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Whitlow & Tule Canyons Loop, AZ
mini location map2016-12-24
65 by photographer avatarCannondaleKid
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Whitlow & Tule Canyons Loop, AZ 
Whitlow & Tule Canyons Loop, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 24 2016
Hiking8.10 Miles 1,818 AEG
Hiking8.10 Miles   5 Hrs      1.68 mph
1,818 ft AEG      10 Mns Break25 LBS Pack
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
With the forecast for heavy rains I was quite hopeful I'd experience plenty of running water through both Whitlow and Tule Canyons. So I 'geared up' including my new Gregory Zulu 30 pack and headed out while expecting a thoroughly wet-weather hike.

And when I arrive at the trailhead just north of Queen Valley what do I see? Blue skies in every direction.
So much for forecasts... oh well, put the wet-weather gear in the pack and let's get going!
Although I'd been in Tule Canyon a few times previously, I'd never been in this part of Whitlow Canyon so I decided to follow Whitlow north until a spot where I hoped to cross west over two ridges toward Tule and return along the familiar ground of Tule Creek.

Again Route Manager proved to be a great resource... by using satellite view I was able to map a route following numerous existing cow-paths and avoiding the worst parts of the creek. As far as the cross-over to Tule... well that part I wasn't sure about. Using the Topo map I drew out a few routes as possibles then switched to satellite view for another look. While the route up from Whitlow with distinct cow-paths looked good, the west side looked iffy at best. So I just did a guess-and-by-gosh route and figured I'd wing-it when I got there.

On the hike up Whitlow following my mapped route was easy enough, and the turn west to ascend to the ridge went even better than expected... plenty of current cow traffic lead the way better than any cairns could have, and soon I was at the saddle.

The route I had first drawn did not look inviting, the next few drainages didn't look much better, and the lower part of the route I mapped out wasn't yet visible so I'll keep going and see. As I began my northern traverse I spotted a few cows looking at me which drew my attention to well-traveled cow-path heading downward. I followed it until it stopped dead above a 100-foot drop... :scared:
Unless cows regularly committed suicide here I figured they were already messin' with me. I would follow the next path with the same result.
Ok, so I'll climb back up to my original mapped traverse and see what crops up. Another wasted climb! Although Topo lead me to believe it was a milder slope, it was quite nasty-looking so I turned around and headed back to the saddle. Once at the saddle, I had to decided between going back down and back along Whitlow again, or look harder for another descent route. While I was hemming-and-hawing I noticed another cow-path going down roughly where I had drawn a route early in my planning stage. And whadd'ya know, it was a long and winding path but it would eventually lead me to the promised land... Tule Canyon!

This area was so interesting I just had to spend time exploring, but a few rumbles of thunder and even darker gray clouds building, I thought better it. I had my wet-weather gear ready again and I wasn't worried about getting wet, but going up narrow drainages didn't seem prudent.
(Tracey has Thursday off so we'll do a joint exploration, hopefully with more water in the creeks after the rains)

The return along Tule Creek was familiar ground so the return trip went pretty quickly. Only one spot posed a challenge. After two years I had forgotten about one tall, stout barbed-wire fence... barbed all the way down. Looking at my route from two years previous it appeared I had followed it to the canyon walls in both directions but I couldn't tell which side I passed through. It turned out to be NEITHER, heading back downstream a hundred feet or so before ascending the west side.

Only problem was, where I believe there had been a large boulder to aid the short climb, it was no longer there. Well, either I backtrack and cut over this 'island' between two feeds of the creek, or try to climb right there. I decided to climb. Not used to the new pack (and of course full of stuff I didn't usually bring) I made a few attempts before deciding to toss my poles and a few other items up, providing the extra incentive to git'er done!
It worked... a few scrapes but I made it. :y:
And now, I can see the squall moving in, but since it had not YET rained and I didn't want to stop to pull out the rain gear, I cruised on to the end. Just in time to put everything away and get the Jeep turned around and the deluge hit.

Lesson learned?
* For a dry hike on a rainy day, take plenty of wet-weather gear and it won't rain on you.
* Skip the gear and you'll probably get soaked. :M2C:
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Fraser Peak 4618
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