We waited to see if there was actual rain today, as was predicted but never predictable. Sure enough plenty of stuff falling from the skies and as we would witness not all of it rain. I got on HikeAz at about 4:30 am thinking for sure that Massacre Falls was gonna be on the agenda today but hoping for something a little closer to home and not involving any length of dirt roads i.e. First Water. I was ready with a cup of coffee to fuel the hour or so of searching and enough in the carafe for at least two more cups plus Wendi's apportionment when she got up. But wait! HikeAz's footer flashes "Great after rain hikes near Phoenix
". It's like they know what I am thinking!
I came across this hike on HAZ a couple years ago and every once in-awhile since. It never seems long enough to pay much attention too. But throw in some rain and recent judicially mandated changes in NFS fee policies, though still a little sketchy, and this hike was exactly what we were looking for.
Coming up Scottsdale road however, it was kind of apparent that the worst of what came through was still lingering in the general vicinity of our hike. The snow on the golf course approaching the TH gave us a little shot across the bow, though. The fog at this point was so thick that it was hiding snow covered mountains north of Cave Creek/Carefree, just the other side of the road from the pull off. We got to the TH considerably less intrepid then when we left the house at about 10:45. "Oddly" we were the only ones there so we took the high ground as much out of the mudd and flood planes as possible. We did 3 or 4 false starts but each time we opened the doors cold winds blew in rain, then sleet, snow. We decided to sit it out and see what happens. We watched as a little bird took shelter under our car, everytime shifted around in the car it fly out from under our car to make sure we didn't have any nefarious intentions and then quickly reclaim the cover we were providing this little guy. After about an hour the fog finally lifted which was double edged because we given hope this thing was finally lifting but we could now clearly see the snow capped mountains right across the road.
Shortly we given more hope as the skies very gradually brightened and then every once in awhile we could see patches of blue. We watched as a white pickup pulled in and out popped a couple and their young duaghter and their two dogs got out and prepped themselves to do the hike. As they did a Sheriff's car followed by NFS slowed down as they drove past the TH. They kept going, we took this as a sign to go about our business. Neither of us by the way saw any postings that a fee was required for this TH, just a sign shortly up road that stated that the Tonto Pass was required for all Recreation Areas.
About 20 minutes after this first family headed out. The skies really brightened and the patches of blue were right over top of us. Let's go I said, Wendi wasn't completely sold noticing the big gray bank of clouds directly over where we would be hiking to. I dismissed it stating that it would be blown out by the time we got there.
We headed out. The first section before it drops into the wash was just a little bit muddy and just a little bit slippery. But once it drops in, gravel gets thicker providing a good barrier from the mud and much nicer to walk in. The trail was easy to follow by the description given, thankfully because I have been having a hard time getting a charge on my rechargeables lately and with all the cloud cover turning on the GPS wouldn't be worth the effort. When we passed the bullet ridden remains of the Cadillac there was no doubt we were on the right track. I noticed some areas of pay-dirt along the way.
Not too much later the family that bravely headed out before us was on there way back. I asked if they had made it to the falls but they had not. He said that they had seen some concerning signs of a falling rocks. We thanked them for the heads up but continued on. I was looking but didn't notice any noticeably recent shifts. Most of the areas weren't tight enough to pose to strong a threat so my worries for this eased. However the storm had not blown out of area approaching Camp Creek. Precipitation was falling in it's various forms intermittently and the skies got darker still. We finally got to Camp Creek and were rewarded with a decent flow of water. There were 5 or so crossings before we finally got to the falls, though the first few could have been avoided if I hadn't opted to stay on the path with the clear line of sight to Camp Creek. I noticed a possible path that went off into a stand of Willow Seep but it wasn't cairned and I wasn't gonna chance the frustration of having to back track or bushwack through it. As it turns out the trail is cairned on the other side so we took advantage of it on the way out... Sorry I realize now that I neglected to duck it out. My apologies to the next guy.
The rain started coming down a little harder as we made our crossings. I had to fashion my own stepping stones here and there to keep our feet dry but eventually on the way back that became a fruitless effort. But almost on cue the rain finally lifted even if the clouds didn't just as we got to the falls. Wendi found the tiniest little nook to stand in and watch the falls as I explored the route that went above it. Above the falls kind a smelled skunky, this was apparently to the very dead skunk laying right at the top. The smells of the corpse probably reawakened in the rain. I took a cursory look at the trail which didn't look overly promising and made the decision that we had reached the top of the risk/reward bell curve here and turned back just as a loud blast of rolling thunder broke the relative silence. I immediately thought of Wendi standing under the protection of her little nook in the rock face of the canyon wall and remembering that thread found here somewhere on HikeAz that warns that lightening can follow canyon walls right into a cave. It was decidedly time to go.
Wendi required no convincing, and we made quick time crossing the creek. In our haste we did get our feet wet but that was no problem thanks to the Smart-wool socks Wendi found us. Luckily we were both smart enough to wear them. I also had spares in my pack just in case.
Thankfully Wendi was paying attention to the trail where it ascends up from the wash. I was busy talking to a crow that was flying over head. He was missing some feathers from his left wing. I was in the middle of asking him about that when Wendi interrupted the conversation to point out that I missed our turn off. I guess we will never know about the missing feathers.
By this point we were under the breaks of blue skies but the cell was still lurking over the falls. By the time we made to the TH however it was showing obvious signs of clearing out. As we approached, an "elderly" couple pulled up and hopped out and readied themselves for their own adventure. They asked about ours. We told them a little wet. They laughed, albeit with a note of hesitation. They were soon followed by large horse trailer. We left as that man readied his horse.
In no time we were passing the golf course, the greens already without snow. We had skipped our lunch at this point and it was already 1:30 so we decided to hit Wendy's for some hot chili.
Good day on the trails and no tickets!