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mini location map2016-03-05
27 by photographer avatarjacobemerick
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Club CabinPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Backpack avatar Mar 05 2016
Backpack29.90 Miles 4,670 AEG
Backpack29.90 Miles2 Days         
4,670 ft AEG
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* Back-posting for the memories *

I was starting to get a bit weary of the Supes in early 2016 so the Mazzies seemed like an interesting option. Armed with exactly 0 miles hiked in this wilderness and a random assortment of gear I headed out to Horseshoe Dam to check out some trails. The plan was to do Davenport-Sears Loop as an overnight, with a short hop up to Club Cabin for water if I had time, but that turned out to be a bit ambitious.

The Hike Out
Getting to this trail is a small adventure. Parked near the overlook and crossed under the dam, which was way more awesome than I expected. Then it was mundane dirt road walking to the trailhead. I wasn't sure if the (KA/Johnson) ranch was active before heading out, but from tire tracks, crowing roosters, and random farm animals in the pastures it looks to be fully operational. Three miles later and I found Sears Trailhead, where a horse trailer was already parked in the wash. They must have driven over the dam's walkway (which is locked, btw).

First few miles beyond the wash is a winding two-track that goes through palo verde/saguaro flats, climbs up a little ridge, and then follows the open grassy ridge while providing awesome views of a chalky canyon to the north and epic ridges eastwards. Things get a little rocky again near the wilderness boundary and pauses at an old horse corral. This is where the two-track ends and it took a while for me to pick up where the footpath continues on the far side. From here on out I had to depend more on the fresh horse tracks and occasional cairn than defined trail. Climb up to a saddle, enjoy the views, drop a short bit down, and then climb to the next saddle. Got thoroughly separated from the trail twice and had some fun hacking through brush. But at least I bumped into my first Gila monster on the way!

When I finally got to Table Mountain and the Sheep Creek junction I was running behind schedule, low on water, and felt pretty drained from the exposure. Plus I had seen no water along the way, so it seemed safest to continue to Club Cabin and water up instead of saving time by cutting down towards uncertain sources on Sheep Creek. A bit over eight hours since leaving the dam I reached Club Cabin to find the pen locked tight and horses running loose inside. Finally found the group I had been following all day. We chatted, shared stories, and then I watered up at the spring, which was barely trickling. Tried using a new Sawyer mini, failed because I didn't know what I was doing, so just defaulted to an old MSR Miniworks. After an hour's rest I backtracked to Rock Spring, near the Sheep Creek junction, and set up camp near the circular water trough.

Mentioned that my gear was a random assortment. Half of it was leftover from my Midwest backpacking days and half was new fancy ultralight stuff. Dinner was a simple thing over a pocket rocket & gas, shelter a tarp-poncho with line & trekking poles to hold it up, and sleeping system a 20°F Kelty w/ Klymit X-Lite. Thanks to the huge bag I was using my 65L Scheels backpack, which was not designed to carry such a light load and had been sitting poorly all day. Plus my boots (Vasque Breeze) literally had holes in them from 5+ years of use. My back hurt and my feet bruised and, thanks to a warm and cloudy evening with some spitting rain, the sleeping bag was far too warm and bugs were out in force. Bug spray only does so much. Without a net I was reduced to huddling inside the cinched bag and sauna'd through the night. It was not a great campsite experience.

The Return
After a handful of catnaps I got up early and booked out, skipping coffee and oatmeal for a quick return. There was no way I was going to tempt Sheep Creek/Sears on the way down, not with unreliable GPS routes and a foul mood. Made one brief stop looking for water near an unnamed spring E of Dog Spring and found a little pool too small/muddy for the MSR to handle. Could have made it worked, decided to tough it out. Rolled downhill, only losing the trail once this time (progress!), and made it back in about five hours. Ran out of water at the trailhead and had a hot & dry road walk to finish things. Returned to the van after my first Mazzie experience slightly humbled and very thirsty.

Mazatzal Miles: 10.9/274 (4%)
Banana Yucca
Gila Monster

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Club Spring - Table Mountain Quad Dripping Dripping
One full pool, dripping below. Some water was being diverted into horse trough at cabins.

dry Rock Spring Dry Dry
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