I've wanted to explore this area for over a year now, and after the JBLP trio were there during a flood last winter my interest was piqued even more. But their visit did little to appease my curiosity since I knew that the conditions during their visit were extremely rare.
So Joel and I headed up early Saturday morning for a planned overnight in the canyon and I thoroughly enjoyed the landscape here. It's remote and rarely visited. The elevation is a bit lower than the Supes, so there is not nearly as much vegetation to fight, especially up away from the canyon bottoms. Sparsely spaced cactus and desert shrub made travel fairly quick and pain free. In the canyon bottom, travel was surprisingly easy going, except for in the spring areas where growth made for some serious bushwhacking. Still, willows, reeds, ferns, and riparian grasses don't cause nearly as much pain as catclaw and manzanita!
The drive to the trailhead is 90% nice dirt road. The other 10% is mandatory 4x4 high clearance. Just a couple of short stretches, but not the kind of road a Rav-4 or CRV is gonna enjoy. A real truck is definitely in order. Once done with the 5-mile dirt road to the trailhead, we made it down canyon in pretty good time. We took a nice break in the narrow canyon area at Sycamore Spring, followed by changing terrain along a couple of dry miles before reaching South Peoples.
At this point, we found the only flat ground possible and managed to squeeze our two tents on what might be considered a gravelly beach adjacent to the creek. Joel set out to find some photographic opportunities, and I headed out to explore some areas around the canyon. Had I had more daylight I would have liked to check out the cliff-lined ridge on the west side of the canyon, but I only managed to get about half way up before deciding that daylight wasn't on my side. The views from above the canyon were still spectacular and I would love to come back and spend more time exploring here. I did find what turned out to be a concrete trough -- something I had seen on a satellite photo and decided to seek out.
I went up one side drainage, crossed over a ridge, and descended a parallel drainage. Both were really neat. Narrow little slots with sandy bottoms. Often not more than 3 feet wide, but only 5-20 feet high. In a few places there were small dry falls that I had to bypass, but nothing was ever a real challenge.
Downstream of South Peoples, the vegetation is very thick and travel is significantly more difficult than any part of the canyon above it. I managed to get about half a mile in about an hour's time which is about where the water heads underground and the canyon dries up and becomes easier to travel in again. I'll have to get back here sometime to finish the last few miles to the Santa Maria.
So after a couple of evening beverages, we enjoyed perfect weather for sleeping and awoke to sun on the cliffs above. The hike out to the road was uneventful, and the 2-miles of road hiking back to the the car seemed neverending but still scenic. I surprised a few head of cattle that had adopted a friend in one of nature's paradoxes
that just doesn't seem real. I've had several days of emails and photo exchanges with a biologist at AZGFD about it and they are sending a team out to check it out.
Didn't see another vehicle or person all weekend, though there were some obvious man-made boot prints in the sand from time to time, so it's not like nobody has ever
been here. Then again, who knows when the last time it rained there?
I posted a few more photos than I normally would just because there's not much information out there on this one. I also try to keep my videos under 3-minutes, but this is a new area for me and most who visit this site, so I went over a little bit. Hope you don't fall asleep... http://youtu.be/GXHC7123Ew4