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1 triplog
Nov 01 2018

 Guides 5
 Routes 5
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58 male
 Joined Nov 17 2011
 Phoenix, AZ
Sheep Bridge / Mountain Spring LoopPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Backpack avatar Nov 01 2018
Backpack22.60 Miles 4,505 AEG
Backpack22.60 Miles3 Days         
4,505 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
We pulled away from Danny’s house in central Phoenix around 3:30 pm in route to Sheep Bridge trail head. Our goal was to backpack the Midnight Mesa loop from Friday to Sunday and our Backup Plan, the Sheep Bridge Mountain Spring loop. I have been a frequent visitor to the Mazatzal Wilderness starting in 1980 however, I had never been to this trail head or into this quadrant of the wilderness. Three adults and two, dogs packed into the cab of a Toyota Tacoma made for a long haul over bumpy, dirt roads. Nothing needs to be noted about this approach, pass through Seven Springs and keep heading north. When you are just about ready to turn back, you reach a T intersection and the promise of “only” 12 more miles to encourage you on. Many of those 12 miles are slow going and for us, in the dark. We arrived, and camped, at the Verde river around 8 pm.

Friday morning found us crossing the bridge around 8:30 am, heading into the wilderness on the Willow Springs trail. During the night I had discovered and repeatedly, in my mind, questioned the reason for pain on the side of my right, index finger. With the morning light we could view the impressive landscape that engulfed us as well as a small, white bump on my finger, the source of pain. Just another injury from working with my hands, for a living, probably a metal sliver, I thought. I wrapped it with medical tape for protection and gave it no more thought.

Our three, day backpack was, for the most part, uneventful. I had read a September report of the Midnight Mesa Loop and with all the rain we received in October, I believed we would have large drainages with small flows of water as well as the occasional bedrock pools. When hiking with dogs in the desert, finding water on the land makes life so much easier, less stressful for the humans. Ozzie (45-pound border collie) carried a pack loaded with enough food to feed him and Leo (20-pound mutt) for the duration of our trek and enough water for one day. As we got further into Day 1, it was obvious we were not going to find any water on the land, other than possibly Willow, Mountain and Lost springs. About four, miles east of the river we found, near the trail, a wet spring that is not noted on our map and I don’t recall reading about it on this site. This source came too soon to be of any help but was good to know about in the event of a retreat.

Our three days were warm, not hot but maybe perfect had it been 10 degrees cooler. The lack of water, the higher temps makes for a little more work, and worry having Ozzie and Leo along. At the junction for Willow Spring we discussed halting for the day but decided to press on to Mountain or Lost spring. Leaving camp that morning, our goal was to camp at Wet Bottom creek on the Midnight trail. By early afternoon it was apparent we would be lucky to make camp at Lost spring. We arrived at Mountain spring around 3:30 pm and made camp next to a tank, constructed to hold a large quantity of spring water. A very comfortable place to spend our first night. The tank water (surface) was not inviting but definitely not repulsive. I found a length of black poly pipe and used it to siphon water from mid-level in the tank in an attempt to strain out floating debris. This worked and with running the water through a bandana, bottle to bottle, the water looked desirable. We treated our filled reservoirs with iodine, ate dinner and were off to bed.

We were packed and, on the move, shortly before 9 am our second morning. Our destination for Day 2 was Dutchman Grave Spring where we hoped to find flowing water and a nice place to camp. If the day was young when arriving at this spring, our Backup Plan was to continue out to the truck and spend the night by the river. Again, a pretty uneventful day other than losing one of my carbon trekking poles and viewing a Gila Monster. Route finding was a bit more challenging than the day before but with maps on phones and plentiful, large cairns, we were never off trail for very long. Many of the trail markers were lost in the tall grass and rough tread slowed us down. We covered the distance to the spring in a few hours and decided to camp for the night. We chose a flat, open camp spot with flowing water nearby. Set up camp, collect water, ate dinner, told some stories and we were all off to bed.

Out of camp by 8:30 am and headed for home. Sunday, Day 3, about 4 – 5 miles to cover, cross the river, get in the Tacoma and drive away from Sheep Bridge. All this accomplished by noon, approximately 50 miles of rough road lay ahead. When we were on HK Mesa, I got the sense I wanted to be done with this backpack. I began to loath this long, flat section. By the time we reached the truck, I didn’t feel right, food, water, beer and chocolate had no appeal. I just wanted to be home, I encourage Steve and Danny to focus on making that happen. With windows up and AC blowing, I was chilled and shivering, Danny and Steve, comfortable. At a crossing of Tangle creek, we stopped to admire the scenery. I wrapped myself in a heavy Jacket and wore it the rest of the drive home.
Monday found me sick all day, headache, fever, extreme lethargy, weakness, joint pain and an index finger that looked badly infected. After returning from work that afternoon, my wife drove me to the ER where I was treated for dehydration, intestinal infection (“food poisoning”) and infection in my index finger (“spider bite”). IV fluid, surgery on my finger, antibiotics and much rest, by Wednesday I felt like living. The intestinal infection came about from the siphon I started. As careful as I was to pull the pipe away before any water entered my mouth, I did get droplets on my lips. I haven’t yet been billed for all this medical attention but I’m convinced this is the most expensive backing trip I have ever been on. For me, the cost is not just measured in dollars and sickness but also the ignorance and arrogance that comes, for me, from being “experienced” to the point that I believed a dirty drop of water would do me no harm.
Gila Monster
2 archives

WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

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