Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sweeney Creek


In May I said "This one's worth going back many times".  As of July, it was way lower on my list. As of August 16, the Half Moon Ridge portion went way up there again.  It's only a 17 minute drive to the trailhead from Pinedale and NO dirt roads involved.  It has mountain vistas, lush evergreen forests, water features (lakes and creeks), meadows of wildflowers and open sagebrush hills. We shared the trail with a couple of hikers in May, but the only ATVs we saw were during hunting season in October. In June, 2017, extensive rock blasting and road grading was going on.  There were numerous sharp rocks, but most were avoidable.  Google Map "Sweeney Creek" for directions. (Update, July 21, 2017:  The Forest Service has been doing major work here, including harvesting and clearing of dead and live trees.  This will be a "hot spot" for gathering lumber. I am told they are planning on a controlled burn to encourage more aspen growth. Some spots in the road have been graded, but there are still lots of sharp rock pieces on the lower doubletrack.)  At .79 miles in on the doubletrack, the trails separate.  Keep to the right for the Grouse Mountain/Half Moon Ridge portion.  Keep to the left for the North Sweeney Creek.  A guide is recommended for the first time riding it.

(Click on any photo for enlarged image.  Some photos courtesy of Teisha Preece)


Parking area. The first is graveled and graded with a great view of Half Moon Lake.  The 2nd area has been used for parking in the past, but as of August, 2017 has been "rocked" off. The pink line is a rocky trail from the parking lot.  The blue line is a "short cut" along the road. (Much better)

Our track on May 22, 2017.  7.66 miles.  Elevation= 7,979' to 8,468'.  Trail conditions:  90% dirt doubletrack with about 60% of that somewhat rocky.  There are a couple of really rocky spots, including (as of June 20) some really sharp rocks that they have "blasted" out to improve the road. The road was much more suitable to a barefoot horse in May.  A barefoot horse in excellent condition could do it fine.  However, after our ride back on June 20, I would use boots in the future because my horse got sore from the sharp rocks.  This track went up the North trail, then back to the turn off to the Ridge trail.  Downfall blocked any further progress on that trail.


 Parking area with the view of Half Moon.

  Parking area, room for many rigs with plenty of turn around space.  No rest room.





Off the path in the forest.


Place where snow covered the trail May 22, 2017.


Much of the trail looks like this.


And some parts are like this.






Some of the trail is like this, but thankfully not much.







May 27, still snow in many spots.







Off the path, May 22


There was quite a bit of deadfall, but nothing we couldn't navigate as far as we went.  We reached a point on the trail where the snow became too deep and we were concerned about deadfall under the snow. (Note: as of May 27, the deadfall has been removed.)













This is the North "trail" higher up on June 20.  At least the snow was gone.


The beautiful meadow we stopped at June 20.  This area is probably the most gorgeous of the North Sweeney Creek portion.   A big change from the May rides. The flies and mosquitoes were bothersome, but not too bad.


June 20, Sweeney Creek by the meadow in the photo above.


No snow left anywhere on the North Trail, June 20.
The following photos are of the "Half Moon Ridge" portion as described above. There are several ways to ride this portion.  It can be done as an "up and back" up the ridge, up the forest or as a "loop".


This is track of a ride on the Ridge trail on August 16.  We were on a Backcountry Horseman deadfall clearing project and spent several hours clearing trail.  Mileage here=7.6.  Trail conditions:  75% dirt/grass, 15% moderately rocky, 10% very rocky.  However, a barefoot horse in reasonably good condition can do it.  Our horses were barefoot on this ride.  They got a bit tender on the little rocks near the end.


This shows the "loop" added.  We tracked the entire loop on August 18 at 10.3 miles. Our horses did this entirely barefoot, but next time we will use boots.  There are just too many rocky places.




Getting ready to cross Sweeney Creek on May 22.  This is about 1 mile in... taking the right turn off to the Ridge trail.

Crossing Sweeney Creek, May 22.





Heading up the Ridge trail. May 27.





Half Moon overlook on May 27.
View of Half Moon Lake area, May 27

View of a pond near Half Moon Lake.  May 27.









This is a view of lower Half Moon.


The yellow arrow shows where we parked.

Warning:  There is some riding through sagebrush on a double track.

However, it quickly turns to forest.




View of Half Moon and Little Half Moon.


The views here are stunning.



The forests could come out of "Lord of the Rings."






We encountered some snow on our October 5th ride.










On the "Loop", the trail disappears in some places.




Just a heads up!  We encountered a black bear and cub when riding the entire loop on August 16th in the spot shown in the photo above.   The photo below shows where they were digging grubs when we frightened them off.  STAY NOISY AND AWARE!



Since this trail isn't used much, it's difficult to see where it goes through the meadow.  Basically, it just plows through almost straight south and you'll find the trail again.