strong due to recent rains in the area. We also explored downstream a bit, where it is revealed that there are actually a cascade of falls, the second of which is a 10-15 footer or so, followed by one that is about 100 ft, but drops into a narrow slot that is difficult to observe, except by laying down prone on a rock outcropping and reaching your camera over the edge to see the pool at the base of the fall.
Crossing the "main" falls on the way back to the main trail, my son slipped on some moss covered rocks and came within a hair's breadth of sliding into the pool at the base of the waterfall. Luckily, his shoe found a foothold just as he was about to take an unexpected swim! So, we didn't end up getting an accurate reading on how deep the pool was at the waterfall's base.
Other than the falls, the hike primarily wound through forested areas along some mountain drainages, where the leaves were just beginning to turn color. [Note: Leaves starting to change; probably will be at peak in a couple of weeks.] We cruised right by Knoll's Hole, which is actually a rather small grove of aspens. I guess after exploring the Inner Basin around the Peaks in Flagstaff, our expectations about what constitutes a cool grove of aspens is a little high by comparison.
The hike continued to be a bit of a navigational challenge, though we managed generally to stay on track the rest of the way. With all the rain and lack of use, the trail was covered with grass and other vegetation. We eventually made our way up to a ridgeline that divided the Sierra Ancha mountain range, and promised expansive views off to the east. Rather than descend the past the saddle down to Murphy's ranch, we had planned to follow the ridgeline out to the Pueblo Canyon overlook and then return via the Center Mtn. trail. The "turn off" at the saddle is basically nonexistent. Your only clue is that there is a trail marker at the "top" of the saddle just before you start descending to Murphy's ranch (see photo). Turn left (NE) there, and just head in the direction the ridgeline follows. After a hundred yards or so and passing through a dispersed camping site/fire ring, something approximating a path appears and resembles an old road for a bit (as referenced in other triplogs), but becomes very indistinct, very quickly. There are a few cairns here and there, but this part of the hike is more one of "general direction" (i.e., follow the ridgeline) than one of following a well-defined trail. At the point where the "trail" begins to descend more steeply, there were a few more cairns following a path of indistinct switchbacks that stayed fairly close to the drop-off on the eastern side of the divide.
Once we "bottomed out" in the Center Mtn. drainage, we climbed up the other side a bit to the Pueblo Canyon Overlook, which ends in an abrupt, precipitous drop off with gorgeous views of the canyon and mountain rolling off in the distance. Also, a thunderstorm that had been threatening during our hike, but mostly moved off to the east of us was dropping its moisture in the distance, as we observed from our dry position on the overlook.
From the overlook, we descended back down to the drainage and followed the Center Mtn trail back to its junction with the Reynolds Creek Trail and finished off the rest of the hike around 5pm.
On the way home, we stopped and ate dinner at La Cocina de Casillas Mexican Food and Burger House in Miami, AZ (as recommended by other HAZers on this side). The food was pretty good.
We got home about 7:30 pm and were tuckered out after the long, but fun, day.
Reynolds Creek Redemption = CHECK!