Turkey Creek

Turkey Creek trail is the shortest route up to the Mica Mountain summit area but the trailhead is located at the end of a road that in some spots requires high clearance or is steep.  Parking at the start of this road adds over a mile one-way to the hike and a few hundred feet of ascent, which can be tedious, speaking from experience.

February 20, 2010
I knew a storm front was supposed to move in this day but it was stronger and earlier than I expected.  Even though I was somewhat prepared for this, I was still soaked through and starting to get cold by the time I got back to the trailhead due to the high winds.  Reminder to be reasonably prepared.

 
Clear sunny start to the day.  Looking south from near the trailhead to Happy Valley and Rincon Peak.  The valley is a beautiful place but has been suffering from unrestricted use and grazing.  A sensitive area like this could benefit from having fees, designated campgrounds, and more restrictions in general.

 
Turkey Creek Trail follows this grassy ridge until reaching the east slope of the Rincons near the Saguaro National Park boundary which is just right of center in this photo.  The lumpy trees are One Seed Junipers which attain windswept forms in a few individuals on this ridge and grow alongside some Mexican Blue Oaks and Mearns Sumac.  The forest service unfortunately allows cattle to graze in this lower area, and there is noticable ecological damage as a result.  Reef Rock is the big section of cliffs at top and to its left in the forest is the white patch of aspen forest near Spud Rock Spring Campground.  This aspen stand is the largest and one of only a few stands in the Rincons. 

 
Looking northeast across the Bear Creek drainage and the Deer Creek headwaters farther back on the ridge.  This whole area was badly burned by the Rincon Fire of '94 up to and around Reef Rock as well as over to the north side of the mountains.
 
 
Looking at the steep lower slope of Heartbreak Ridge on the other side of the trail from the previous photo.  This part of the east slope seems to have been mostly untouched by the fire.  The bare trees along the creek are probably Arizona Alder, which along with the pines at a relatively low elevation probably means that water is flowing nearly year-round in these headwaters of Turkey Creek. 

 
The trail heads through brushy areas recovering from the fire for most of the way up the east slope before entering this small patch of surviving oak-pine forest midway up the slope.

 
Closer view of Reef Rock with the storm starting to roll in.

 
The snow on the trail got thick fast but fortunately someone before me packed it down with their tracks.  A strip of the burn damage runs up the ridge on the left.

 
Looking to the south along the gentle upper slope of Heartbreak Ridge to Happy Valley Point which is the southern end of the ridge, and snowy Rincon Peak in the distance to its right.

 
The first wave of the storm dumped some pretty heavy snow pellets for a brief time before letting up.  This view is from near Deer Head Spring.

 
First aspens along the trail approaching the campground.  At the edge of the aspen grove a small trail spur heads off to the Spud Rock Spring Campground, which is marked by the trail sign in the second photo.  At this point the trail turns into the Switchback Trail.  The snowy patch in the foreground is part of a large clearing that is filled with ferns in the summer, as seen surrounding Brant on the Mica Mountain page. 

 
View of some Arizona White Oaks in the aspen grove.  Normally aspen don't grow in areas that also favor these oaks, but these aspen grow at a relatively low elevation around 7500'.

 
The Switchback Trail continues up until it junctions with the East Slope Trail, the tops of the aspens can be seen in the background.

 
View of the pure Arizona Pine forest that surrounds the junction with the East Slope Trail which is marked by the trail signs in the right background.  This part of the trail crosses an unusually flat bench perched on the side of the mountain.

 
Looking down on the forested slope in the area of Deer Head Spring with the storm front rolling on to the east.

 
A layer of snow pellets from the storm with Arizona Pine cones and needles.

 
Looking south near the junction with the Heartbreak Ridge Trail.


A little farther down the trail the broad forested top of Heartbreak Ridge is more easily seen.  Out of view to either side it drops steeply.

 
On the way back along the Deer Head Spring Trail there's an opening in the forest with several Arizona Madrones growing in close proximity.  Soon after I took this shot it started snowing heavily and I stowed the camera away.  I hoped to time a window in the storm so that I'd catch a gap in the rain at the lower elevations, but it didn't let up until shortly after I got back to the truck.



This is the GPS file for this hike that can be opened in Google Earth. You may have to explicitly specify the gpx extension when saving, turkeycreek.gpx.  The Spud Rock Spring Campground and aspens are at the far top right elbow in the track.  I didn't bother replacing my batteries where the track stops at the top.  The Heartbreak Ridge Trail continues to the left a little farther before the Deer Head Spring Trail splits off and heads back to the right to meet up with the Turkey Creek Trail.