Aravaipa Canyon, Sunday, July 3, 2011
In spite of the fact that much of this TripLog is about logistics and heat...Aravaipa Canyon, is not to be missed. With the year round water source, flora and fauna abound even if we did not see a lot of fauna on this particular trip. The canyon scenery is spectacular...be cautious during the monsoon season (late july/august), as the canyon in many places has steep walls and narrows.
It's been hot in the valley o the sun, mid 115's for the past several days. They are predicting 116 today in Chandler. Weather forecast was for 103 in Superior, so I figured mid-100's in Aravaipa Canyon... a bit warm, but hey there's water!
I signed us up for 3 passes into the Aravaipa wilderness area on Tuesday, there were plenty of slots left at that time, but by Saturday they were all filled up. Note: they allow 30 hikers in the canyon from the west end and 20 hikers in from the east end per day. Pass is good for 3 days, cost is $5/person.
Johnny and I had been scouring the TripLogs for Aravaipa the week prior. Of the 50 or so TripLogs, only about a 1/2 dozen fool-hardy souls had ventured in during June/July. Thus we were surprised to learn all permits had been distributed. In later discussions with the ranger he indicated that the concern for flash flooding and not heat index was what kept most people away, interesting, since the monsoon typically doesn't start until late July, and data showed most folks stayed away in june/july, but I digress.
We left Gilbert, AZ @ 9:00p, Saturday night 7/1/2011, rather than have to get up 2 1/2 hours earlier, we decided to camp @ the trailhead to Aravaipa Canyon. We arrived at the "Brandenberg wide spot in the road", er, "Brandenberg Campsite" @ 11:15p. There were 3 other cars @ the "campsite", so we pulled into the Ranger Station parking lot. There is a restroom at the campsite. We decided to camp out under the stars, it was still about 95 and the bugs were quite a pain, didn't get much sleep... apparently the others "camping there" didn't fare much better, since, as we pulled up they were still awake in the beds of their trucks and SUV's and they asked if we intended to party all night...and no we didn't, altho, I did show my Yellowstone/Glacier picts from 2 weeks ago til about 1:00a, then we slept, sort of, for a couple hours. We awoke @ 5:00a breakfasted, broke camp and headed to the trail head.
We hit the trail @ 6:00a, 3 other cars in the lot. One an S-10 had a flat, he/she was not going to be a happy camper upon return...
After a false start, yes the line of rocks right past the sign indicating the trail to the right are supposed to tell you not to go that way, but we were looking @ the mobile home and not paying attention to ground markings or signs...anyway, after that, our first stop was @ Hell's 1/2 Acre Canyon area, almost missed it. I thought I had spotted an indian ruin and called Johnny and Joel back, false alarm, not indian ruins (although we do hear there are some ruins about 1.3 miles south down Turkey Canyon..probably best to hit those from an east side adventure) and we found the "boulder wedge", about 300 yds. up the canyon, way cool! What's with all the round white rocks lodged/placed in the canyon walls? Must be some sort of hiking badge of honor I'm not aware of.
We followed 4 Blue Herons east thru the canyon, about every 1/2 mile or so once we caught up to them, just short of picture distance, they were taking off down the canyon again.
We made it to Horse Camp @ about 9:45a, that's with lots of picture taking. Stream flowing in most areas about 6-12", although there were a couple of 2-3' pools we took advantage of. Several of the larger pools had larger fish 8-12", in them.
I had never hiked in sandals (Keen's) before, interesting. Wore socks going in, bare foot coming out (shoulda worn socks coming out, I developed two blisters that made the last couple miles painful). Pebbles were a pain, every time I stepped out of the water I had to dislodge, guess I need to learn how to hike in water with sandals. Tried loose, tried tight, tried wiggling...nothing seemed to work...but be forewarned, you can not do this hike without getting wet! ... numerous times! Other than learning how to hike thru water in sandles, the hike in was very nice... Hiking In: Temperature: estimated to be 80s, very nice from 6-9a. We were sheltered from the sun by the canyon walls most the hike in to Horse Camp. Hike Out: Temperature: HIked out from 10:30a - 2p... not so much... estimated to be in mid 100s most of the way. Heading out was a different story, even the high walls did not offer much protection from the sun when it was directly overhead. We headed back out @ 10:30a. We passed several groups of 2-3 folks coming in. Most were going to camp @ Horse Camp for the night...good plan! At some point on the way out, all 3 of us dunked in one of the 2-3' pools, this was a great way to cool off and we were dry within 10 minutes. The stream really made the hike out bearable. When we got to the ranger station, it was 109 degrees. Total hike was 10 1/2 miles to/from Horse Camp, I used 2 gallons of water/powerade, Johnny and Joel used comparable amounts.
Ranger discussions indicated that up Horse Camp Canyon and down Virgus Canyon are several large pools suitable for swimming, with the Virgus pool tending to stay wet all year round, while Horse Camp can run dry...better suited for an overnight Horse Camp adventure.
Along the way we saw a few garter snakes, coati mundi(6) @ Horse Camp, a brilliant red cardinal, brilliant blue jay, hawks, great blue heron (4), mountain goats(4) on the road out (about 1/2 mile east of the metal bridge), skinks (basically a lizard, I'm sure someone will correct me on this), several collared lizards (blue/green). No other big mammals, the ranger indicated there have been bear sightings and he said there is a mama black bear and her 2 cubs in the area. Never saw that, but that's ok since I got my fill of bears in Yellowstone and Glacier a couple weeks ago.