...and other navigational nightmares!
It's always a good idea to monitor the weather at your intended destination for several days prior to your arrival. I know this because I didn't do it. On a whim, I threw together a pack and headed up to toward Payson. I had 3 possible destinations in mind and I didn't decide until the last minute to go to Christopher Creek. It was a nice drive through the pines on a fairly sunny day. It wasn't until I pulled up to the trailhead off of 260 (in the No Parking area where everyone parks anyway) that I got my first good look at how saturated the ground is up there. If I didn't have 4WD, I might have been stuck right there. I'm thinking, this is probably not a good sign.
The trail through the forest was muddy but hard enough to walk on and I wondered how recently it had rained. When I got to the edge of the canyon and looked down at the creek, I would have guessed the answer to that question to be about 3 hours ago. I am looking at some very brown water. From up that high, I thought (hoped) that maybe it was just the bottom I was seeing. But, when I got down to the creek bed, the water cascading over the rocks was brown, too... we're talking Grand Falls brown, here. Fine. I wasn't expecting a swimming pool, but any travel in the creek itself was a real challenge with no visibility. One moment you're shuffling along in knee high water and then the next step puts you in up to your neck without warning. So, you creep along slowly wondering where the bottom drops out when you smack into an underwater boulder. But, by now, you've reached the end of that pool, and you can't climb down most of the cascades so you have to get out and walk around them to the next pool. This is harder than walking in the creek. Have you ever stood Dominos (the game, not the pizza) on their ends in a long line and pushed over the first one? Of course you have. Picture how they land as huge slabs of rock. This is your shoreline. You must travel across these 'fallen Dominos' to get to the next pool. Walking downstream along these ginormous rock slabs you are walking a slant uphill. When you reach the end of one rock Domino, the next one is anywhere from 4 to 8 feet below it. Hand and foot holds to assist are slim to none. You get the picture.
In spite of the level of difficulty getting around, this appears to be quite a popular hang-out for the under-age drinking crowd. There is plenty of trash down here consisting solely of beer and liquor bottles, beer cans and various items of clothing. And, there were socks everywhere! If it wasn't such a rude disrespect of nature, it would almost be funny. I have a hard time picturing how these kids manage to climb out of there without killing themselves (in the dark, no less!) after sucking down a bottle of Jack. Makes me wonder if the Forest Service doesn't have some clandestine cleaning crew that comes in early Monday morning to sweep up all the dead teenagers sprawled on the rocks below.
I have no idea how far I went because I forgot to put fresh batteries in my GPS. I'd guess close to 2 miles. I was so busy playing Dominos down in the canyon, a clap of thunder was my first clue that a storm was brewing over my head. Time to go.
It was raining pretty hard by the time I reached the No Parking Lot. Even with 4WD I had to rock it a couple times to get out. Saw no one all day. This definitely wasn't the best place I've ever been, even if you take the rain and mud out of the equation. I knew I should have gone to the Narrows! Well, there's always next time. Stay tuned for more misadventures!