We parked not too far from FR535 and just road walked a half mile down the road before heading west into the forrest aiming for a side canyon of Flintstone Canyon. Dropping alongside this side canyon was easy enough, but once in upper Flintstone Canyon we hit loads of rock hopping and treefall to negotiate.
As the canyon slowly dropped, we eventually reached a cool slickrock section with some pools to avoid. About an hour into the hike, we hit the first major log downclimb of 12-15ft that wasn't too difficult followed soon by the first rappel and we quickly geared up.
This first rap was a sloping 40-footer in a chilly wader/swimmer and the only mandatory swimmer of the day so we didn't even bring wetsuits today. The 2nd rappel was soon afterwards and was an easy 25-30ft drop down a terraced slope. The next drop we were able to balance down a huge log, followed by a short downclimb with a icky pool below that we tried our best to bypass, with yet another sloping downclimb alongside a log.
Rappel #3 was a another 30ft drop over some huge chockstones with an awkward start with the next rappel just around the corner. From some big boulders as anchors, rappel #4 was a super sweet
60-70ft drop from a keyhole ledge with the canyon dramatical opening up above us. Now the canyon above us may have opened up, but down below in the drainage we head deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole...
We soon hit a slick downclimb/slide and then the canyon takes a hard right with a 2-stage 150ft drop that opens up below us.
We locate the bolt and break out the 2 200ft ropes and slowly take turns dropping thru this crack into a sweet grotto below. Once all down and the rope thankfully pulled without too much issue, we proceeded thru this sweet section of narrows that started with a tight drop under a wedged tree stump that we dubbed the birth canal.
These narrows consisted of many awkward short rappels, tricky down climbs, and a swimmer to avoid by walking a log. For our group, rappel #5 was a awkward 12ft drop over a chockstone, #6 was a sloping 30-35ft drop into a pool that we avoided via that log, #7 was another awkward 8-10ft drop over a huge chockstone, and #8 was a 35-40ft sloper into a potential pool that was covered in logs. Some more down climbing, loads of rock hopping, and plenty of treefall to bypass and we eventually reached the amazingly beautiful West Fork.
The 3 or so miles downstream to the Subway section were as scenic as ever, taking loads of pictures along the way, I made sure to quickly enjoy a couple pools on this warm sunny day, and two hours later we were strolling thru the Subway.
The 3-mile West Fork trail was a nice break from all the creek hiking and we hammered it out in about an hour. It's always funny to walk by the tourists on this trail and see the their confusing looks as we go whizzing buy with big packs, helmets, ropes, neoprene socks, and my sexy shin guards.
Back at the TH, we rock hopped briefly up the other fork of Oak Creek to get to my car that I parked alongside 89A to avoid paying the ridiculous $10 parking fee.
We made pretty good time today but we still had to go pick up the other vehicle up above on the rim, grab dinner in Flagstaff since we were so far north, and then make the drive home to be back for the holidays...