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Red Crk - Wet Btm - Highwater - Verde 11, AZ
mini location map2018-11-11
29 by photographer avatarjacobemerick
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Red Crk - Wet Btm - Highwater - Verde 11, AZ 
Red Crk - Wet Btm - Highwater - Verde 11, AZ
Hiking26.76 Miles 3,046 AEG
Hiking26.76 Miles   12 Hrs   6 Mns   2.60 mph
3,046 ft AEG   1 Hour   49 Mns Break
1st trip
Partners none no partners
Took a page from the godfathers' book on this loop. If you haven't read their triplogs, check it out; I personally think the Eagle's video of Joe crossing at Red Creek Rapids is some of his finest work.

FR 18/Red Creek
Hope was to drive all the way to the Red Creek gate. The new Jeep, stock Renegade Latitude, was not enjoying FR 18, so I gave up halfway and walked a few road miles by headlamp instead. Didn't want to risk my ride out. Dropping into Red Creek felt like slipping into a cold bath. Always enjoy seeing my breath during a hike - reminds me I'm still kicking.

Red Creek was a fun walk, especially as the day slowly woke around me to reveal spots of color. Guessing two more weeks for the real show. Flow seemed normal, though there was visible trickle that started at the airport and flowed to the Verde, which I haven't seen before. Passed by one camp and one backpacker, otherwise a quiet morning. At the base of the creek was a gaggle of Jeeps and sprawling camp. They were nice, offering me breakfast and coffee and advice on crossing the Verde, so I felt a little bad when I had to cross the Verde in front of them clad only in boxers and shirt (water was about thigh deep).

After crossing the river I ducked into the reeds to dry off with some dignity before heading over to a short section of Verde River Trail. Already did this section of trail a year ago, so there wasn't anything terribly exciting. Awkward shuffle to find the start of the trail along the bank, steep climb up loose rocks, and then the sign for the start of Wet Bottom. It was a quick half mile.

Wet Bottom #269
Loose rolling rocks faded into solid tread and huge cairns which, coupled with the waking views, made for a dreamy section of trail. Lush green growth along the way made it all the better, even when it tried to hide the route. The climb passed too quickly and, upon reaching the junction with Highwater, I had a hard time turning away. An in-and-out to Bull Springs, with Racetrack Mesas and Limestone Hills to ogle the entire time, sounded so much more fun than playing along the Verde.

Highwater #20
Had a hard time getting into the groove of this trail. Tread was initially difficult to find, and the cairns, while big, had a tendency to shyly duck behind prickly pear and brush. Once it dropped off the mesa things got better and the northern views got more awesome. In fact, the trail was overall well-defined and in good shape (that drop into Canyon Creek was a work of art), although every wash was your typical Mazzie route-finding challenge. Pete's Cabin Mesa was some of the most verdant green I've seen in the lowlands and, as the trail entered this area, I was walled in by vegetation that felt more like an immature Midwest forest than usual open desert. It was fantastic.

The hike got less fantastic after this. Started when I tried to cut over on the 'bottom leg' of the triangle connecting Highwater and Verde River, which is the same route that Joe & Eagle took. Safe to say there's no trail here. There used to be, found some old cairns and tread, but everything is terribly overgrown by palo verde and prickly pear decades old. Should have continued north and done the 'top legs' of the triangle instead, maybe I would have seen the trail junction sign.

Verde River #11
Second frustration happened when I saw the humble state of the Verde River Trail. Tread was almost invisible, cairns were tiny and easy to miss, and everything was wildly overgrown. Compared to the other two trails of today this was by far the hardest to track. I'm not sure why there is such disparity between this and Highwater, both in the same general area - maybe this one is older and hasn't gotten love in a few centuries or something. Anyways, following it south offered good views of the river below and Canoe Mesa beyond and was mentally exhausting.

As soon as the route dropped below the upper banks of the river I was left trail-less so I ambled in the general direction of rapids. Thick reeds masked the way forward so I spent some time doing recon, hacking through to peer up and down just to backtrack and do it again. Confirmed the island was still there and that the upriver side would be easier to wade around than downriver, so I switched footware and hopped in. Water was deeper and slower this time. Got to the other side, filtered out some water, hopped on the bank, dried off and packed up, then walked a hundred feet just to bump into another channel and the realization that there were two parallel islands here and I had to do the whole ritual again. Third frustration. All told it took me 90 minutes to finally get to the western bank.

The haul up the other bank was quick and well-defined, if overgrown, and I welcomed the chance to move in a single direction again. Views from the top were sweet, always nice to look across at them Mazzie hills. Then the trail got, again, hard to follow, with small cairns and barely-there tread. Not quite as bad as the east section, still annoying. When the route followed the contour of a ravine or dropped down a hillside it was easy; flatland and saddles were difficult. The old two-track that picks up before Table Mountain was a most welcome sight.

Oh, and there were tire tracks along most of this section, complete with dug-up tread, knocked over cairns, and uprooted growth. Two tires, in-and-out, guessing it was motorized by the tracks and fresh enough to have happened this weekend. Depressing to see in the wilderness.

Red Creek/FR 18
It was nice to see this pretty section of trail with more light. It was even nicer to see my vehicle at the end.

Mazatzal Miles: 245.7/275 (89%)
 Fauna [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Gila Monster
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Light
Yellows are starting to yellow. Another few weeks and Red Creek and Verde will be popping.

dry Canyon Creek Dry Dry
Dry at trail crossing, thought I heard something further upstream, didn't check.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Middle Red Creek Medium flow Medium flow
Nice and clear. Only one section of dry bed, otherwise flow all the way to Verde River.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Red Creek Rapids Heavy flow Heavy flow
Over 2' deep, challenging to cross.
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