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Powers Garden via Paddys River, AZ
mini location map2022-01-14
40 by photographer avatarjacobemerick
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Powers Garden via Paddys River, AZ 
Powers Garden via Paddys River, AZ
Backpack27.39 Miles 6,281 AEG
Backpack27.39 Miles2 Days         
6,281 ft AEG15 LBS Pack
1st trip
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout | Pop | Map | Popup | MapDEX
Decided to try my luck with a risky loop in the Galiuros and was rewarded with an excellent adventure. It's a good time to get out there.

Paddy's River #293
Parked at Deer Creek TH and walked FR253 to the Deer Creek Ranch gate. Had some bypass options but didn't know if they would work - turns out the Forest Service already worked out the details. There's a small pull-out next to the gate with a FS sign (no mention of the trail, just a "foot traffic only") and a short ladder to get over the fence. Singletrack winds through the grassy pastures until the far side of Home Ranch Tank and connects with the original trail.

Old jeep trail only lasts a half mile, then back to singletrack (it was unmarked, I left a cairn). This time it goes uphill through manzanita, and while the tread is obvious, it is quite overgrown and gave me some early cuts. Brief grassy footpath and then into the scrub, which is also obvious tread with thick overgrowth. Made it to the saddle feeling optimistic about the trail conditions - I came in with low expectations and, even with the disuse, there was a discernible route.

Dropping down the other side of the saddle was interesting. There was little brush to fight through - now it was grassy slopes, bare rock, and minimal catclaw - but the old tread was more faint and there were a few lightly cairned re-routes. I meandered along, enjoying the partly cloudy skies and big views of Sulphur Springs Valley. The only time I truly lost the trail was right before the final drop into Paddy's River, when I stuck to topo and must have missed a re-route, and ended up perched on a steep slope above a drainage. Descent was painful.

Paddy's River was paradise. Surrounded by tall pines, plentiful flat spots for camping, and a happy little creek flowing through. If the flow was dependable I could see this being a great low-mileage alternative to Powers Garden. Took two breaks next to the water, soaking up the ambience and filling to full water capacity, delaying the inevitable slog to the divide.

Took some meandering to find the track leading out of the river, and the search was worth it - there is a lovely set of singletrack switchbacks marching uphill, cairned on each turn, that is overgrown yet easy to walk. Of course, I lost them after a half mile and couldn't pick them back up and chose to use game paths to continue. Pretty sure the trail stays south of the ridge and I was trying to ride the line. At 6200' there is a single cairn before the scrub forest begins and... bushwhack time. I did find two separate trails, one old and wide and the other a narrow singletrack that seemed newer. Even with the options, and sporadic flagging, this climb was tough, and I crawled and slithered many times to get through the thick forest. My opinion on burns definitely changed on this section. Last hundred yards were more open and I strutted out onto the Divide with ease.

East Divide #287
Good grief those views. Santa Catalinas, Rincons, and Pinalenos were all crowned with snow, and the dramatic lighting made for some legit gasps. Trail is slightly overgrown and there was snow on the north-facing slopes, never got deeper than a few slushy inches. I trotted happily along this trail, giddy with views and easy hiking. You could easily camp on this trail and have nearby water, with the melting snow and all.

Rattlesnake #285
My prints were the first on East Divide until I reached this junction. There had been several parties doing the High Creek -> Rattlesnake route, pressing down the snow and creating slick sections that were barely traversable without spikes (I did bring them, just didn't want to put them on unless I had to). Only spicy section was at that red-dirt slope where the mud was slick as ice. Dropping down into the creek was slightly overgrown, nothing pointy. Creek started flowing early on, only fading out a few times on the length. Met two backpackers at Holdout Spring who were very knowledgeable about the area (got a new lead on YLE access that I need to follow up on). Final two miles were surprisingly overgrown, and when I reached Powers Garden trail I was ready to be done.

Camped at the first fire ring I found. The chill had been settling for the last hour and I shivered through, not wanting to layer up until camp was setup and I had wiped some of the sweat/grime/blood off. Tried to start a fire but the larger pieces were stubborn, so when dinner was done I leaped into my tent. My lil' thermometer claimed 14F at 7AM (yesterday high was about 60F). Temps in my tent didn't get too low - my water didn't freeze - and a new down quilt kept my nice and cozy all night. Inflatable pad did get a little chilly, even supplemented with a sheet of reflective mylar. Quickly made breakfast and started down the trail, eager to warm up.

Powers Garden #94
Easily distracted by shiny things, I made it a few minutes before wandering over to the stamp mill, then hunt for Rattlesnake Spring (didn't find it), then follow an old tread on the wrong side of the creek until I was above the ball mill. Lots of suspicious little trails crawling around up there, lots of cool things to track down. Past that I was able to focus and make quick work of the rest of the trail, stopping briefly to talk to two knowledgeable men at the Garden who had brought 5 horses (and a son) in for a hunting expedition. Some new deadfall along the trail, nothing too worrisome.

Tortilla Trail #254
Hours after sunrise the cold temps at the base of Powers Garden was palpable. There's a great campsite near the junction that I wouldn't touch outside of summer. Anyways, trail climbed quickly and I stopped at the first creek crossing to water up. The next half mile is magical and had strong Little Blue vibes. Then it was time for the main climb, which went quick, and I appreciated the warm sun after the chilly morning.

Next few miles dragged. A sharp wind was picking up, and combined with the shaded slopes, had me alternating layers multiple times. Trail design is great and tread is in good shape (had to be for those horses to get in). Reached the dam on Sycamore Creek, which was flowing strong, and stopped for lunch, donning about every layer I had to keep warm. Noticed with dismay that there is a connection with Sycamore Trail and that the old tread up to Topout Divide seems to be sticking around, guess I'll need to make another Powers Garden loop to explore that further. Reached Mud Spring and bid welcome to the local resident, who had aged a lot since my last visit. Continued on to the junction with Deer Creek Administrative site spur (not sure if it has a name) and decided to check that out.

Dropping down to the site was steep and easy, and I swear there were some bootprints, but it was empty. There are corrals, a restroom, trough, and locked cabin - I wonder why this isn't the official trailhead, it's pretty nice. Road in isn't that bad (but is gated). I went cross-country to complete the loop.

Saw 5-6 deer, smelled a few skunks, didn't see any fresh bear sign. Only saw the two pairs of humans out there. Enjoyed this trip a lot more than my first one, already planning my return trip during the cold months.
 Meteorology [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Sunrise

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Deer Creek Cabin Spring Gallon per minute Gallon per minute
Clear water in trough, good flow in nearby drainage.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Holdout Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Water in springbox and cave. Also, the drainage was flowing and there was a lil' waterfall.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Home Ranch Tank 51-75% full 51-75% full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Horse Canyon Medium flow Medium flow
Happy flow coming down the canyon.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Limestone Spring Dripping Dripping
Springbox was half full. Spring itself looked to be collapsed in. Would not depend on this source during much of the year.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Mud Spring Gallon per minute Gallon per minute
Spring, box, and puddles below. Dead cow stench is minimal.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Paddy's River at Paddy's River Trail Heavy flow Heavy flow
Lots of water flowing through the creek, plenty of deep pools along stretch w trail.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Rattlesnake Spring Gallon + per minute Gallon + per minute
Spring location is sus, did not find anything resembling a spring on the hillside. Creek was flowing strong below. Some knowledgeable campers at Powers Garden stated that there is "always a pool of water in the creek" near here.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Upper Sycamore Tank 76-100% full 76-100% full
Both creeks were flowing strong. Dam had a trickle over. Metal water tanks were both empty (except for a thin layer of ice on the bottom).
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