I woke up this morning at 6am to it pouring, the doppler radar showing the valley covered in clouds, and 70% chance of rain thru the day so I went back to bed and slept in. I awoke again around 8am to no rain, the last of the clouds passing by overhead, and clear skies to the west.
So I quickly got ready and with a late start I hit the central technical section of this canyon again, but this time the creek was flowing fairly good instead of being nearly bone dry like it was 2 months ago. And instead of hiking straight thru to Tortilla Flat, I hit the best parts of the narrows/boulder section and exited up a steep slope to a saddle and then bushwhacked/contoured back to FR213. You hit the technical section by hiking along FR213 a couple miles and dropping in via one of the easier sloping sides. After a couple miles of rock hopping and/or wading you'll eventually hit some large boulders near the confluence. With the water flowing, there had to be a good dozen pools/falls to bypass if you don't want to get wet above your waist and of course downstream progress is much slower now that it's flowing than when its dry. I still hit the same 3 rappels as last time (a 100ft rope will suffice), but I had to rework the anchors since there's now waterfalls & deep swimmers where I dropped in before.
The falls at the first rap are actually quite impressive as it drops into a sweet grotto. I was able to retrieve my quick links from before and re-used them for todays trips.
For my exit, I climbed up the slope just downstream from the confluence & needles and occasionaly I'd run across some cairns along a faint path though it was tough to follow. Once up on the saddle, it was odd to find a cowboy wall along the saddle
, an alcove they must have camped in, and a dozen or so old rusty cans they didn't feel like packing out.
From there, I contoured east along the north side of that ridge down into that southern upper fork of Apache Trail Canyon. From there I went SE up that ridge again until I found that jeep road up on top plus a sweet overlook down into Tortilla Creek and followed that jeep road back to FR213 and then back to the TH. This is by far the best exit route through the area I've yet to do and is probably the preferred route to do the technical section of Tortilla Creek as a loop hike. I got by without a wetsuit, but one would have made things a little easier with less bypassing... The loop just so happens to be about 8 miles as well.