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Mica Mountain Marathon Loop, AZ
mini location map2016-05-21
199 by photographer avatarAZHiker456
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Mica Mountain Marathon Loop, AZ 
Mica Mountain Marathon Loop, AZ
Hiking avatar May 21 2016
Hiking27.45 Miles 6,929 AEG
Hiking27.45 Miles   11 Hrs   34 Mns   2.83 mph
6,929 ft AEG   1 Hour   52 Mns Break
1st trip
I put the MF’ing smack down in the Rincons, knocking off Mica Mountain, [which had been on the bucket-list for 3+ yrs], and then some, [Spud Rock, Helens Dome, Manning Camp, Duckbill, Man Head, Mica Meadow, & Reef Rock]. 8) In the process, I logged 27.45 miles for the day, destroying my previous PR of 20.05.

The previous weekend ended with my surprisingly strong 15+ miler [during which I bagged 12 peaks], followed by four days of high volume mileage relative to what I’m accustomed to. By Thursday evening, I’d logged 50 miles for the first five days of the week and felt very strong which was pretty awesome given that I hadn’t cracked 30 miles/week since the end of March during my Chiricahua peak bagging trip. Given how good I felt, I decided that the 20-21 miles from the Italian Springs TH [or rather from the parking area at Reddington & FR 37], to Mica Mtn & Spud Rock was a very reasonable target. The timing could not have been better; my flight landed at around 5:15 PM Friday evening in Tucson, and I proceeded to head straight from the airport to the mountains.

Once on Reddington Rd, I couldn’t help but notice the road signs emphasizing NO shooting / camping between mile markers 5 & 7… and how the sign for mile marker 8 was shot beyond recognition. There is a small parking area right by the start of FR 37. From what I’ve read, along with recent reports from those who’ve driven FR 37 this year, I was not even planning to attempt it in my Forester; in fact, it would’ve taken lots of skill and luck just to make the turn from Redinton Rd onto FR 37 without slamming bottom [luckily the was a second turn into the parking area just a few feet further up the road that any HCV could easily manage].

After an incredibly peacefully night of car camping, I kicked things off at 6 AM, heading down FR 37 on foot, toward the Italian Springs TH. Midway there, I noticed a faint, unmarked jeep road to my left. If the faint jeep road continued in the direction it was headed, then it would be a shorter, more direct way to the TH. I looked on the topo and decided to chance it. I figured the jeep road would take me at least as far as the Italian Trap Tank; and if I had to bushwhack after that, at least it was only a short distance. Sure enough, the jeep road led to the tank but did not continue in the direction I needed to go… and luckily it was only a short bushwhack because to say conditions were less than ideal would be an understatement! The brush wasn’t terrible and maneuverability was decent; visibility, on the other hand, left much to be desired. There were times when the grass was up to my knees! Luckily, I made it to the TH without drama and continued on my way.

The journey to Mica Mountain via the Italian Springs TH is an incredibly beautiful one. I actually enjoyed being on a trail for once, and as someone who rarely does repeats, I would totally repeat this one; enough said! The reports of Mica Mountain are spot on in that there are no views from the highpoint due to being almost completely obstructed by trees. However, the nearby Spud Rock and Reef Rock have some exceptional views. After Mica Mountain, I did a counterclockwise loop; and, in the process, hit up the following:

Spud Rock – The highpoint is literally a hop, skip, and a jump from the main trail, offering exceptional views! There were some bees up there, so I didn’t hang around for too long. Luckily they were not interested in me.

Helens Dome – If only I had a route for this, then I would not have fallen for the false summit! A very last minute decision, I headed off-trail to bag Helens Dome, which was way-pointed but not routed on the track I was following. Upon reaching what looked to be the highpoint, it was obvious that the waypoints were slightly off and that I had simply reached a false summit. It was tempting to descend the boulder crag I’d ‘summitted’ and try to find a way up to the highpoint, but after my Chiricahua trip in March, I got a sense of just how exhausting [and time-consuming] attempting to reach such craggy summits could be. And, given that I opted for a lollipop loop instead of an out-and-back from the TH to Mica Mtn/Spud Rock [which would be around 27 miles RT], I decided to press onward to the next point of interest [Manning Camp]. NOTE: According to a very reliable source, the highpoint of Helens Dome is reachable w/o rope/gear. I will have to knock that one when I go for TV Peak.

Manning Camp – After missing a turn, I found myself approaching in a more direct fashion and decided to continue heading ‘as-the-crow-flies’. From where I accidentally ended up off-trail, it was a short, fun bushwhack with excellent visibility and maneuverability. Just after arriving at Manning Camp, I bumped into a group of four hikers from SAHC. Leading them was a super experienced / hardcore woman who I’ve hiked with before… for almost every summit register I’ve signed to date in Southern AZ, her name is in there at least 3-4x.. and sometimes upwards of 8-10x. I was honored that she remembered me; she is really a living hiking legend in Southern AZ! We chatted a bit and then she and the other SAHC hikers went on their way, while I spent some time checking out Manning Camp, which was a lot more interesting in ‘real life’, relative to what I’d read about it. While not gushing, there was still some nice flow from the beautiful creek, along with mini-waterfalls and deep pools.

Duckbill – A rock formation [boulder pile] on the topo that I had to hit up since I was passing right by it. There are some well-beaten routes, and I had a blast scrambling up the boulders to the highpoint.

Man Head – Like Duckbill, this was another rock formation [boulder pile] on the topo that I had to hit up since I was passing right by. Unlike Duckbill, I did not make “summit” on this one; [although after removing my pack, I did manage to scramble part way up]. I’m not sure of the direction, but those familiar with area probably know exactly the spot I attempted to ascend: the face of the boulder formation that contains a narrow chute, mid-way up. Before even reaching the cute, there’s a bit of scrambling / maneuvering that’s required, including one section where the two options are: inching along on two feet on the ledge of a boulder while risking tons of exposure OR getting on your stomaching and slithering like a snake further in on the ledge under the boulder above, which forms like a “roof”. Those who make it this far then reach the narrow chute, [which is where I tapped out after several attempts]. I’m guessing some with more experience like Joe could make it without ropes/gear; but even then, it wasn’t entirely clear if it would in fact lead to the highpoint of Man Head.

Mica Meadow – The least interesting, but I was going right by and did not have to take a step off the trail to see it.

Reef Rock – The views were just spectacular; just as good if not better than Spud Rock! And, with NO bees, it was definitely much more enjoyable. This is not a summit but more or less of a rock outcropping right along the trail with awesome views. The “highpoint” involves getting on a small boulder and should be reachable by just about anyone, but climbing on the boulder is not necessary to enjoy the awesome views.

Once I got back to the Italian Springs TH, I took the beautiful Bellota Trail, [which had excellent footing and was part of the Arizona Trail], back to my vehicle at the junction of Redington Rd. & FR 37. It sure beat bushwhacking and/or the super rocky FR 37!
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