Writing about the Horse Creek Loop was easy. The loop originates in the Mono Village Campground, where we have camped every summer for the past 5 years. While hiking up to Horse Creek Falls for about the 8th time in the five year span I suddenly stopped and told Cindy, “You know, I think I could ride a bike up here. Ever the pessimist, she said, “You are crazy, the trail is too steep and there are way too many hikers.” I said, “You know, every time I’ve hiked up here I have thought about it. I am going to try it… on a week day, early in the morning!” The next day I completed the loop… on my bike!
To help visualize the landmarks I talk about in the rest of this story, or to aid in your own ride at Horse Creek Loop, please enjoy this custom trail map I made. Click the icons for info on landmarks, both general and personal to my rides.
From there I will take a couple of roads to get to the trail that skirts the Upper Twin Lake. This trail will bring me back twenty yards below the Horse Creek trailhead, right above the campground.
To begin the Horse Creek loop I rode from our camping spot (A-21) to to the road with a cable across it (in front of space D-1).
From site D-1, I went under the cable, down and across the bridge over Robinson Creek… then followed one of many trails to the right. All the trails lead to the same small sign. That sign said “Hiking Trails” and points left, up the hill.
After crossing a skinny log bridge, turning left through a mucky mess, and making a sharp turn to the right up the hill… I came to the wilderness sign/trailhead.
Looking at the wilderness map and long list of regulations once again caused my blood pressure to rise. I would be allowed to bring 25 head of livestock into the wilderness… but not my bike! Trail damage? I have seen what a pack train does to a trail… and leaves behind. I can only imagine what 25 head of cattle would do!
Lucky for me… the wilderness does not start until after I turn off the Horse Creek Trail onto the Cattle Creek Trail. And that brings up another point that upsets me. Why was the sign put here if the wilderness is 1.5 miles up the trail? Most people don’t look at the wilderness map close enough to realize that the wilderness doesn’t start at the sign, only where the shaded portion lies.
Anyway, the beginning of the the Horse Creek Trail is very steep. Starting up I was reminded of when my brother George, his wife Cindy, and my family were starting to hike this trail a few days before.
As we started the first switchback, we heard a crashing noise. We all looked up and noticed a man a hundred feet up the trail using a tree branch to pry loose a rock by the trail. By the time we reached them the man and his kids had moved 20-feet above the trail and were pushing on another large boulder. I told them, “There is another trail down below this one,” (hoping they would see that what they were doing was not only destructive, but dangerous). Immediately after I spoke, they got the rock moving down the hill. It bounced across our trail, tumbled down another 50 feet and (fortunately) stopped short of the bottom trail. We were all shocked! George said, “Are you people stupid or something,” to which the big lady of the group said, “Excuse me?”
We all shook our heads and started back up the trail when I noticed a big, dark, hole right in the side of the trail. I said, “Why did you guys pry this one out? The rocks are there on purpose, to protect the trail!” The same lady responded with, “We didn’t do that.” I thought… what a role model for those kids… not only just showing them that endangering others and ruining trails was okay, but lying about it afterward was also acceptable. My brother, on the other hand, gave them a few more remarks regarding their IQ.
Back to biking: The first 3 or 4 switchbacks are steep and the turns are sharp. I had to get off… turn the bike around … and start up the next one. These switchbacks do offer great views of the Upper Twin Lake.
I came to the first “waterfall”, which was a roaring cascade .75-miles from Space D-1, where several hikers (it was a Saturday) were taking pictures.
At the second cascade (1.5 miles) I came across an older gentleman with a floppy hat with Brasil embroidered on it, just like the one George had brought back on his trip visiting his foreign exchange student. He was sitting on a log, resting and enjoying the roar of the cascade.
I asked the man how he liked Brazil. He replied with a “What?” So I repeated myself, thinking he couldn’t hear real well either due to old age, or the cascade noise, or both. This time he said, “What do you mean?” I then stated, “Your hat, my brother got one just like it when he was in Brazil… how did you like Brazil?” He replied, “Oh, the hat… I just got mine at a thrift store!”
By the way… did you notice the spelling on George’s hat? Brasil is actually the way they spell it in Brazil. Portuguese is their official language, and that’s how they spell it in Portuguese. But most of people around the world spell it with a “Z”.
Mother Nature never ceased to amaze me. While climbing the trail I came across one of those sights which demonstrate the struggles taking place in the wild … a tree and a boulder in a “push-a-war.”
The third “waterfall” was about 2 miles from camping spot 3-D in Mono Village Resort. Most people call this one Horsetail Falls. I had seen Horsetail Falls many times before as it is a common destination for hikers. Most campers can make a 4-mile hike, even Sissy and Bubby at 4 and 5 years old. Horsetail is by far the most impressive of the three cascades, and this time I found it even more so. The heavy snow pack of 2011 (in the Sierra Nevada) had caused all creeks to swell even into July.
The Horse and Cattle Creek junction lies about 2.5 miles up from the campground and completes a vertical climb of 1,055 feet. To continue on the Horse Creek Trail past that point would be a major violation of Federal Law… riding a bicycle in the Hoover Wilderness area. I have hiked up there several times and found a lush, forested, valley split by a gentle Horse Creek … and mosquitoes by the thousands! Curiously, this area is also littered with hundreds of fallen trees… which lay across the creek or in between other live, healthy timber.
Click Cattle Creek to read more about this ride.