|Backpack||10.00 Miles||2 Days || |
|820 ft AEG|| || || |
Fossil Creek - Mazatzal Wilderness
Spring had long since sprung and we were in need of a good dose of Mother Nature after mostly completing just day trips into the forest through the winter. The kids wanted to go swimming but it was still a little chilly up above the rim on East Clear Creek so we headed south thinking that we would go visit Fossil Springs. Upon arriving at the Fossil Springs Trailhead we realized that a bunch of other people had the same idea, there were about 8 cars there! We wanted just a little less company for the weekend so we opted to continue down Fossil Creek Road and hike into a different section of the canyon. We drove past the Irving Power Plant and the bridge over the creek to the junction with the Childs Power Plant Road. Here we turned left on to the Childs Power Plant Road and then found a place to park near the creek about a mile and a quarter down the road.
This location would allow us to hike down into the Mazatzal Wilderness and experience what we hoped would be a great canyon were the kids and Duke, our big Black Lab could swim and we could have a private weekend with Mother Nature. We were not to be disappointed. We set off down canyon along a well used trail on CR and were immediately rewarded with pool after pool of crystal clear Fossil Spring's water. The trail soon petered out as we advanced past the point where most people on a day trip, packing coolers will venture. We continued on about a mile and located a nice camp site on CL and got set up. After enjoying our campfire for a while we turned in, looking forward to exploring the canyon below us the next day.
After a restful night, swaying in my hammock, I awoke to the sound of the creek splashing its way down the canyon and several birds singing backup. What a way to start your day! I got the kids rolled out and started heating some water for breakfast and coffee. Morgan put together a light day pack for us while Brandon got Duke set up with his life jacket. I make him wear this when we are playing in canyon pools because he loves the water and will follow along anywhere we go, including areas where he cannot get out of the water and would be at risk of drowning once he tires out. We headed down canyon and began what turned out to be a really great day of exploring and playing in pool after pool as we made our way down stream.
At one point we spotted a couple of otters but they quickly made themselves scarce and I never got the chance to get a photo of them. We did find several spots where they had eaten some crawdads that they caught in one of the calm, deep pools of the creek.
We stopped in mid afternoon after having traveled a little over 5 miles towards the spot where Fossil Creek dumps into the Verde River. At this point the canyon had started to open up some and we were seeing a lot more of the cactus and other desert flora. The kids had played hard all morning, swimming, jumping and diving in the crystal clear water. Had we continued on we would have reached the Verde River in about ¾ of a mile. We turned around however and headed back towards camp and some much needed rest.
We were in and out of the creek all day long and really enjoyed the warm water. I was surprised at how sure our footing was in the creek. Unlike most other creeks where the rocks under the water soon become slippery and hard to walk on, the high content of calcium chloride in the water of Fossil Creek deposits a layer of travertine on everything that it touches. This is almost like walking on dry sandstone in comparison to the traction that you get on the wet rocks. The only disadvantage to this was that it caused the pads on Dukes paws to become very abraded and he had a couple of spots where he had open sores. When we got back to camp he lay down and didn't move around much the rest of the night. I cleaned his paws up and used some Anbesol gel that I carry in my first aid kit on the sores to ease his discomfort some. In the future we will set him up with some boots to protect his paws.
The next morning we relaxed in camp and the kids played in the creek there at camp, Duke continued to rest until we packed up our gear and headed back to the car. I gave Duke another dose of Anbesol before we started out so he could make it back to the car without being in to much pain. We were soon on the road headed home and it wasn't long before I was the only one still awake as the busy weekend took its toll.
We hope to return and complete a shuttle hike along this section of Fossil Creek again and continue on to the confluence with the Verde River and then hike upstream on the Verde to the campground at Childs.