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2009-09-11  

Verde River packraft, AZ
2009-09-1155 by
 
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Verde River packraft, AZ  
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I was bored surfing the net Thursday night when I checked the flow for the Verde and noticed it had peaked at nearly 700cfs on Sept 6th but as of Sept10th it was reading only 170cfs at Camp Verde. I quickly shot an email to a friend who lives in Payson to see if she would drive me down to the river Friday on the north end of Fossil Creek road where I would hike in to the river, and then drive down to Childs RAP on Sunday to pick me up and she was all for it. I quickly shot off another email to a friend from Phx who packrafts but she was already planning and packing for an upcoming packraft in Montana, so it looks like its just me but I figured that would be the case since it was a very last minute decision/trip.

I left Tucson around 7am Friday and made it to Payson around 10:20 or so. Grabbed some eats, filled up the gas tank, and called my friend to meet up with her for the drive to the river. With the drive from Payson, some dilly dallying, exploring a few trails off of Fossil Creek road, and my hike from where I was dropped off down to the river....I didn't actually make it to the river until 3pm. I had my packraft inflated and all set and was on the water by 3:30. I floated leisurely for a little while and before I knew it the pre-falls was upon me. I easily lined my packraft through the pre-falls on river left and then portaged Verde falls. I floated through a pretty cool part of the canyon where walls tower above you on both sides and soon I came upon the No Stop zone for the bald eagles but it was past the closure dates so I was safe to pull in and stop. I looked around for about 35 minutes or so and didn't spot an eagle but figured I would make camp there for the night so I spread my stuff out and had my tent pitched and soon after I heard rumbling in the distance with some fierce dark looking clouds rolling towards me. About 40 minutes later the rain came and it came HARD and it also hailed for a little while, the storm passed after about 30 - 40 minutes. I climbed outta my stuffy tent to a deafening roar, sounded like a freight train, and I immediately though in my head FLASH FLOOD!!! So I frantically tear down my wet tent with everything in it and am trying to move stuff to higher ground when I look up river about 100 feet and there was a small side canyon with a humongous water fall flowing from the rains that just came and that's where the loud roar was coming from. I felt better but still moved camp to higher ground. Didn't get much sleep that night at all.
I was up Saturday morning by 5:30am. I had some eats, packed my stuff up and was on the river by 7:30. Floated for about 30 minutes or so and hit an awesome little drop that definitely helped me have a bowel movement. As I float around the corner I see a guy washing dishes in the river so I paddle over to talk to him. 3 guys all in canoe's put in at Beasley RAP Friday and taking out at Childs RAP Sunday. They damaged 1 of the canoe's at the pre-falls but were able to continue on with it, and honestly when I got done with the trip I just didn't understand how those guys run that in canoe's. Anyways......I float on and just enjoy the scenery and the solitude. As I came around 1 corner I disturbed a bald eagle and he took off flapping those humongous wings making the most awesome sound and making it look so effortless and gracefull. About 5 minutes down the way I saw a group of 7 or 8 female bald eagles just circling overhead, man that was just cool. Soon I would stop for lunch where I ate a few snack bars and also enjoyed a fat green burrito in this amazing and beautiful scenery. I pushed off and continued on paddling and soon came to a section of the river where I must have disturbed a couple of either river otters or muskrats (don't know if either are in AZ?) and they kept curiously bobbing out of the water an dmaking lots of noise and swimming all around my packraft. They continued doing this for about 200 feet following me down river...I must admit that was pretty damn cool. Soon I looked at my GPS and I figured WOW at this rate I will be at Childs RAP today. So I had a decision to make.....1) find a place soon and camp for the night and make a leisurely short paddle for Sunday OR 2)paddle to Childs RAP and camp for the night and wait for ride on Sunday OR 3)paddle to Childs RAP and hope I could snag a ride out to Payson with someone, anyone. I paddled and paddled and soon came to the Verde Hot springs where I stopped for a soak. There was a couple there with their 2 young daughters and that was it. We talked for a while, they asked about my trip and where I was going and soon enough I had secured a ride back to Payson with them. They soaked for a while and I took off for Childs so I could take out and pack everything up. Soon we were off headed back to Payson. I got dropped off in town where I made a phone call for my friend to come pick me up. I grabbed some eats and then headed out on the road back to Tucson.

Great little 2 - 3 day trip. Definitely some hairy drops in there. In 1 braided section I got pushed into the reeds and flipped my packraft, luckily held onto paddle and was able to grab my raft just as it was being taken away by the current. I had to wind up lining my raft through the rest of that little braided section, that gave me a damn good scare. The water was pretty nasty since it was monsoon runoff. I was able to filter about 2 liters before my filter got clogged, had to clean it...and it still didn't work all that great, not to mention the water had a weird taste to it as well but I didn't get sick.
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