I was a bit tired from my New Year's weekend hikes but didn't want to let a day off go to waste, especially not with all the water that has been flowing around the desert mountains lately.
White Canyon has been on my radar since Arizona Wilderness introduced it's Crystal-Pepsi-like uneducated tarzan swinger White Canyon Stout ... which is blonde colored but tastes like a stout.
(Yes, I realized I wanted to visit somewhere because of the name of a beer!)
After visiting the spine and seeing 1-800-the-joey put together a big loop out here a few weeks back, it was fresh in my mind. I was hoping to see good water flowing through the falls in the canyon. I decided that the drive and miles of creek hiking from the south were a bit more than I wanted to tackle on Monday, so I chose the north route from FR319 (the hike description title should probably be renamed sometime so as to not confuse future hikers).
I almost drove all the way to the spring on FR2260, but stopped where a jeep had parked at the top of the hill. 4wd would be required to descend the hill, but primarily because of the one main switchback which has some big boulders as you make the sharp turn. The rest of it is a standard rough 4wd road. Of course, it's not a long walk, so if you don't enjoy roads like this, just park and walk the extra mile or two when you don't feel comfortable driving anymore.
The upper canyon had a light flow of water both above and below the spring, but much less than I was hoping for or expecting. I passed the jeep people as they were on their way out. They were hunting fox but came up empty on the day. To say they were shocked to see me would be an understatement. They had no idea people actually just go out here to hike and explore!
The upper canyon is easy to travel in and a couple of well-worn bypasses leave the creek bottom and are marked with cairns. When I reached the top of the box, I stayed on the north side and looked for a way down to the bottom. Along the way I found a very nice 40 foot waterfall from a side drainage. It was interesting that this drainage was flowing more than the much larger main drainage!
Once I had worked my way to the bottom, I attempted to head back upstream toward the fifteen foot falls in the box. There was a short swimmer that I couldn't bypass, and I waded in hoping to find a reasonable way across. Nope. I stripped down and jumped in! With air temps in the low 50s, calling the water refreshing
would be an understatement!
Unfortunately, at the end of the pool is a small 2 foot cascade, but unable to touch bottom and the water flow hitting me from above, I couldn't manage to climb up. Defeated, I retreated to the beach and put on some warm, dry clothes.
Next I climbed back upstream a bit looking for a descent down the western wall. About halfway down, I felt uncomfortable with the unsure footing on a short pitch I would have to downclimb, and I retreated back up. Next I tried to crab butt-scoot down the angled slope of sheer rock adjacent to a vertical wall. This worked remarkably well and I reached the bottom of the box just below the fifteen foot waterfall. Sadly, it wasn't that exciting.
I explored downstream in the box to the cascade and pool that had turned me away earlier. I enjoyed this section. On the way out, I learned quickly that getting up the sloped rock I had descended was not a good plan. But the pitch I didn't want to climb down earlier proved to be much more reassuring on the ascent and I was out of the box in no time.
Not wanting to return the way I had already been, I headed downstream looking for an exit point on the east side of the canyon. I saw one spot that looked promising, but decided to continue downstream and explore a bit more with the time I had remaining. There's a horseshoe bend in a narrow slot with high vertical walls before the canyon opens up about a quarter mile below the box.
Here I made my exit, encountering an obstacle consisting of about a 15 foot vertical layer that included a dryfall near the top of the drainage. There was a crack on the right that was nicely protected from exposure and allowed me to get above it with a short class 4 scramble.
Once above the canyon, it was just a pleasant stroll along the edge of the canyon, taking in the views from a variety of outlook points. Once I had returned above the box, I descended this side into the canyon above the fifteen foot falls, discovering yet another fall, this one in a narrow slot of smooth rock that dropped into a nearly hidden circular pot.
For the most part, I was able to stay in the canyon from here back to the top with the exception of one narrow section that would have required me to get wet again, which I chose not to do. With darkness approaching, I made swift time on the return, getting back to my truck in less than an hour.
White Canyon, you've got me hooked. Can't wait to get back and check out the lower part and explore some more. The geology out here is awesome! So is the stout!