Saturday, November 7, 2020

Exploring the Burned Hampton Creek Drainage

After my delight exploring the Hendry's Creek area, I decided to go to the canyon to the north, Hampton Creek. At one time, Hampton Creek was the fastest way to reach The Table from the east, with a shorter and steeper trail than Hendry's Creek. However, in 2014 the Hampton Fire burned most of the drainage. Subsequent heavy rains caused massive flooding, taking many full-sized trees miles down the bench to the Gandy Road. The Millard County road crew had to repair the Gandy Road almost daily for a period of time.

 Here's a topo map overlaid on Google Earth satellite imagery (how cool is that! Here's the download from Topo Map website that allowed me to do that.) Hampton Creek is located in the northern Snake Range in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Most of the canyon is in Mt. Moriah Wilderness area. The red line shows the approximate "old" Hampton Creek trail.

A sign near the entrance of the canyon warns of the upcoming dangers. If you're driving a passenger car, you want to park here.

If you have 4WD and high clearance, you can make it about 0.8 miles farther, as long as there isn't high water in the creek bed. It was dry in October 2020.

Then get ready for some cheatgrass. Hillsides of cheatgrass. I headed uphill a bit...
...and came across an old road. There were horse tracks on it.

The old road led all the way to the old mining equipment. This was used for a small garnet mining operation. I counted my blessings. Maybe this day wouldn't be as hard as I had anticipated.

I'm not sure what this equipment was for, but it looked cool.

Soon I was at the old Hampton Creek trailhead. The sign posts are still there, but nothing else. I couldn't even tell which way the trail went. I took a guess and started hiking, basically cross-country. I soon realized I wasn't on a trail, so just aimed in the direction I thought it would be.

After wandering a bit I found a water bar. This had to be the trail.

The view down canyon showed the burned pinyon-juniper woodland.

Here I am, wondering how much of a Type 2 fun trip (you appreciate it after the fact) this was going to be.

The horse tracks continued up the old trail. I was impressed.

The shrubs in the creek bed (now spread wide due to the flooding) were very colorful for my October jaunt. Skunkbush and rose were the main shrubs.

I even found some blooming flowers, like this aster.

The stinging nettle looked potent. I was glad I was wearing long pants and long sleeves.

I doubt this thistle is native, but it sure looked pretty.

Its flowerhead was very large.

I was happy to see a baby ponderosa pine. Although fire can devastate an area for awhile, eventually there will be regrowth.

 About 4 miles in, the canyon turns to the north. It gets really rocky, and with the trail washed out, I had to do lots of talus scrambling. I'll admit, I thought about turning back, but I had already come through some gnarly terrain and didn't want to go back that way. I reminded myself I had a full day planned, and every step I took was progress.

I found more blooming flowers, making me smile.

We had already had a freeze, so I was surprised to see all these flowers. Maybe they were in a small protected pocket.

Sometimes it was easier to hike in the streambed. It was uneven, with fallen trees across it.

Eventually, as I got farther upstream, I found more live trees (and bare aspens) and refound the trail.

The aspen leaves had already fallen off, but it was still beautiful.

And then it was back to the burn. This tree was quite statuesque.

I lost the trail again in the burned area. I looked at my GPS app and it told me to go one way, but I wanted to go another, towards Mt. Moriah. 

I went my way, and eventually found the trail, but then backtracked so I could see what I had missed.

Eventually I came out to nice views of Mt. Moriah. The trail had again disappeared, but rock cairns led the way.

I finally got to my destination, the trail junction. Mt. Moriah looked so close, but I knew I didn't have the time. I checked my water and found that I was nearly out. Uh oh. I had packed less than for the Hendry's Creek trip because I had some left over. But this day was a bit warmer and less shady due to all the burned area. I knew I was going to try and take the ridge back, and there would be no water on it. I would just have to go fast and conserve water.

I headed back the Hampton Creek trail and then cut into the forest to follow the ridge. The Hampton side was burned, the Hendry's Creek side was not.

It was going quite well until I got to the cliff section. This got a little tricky.

Eventually I got down the cliffs and steep hillside and onto a lovely ridge with lots of open places. I also found a helispot from the fire.

I took a look back and saw the cliff area.

Then I found what seemed to be a trail, but was probably a fire line. It made for easy travel.

There were some cool bristlecone pines up on the ridge. And you know me, I couldn't resist taking a photo to remember them.

I kept following the ridge. I knew I had to go down at some point and had a drainage picked out. Unfortunately I went down a little early and it got really steep and not much fun.

But I made it down to the creek and filtered some water. Then I went up on the road on the other side and wondered where all the mullein had come from.

There were some pretty colors in the wide creek bed. This creek used to only be about five feet across, and now it's often ten times that wide.

Finally I could see the truck. And just in time, the light was fading fast.

 I have to say that I would not even have tried this hike without having a GPS. I used the free app Earthmate on my phone, which let me pinpoint my position (even without a cell signal) on the free Nevada topo map I had downloaded before going out. 

 The map below shows my 16.5-mile route. I tracked my trek with my Garmin watch and then added some waypoints in Google Earth. About half the access road to the trailhead and half the trail are destroyed. That means lots of bushwhacking. There is great potential here for improved and new trails.

My Hampton Creek day was not easy, but it was interesting seeing a lot of the drainage and how the fire and floods had affected it. It seems like a rawer landscape, more elemental. If you want an easy day, just visit the beginning of the canyon. In a couple hours you could get to the old garnet mining equipment and back. And in a whole day, you can have your Type 2 fun bushwhacking through various terrain. I don't plan on returning anytime soon, but I'm glad that I went.

Here are some other blog posts about Hampton Creek over the years:

September 2008 trip report

More about the garnet mine-2008

2014 Hampton Fire

August 2014 visit, after the fire

May 2016 visit

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