This has been in the works for over a year, but the timing for Haigler has to line up just right with temps, forecast, and runoff. After a chilly washout last year, we were finally able to align the stars this year.
We attempted a new approach via Salt Canyon, which looked reasonable on the map, but ended up being more treacherous than desired. Getting around the very-well-signed private property at the ranch was a beast of manzanita forest along with a very steep and loose slope. On the other side, the climb up the old road to Big Ridge 177 was steep, hot, and exposed. Getting back down to Salt was equally steep, hot, and exposed, and the thought of returning this way had us all dreading the trip back.
As we stopped for a snack near Salt Canyon, we spotted something large moving in the distance. Was it a bear? More likely a cow. Then one of us commented that there were people there. This of course, was impossible! Who the hell else would possibly be down here in such a remote and difficult place to get to? Joel or Jon said "it's probably toddak" and we all laughed at the joke. I got up and walked in the direction we had seen the movement, and before I could see anything I hear "Is that Chumley!?" I dropped an effbomb or two and proceeded to introduce myself to a guy who said he was the other Todd. We chatted for minute and headed back to the rest of the group and chuckled at the coincidence of it all. It was nice to finally meet the guy who has been to some of the coolest places this site has descriptions for!
After parting ways, we headed down Salt. The first half wasn't too bad, but the lower half narrows and gets overgrown. After fighting through brush and poison ivy (and finding a bypass around the rattlesnake that was basking on a shelf that was the ideal route on a short downclimb), we reached the creek just in time to cool off for a few minutes.
We explored both up and downstream from this entry section and eventually found a suitable location to set up camp. Once all our gear was stashed, the real creek fun could begin. I had planned to split from the others and make it all the way to Hells Gate, but we got caught up in one of those famous Arizona 0% chances of rain with an impressive thunderstorm that dropped a solid downpour and kept us on edge watching lightning and listening to booming thunder echo through the canyon while swimming and wading through narrow slots. By the time the weather cleared, I didn't have the time I needed to get downstream and return before dark, so I'll just have to make another trip down here (I'm absolutely dreading this miserable development )
Once the rain cleared we settled in for a fun evening at camp full of shenanigans and tomfoolery that can't possibly be described on such a distinguished website as HAZ.
Sunday involved more creek exploration, napping, swimming, jumping and a general good time all around. No rain today, and the sunny heat of the hike out took it's toll on all of us, especially on the off-trail climb around the ranch. Dinner at Alfonso's rounded out the trip. It's more expensive than Del Taco, but worth the extra dime.
Edit: I forgot to add the part where I was attacked underwater by a Haigler Piranha. Somehow I managed to get this on video: