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Deer Creek to High Creek, AZ
mini location map2020-11-14
30 by photographer avatarchumley
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Deer Creek to High Creek, AZ 
Deer Creek to High Creek, AZ
 
Backpack avatar Nov 14 2020
chumley
Backpack23.00 Miles 5,808 AEG
Backpack23.00 Miles3 Days         
5,808 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Kathleen had been begging me to take her to Powers Garden for a while, and not to turn down an excuse to spend time in the Galiuros, I penciled in a date on the calendar. Of course, the plans went all crazy and the whos and whens weren't finally settled until a few hours before we started. Kathleen had to work, until I fomo-guilted her on the drive east, and she managed to pull everything together and make the trailhead before sunset. Jon was gonna meet us in the morning, but that got thwarted and he didn't leave the valley until mid morning. Joel had a bunch of stuff keep him from getting out of town on time and he drove through the night. Patrick was on time and Nate somehow got his Prius all the way out there in time for a Friday night car camp.

Saturday morning, Joel rolled up and he and I opted to set up a shuttle so we could come out via High Creek instead of returning back to Deer Creek. This took longer than expected ... the shortest route isn't an option because a ranch owner has restricted access. So after the long way around, we weren't ready to hit the trail until after 11. Patrick, Nate, 9L, and Kathleen had all started a few hours earlier while we were shuttling. Jon was running about an hour behind us but we opted to head out rather than waiting.

A couple of miles in we met Kathleen and Chewy in bad shape. An illness had set in and despite making it halfway there, she decided that it wasn't worth backpacking and waking up in the middle of the wilderness with a worsening sickness of unknown severity. It's a tough call to make, but it was the right decision. I wouldn't want to be sick like that in the middle of the woods either. She assured us she would make it back to the truck, so we said our goodbyes and continued on.

There was a foul-smelling rotting cow carcass at Mud Spring, which didn't pose any issues since nobody would drink from that spring anyway. The views on the Tortilla trail are open and ok, but really not a good descriptor for this range as a whole. There was a puddle or two of water in a couple of shaded drainages from the previous week's rain, but it was otherwise a very dry hike in. Some maples splashed bright reds near the mouth of Horse Canyon providing a welcoming entrance to Powers Garden after the steep and scree-ey descent from the crest.

Despite evidence of some very recent horse traffic, we were pleased to find the Garden unoccupied, except for 9L, Patrick and Nate who had already set up camp. Jon arrived around sunset after stopping for some photos along the way.

The cabin was unlocked and very well stocked. Actually, people abandon property here instead of carrying it out, and I wish they wouldn't. Sleeping pads, sleeping bags, tents, canned goods, you name it. Even a bottle of whisky! :) But seriously ... it's not helping to leave anything here. If you carry it in, carry it out too. Your 12-lb Ozark Trail sleeping bag is trash. The cabin does not need another bottle of mustard!

We had a good fire, and managed to stay warm until bed. Always a cold sink, the garden dropped into the 20s and all our waters were frozen solid. We reconsidered why we hadn't all just slept in the cabin as it would have provided a few degrees of relief. No matter, once the sun hit the valley, the frost melted and things warmed up quickly.

The spring had plentiful water, but despite being clear, had a bit of a funky odor. If the spring area doesn't get a little bit of maintenance, I think this may become a less-than-ideal water source in the next few years. All the former infrastructure has gone to shit and I'm not sure there will ever be running water at the cabin or a clean trough for filtering and wildlife again.

Nate took off at first light and hiked out on his own. 9L and Patrick left in late morning, heading back via Tortilla. Jon and Joel and I headed south on what should have been an "easy" day. I had planned to make another visit to the cabin and mine, but when we got to the junction, I wasn't feeling it, and having been there before, didn't need to do it again this time.

The Rattlesnake Trail has flashed since the 2014 fire and much of the tread is gone as you meander through a dense stand of Arizona Cypress growing in the sandy and rocky flood debris. After pleasant hiking so far, this last 2 miles was a lot of work. It's quite overgrown and between route-finding, creek crossings, bushwhacking, and the end of our second day of hiking, we were all pretty happy to get to camp at Holdout Spring.

As expected, Holdout was full of clear, delicious water ... the first we had seen all day since leaving Powers. Camp here was at least 15 degrees warmer than down in the garden, and we were all thoroughly pleased by that.

The next morning we took it slow getting going and stopped a few times along the way to enjoy the fall colors along the trail as we climbed up toward the divide. We may have been a little bit late for colors, but it's tough to tell ... it seems that there had been an extended freeze at some point in the previous couple of weeks that had put an abrupt end to most of the colors.

The hike to the divide from Holdout is truly scenic, and so much better than Tortilla on the way in. I had forgotten a few of the sections and really enjoyed the tired grind on the climb out. Heading down High Creek was a delight as always, with a few pockets of really nice color that deserved a break. At one point, my phone fell out of my pocket as I sat and I left without it. This near-disaster was averted as I take enough photos that it hadn't been more than 100 yards before I grabbed for it and realized where it must be!

The Mark-KO tree has settled from forehead height to a more manageable chest height. :)

I had left my truck at the most popular camp area and since I was a few minutes ahead of the others, I drove a half mile or so back up the road to pick them up. There are some sections up there that just make it not worth the drive vs just walking it!

We didn't see any bears in person, but they were obviously plentiful across the entire range. Over the course of the three days, I don't believe we ever went more than 100 yards without encountering a healthy pile of poop, and often could not go more than a few steps. On no hike that I can recall have I seen so much sign of bear activity over such a large area.

We drove back to Deer Creek to fetch the other cars before heading back home. But not before getting to enjoy the spectacular beauty of the Aravaipa Valley as daylight waned. Each trip to the Galiuros makes me wonder why I don't come back here more often! So Kathleen ... I guess we'll have to schedule this one again and finally get it done! :)

dry Brush Canyon Dry Dry
No sign of water

dry Corral Canyon Dry Dry
No sign of water. Didn't hike up far to investigate further


water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Holdout Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Clear and cold. Good water in the cave spring box and in the main spring box which was full and delicious.

dry Horse Canyon Dry Dry
No sign of water even though it rained a little bit the previous week


water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Mud Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
No idea how much flow ... plenty of water, but gross due to cattle traffic. Rotting dead cow carcass made it even worse.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Powers Garden Spring Dripping Dripping
Good pools of clear water, but foul smell possibly due to rotting leaves and debris. Filtered and flavored, and nobody got sick!

dry Rattlesnake Spring Dry Dry
No water anywhere

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