Plan B — Deer Creek Trail


At our weekly planning meeting on Monday, George kindly voluntold me to lead a hike that I’d suggested a couple of times before.  Our Friday hike was going to be the “Little Saddle Mountain” trail from Mormon Grove TH downhill to the Cross-F TH.  A nice 5-6 mile route through a deep narrow canyon at high (cool) altitude.  Perfect escape from the heat of the valley!

Mother nature didn’t cooperate.

Tuesday it rained a little.  Wednesday it rained a quite a bit.  Thursday, more rain.

This raised a killer barrier to the planned hike — the road to Mormon Grove trailhead is a steep/twisty/narrow affair, interesting and very pretty when dry, but which no sane person would drive when you add “slippery/muddy” to “steep/twisty/narrow”.

So so the quick-witted fearless hike leader (that would be me) fumbled through old mental notes for a good substitute, above the valley heat, not too strenuous, with trailhead access on a good road, and maybe with a babbling mountain brook thrown in to refresh our heat-dried spirits.

Ideally my “Plan B” should look like this.

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This stream is the namesake of the “Deer Creek” trail.  It’s an easy (very little elevation gain) route of 7 or 8 miles (depending on where you turn around), a few miles below the Mogollon Rim in the Mazatzal wilderness.

From the trailhead (right on the side of the blacktop!) the trail first passes over the top of a low ridge for perhaps a mile before dropping down to the creekside path.  Here the view is open towards a gentle range of worn mountains.

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A hint of the “coming attractions” was the lush green color of the area and more important, the presence of a healthy population of “fairy dusters”, the wispy red flowers you see along the trail above. Clearly the recent rain was a “color booster” event.

Further along the ridge the spring flowers just got better and better.

A favorite desert flower of mine is the delicate “Doubting Mariposa”.  I count myself lucky to see a couple of them during a season of hiking.  As we moved up the ridge we suddenly encountered an area with literally hundreds of them, still holding tiny raindrops untouched by the heat of day.

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This next one I call “the Beauty by the Beasts” – a single lovely specimen next to some spiny hedgehog cactus.

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The irony is that the Mariposa will soon fade, and in 2 or 3 weeks those the prickly hedgehogs will become each the pedestal holding a single intense deep pink blossom, as pretty as any rose you ever saw.

One more for you, just because they’re so pretty.

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As quickly as they appeared, the Mariposa were gone, and dropping down over a rise in the trail we came upon lush meadows of another favorite, golden Mexican poppies.

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The poppies seem to like neighbors.  See how many different kinds of flowers you can find in the photo below!

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Dropping down off the ridge, the remainder of our hike was along a rolling trail, always quite close to creekside.  To remind you, here’s a repeat of my opening scene.  The sound of this brook was a constant companion for the remainder of the route.

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Near the creek the flowers weren’t quite as showy as the ridgetop, but still beautiful.

The Bluedick were everywhere (in the creek bottom as well as the ridgeline.)

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The names of the flowers in the next photos are unknown to me.  (Feel free to educate me!)

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This little “daisy-like” flower grew profusely, about 3/4-inch across.  Just the right size for that miniature half-inch butterfly!

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Saw several isolated specimens of this yellow/orange flower.  The cluster of flowers is about 3-4 inches across, and sits atop a tall 18-24 inch stem.

[Edit:  I’ve found that this is a “Western Wallflower”.  I always thought that wallflowers were shy and quiet!]

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One somber note.  Along a quiet section of the creek lies this old grave, final resting spot of a Scottish fellow, a deserter from the British Navy, who lived a long and adventuresome life before lying down here in this remote spot.

You can read about old Dave at the link below.

http://www.paysonroundup.com/news/2008/jun/10/the_grave_of/

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Our lunch spot for this hike is at a shaded crossing of the stream, where everyone found a comfortable rock to sit on, and some removed their footwear and soaked there feet in the cool stream.  After lunch, we retraced our steps over the route described above.

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3 Responses to Plan B — Deer Creek Trail

  1. Deb says:

    Sorry we missed, beautiful!

    Like

  2. Laurie says:

    Beautiful pics, Hans! Will study them and apply what I learn to my next outing 🙂

    Like

  3. CRE says:

    I love all the flower photos. Great pics, once again.

    Like

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