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Devil's Canyon Hike
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mini location map2005-10-22
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Devil's Canyon HikeGlobe, AZ
Globe, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 22 2005
Hiking4.80 Miles 1,093 AEG
Hiking4.80 Miles2 Days         
1,093 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Rushing the kids to finish getting their gear loaded in the Suburban, I was trying to get on the road so that we could try and reach the trail head Friday night and camp there prior to our sojourn into the canyon on Saturday. We had packed well, with every thing in our packs being waterproofed for the one night that we planned to stay in the canyon below the five pools.

We made the drive from Joseph City to the Oak Flat Campground and it was dark when we arrived. We circled through the camp ground and there were just way to many people there partying and hooyahing for my comfort so we drove on down the Magma Mine Road and turned through the gate onto the dirt road that takes you to the Hackberry Creek Trail Head to start the Devils Canyon Hike.

We headed south on the 4x4 road and immediately passed a large drilling rig working through the night and lit up like BOB on game night. We drove past the drill rig and stopped at a wide spot in the road just across from the balanced rock near the start of the road and made camp for the night. Not wanting to pull our gear out of the waterproofing within our packs we all decided to just sleep in the Suburban! What a joy, 3 teenagers and myself trying to stretch out as best we could and ignore the fact that our stop at the Taco Bell in Globe for bean burritos would inflict an unpleasant natural consequence on our nasal membranes throughout the night :o !

Morning! Fresh Air! Sunrise! It's great to be alive and outdoors. We headed up the road towards the trailhead at the windmill. What a road! I have run many 4x4 roads in my time through out Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico and this trail is just about the worst that a stock 4x4 can struggle through. Needless to say we had a blast!

Arriving at the windmill we unloaded our packs and prepared for our adventure. Morgan, Brandon (my children) and Josh (Brandon's friend) had to start things out with a climb to the top of the windmill tower to pose for a photo! We left the vehicle and headed down the road about five minutes to where it crosses Hackberry Creek. Bearing right we continued downstream and almost immediately began what was to become a wonderful day of climbing over, around, under and hopping from one large boulder to the next. We were surrounded by incredibly majestic spires of vertical rock, carved and eroded into wonderful red needles thrusting skyward at the canyons rim, dramatically piercing the deep blue sky. The canyon was so enchanting that I soon fell behind the kids as I stopped every few feet to take another photograph. We adopted a visual line of sight rule, which kept everyone together and allowed me to include them in many of the photos that I continued to take. I submitted several of them in a photoset of this hike but it was hard to pick which ones to submit. I shot just over 500 photos over the course of our two-day adventure to the five pools.

We arrived shortly at the 40-foot dry fall and proceeded to quickly down climb this obstacle and moved past the small pool of stagnant water at its base. This would be a dramatic waterfall at flood stage but impossible to get to safely, with high water flowing in the canyon.

Proceeding downstream we came upon another drop of about 30 feet into a deep pool of water. Here we had to climb along a narrow steep trail along canyon left, under and around a few large cacti. Reaching the downstream edge of the pool we noticed that there were several decent sized fish swimming around in this pool.

Just past this pool was a majestic looking sycamore tree and the confluence of Hackberry Creek and Devils Canyon. Bearing right we proceeded downstream through a much wider canyon, full of riparian growth. We could hear the stream running through the under growth and soon we were upon it! What a delight! Clear, calm, trickling water surrounded by deep green mosses, tufts of marsh grass, majestic oaks and the wonderful creamy white bark of the sycamore.

Every pool had a mirror like surface that the surrounding canyon walls and deep blue sky were reflected in. I soon had to give the kids a refresher lesson in the physical characteristics of the pretty but evil little plant called Poison Ivy. I illustrated the lesson with a story of the young man that accidentally used a few of the soft leaves of this plant as toilet tissue :cry: following a backwoods call of nature! (No I was not that young man!) The plant was aggressively identified and avoided through out the rest of our hike!

About mid way between the confluence of Hackberry Creek and Devils Canyon and the five pools there is a small ten foot water fall that drops through a narrow crevice and enters a small pool about three or four feet in diameter. This small pool is about 8 feet deep however and the kids couldn't resist the temptation to jump in and cool off a little bit.

After gearing back up we continued down stream and Brandon immediately slipped on the slimy rocks at the edge of the creek and fell, backpack and all into the creek. Josh decided that he should investigate the slippery rocks and show Brandon that his shoes were "grippy" enough to walk on them. He became victim number two as his "grippy" shoes suddenly turned into banana peels! If you walk in the creek be careful, the smooth rocks covered with moss are very treacherous.

Finally, we arrived at the first pool and surveyed the beauty of the place in awe! What a perfect swimming hole! The drop into the first pool is about twenty feet and we never did really determine how deep the pool was but I would guess at least twenty feet. We pitched our backpacks into the pool and eagerly followed with several repeated leaps into the very chilly water of pool number one. Then, floating alongside of our backpacks we crossed the first pool and slid down a slippery slide about fifteen feet into the small puddle that comprises pool number two.

Brandon and Josh both pitched their packs into pool number three and followed them in. Josh however, having to move much faster than Brandon so that he could rescue his bag of beef jerky that had somehow won it's freedom from his pack and was bobbing merrily towards the lip of the drop into pool number four. Both he and Brandon swam to the lip and surveyed the sixty-five foot drop into pool number four. They were very impressed. I had remained at the edge of pool number two, watching the boys in pool three while Morgan remained in pool one. We had about an hour and half of sunlight left, Morgan was cold and I was still nursing a rotator cuff injury so I made a decision that rather than setting up the rappels and proceeding to the bottom of all five pools we would return to the canyon upstream of pool one and make camp there.

The drop from pool two to pool three is only about twenty feet but it is completely vertical with few hand and foot holds and it is the only hard climb back out. You have to climb the rope. The drops into pools four and five, sixty-five and fifty feet respectively can be bypassed on canyon left (facing down stream). The drops into pools one, two and three however cannot be bypassed. Climbing out of pool one is relatively easy with many foot and handholds and a strap attached to a bolted anchor. Climbing out of pool two is an easy scramble however the rock is slippery. If you hug the right wall facing upstream there is a narrow crack that you can jam your feet into and work your way up to pool one.

Brandon and I had figured this out but we somehow failed to relay the information to Josh who again received a lesson that his shoes were just not "grippy" enough! With a dull thud he kissed the rock as his feet shot out behind him, his wet pack adding weight to a body slam that the W.W.F. boys would have been proud of! After he started breathing normally again and having ascertained that he was not permanently damaged we coaxed him back up to pool one to join the group.

Again the drop between pools two and three is tough especially if you are heavy and or have a weak upper body. If you don't feel comfortable in your ability to make the climb up the rope I would recommend that you proceed no further than pool two. Brandon and Josh both required assistance in making the climb out of pool three and used an ascender attached to their harnesses. After sucessfully retreiving them from pool three, my shoulder was telling me that we were glad that we had not gone past pool two!

Meanwhile back at the ranch! Morgan had located a very nice camp spot for us about fifty yards up the slope of the canyon wall on canyon right facing downstream and just above the pools. We were all beat and quickly set up camp, made dinner and relaxed on our sleeping bags. The stars in the cold clear sky were amazing as usual and we were all soon asleep.

Lying in my sleeping bag I watched the sun slowly paint the canyon walls and the towering saguaros that covered them in a breathtaking red "fire" that slowly faded as the sun climbed higher in the sky and pushed the shadows of dawn away. We broke camp and headed back to the pools. Realizing that the kids needed to be in school the following day, that it was a long trip home and being slightly nervous about the rough road back to the pavement, I decided that we would not descend into the final two pools on this trip. We played for a couple of hours in pool one, jumping repeatedly from the twenty foot entry lip, Brandon even jumped from the forty foot wall on the west side of the pool!

Comforted by the knowledge that we would return to the pools again we left them behind and made our way upstream to the small waterfall and pool where the kids and I all took another refreshing dip before continuing on through the canyon and then up Hackberry Creek to the wind mill where we had parked. After loading our gear we tackled the "Road" and made it back to pavement about an hour later. There were several spots where I had only two or three tires on the ground and not having lockers I had to play with the brakes and the throttle together to get the tires that were still in contact with the ground to turn and move us forward.

This was a wonderful outing and I highly recommend it to everyone who wants a great outing and a wonderful memory to recall when they are old! Although the distance of this hike is just at 5 miles one way it feels much longer due to the fact that there is no trail and you are constantly climbing up and down rocks, jumping from rock to rock and stopping to admire the scenery. Start early and don't dawdle and you can easily make the trip in and out in one day. If you want to stop and play or otherwise enjoy the canyon and pools you need at least two days. We are planning on three next time!

In fairness to Josh who I love to give a hard time, I must admit that I too managed to accomplish a couple of impressive tumbles and we both ended up with legs that looked like we had fought a weed wacker and lost! There are lots of briars and other thorny plants in these canyons that just seem to love chewing up your legs if you are wearing shorts.
Kelly D. McLaughlin
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