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Deer Creek Trail
Mazatzal Mountains
December 18, 1999
by Jeannie Van Lew
Chuck, Steve, Ted, Jeannie, Elaine, Ben, Rudy, and Tom with Sandy.

We met at McDonalds on that chilly morning in December, the last shopping weekend before Christmas. While others were rising early to be the first at the doors of the mall, we tried to be the first at the Deer Creek Trailhead in the Mazatzal Mountains. We were not, however, the first to arrive. A troop of Girl Scouts led by two fellow Motorolans, Don and Kathryn Harrison, were there preparing for an overnighter in the same area. Our group consisted of: Tom, Jeannie and Sandy Van Lew, Ted Tenny, Chuck Parsons, Rudy Emrick, Steve Rockwell, Elaine Cobos and Ben Velasquez.

We began our hike in high desert on an abandoned jeep road with views of the Mazatzals, Four Peaks, Gisela and surrounding areas. Soon the trail headed down to the creek and eventually we were among the Cottonwoods and Sycamores that grow in the lush riparian area of Deer Creek. Occasionally we would find water, sometimes running, sometimes just pools with yellowed leaves dotting the top of the pool. We came upon what appeared to be the remains of an old homestead or at least a windmill and water trough for the free range cattle.

Motorolans pay their respects to Davey Gowan.
    Further up the trail, we came upon the grave of 83-year-old Davey Gowan. Davey Gowan was a Scotsman who homesteaded land by Gisela in 1874. The territory was still dangerous then, as evidenced by the fact that his partner had to watch for Indians while he dug and orchard irrigation ditch. Later, Gowan heard of Tonto Natural Bridge, the world’s largest limestone arch.

He went there in 1881 to develop it as a tourist site, but later gave it to relatives from Scotland. Finally, in 1916, he built a cabin on Deer Creek and tended a garden and an orchard while working local mining claims.

We then began a slow climb, with some of the trail reminding us of the Barnhardt trail just up the road a few miles, in an area of pine and live oak. We discussed the possibility of hiking up to Mt. Peeley, given a few days! There was also the possibility of making it a loop hike, however a number of folks in the group hoped to make an early day of it, as there were plans for meeting friends and family in celebration of the Christmas season.

We found a picnic area overlooking the canyon.

About noon we found a suitable stopping point overlooking the canyon, sat and ate our lunches. We returned the way we came, waving to the Girl Scouts and wishing them a good night and happy holidays.

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updated August 23, 2016