David and I had originally planned on hiking Mt. Cammerer that day, but after working two 70-hour work weeks in a row sleeping in felt like an awesome idea to me. Add to that the fact that our dog was left alone all week and was looking pathetic every time we’d leave the house, we decided that maybe we should do another hike instead, one where we’d be able to bring Gracie along with us. We quickly decided on Frozen Head, as it is only an hour drive away and the trails are always in such wonderful shape.
We’d hiked the South and North Old Mac Trails back in March and we remembered the elevation profile, so we had decided to start at the South Old Mac Trail and continue on up to Tub Springs. From Tub Springs, we’d follow the green-blazed trail 1.1 miles to Spicewood Trail. From here, we’d have 2.5 miles to the junction of Old Mac Trail and only 0.3 miles back to the car making for an easy and quick nearly 7-mile loop.
We began our hike on South Old Mac Trail and followed it along a well-graded and nearly level gravel roadway. We’d passed the North Old Mac Trail and Spicewood Trailheads in the first 0.3 miles and the trail gradually narrowed to a foot path. Going up a slight incline (we’d gain about 1750 feet in elevation in 2.75 miles) we came to an old CCC dynamite shack on our left at around 0.7 miles in. We continued upward and passed the second part of the Judge Branch Trail around 1.5 miles in and a group of people looking very tired and taking a break. We passed over many now-dry stream crossings while continuing to hear Judge Branch downhill to our right. We paralleled the creek until about 1.8 miles in, when we went up a set of switchbacks that made us believe we were nearly to the top of the hill. We sort of paralleled the hill for the last 0.7 miles or so until we came up at a gap at the Tub Springs Campsite, which has room for 18 people. There’s also a fireplace there where there once stood either a homesite or CCC cabin. There are remains of a car off to the right of the campsite just down the hill. About 200 feet away stands a springhouse with beautifully clear water in it.
From the trail junction here, you can continue uphill 0.5 miles to a lookout tower or you can turn to your right and follow a green-blazed trail 1.1 miles to the Spicewood Trail or nearly 2.5 miles to Mart Fields Campsite. When we got on this trail, it was another old roadbed and very wide and level. We stayed along the ridge top for the entire 1.1 miles. Every once in a while there’d be a nice view of the mountains off to the right. Along the top of the ridge, there’d be lots of living room-sized boulders. This part of Frozen Head also appears to have older growth forest as compared to the trees on the South Old Mac Trail. Several times we’d say “look at that tree” and take in how awesomely large it was.
After reaching the Spicewood Trail junction, the trail turned back into a foot path and was purple-blazed. The purple, however, was not the best choice as it blended in quite well with the tree bark. We decided that next time the blazes need repainting, they should go with neon purple instead! Spicewood Trail would be mostly downhill, but the grades were fairly easy which was nice due to all the leaves being on the ground. As this area is so close to The Obed Scenic River, you can imagine the trails here are quite rocky. All of the stream crossings on this trail were mostly dry as well, but the rocks under the leaves were quite slick and required a little bit more care than those on the South Old Mac Trail. Every once in a while, the trail would be on the ledge of the hillside with nearly 70% grades dropping down to the ground below more than 40 feet away. Just as quickly, the trail would follow along and end up on nearly level ground, so the elevation here was quite varied.
Close to 2 miles down this trail, it dropped off rather steeply in what appeared to be a large creek runoff at one time. This short portion of trail was steep and rocky and a little bit more difficult to navigate. When reaching the bottom of the hill, there was a small campsite with a limit of 4 people. There didn’t appear to be much water at this campsite either, but we knew from here there was only 0.5 miles back to the main trail, so it might be a nice winter backpack when you want to get out into the woods and don’t want to go far to get there! The trail turned again into a wide gravel road and followed Spicewood Branch, crossing it on a nice and sturdy bridge. The water in the creek was low, but was stunningly clear. There were quite a few small fish in the water below and it was neat to see them swimming around. We reached Old Mac Trail just after the bridge and walked the 0.3 miles back to the car. Gracie had a wonderful time and I think this hike is just what she (and David and I) needed after two very hectic weeks.