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Haigler Creek Hellsgate Wilderness
21 Photosets

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mini location map2016-06-25
7 by photographer avatarMountainMatt
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Haigler Creek Hellsgate WildernessPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Canyoneering avatar Jun 25 2016
Canyoneering12.15 Miles 2,691 AEG
Canyoneering12.15 Miles1 Day   2 Hrs   7 Mns   
2,691 ft AEG55 LBS Pack
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What more to say than it was a pleasure to spend the weekend in this basically untouched pristine wilderness. My expectations were blown away from what I originally had in mind of this place. Great company and incredible terrain made this one of my most memorable backpacking trips to date.

Joel and Chumley were the masterminds of this trip so I was just following along thier precisely planned route. We parked the truck once the road met private property boundary and made our brief and easy manzanita filled descent down to the nicely flowing Gordon Creek. We crossed the creek and walked along nice cattle trails that linked up to a road that led to the top of what I believe is The Big Ridge or at least a portion of its trail, I'm still not sure where that trail was exactly along the hike. Either way once atop that ridge we were greeted with magnificent sweeping views of the unique area. The jagged canyon walls came into view as we made our descent down the road down into Salt Canyon.

Before entering through our side canyon we took a quick water and snack break when suddenly we all heard what sounded like a large animal making its way through the brush when out of nowhere glimpse of a human came into play. Chumley and Joel took off to see who or what it was and what do you know it was a fellow Hazzer in the middle of absolute nowhere! After meeting the very kind Toddak we all laughed at the highly unlikely possibility it was to come across another person in a place like that. True Hazzers are a rare breed among the millions of other Arizonans. 8)

The Salt Canyon drainage worked out perfectly as the only the only trouble we ran into were a few easy downclimbs in which one was blocked by a beautiful sleeping rattlesnake, so we just carefully made our way around it to the left while I believe Jon chucked his 60 lbs backpack over the edge instead. :sweat:
After a dry and hot drainage descent the cool waters of Haigler were such a treat as we all dipped in for a swim in just one of the many idyllic swimming pools we were going to encounter that weekend.
Before breaking camp we headed upstream to check out a few marked falls area and on our way we encountered scenic 80-100 yard swim through the narrow pink granite walls. That is when my mind registered just how immaculate the canyon was that we were in the presence of.

After our fair share of swimming around we headed downstream with our packs to our planned camp spot somwhere around Leo Canyon which was based upon satellite view and it's close proximity to the lucky charms. I used a canvas floaty to lay my heavy pack on whenever we encountered deep water or a swim and it worked perfectly not only for keeping my pack dry but to keep my balance while walking in the creek and of course as a flotation device. We ended up making camp sooner than expected due to coming across a gem of campsite for a canyon that rugged.

After emptying our packs and relaxing for a moment we all headed downstream to see what else was inside the canyon. Joel had commented earlier in the day about how the clouds in the distance looked like rain clouds and sure enough he was right! Somwhere around 2 hours later dark clouds loomed over our surrounding area while cracks of thunder enmitted as it slowly began to sprinkle and then turned into a pretty decent downpour for a few minutes. Chumley and I took refuge in what I dubbed the emarld cove which was this very unique large overhang with shallow water beneath it. It was probably not the best spot to be in a monsoon storm but considering there wasn't anything else around at the moment and luckily the only lightning strikes we saw were a considerable distance away we were just fine. I know Chums goal was to make it to Hellsgate which I was up for as well before the mini rainstorm happened so then I just went back upstream to set up for some tripod time at some of the more picturesque spots along the creek.

After making it back to camp I began to stuff myself with food and beer since I probably packed way too much in my bag to begin with :lol: I was second back at camp, Jon third and Joel the mastermind himself was of course back well after dark which I'm still eager to see his photos since he is who I look up to in the photography world. The night was filled with many laughs, plenty of beers, a unique version of night painting and a surprise visit from a giant centipede. Perfect weather that night and we all slept well after quite the exciting day exploring this seldom traveled area.

We saw a bounty of bear scat and tracks throughout the canyon and on our way out we spotted some fresh new tracks not far from camp, maybe bears like craft beer too... Before heading out the drainage we took one last swim in the cool waters of Haigler before making what we built up to be a daunting trek out but then in reality ended up being relatively easy hike out. For me it was probably because half my pack weight was from the mass amounts of pre-cooked bacon and beer that was consumed the night prior. :guilty:

We made it to the truck just in time as the last part of our hike kind of sucked from the rapid elevation gain and the heat beginning to pick up but nonetheless it was not bad at all it but it sure was a pleasant sight to see the Chum-mobile and grab a gallon of water to chug. Great weekend, with great people spent in a gem of a wilderness, enough said.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Haigler Creek Medium flow Medium flow

dry Salt Canyon Dry Dry
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