South Spring Gulch
When we do Spring Creek, Cascade Creek, or Saxon Mountain we always go out via Ute Creek Road. It's the quickest way out, so it's a logical choice. We knew there were two other ways out to the pavement just east of Spring Creek and the other trails, so we planned on mapping them before the day was over.
It was our annual 4th of July BBQ, too, so we had plans to stop and grill things at some point. If the timing was right, we knew the top of Saxon Mountain had picnic tables and nice views. Our big group of eleven vehicles was taking up a lot of space at the McDonald's in Idaho Springs, so we left for the trail as soon as everyone was there. Somehow, we managed to get everyone through town and to the trailhead without losing anyone.
The trail was really easy and maintained for the residences, though it was steep. It was a constant climb. Ben's Jeep has been cranky when it comes to hills at any speed, so it took some effort to figure out where it was happiest. Monica's "hot oil" light came on, so we all pulled over for a break in the shade of some trees. It was nice to get out and chat.
We kept going, passing the turnoff for Trail Creek Road. We were going to check that trail out later. When we got to the overlook and the Ben Harrison Mine we stopped for a bit to enjoy the sunshine and views of the mountains around us.
The trail got rockier, and we had a good time with the chunky, loose sections. When we got to the Spring Creek turnoff we decided to do lunch first and then come back so some of the group could tackle the Rock Garden.
The trail ended at the Saxon Mountain trail, and we turned left to head to the top. We'd seen pictures of the washouts on that trail, and we figured that was keeping people away from the top of the mountain. We had the top to ourselves, where we had a fantastic BBQ. There was no snow, which was rare for July 4th.
After the BBQ, we packed up and went down to the Spring Creek Rock Garden. We saw a UTV on its way up, and there was an XJ working on the rocks. He made it through like a champ, and then we had the garden to ourselves. Matt had to go home, so he didn't get to try it. Monica, Frank, and Ben all gave it a whirl.
The Rock Garden is definitely eroded more and more every year. The climb by the tree was really challenging. Monica couldn't make it up with her short wheelbase, so she had to go around it. Frank would have made it, but he discovered that his rear locker wasn't working. Ben made it with the slightest of tugs from his winch.
The rest of the group was parked here and there, and we regrouped on our way back up and out of Spring Creek. The way down to the Trail Creek Road intersection was uneventful, though it started raining as we left the trail. Though South Spring Gulch isn't the most thrilling trail, it's a great way to get to the top of Saxon Mountain.