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Stehr to Childs via Fossil-Verde, AZ
mini location map2017-11-19
15 by photographer avatarchumley
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Stehr to Childs via Fossil-Verde, AZ 
Stehr to Childs via Fossil-Verde, AZ
Hiking avatar Nov 19 2017
Hiking12.02 Miles 1,111 AEG
Hiking12.02 Miles   8 Hrs   49 Mns   1.57 mph
1,111 ft AEG   1 Hour   11 Mns Break
1st trip
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We set up a shuttle by dropping my truck at Childs before heading out from Stehr Lake with the intent of following Fossil Creek to the Verde and then heading upstream to Childs. We were a bit ahead of prime colors in Fossil, but this is an incredibly scenic stretch of river (some might even say wild and scenic!) and lack of yellows and golds along the crystal clear creek water did not detract one bit.

We followed a reasonable use path toward the creek before dipping into a drainage and following it down the rest of the way. I had figured it would take 4-5 hours to get to the confluence but we stopped a few times to enjoy the scenery and it became apparent that we would be a bit behind schedule.

No matter, Matt told us travel along the Verde was somewhat easier than it was along Fossil, so I set out to make it there by dark. The water was a perfect temperature for the countless crossings but as daylight waned I was happy to find some beaten cattle tracks that allowed me to dry out a bit. Since I wasn't chasing late light and photography, I parted ways with the others about a mile from the confluence. With 4 miles of upstream Verde travel I was guessing 2 hours should get me to Childs.

The immediate upstream turn requires a high bypass as cliffs drop straight to the river. Stunning views over the Verde, golden cottonwoods, and Squaw Butte looking as dominant as ever from this angle, I climbed up and began a traverse 150 feet above the river. The (poop-my-pants) highlight of my day happened here as a mountain lion got up and slowly but gracefully moved out of my path. It had been laying under some desert scrub bush and had it not moved I would not have noticed it, but apparently my presence was a bit too close for comfort, so about 20-feet out it decided to walk away. I froze and watched for a few seconds. It didn't turn to look at me, instead effortlessly and silently making it's way down to the Verde. Though it seemed like minutes, by the time I realized I was not in danger and grabbed my phone to try for a photo, it was out of sight. [-(

At this point, I decided to forego the planned headphones and music, and opted to turn on my headlamp a few minutes earlier than planned. The route dropped down to the river and I only hoped that the lion had chosen downstream (toward the others!? :scared: ) rather than upstream where I was headed!

As darkness fell and I sauntered along the shore loudly singing my grammy-winning lyrical masterpiece "I'm a people!", I realized that this would not be the pleasant walk along the river that I had mentally prepared for. There were several sections of flat cattle-trail to follow, but they regularly petered out or cliffed out and required sketchy climbs and bypasses. I found myself repeatedly saying out loud "Make smart decisions Chumley", knowing that at this point saving 10 or 15 minutes wasn't worth a poor decision.

The darkness made route-finding a challenge, but I was happy to have a 350 lumen headlamp and a backup 550 lumen bike light. I don't know how I ever hiked at night with less.

Route Scout didn't talk to me nearly as often as I wished, and I considered changing to 1/4 mile splits. Finally however, I reached Childs and my waiting truck.

I knew it would be a couple of hours before they others would arrive, so I curled up in my sleeping bag and tried to snooze a bit. This area has a direct line of sight to the towers on Squaw Peak above Camp Verde, so there's an occasional cell signal, and I was able to get a phone call from Jon with a report of their location and condition. Knowing the others were together and making their way upstream was comforting and I was grateful to see the headlamps later on as they arrived at the truck exhausted. We all piled in for the rough ride back up to Stehr and headed home from there.

This one took longer than expected, and is a solid pumpkin-kicker. It would be easier in daylight! :D I would absolutely do it again though. It's remote, wild, and scenic!

foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Moderate
More color in the wider valleys. The Verde is probably a week from prime. The recreation area of the creek about the same. The narrower canyon between the two was mostly green and probably 2+ weeks away.
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