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Turkey Creek Trail #34Tucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Backpack avatar May 12 2017
Backpack22.50 Miles 2,839 AEG
Backpack22.50 Miles
2,839 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
My friend Sam and I, along with three of my kids and one of his, hiked the Turkey Creek trail to Manning Camp for a two-night backpacking trip. We had made a similar trip six years ago to Spud Rock Camp, when the kids were much younger, and we’ve been itching to get back to the Rincons since then.

The jeep trail to the trailhead is a little rough in spots. There’s one steep uphill that we attempted and failed in four wheel high, so we had to back up and use low range.

The weather was pleasant. Still, the several miles of trail from the wilderness boundary to the where the ponderosas and firs start in earnest felt pretty hot. This section of trail is exposed, steep, and rocky. Once in the trees, however, the hiking is a very enjoyable. It took us over six hours to reach Manning Camp, including some fairly generous rests.

We were the only people in Manning Camp the first night. What a great place to camp. The pit toilets are even somewhat pleasant. The only fly in the ointment was the Mexican whippoorwills that sang quite loudly for what seemed like most of the night.

The second day we hiked a circuit of trails around the top of the range, visiting Helen’s Dome, Spud Rock, Mica Mountain, Reef Rock, and Man’s Head. This was the highlight of the trip for me. The views from Spud Rock and Reef Rock were especially noteworthy. We lay for awhile on Spud Rock, sucking the warmth from the rock while a cold wind rushed over us, pulling our body heat away.

My boys were able to climb to the top of Man’s Head, but I was not. I made it up the lower half, where inching on our bellies along a shallow ledge was the worst required, but the upper half required skinnying through a really narrow crack, right through the middle of the “head”. I got part of the way through but turned around when I found myself stuck horizontally and several feet off the ground, able to move only when I exhaled all the air from my lungs. If you want to know how skinny you have to be to make it through this crack – I’m six feet tall and 150 lbs, and I was too thick.

The second night we were joined at Manning Camp by a group of three backpackers. I was kind of disappointed to have company – by this time in the trip, I was thinking that we might end up with the mountain to ourselves from start to finish.

Hiking back down on the third day we took the slightly longer route that goes past the Devil’s Bathtub, and I’m glad we did. Beelzebub’s Tub is definitely worth the couple of extra miles. If we had had more time it would have been fun to climb down the cliff to the pools below.

Sam’s daughter had serious shoe/blister problems within a few miles of the trailhead, so she hiked the remainder of the trip barefoot. One tough cookie!
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