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.
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.
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.
This next one I call “the Beauty by the Beasts” – a single lovely specimen next to some spiny hedgehog cactus.
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.
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.
The poppies seem to like neighbors. See how many different kinds of flowers you can find in the photo below!
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.
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.)
The names of the flowers in the next photos are unknown to me. (Feel free to educate me!)
This little “daisy-like” flower grew profusely, about 3/4-inch across. Just the right size for that miniature half-inch butterfly!
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!]
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.
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.