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Reynolds Creek to Devils Eye, AZ
mini location map2020-10-10
15 by photographer avatarJohn10s
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Reynolds Creek to Devils Eye, AZ 
Reynolds Creek to Devils Eye, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 10 2020
Hiking13.46 Miles 3,292 AEG
Hiking13.46 Miles   8 Hrs   7 Mns   1.95 mph
3,292 ft AEG   1 Hour   12 Mns Break
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
Late this summer I stumbled across the Devils Eye write-up on HAZ and added it to my list. It was a recent add to the site and looked like a fun one--I've always enjoyed the Sierra Anchas, especially the off-trail adventures. The official guide starts at Moody Point Trailhead, but I haven't yet experienced the road conditions on the Workman Falls route, so rather than take any chances with my vehicle's ability to reach that trailhead, I mapped out an alternative route from Reynolds Creek Trail to Murphy Ranch Trail to Rim Trail, where we'd leave the trail for the traverse, making the hike 10+ miles round-trip.

Topo maps of the Sierra Anchas are dotted with mine prospects, and there are areas around Aztec Peak and Moody Point with known radiation contamination from uranium mines, so rather than spending time researching which areas are affected and to what extent, I picked up a Geiger counter to monitor radiation levels along the route. If I didn't succeed in reaching Devil's Eye today, I figured one of three causes would be to blame: radiation, time, or the route itself. With the longer hike and not knowing how slow the final traverse would be, running out of time was a possibility, and I wasn't sure how steep or dangerous the final traverse to the Eye might be. There are only two trip logs, written by the group who found the Eye and authored the official guide. The route didn't sound particularly difficult--one triplog mentioned "nothing too hairy", but you never man's "nothing too hairy" can be another man's full-on sasquatch :). But I certainly wanted to check it out.

This was my third hike starting at Reynolds Creek in the past two months, the first two visits focused on searching for the Reynolds Creek ruins, the latter visit in mid-August a success. There were a lot of campers along Highway 288 and FR 410 today, but the small parking at the Reynolds Creek Trailhead was empty. I fired up the Geiger counter, and we headed up the hill and past the dry Reynolds Falls.

The route I'd mapped followed what I'd hoped would be a shortcut on Center Mountain Trail and then the decommissioned portion of Reynolds Creek Trail that follows the rim. I hadn't taken that route on my previous visits, and it looked like it would trim some mileage off the route and give us a chance to see some nice views from the rim. Unfortunately, the northern portion of that old trail is virtually non-existent and slow-going up the steep slope through the forest, so that route ended up costing us some time despite saving a little mileage. But the view from the rim was beautiful and may have justified the added time, and there were some interesting caves and tunnels in the cliffs in that area.

We connected with Murphy Ranch Trail and had a close encounter with what was almost certainly a bear. We heard some thunderous movement just off the trail, and given the amount of noise, it had to be a bear. I had to quick-draw the bear spray, and we made lots of noise to try to scare it off. Fortunately, we heard the crashing sounds moving away from us...unfortunately, we never got a look at it running away.

We lost more time due to some route confusion along Murphy Ranch Trail. The route I'd created in RS followed the CalTopo map version of Murphy Trail, and the trail was either re-routed at some point or the topo map is incorrect. There was a large cairn at the point where the GPS route said another trail should branch off to the right, but there was no visible trail. We tried bushwhacking our way through, but the brush got so thick that we eventually decided to backtrack and continue following the trail we'd been on, only realizing when we reached the Rim Trail intersection that were still on Murphy Ranch.

We exited Rim Trail toward the traverse, and given the earlier slowdowns, it was looking unlikely that we'd have time to reach Devil's Eye, but I wanted to see what we were up against with the steep descent and at least find the cliff band that leads to the Eye. My hiking partner is a little slower and less comfortable on the steep, loose terrain, so she waited at the top of the slope while I made my way down to check it out. I found it as described in the official route and trip logs--it was a steep and a little slow going at times, but I didn't have any trouble getting down and didn't have to get close to the cliff edge at the bottom of the slope.

I rounded a corner and found the cliff band I needed to follow, but with my hiking partner still waiting above and our turnaround time quickly approaching, I knew there wasn't enough time for both of us to reach the Eye today. The GPS said I was ~ 0.2 miles away, but I resisted the temptation to make the traverse on my own and turned around. Even though I came up just short, I still considered the day (mostly) a success. I got a good sense for the route, and everything I could see of the final traverse appeared to be well within my comfort zone.

I climbed back up the hill, and we returned to Reynolds Creek Trail, this time staying on the main trail instead of taking the decommissioned portion. The fall colors along the creek were fantastic, and we saw just a hint of water in the creek in one area. Large stretches of all the trails we hiked today were overgrown with thorns and brush, and I'd packed some pruning shears and trimmed as I hiked, which made the hike out a little easier, but I still came out covered in scratches.

The only above-normal radiation reading the Geiger counter picked up was near the Reynolds Creek Trailhead at the very end of the hike near a large pile of loose dirt, but the reading wasn't alarmingly high. Some campers had set up near the trailhead, but they were the only people we saw all day. We finished with a little over 13 miles of hiking, and, weather permitting, I plan to return in the next few weeks and finish off that last stretch and reach the Eye. Hopefully without the slowdowns and following a now-familiar route, we can complete that final stretch and look the Devil in the Eye :).
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