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Aravaipa Canyon
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Globe, AZ
Globe, AZ
Backpack Sep 20 2011
Backpack30.00 Miles 850 AEG
Backpack30.00 Miles2 Days   8 Hrs      
850 ft AEG
 no routes
Linked none no linked descriptions
Partners none no partners
This was my first visit to Aravaipa. In spite of the many rave triplogs and the fact that there is always WATER to play in, I've never felt inspired to go there... kind of seemed like a lot of sameness mile after mile. But, I have been very interested in Hell Hole Canyon for some time and seeing all of it was the main purpose of this trip. I was hoping to go in the east entrance, but that was closed most of the summer. It opened up for a short time and then was closed again, so I finally decided just to go in the west entrance and make an extended backpack of it. I took my son, Nick, along for comedy relief.

Three days worth of supplies is a lot to carry and our packs each weighed 33 lbs. My plan was to get at least as far as Booger Canyon before setting camp. There had been substantial rains the previous week which left piles of flood debris everywhere and the banks of the creek covered in thick mud. I'd been watching the weather so I wasn't surprised, but I was relieved to see that the water was clear... it was also deep and running fast. The beginning of the hike was easy walking, but as we continued, hiking in the water or trying to go around it in the slippery mud became a bit challenging. By the time we reached Horse Camp, we were pretty used up. We made a beeline for the main camp site area where we dropped our packs, threw down our sleeping pads and proceeded to take a long lunch break and a half hour nap. Feeling somewhat refreshed (or maybe just less trashed), we forged ahead toward Booger.

Once past Horse Camp, the hiking gets easier and the scenery starts to change, becoming more and more interesting as you go. This new inspiration went a long way toward keeping us in motion, but we were pretty well spent by the time we found a decent campsite 7 miles from the trailhead. We had just enough daylight left to set camp, build a fire and make dinner before we crashed and burned.

My watch alarm went off at 5am. I listened to it for the full minute without making the effort to turn it off. Nick remained perfectly silent in his tent, hoping I would ignore it and go back to sleep... which, of course, I did.

DAY TWO/Take 2:
6:30am. OK, that's a little more reasonable. Ten hours of lying on the ground never felt so good... ten more would be even better, but today was the fun day and there was a lot of ground to cover so after a quick breakfast, we happily donned the tiny packs and off we went. Two tenths of a mile later, I realized I left my camera at camp and had to go back for it. Could have been worse.

DAY TWO/Take 3:
9am already?! Anticipating a 12 mile day, we were way behind schedule. Luckily, the hiking was easy and we felt weightless compared to the day before, so we threw it into high gear and didn't stop until we had walked right past the entrance to Hell Hole Canyon. To say that it looked rather unremarkable would be a gross understatement. Invisible would be more correct. The skyline gave no indication of a break, there was no water flowing out of it and it was cleverly disguised as the plainest looking section of real estate in the whole place. I spent 5 minutes studying my maps and my GPS before I was convinced to go that way. It was another 5 minutes of walking through a vast nothing until you eventually turn a corner and...

WOW! 5 minutes of alternating between holding my breath and hyperventilating as we walked through in awestruck silence. This is the most incredible place I think I've ever seen. We passed 3 springs, 2 most notable with grottoes, none of which are marked on the TOPO map (I'll include a map in my photoset). I could have easily taken a thousand photos here, but neither time nor battery power allowed that kind of indulgence. And anyway, the towering canyon walls were so close on either side that the 28mm wide angle on my point and shoot fell far short of adequate for a place like this. {Derek, if you're reading, you absolutely need to put this one on your fall calendar.} The most amazing thing was that every inch of the entire canyon was absolutely breathtaking. There wasn't a single dull spot anywhere - just total awesomeness every step of the way... and it just kept on going. My plan was to hike it all the way to Bear Canyon Rd. Triplogs I've read seem like everyone turns around at the choke spot full of giant boulders, but that didn't stop us. It took a few minutes to figure out which direction we needed to aim for then we climbed over, under and around the blockage until we popped out on the other side where the canyon continued on in it's coolness just as before. While we walked, the walls around us kept getting lower and I was pretty stoked that we had almost reached the road. But, a mere 500 ft away from it, we came to a very serious fence with a Private Property sign and could go no further. Somewhat defeated, we sat down to ponder this cruel twist of fate and decided that 500 ft was close enough to claim victory and it was only 5 minutes past our turn-around time. The trip back down the canyon was as fantastic as the trip up, but we were tight on time so we saw it on the fly. We reached our camp by 4pm. 12+ miles for the day.

We hated to leave our little camp... what I mean is, we hated to put on those packs again. At least they were a lot lighter now. I hiked through some of Horse Camp Canyon on the way back while Nick stayed behind and climbed something. The pools there were covered in thick, green algae and I didn't linger very long.

We were really dragging the final mile to the trailhead and we propelled ourselves by discussing what kind and how many sodas we were going to buy at the Winkleman gas station. We were positively ecstatic upon arriving at his car (still the only one in the lot). Our trip had been a roaring success - minimal injuries, no gross errors, no major unexpected disappointments. We quickly stowed our gear and jumped in with big smiles to drive off into the sunset. Nick turned the key in the ignition and... nothing. And, one more time... again,nothing. :bdh:

NICK: Oh, no.
ME: What do you mean, "Oh, no?!"
NICK: It won't start.
ME: [panic rising] What do you normally do when this happens?
NICK: This normally doesn't happen.

We both stare at the dashboard in total disbelief. After a minute, Nick reaches forward and pushes in the headlight knob.

NICK: I left the lights on.
ME: OMG! You didn't! Please, tell me you didn't!
NICK: We disabled the idiot chime when Tony put in the new starter. You and I left the house in the dark but arrived in daylight and I forgot the lights were on.
ME: OMG! This can't be happening! We are SO screwed!

Having lost the battle against hysteria, I get out of the car, slam the door and slump to the ground. There's no cell signal, only two hours of daylight left, we are 12 miles away from the middle of nowhere and 6 miles from the nearest person who probably won't shoot us if we step onto their property, but considering the kind of condition we are in, they might as well be on Mars. We have to walk... possibly until we drop dead. But, we're out of water, so I will need to go back down to the creek first and filter some for our imminent death march.

Sitting at the edge of the creek inventing new curse words, I had treated 3 liters when I dropped the UV pen in the water and shorted it out. That's the end of that game. So, we'll each have a liter and a half to somehow accomplish our continued survival. I return to the car with the bad news, but he seems fairly certain that we'll find help out here in the land of NO TRESPASSING signs. I am somewhat less confident as we head down the endless road.

Time was our enemy as the sun slipped behind the mountains on its way to tomorrow and we sprinted the downhill stretches whenever we could. There are few homes here and they are well off the road behind locked gates. Shouting only succeeded in getting us attention from the mobs of agitated dogs behind them. It wasn't looking good. At just over a mile in our trek, we paused in front of a gate while the resident dogs announced our presence. As usual, you couldn't see the house from the road and we were just about to keep going when we heard someone call out to us. We looked over to see a woman pause her yard work and start walking toward us waving. I stood there mute, thinking I must be imagining this in some kind of exhaustion delirium as it was too good to be true, while Nick did all the talking and calmly explained our situation as if this kind of thing happens to him everyday. She offered to drive us back to the car and jump start it with her truck (luckily, Nick had jumper cables in the trunk). This was successful and when I was finally able to speak, I couldn't thank this woman enough. Two hours after discovering our plight, we were driving down the long dirt road and we reached Rt 77 just as the sun was setting.

Happy ending? Well, not just yet. We stopped at the gas station in Winkleman for sodas before continuing on in the now very black night of rural Nowhereville. I wasn't paying attention when he pulled out onto the road and being unfamiliar with the area, he turned back out onto 77 instead of 177. In the pitch darkness, we couldn't see anything but the pavement in the headlights so there was nothing visual to clue me into the fact that we had taken the wrong road heading further away from home. Looking out the black window waiting much too long for the Ray Mine to come into view, I got a sinking feeling that something was very wrong. A short time later, we passed a sign that said, Globe 11 miles. I'll skip sharing the dialogue on this mistake, but we ultimately arrived home without further incident and we live on to screw up, yet another day.

In spite of the drama at the end, it was a wonderful trip made entirely worthwhile by Hell Hole Canyon. Everyone should make the effort to see that place at least once. I plan on going back to it again in the fall... from the east entrance!

* The first day of our trip there were only two other permits issued, but it was probable that they didn't show, as that would have been their second day and there were no other vehicles in the lot. The next two days we held the only permits for the canyon. We didn't see another person for the entire hike. :y:
Wildflowers Observation Isolated
I'm at home in the wilderness... it's civilization I have problems with! ](*,)

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