And I Forgot My Spoon

Tom and I decided that we would attempt to hike, bike, and packraft a loop in the White Mountains National Recreation Area, hopefully hiking into the headwaters of Beaver Creek and floating out. We started at Ophir Creek Campground, got on bikes, and biked east to the start of Quartz Creek Trail. Quartz Creek trail is a 17 mile trail that heads to the headwaters of Beaver Creek. This is new territory for Tom and I – I have done brief hikes in the area and had skied some of the area in the winter, but nothing of any length in the summer.

Things did not start off particularly well. 20 minutes or so before we made it to our starting point, the sky opened up and dump a torrential downpour on us. This was not a auspicious start, but fortunately the rain stopped soon after we arrived at Ophir Creek Campground.

We left the car, got on the bikes, and headed off to Quartz Creek Trail. The trail is mainly a ORV trail had undergone major upgrades in the last couple of years, including some fancy plastic base material, and inset concrete stream crossings.

It was quite impressive how much work BLM had put into making this trail passable for the four wheeling crowd. On the upside, it was not muddy at all which is quite a rarity in these parts and was very fast walking.

After stream with the fancy brickwork, we ran into our first party of motorized users. We talked to them for a bit and were very surprised to hear that there was only enough water in Quartz Creek to “dip a pan in”. This did not bode well for our float. Near one of the high points there is an interpretive plaque – which was impressively random, as we had not encountered any signs up to this point since leaving the parking lot. The main point of the sign appeared to be not to chase the sheep with your four wheeler.

The trail winds it way over several passes, through alpine meadows, and crosses several streams.

The flowers were out in full bloom in the high meadows.

The trail is amazingly scenic. This is probably one of the nicest trails I have hiked on in the interior.

As we crossed the final bit of Little Champion Creek, the rain caught up with us.

Fortunately the rain did not last long, and we were soon dry and approaching one of the highlights of the the hike – the beautiful tors. Near the end of the trail there are a large number of very large granite tors, some of which are right next to the trail. It is incredibly scenic.

We stopped at the final tor and had dinner. Dinner was complicated by the absence of my spoon – it appears that during my packing I somehow forgot to put my spoon into my pack. I ended up eating with a folded bit of plastic bag, which was less than ideal. For folks interested in shorter days, this would be a wonderful place to camp.

This was the end of the trail for us – we now had to head down to Bear Creek to start the float. As we worked our way around a large hill a beautiful rainbow came out.

Once around the hill, we were very happy to see a full looking Bear Creek in the distance.

After several miles of intense bushwacking (around 5 I believe) we made it to Bear Creek, which was quite floatable, which lead to much happiness. I had been dreading a long walk back out and had visions of a creek with only a couple of inches of water in it. Fortunately the floating looked quite fun, and into our boats we went.

Bear Creek was quite a fun float – the upper bits where we started are a bit rocky, which made for exciting rafting.

At about 1:30am we decided we should call it quits for the day and camped on a gravel bar. At this point the trip was verging on a death march, Bataan style, so calling a day was in order.

The gravel bar did not have any bear sign, but did have a large number of quite fresh wolf tracks.

After a couple of hours of sleep we resumed the float, and bobbed down the river.

Bear Creek was largely free of sweepers and log jams, and we only had to portage once.

After 3 hours or so, we made it to Richards Cabin, a BLM cabin that can be rented. The cabin is a former inholding or mining clam and is very nice. We stopped for a bite to eat and to leave an entry in the log book. It is amazing how different this area is in the summer. Tom and I had skied into this cabin 4 months earlier in a snow storm – now we were walking up to it in a muddy trench being hounded by mosquitoes. The contrast was stunning.

Shortly after Richards we ran into a huge log jam, which we had to portage around. We took a dry ox bow thinking it was a short cut, which ended up in Champion Creek right before it hit Bear Creek becoming Beaver Creek. At the confluence the water level rose a lot, which added to the fun considerably. Bear Creek had a fair number of shallow riffles that were only just float able in a packraft and required a lot of care to not get stuck on.

Eventually we made it to our take out point, put our packs on, and slogged though 3 miles of tussocks back to Ophir Creek camp ground. The tussock slog was remarkably unpleasant.

After 1 and a 15 minutes of tussock slogging we hit the road, and a short while later the car. In the car there were Staxs, juice, and pastries, hurray!

The trip was quite an adventure. In retrospect it would have been more fun if we had camped where we first hit Bear Creek, then floated in the morning making the first day a little shorting and giving us more sleep. It was still quite fun though, and a highly recommend float for anyone who is interested. Richard’s cabin appears to be quite bug proof, and would make a excellent overnight stop, in case any future travellers read this. Hikers not up for 20 mile days could camp at one of the Tors and enjoy great views.

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